City's heart is where you gather

  • Mira Horn, left, helps customers at Wild Flour Bread in Freestone, July 28, 2012.

Finding the center of a city is not so hard. It's usually a big place, marked by official buildings and a busy commercial district.

But in a small town, you have to know your way around. Often, there's no central town square or towering city hall. The true heart of town is in a less formal place.

In Sonoma County's smaller towns, the gathering spot might be a bar, a coffee shop, a store or a park.

In Glen Ellen, locals say, it's the U.S. Post Office. The Valley Ford Hotel and the Valley Ford Market are the focal point of their hometown.

What's the heart of your favorite little town? We'd like to know what you think, but first, here's what we've found out so far.

Penngrove Community Park, near the southern end of Main Street in Penngrove, plays host to barbecues, picnics and holiday celebrations. It's a shady spot, owned and operated by the Penngrove Social Firemen, founded by volunteer firemen more than half a century ago.

Locals who want to check in on what's happening in town often stop by one or both of two venerable downtown spots, Mack's Bar and Grill and the Penngrove Pub, both on Main Street.

"We get tons of locals," said Vicki Mack of Mack's. "People come by to see their friends."

If you want news on upcoming events, Mack simply nods toward her front window, where she puts up all the local posters.

In Freestone, folks gather at the Wild Flour Bakery, a haven for lovers of all fresh baked goods, but fans of big, gooey, sticky buns say it's a slice of heaven.

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