s
s
Sections
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
X

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

X

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Willi’s Wine Bar, the iconic restaurant that was leveled during the October wildfires, will rise again at the Town and Country Shopping Center in northeast Santa Rosa.

Stark Reality Restaurants, which owned the popular wine bar on Old Redwood Highway, has found a new home for Willi’s in the space currently occupied by Carmen’s Burger Bar in the quiet Grace Tract shopping center.

“Willi’s Wine Bar is where we met all the people that are now so important in our lives, including all of our guests. It was the foundation of all of our restaurants, and the opportunity to reopen makes it feel like we’re coming full circle. It’s bringing us back to our beginning,” owner Terri Stark said.

The Starks do not yet have a confirmed date to move in, but hope to open on Oct. 9, she said. The date has significance for Stark and her husband, Mark, marking the one-year anniversary of the firestorm that destroyed their first Sonoma County business. The couple now owns six restaurants from Healdsburg to Santa Rosa.

When talking about the restaurant, which sat for more than 16 years on Old Redwood Highway, Stark still gets misty. “It was the first restaurant Mark and I opened together. We worked there together every day,” she said.

Though much of the staff of Willi’s has been absorbed into the other restaurants, she’s eager for the longtime kitchen and front of house staff to reunite.

“Willi’s was the perfect little nugget of a restaurant,” Stark said. “A new restaurant will never be the same, but we’re excited for Willi’s Part 2,” she said.

The Starks took months to decide whether to rebuild Willi’s, known for its international small plate menu paired with its extensive lineup of wines. The question became a running narrative for both Mark and Terri Stark as fans of the restaurant and friends dogged the couple with questions about their plans.

In April, Terri Stark posted a picture on her personal Facebook page with a cryptic picture of the former Willi’s Wine Bar sign on the ground, saying, “What goes up, must come down, and go up again. Right?”

After a flood of responses, she confirmed that they had found a potential location but declined to reveal anything further, saying it was currently occupied by an existing restaurant and adding, “opportunities presented themselves.”

Carmen Campos, owner of the 9-year-old Carmen’s Burger Bar, confirmed that Willi’s planned to move into the space. She declined to elaborate about when she might close or move to a new location, adding that she was in discussions with the landlord about the restaurant’s future.

A second Carmen’s Burger Bar on Mark West Springs Road near the Luther Burbank Center will remain open — just blocks from the original Willi’s Wine Bar that was razed during the fires.

The Starks, however, are moving forward with plans for the location. “We will be doing an extensive remodel and adding additional space next door,” Terri Stark said.

The Terrace Way location has had a long history of restaurants, reaching back to Lisa Hemenway’s Bistro, Italian Affair and Chef Randy Lewis’ brief farm-to-table concept, Popina. It is in a shopping center that includes Pacific Market, Village Bakery and Sandy’s Take and Bake Pizza.

Willi’s isn’t the only Sonoma County restaurant planning to rebuild after the fires. In February, Sweet T’s restaurant owner Dennis Tussey announced he would be reopening in Windsor this summer after his Fountaingrove restaurant burned to the ground. Like the Starks, the restaurant’s faithful following supported a difficult decision to rebuild.

“It never entered our minds that we were done,” Tussey said. “Our only thought was that we needed to come back. We want to put our employees back to work.”

You can reach Press Democrat food blogger Heather Irwin at 707-526-8544 or heather.irwin@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @biteclubeats.

Show Comment