Refurbished Bodega Country Store reopens under new ownership
A century and a half tradition of retail sales at the old McCaughey Bros. building was restored last week when the Bodega Country Store reopened its doors following an 18-month hiatus that allowed for refurbishment and transfer of ownership.
Though still a work in progress, as the new proprietress works to obtain permits for a planned deli and beer and wine sales, the store’s revival means local residents no longer need face a long drive for food staples and other needs in short supply at home.
It also provides a place for passersby to grab a bite or a beverage en route between the Sonoma Coast and inland destinations along busy Bodega Highway, augmenting what’s available at Colleen’s Coffee Shop nearby and The Casino Bar & Grill, a mainstay of the town’s small commercial district.
For Tom Bonfigli and his elderly mother, Helen, who owns the building in which the market and several neighboring businesses operate, the new store also more faithfully aligns with their vision of a community hub after several years of dissatisfaction with the former proprietor.
“We wanted someone who had an interest in the community they were going to be operating in, not just for tourists,” Bonfigli said. “That’s what’s wrong with the county. We cannot forget about the local population. There has to be a combination, a healthy balance.”
Enter the store’s new owner, Ariel Coddington, who moved from Sebastopol to a house on Salmon Creek Road in early 2017 and was interested to discover the market in the center of town was for sale by then-owner Michael Fahmie, who took over the store in 2009. During his tenure, the store increasingly came to reflect his preoccupation with film director Alfred Hitchcock and his iconic film, “The Birds.”
Fahmie, who had been struggling financially, was evicted and the market shuttered before any sale could be negotiated. But Coddington, with help from her boyfriend, Bradley Mills, contacted the Bonfiglis and worked from there.
Coddington, 36, likes the idea of providing a resource to the community and to the wider public at the same time.
“I really love this town. It just seems like this hidden gem,” said Coddington, a native of Israel who moved to California six years ago from New York City. “It has a strong community, and now that (the store) is open, I’m meeting all these people I didn’t know before, and they’re telling me all these stories. It just confirms my feeling.”
The market offers a variety of groceries, fresh produce, locally produced eggs and dairy products, including many organics and gluten-free options.
Once Coddington obtains the proper permits, she hopes to have a well-stocked deli, as well.
She and Mills are conscious of being part of a legacy that dates back to the 1860s and the beginnings of the McCaughey Bros. mercantile. It was in operation at the site until 1985 when its then-owner moved the shop to Bodega Bay and eventually closed it.
The Bodega Country Store was born when Helen Bonfigli and her late husband, Joe, took over the site in 1985, running it for two decades. A subsequent tenant sold the business to Fahmie.
At the time of its closure last year, the store was filled with posters and paraphernalia related to Hitchcock’s famed 1963 film “The Birds,” shot in Bodega and nearby Bodega Bay and prominently featuring historic local buildings like the old Potter Schoolhouse. Fahmie sought to exploit the community’s ties to the film down to a life-size mannequin of Alfred Hitchcock still parked out in front of the building.
The interior of his store, left in disarray upon his departure, has been scrubbed clean and repainted white, and has a new light-colored floor that its new owner hopes will brighten the place, even if it’s still a bit stark while she settles in.
The store’s first day in business, Sept. 1, was so much of a “soft opening” that Coddington wasn’t even present. She had taken a quick trip to Israel for her sister’s wedding, so Mills took the helm that day.
There are many improvements still to come to make it homier and more inviting, Coddington said.
“There’s just a lot of history to the store and to the community,” said Mills, “and also what the store has meant to the community, and I think that her and I really feel like bringing the community back together and back into the store, re-establishing this as a community meeting place.”
Locals are happy to have a market restored to their town, including Casino owner Evelyn Cassini, who in her 91 years has never known the town without its market.
She’s pleased with what she’s seen so far - a clean, well-organized store with “good bread, a variety of stuff and fresh produce.”
Her employee, Kim Murphy, a local resident, added one further attribute. “It’s good to have life in the building,” Murphy said.
You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or email@example.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.