Eclectic Miracle Plum in Santa Rosa intended as neighborhood hub
Miracle Plum would fit right in the hip neighborhoods of Echo Park of Los Angeles or the Ballard area of Seattle, rather than the typical staid Santa Rosa storefront.
The local merchant definitely stands out — a bright, white revitalized relic between two nondescript bank buildings along a corridor of Railroad Square that hasn’t seen a lot of foot traffic. A sign out front notes the business is “very open,” an invitation to walk through its mustard yellow door.
Inside, proprietors and Santa Rosa natives Sallie Miller and Gwen Gunheim have curated a market of locally sourced food and wine, grab-and-go lunches, a smattering of fresh produce plus unique items (a coconut bristle scrubber) housed in a 106-year-old structure that also hosts workshops on how to make fresh pasta and arts shows. It is located at 208 Davis St.
The two self-confessed “dream entrepreneurs” talked last week of the challenges they have faced since opening that front door to the public last August, from city and county permitting hassles to finding available parking spaces for customers.
Yet, they repeatedly came back toward the intention for their retailing venture: a hub where people can come together for the Traverso’s Gourmet Foods from their parents’ generation. It’s a heady objective in an era of the ascending digital marketplace where most anything can be bought via Amazon at 2 a.m. with a single click, challenging bricks-and-mortar stores. One victim of that traditional retail demise was less than a mile away at the Santa Rosa Plaza, where department store Sears closed at the end of 2018.
Nationally, a report last month by investment firm UBS found that 75,000 stores that sell clothing, furnishings and electronics are expected to close by 2026 as overall online sales continue increasing.
Miller and Gunheim insist Miracle Plum is selling much more than products. It’s about an experience.
“People crave community,” said Miller, who also makes jams and jellies for sale at the store.
Community is at the heart of what Miller, 46, and Gunheim, 34, want with Miracle Plum, especially since they both live in the downtown area. They are part of a small, but growing group of younger entrepreneurs within the downtown corridor putting that neighborhood focus at the center of their business plan.
There enterprise strives to grow with a downtown backdrop of Santa Rosa leaders and developers attempting to revitalize downtown to lure more affordable housing in the aftermath of the reunification of the Old Courthouse Square and the opening of the Railroad Square SMART train station.
“It’s great to see a lot of these younger business leaders take the lead,” said Ozzy Jimenez, co-owner of Noble Folk Ice Cream and Pie, which opened its second location on Fourth Street after finding success on Healdsburg Square. Jimenez saw a need for a family-friendly ice cream and dessert parlor amid all the bars and restaurants around Old Courthouse Square.
“We want to see really cool things in our community. We didn’t see anyone else doing it, so we are going to do it,” Jimenez said of the dessert cafe. “It (the area) really needs to be diversified in a lot of different ways.”
Also part of that ongoing downtown diversification are Alisse Cottle and Jessica Borrayo of Brew Coffee and Beer House, which has become a hangout for the local LGBTQ community, and Liza Hinman, chef and owner of The Spinster Sisters and investor in the nearby Astro Motel, which also rents bicycles for guests to be able to the get around the city sans automobile.