Stormy’s Spirits and Supper, one of Sonoma County’s oldest bars, has stories to tell

Stormy's Spirits and Supper, in Bloomfield, California on Saturday, October 8, 2016. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat


As the proprietor of one of the oldest bar and restaurants in Sonoma County, Roger Cramer can tell a few stories about some colorful characters who have dropped in the redwood plank building to slake their thirst or get a meal.

When it first opened in 1854 originally as a hotel called the Big Valley Inn, Bloomfield was a thriving town and a major stagecoach stop soon to have three or four hotels.

The historic two-story building these days is known as “Stormy’s” the nickname of Cramer’s mother, Ellen, who bought the place around 1961 and moved her family to Bloomfield from Berkeley.

Cramer was intrigued by the hundreds of holes in the wall, which he later found out were bullet holes fired by some of the patrons.

“They had too many shots of whiskey,” he said, and apparently thought it amusing to shoot at the deer head on the wall.

“They started shooting at the tips of the antlers,” he said.

Cramer thinks that was in the 1920s, based on what a longtime customer told him many years ago.

Recently the Clampers, or E. Clampus Vitus, the colorful fraternal organization that identifies significant buildings across the West, placed a plaque commemorating the roadhouse for its longevity.

“We look at things that the stuffier historical societies wouldn’t touch — roadhouses, brothels, bars and the like,” said Dr. Robert J. Chandler, a former president and historian for the Yerba Buena No. 1 Chapter of the group also known as ECV.

“When you get something that’s that venerable, it deserves recognition. Also the fact that the family has owned it for generations and is keeping it going.”

Chandler added that the group “plaqued” the Washoe House in Petaluma a few years earlier, another historical stagecoach stop that was likely on the same route as Stormy’s.

“They liked to keep them about 12 miles apart so you could change the horses,” he said.

Stormy’s Spirits and Supper also lives up to its name in another way.

“There were rumors for years we had a ghost, though it’s been pretty quiet since Mom passed away,” Cramer said.

“There were rumors a young man died in the building.”

Cramer said he’s had customers who say they’ve seen a ghost in the dining room — a young man with a Western-style hat and wearing clothes of a past era.

“They’ve seen an image go from the front of the bar to the dining room and vaporize,” he said.

Cramer, 68, doesn’t seem to worry that telling ghost stories will frighten customers away.

His family has had the establishment the longest of any other owners. He’s been working there since he was 11 years old and began sweeping floors, stocking cans of beer and soda.

He took over Stormy’s when he was 21 and has done all the jobs from chef to bartending to buying the food.

It’s a family-run business with his wife, Carolyn, their daughter, Taylor Cramer, 30, and her boyfriend, Fabio Herrera, all pitching in, whether it’s cooking, waiting tables, tending bar or doing payroll and accounting.

The restaurant is known for its steaks and prime rib, but also for seafood dishes.

The original owner in 1854 was Oliver LeFebvre, who is buried in the old Bloomfield cemetery along with his first and second wives.

Potatoes made an early big town out of Bloomfield. It also led to the growth of Petaluma, which became the major shipping point for the crop.

According to an 1880 history of Sonoma County, the town was founded by Frederick Gustavus Blume, a former U.S. Army surgeon, whose photograph is in Stormy’s dining room.

He’s shown with a long gun, bayonet and a carrier pigeon sitting on his shoulder.

There is also another photo from the late 1800s showing about a dozen men –– some in top hats –– milling about Bloomfield’s wooden sidewalks and dusty street, with a couple stagecoaches at the ready.

Besides being a stagecoach stop for routes between Petaluma and the coast, Bloomfield had its own Chinatown named Pigtail Alley.

Census records of the day are not considered to be the most reliable. Local researchers said at its peak it may have had 800 to 1,000 people. But the census at the time only counted white adult males, not Chinese or Indians.

Bloomfield never grew much, because it was bypassed by the railroads. Earthquakes and neglect have taken their toll on the buildings.

Today the most prominent building in town, besides Stormy’s, is a Masonic Lodge and the “Town Hall,” a former Oddfellows Building now used by the fire department.

For the ECV group, “plaquing” is all in a day’s fun.

“We put up two plaques a year and the guys get together,” Chandler said.

“We love our communities. If we can make a bit of history known to everyone, residents as well as visitors, we’re happy.”

“Bloomfield is kind of a hidden gem. It’s almost a ghost town, but not really,” said Erik Cummins, vice humbug of the Clampers’ Yerba Buena No. 1 Chapter.

“It’s a place for locals to rediscover.”