Gaye LeBaron: Before 7-Eleven in Rincon Valley, there was Baldi-ville
It can be edifying to say, “OK, this is today, now tell me how it used to be so perhaps I will understand why its happening.
While it doesn’t always work out that way, there are often good old stories lurking in the tattered news clips and handwritten accounts of what has already happened that, if they don’t edify, they at least entertain. That’s why we seek the “history hooks” for current events. And there have been several of these hooks in the news pages in recent weeks on which to hang bits of history.
LET’S START IN late February, when there was a brief account in the morning paper of a small protest by climate activists (a couple of dozen people with signs) at the 7-Eleven on the corner of Highway 12 and Middle Rincon Road.
It wasn’t exactly corporate expansion that troubled them. It was gas pumps. These were people concerned with proliferation of fossil fuels and its effect on climate change.
A recent request to city planners from the convenience store chain included not only an expanded 24-hour store but also six gas pumps — at least six.
Stories like that can set the Old Older clock to ticking. In this case it is that old real estate standby, “Location. Location. Location.”
It’s is hard to believe, even for the Olds, that the corner in question, now a busy three-way intersection with stoplights and U-turns and screeching brakes and honking horns, was once, as the Olders well know, the virtual heart of Rincon Valley, which was an entity unto itself, emphatically not a part of Santa Rosa.
That corner was Baldi-ville, where, in 1921, an Italian immigrant named Anselmo Baldi opened a general store that quickly became the gathering place for the neighboring resident and ranchers, whether they were raising prunes or sheep or just plain hell, as Olders might add.
As a newcomer, Baldi first worked in the basalt quarries in the Annadel- Howarth Park hills, until an injury made him a storekeeper, first at a small store at Melitta Station; then at his bold venture, in a bigger building on the Sonoma Road at the center of the valley. The Rincon boundaries, Olders said then, were Melitta Road, known as Lawson’s Corners, to Brush Creek and from the mountains to Santa Rosa Creek. It most definitely did not include any part of Santa Rosa.
Baldi’s Store was where people met to gossip and share family news, to talk crop prices and politics. The customers — all “neighbors” whether they lived on Brush Creek Road or in Peach Flat (think Los Alamos on your Google map).
Baldi built a house beside the store and, in time, his daughter Irene and her husband Jules Faoro, built next door. That stretch of Sonoma Road from the corner west to the Winters’ Ranch became known as Baldi-ville.
Olders who read about the protest and 7-Eleven’s plans certainly recalled the sad couplet that went around in the early ’70s, when the family ended its half-century on that spot — when the nerve center of Old Rincon Valley sold to 7-Eleven. They said “Baldi’s Store/Is no more.”