The first time I ever stepped foot in Sonoma, I fell in love with "the cutest shop I've ever been to". A quaint French antique store that spoke to my soul; carrying everything I never knew I needed. That shop my friends, was Chateau Sonoma.
Since then, I made a point to visit the shop whenever I was in wine country - even if I was staying in Napa, I'd drag all of my friends to the square to visit "the cute little shop off the square."
Fast forward a few years, and you can imagine my delight when I discovered Kelly is great friends with none other than the owner herself: Sarah Anderson.
If you're local, then you're probably already aware of the impact Sarah and her husband have had on the community since moving to Sonoma. If you're not a local, just know this: Sarah and her husband have successfully reinvented or established many of Sonoma's jewels (5th Street Farms, The General's Daughter, Ramekins, and lately, Cornerstone Sonoma).
I had the chance to sit down with Sarah and talk to her about her story, and the inspiration behind the beauty of Chateau Sonoma.
Before Chateau Sonoma, Sarah was an investment banker, but always had a
The building that she and her husband owned off the square had become vacant, and needed to be filled. The previous tenants had been a successful furniture store for many years, but had ultimately decided to close their doors. Sarah knew she wanted to find a way to make a furniture store work for her, it was her ticket out of investment banking.
Surprisingly, she never had her heart set on a French antique shop until one day when she found herself chatting with the vendors on Sacramento Street, most of whom were French importers. She met a woman named Kendal Wilkenson who quickly became her mentor. With Kendal's helping hand, Sarah took her first buying trip to France. The duo rented an apartment in Paris, and then traveled to the South of France, stopping at every flea market and fair they could. By the end of the trip, Sarah had a container full of goods to bring back to wine country, and on the plane ride home came up with the name "Chateau Sonoma".
I'd like to say "the rest is history", but that wouldn't be quite right. Sarah and her husband continue to reinvent the history of wine country, and seemingly never stop adding to the community. Once Chateau Sonoma opened up its doors, the couple was then approached to purchase a small culinary school called Ramekins, but in order to make the business model work, they knew they needed to find a way for the school to have a steady stream of income. Sarah's design skills came in handy, and in 2008 they successfully renovated the space into a beautiful event space which helps keep the school running.
After Ramekin's success, things started rolling, which prompted the restoration of The General's Daughter, and founding of 5th Street Farms, which supplies Ramekins with fresh ingredients for a farm to table culinary experience. And if you think the story stops there, think again.
Cornerstone Sonoma is Sonoma's newest attraction, combining shopping, dining, wine tasting, an amazing event space, and now the Sunset Magazine test gardens (grand opening this May!).
Remember what I said about Sarah and her husband being major leaders in the community? I hope I've proven my point. Sarah's passion still lies within Chateau Sonoma, which has since moved to Cornerstone, and continues to grow. Sarah told me her favorite part about her work was the travel, and shared some of her favorite memories from her trips to France, where she visits Chateau Dumas, and takes time for herself. As Chateau Sonoma grows, she envisions adding other cultures into the shop; such as, textiles from India, and Cuban imports.
I have to say, after meeting with Sarah, I look up to her even more, she's a driven woman with a very powerful vision, and I think anyone with a dream can relate to her accomplishments. When I asked her what the hardest part of being a small business owner in Sonoma was, she reflected upon the fact that the city relies heavily on tourism, which can make it hard for businesses to make it during off seasons, requiring them to put in extra effort to stay in front of people's radar.
Sarah left me with a great piece of advice, that I think any small business owner can relate to:
"You can’t be all things to all people. Always have a vision, it's easy to become something that you're not, because you didn’t stay true to your vision."
She reminded all of us creative business owners to keep a clear idea of where we see the brand going, suggesting vision boards to stay on that path, but most importantly, to have patience!
Chateau Sonoma is giving away 2 VIP tickets every week to the Sunset Test Garden Grand Opening May 14th-15th. To enter, like Chateau Sonoma on Facebook, and follow on instagram, then upload a solo or group selfie at Chateau Sonoma and use #ChateauSunset. 2 lucky winners will be drawn randomly every week until the event!