A Town Treasure on a Baguette
With all of this ebb and flow on the Seghesio project I thought I’d check in with one of the most respected local merchants in the community, Will Seppi, general manager of the family owned Costeaux French Bakery in downtown Healdsburg.
Costeaux has been around for some 92 years, first as the French American Bakery, which was owned by Octavia and Ricardo Cassaza. In 1927 the bakery was sold to J. Sarzotti and A. Viari who featured breads, panettone, pasties and grissini (breadsticks). They delivered twice a week to customers in Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys who would pay after the annual harvest.
From 1930 to 1971 the bakery had several different names and owners including Tom Alexander who changed the name to Alexander’s Modern Bakery. In 1959 the bakery was bought by Fred Loupi (still a Healdsburg resident), who changed the name to, what else, Fred’s Bakery. During Fred’s tenure there was a rumor around town of a bakery truck spinning “donuts” on the plaza lawn but Fred doesn’t know anything about that. In 1972, the bakery was bought by Jean and Annie Costeaux from Reims, France and gave the bakery its current name.
In 1981, the Seppi family bought the bakery and kept the name. Karl and Nancy often visited Nancy’s great aunt, Mary Zandrino, who lived on a ranch in west Dry Creek. It was Mary who knew the bakery was for sale and suggested that Karl and Nancy buy it. Karl, who was a golf pro, was taught how to bake bread by Jean Costeaux. Karl didn’t seem to have much of a handicap switching to the bakery business as Costeaux won the only gold medal for bread at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair that first year and they have been winning gold medals, and even national acclaim, ever since.
After graduating from Villanova University and a stint in accounting for a Silicon Valley finance company Will took over the business full time in 2004. He and his three sisters (one of which, Karla, along with her husband Rob Lippincott own the popular Healdsburg Parish Cafe) grew up in Healdsburg where Will still lives with his wife Brandy and their three kids ages 3, 2, and 8 months. Under Will the company has kept growing. They now sell their wide assortment of baked good in not only Sonoma County but also in Mendocino, Napa, Marin and San Francisco. They produce from three to five thousand loaves of bread per day which can go to ten thousand or so with special events. Even though they now have over 85 employees (50/50 retail and production) you can still see Will delivering bread to places like Big Johns.
The bakery and restaurant on Healdsburg Avenue is a beautiful facility reminiscent of a French villa. With an eye on ecology Will recently put in solar panels and to save water he put in a brown colored wood floor instead of tile that needed to be mopped daily, also the crumbs blend in better. Their annual events including Bastille Day (the replica guillotine was made for them by Aristocrat Wood Products and Redwood Auto Body) and Christmas Eve celebrations are a lot of fun and Nancy’s spirited homemade eggnog is very popular. Their in house promotions include a December 24th “secret envelope” where you can win a gift certificate, complimentary bread, desserts or cookies and a “coffee coin” can get you a croissant, cookie or loaf of bread.
But it’s not the in-house promotions that define the Seppi family. When it comes to giving back to the community Will seems to be everywhere. Each year the bakery donates money and products to an astounding 500 community events including Northern County Services, the Healdsburg Senior Center’s Christmas dinner, Redwood Gospel Missions Great Thanksgiving Banquet, FFA and more. They contribute to the KZST Secret Santa Christmas gift program; the Algebra Academy and internship programs at Healdsburg area schools and have sponsored family ESL literacy programs for their employees. And the list goes on and on. The Seppis’ may not be the Triones’ but their philanthropic mind-set sure is.
Costeaux Solar Installation
So what’s Wills’ take on the Seghesio project? He says that Pete Seghesio, like Will grew up in Healdsburg, and loves the town and community and can understand why Pete was a little shocked at any negative reaction to the project. The business will generate jobs and tax revenue and if the meat market does well it will become a popular local venue not unlike Costeaux. As far as the upscale restaurant goes most locals, even though most couldn’t or wouldn’t spend that kind of money on a restaurant meal, thought it was fun having Cyrus’ in town. It’s like the downtown wine tasting rooms; if there is a demand they will stay in business, if not they’re gone.
But one thing is for sure, the Seghesio have and will give back to the community and, like the Seppis’ they are part of the fabric of the Healdsburg community.
Along with the dedication of a new park atop of Fitch Mountain a community treasure has quietly slipped into the past. On a sunny Sunday in September, Fitch mountaineers gathered for a potluck at Del Rio beach to share memories of a lake that is no more. Al Pucci, director of the Del Rio Woods Recreation and Park District, Fitch Mountain Association trustee, addressed the group and thanked everyone for their involvement and support. About 30 people came to pay their respects and share stories of their time spent on the Del Rio Woods summer lake.
Del Rio Woods Lake
The following account of Del Rio Woods was collected by Sylvia Seventy, a longtime resident of Fitch Mountain, and Jane Bonham of the Healdsburg Museum and Historical Society. In 1965 the Healdsburg Tribune reported that “Del Rio Beach is a privately owned beach that the local homeowners’ association makes available to outsiders.” The Del Rio Woods Park and Recreation District was established in 1961 by the Home Owners Association.
In 1927, two men, (R. Cook and J. Pohley) opened a subdivision named “Del Rio Woods” and several acres near the top of Fitch Mountain were reserved as a public park. Thomas Scoble of San Francisco subsequently bought the project and built a road to the top of the mountain. He then sold off most of the lots that had been reserved for the park. In order to attract summer vacationer he built a dance and band platform, a sales office, a store and a balcony with a “fine view of the river.” In 1937, a dance hall named “Palomar” was built by a new owner (E. Frampton) to replace the open platform.
In the 1930s Scoble installed a gravel dam. In August of 1933 a lawsuit was filed against Scoble’s Del Rio Properties complaining that the dam was unsafe after it failed three times in several weeks the County asked for a preliminary injunction against maintaining, operating or using a dam across the Russian River at Del Rio Woods.
Del Rio Dam Farewell 9-7-14
In September 1934, a semi-permanent dam with a permanent spillway was built. It’s kind of curious, but I guess not all that surprising, that the dam, which had passed inspection by the state’s Department of Public Works, was declared unsafe in February of 1935. Work was done in the following summer to strengthen the dam’s wing walls but in 1941 the west wing was washed away by high water.
In order to avoid the need for annual fund raising from property owners and merchants a permanent recreation district was created and in the 1950s a new permanent spillway was built. The east and west wings of the dam, which consisted of large wooden boards packed in gravel, were built up in the spring and removed in the fall.
The last summer that saw the dam built was in 2002. Concerns about turbidity and mud endangering fish survival and reproduction during the build-up and removal of the wings cause the state and local wildlife authorities to ban the annual dam installation. The permanent spillway was removed this past August.
The three Daneri sisters, Claire (Harris), Carol (Gerhardt) and Jean (McShane – who came all the way from Florida) told of their summers spent swimming in the lake. They had a summer home on Redwood drive that was built by their father in 1946.
Martha Brooks of Windsor, who was there with her son James, told of meeting her husband Wes in 1963 at a freshman girl’s “all night” party at the lake. For years Wes was in charge of building the dam each summer and, as a helper, it was a summer job for James. She said she was on the crew that would dive down to sandbag the slow erosion around the spillway. Martha told of the “pecking order” on the dam. It seems that the high school boys would perch near the spillway; the middle school boys would sit next to them with the elementary boys being closest to shore. She also said that countless number of kids would consider themselves a “certified swimmer” if they could make it to the lake’s anchored platform and back.
Del Rio Woods Beach Today
Don McEnhill, the Riverkeeper and Executive Director of the Russian Riverkeeper organization was there along with his son Jack. As a young boy Don would play on the lake with his sisters. He said that although the removal of the dam from an historic and sociological standpoint was sad, not having the dam’s annual disturbance is an ecological benefit for the health of the river.
Penelope La Montagne, a long time Fitch Mountain resident who lives on the river and is a poet laureate, used to compose poetry while wading along the lake’s shore. She said that losing the lake was sad and when I asked her for something from one of her “lake” poems she gave me a line from her poem A Five Turtle Day, “With heart-shaped strokes, fingers together, I propel myself the bent cottonwood that signals the shoreline of home.”