Cook Like a Pro at Home: 4 Sonoma Kitchen Stores

It makes sense that a place as foodie-riffic as Sonoma would have the tools to make magic out of the region’s well-farmed foods. And because man cannot live on boutique eatery meals alone, the home cook can find the supplies to become a master in his or her own right (and home). We’ve picked out a few favorite kitchen stores that stock pretty much everything but the kitchen sink.

Family and Food Traditions: I Leoni, Petaluma

Nancy Leoni, owner of I Leoni in Petaluma, fondly remembers her grandmother cooking “a pot of sauce on Sundays.” Leoni developed a passion for food and cooking as a child, while joining her grandmother to select and buy produce at Sacramento farmers markets.

Opening her kitchen and housewares store 14 years ago on Kentucky Street in Petaluma was the realization of “a lifelong dream” that Leoni “finally had time for” when her youngest of four children was in high school, says Regina Leoni, Nancy’s daughter.

Regina, a licensed attorney who helps out with her mother’s business, says “(Nancy) loves to gather and nourish people” and can make a flower arrangement that looks like “a still life.”  

Nancy, who majored in Home Economics at Sacramento State, has stocked her store to reflect her skills and interests: fine linens and serveware in the front and kitchen supplies in the back. 

Leoni believes Sonoma County is “lucky to have such wonderful resources for our food,” and that a good meal can be made with basic tools and just “a few good ingredients,” a sentiment she tries to convey to customers, especially young couples beginning to stock their kitchens.

Nancy says she cherishes the smells and flavors of her childhood and that when she needs to “step back,” cooking a meal from scratch helps “reboot” her. “The house smells so good,” she says.

120 Kentucky St, Petaluma, 707-762-9611, ileoni.com

Sonoma Pride: Sign of the Bear, Sonoma

The Sign of the Bear kitchen store has been in the Sonoma Square since 1972, a time with “more cows and less grapes” according to current owner and longtime Sonoma resident Stephen Havlek. Havlek has owned the store since 1992 with his wife, Laura, a lifelong Sonoma resident herself, who says, “we are so grateful for this valley,” citing the heroic acts of fellow Sonomans during the fires.

The 2000 square feet Sign of the Bear retail space is heavily stocked with kitchen necessities (about 16,000 skus worth) that range from All-Clad and quality knives to novelty items like dish towels and mugs printed with “oddball sayings that make you laugh,” says Stephen. Fun is a focus for the couple, whose aim is to meet the kitchen needs of their Sonoma Valley customers, many of whom they know by name.

“We try not to leave the kitchen,” says Stephen about the store’s inventory, which is less focused on linens and the accoutrements of fine dining than it is on top notch cookware, utensils and tools. He describes the Sonoma style of entertaining as “opening a bottle of wine and putting out cheese and crackers.”

“How lucky we are,” says Laura of what she calls “a very ordinary career” that gives her great satisfaction. “You get to help people delight the people they love.”

Laura adds that “the company (they) keep” is a big part of their success. Sonoma’s beauty, “the remarkable food and unfussy daily life are the gems here,” along with “the open heartedness of the people in our town.”

435 1st St W, Sonoma, 707-996-3722, signofthebear.com

Local Institution: Plaza Gourmet Healdsburg

Plaza Gourmet Healdsburg has become something of an institution at its Healdsburg Square storefront, where it’s been open for business for nearly 40 years according to current owner Darlene Powell. The full service kitchen shop has everything from linens to appliances to The Cheese Knife. This “drafted”-blade, non-sharp knife cuts anything from soft cheese, fudge and cheesecake and is the top seller of all 6000 items stocked.

The store sells top lines like All-Clad and Le Creuset to locals, including chefs, and to tourists who often decide on wine barrel lazy susans or “Healdsburg”-inscribed aprons and totes, logical keepsakes from a wine, food and boutique mecca like Healdsburg – without souvenir shops. 

108 Matheson St, Healdsburg, 707-433-7116, healdsburgkitchenstore.com

Historic Kitchen Store: Hardisty’s, Santa Rosa

A visit to Haridisty’s, with its rows of the latest kitchen appliances, wouldn’t make you think that the store has its roots deep in Santa Rosa’s history. But the modern-looking store on Farmer’s Lane had its beginnings in Santa Rosa as far back as 1898, when it was known as the Continental Tea & Crockery Company.

Fourth generation owner, Steve Hardisty, attributes the store’s longevity to “good old fashioned customer service.” The store is not only stocked with big name appliances, but also has a factory authorized service department for Kitchen Aid, Braun and Oral B, and can service food processors and espresso machines.

Well-stocked shelves of old standby and new kitchen gadgets, and a sales staff with an enthusiasm for their products, give Hardisty’s a toy store vibe – that is for people who love to cook.

1513 Farmers Ln, Santa Rosa, 707-867-0827, hardistys.com

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