Details are finally emerging about The Matheson, an ambitious two-restaurant project on the Healdsburg Plaza from Chef Dustin Valette. The 231-seat restaurant and retail space will be co-developed by Valette’s business partner and brother Aaron Garzini and tech executive Craig Ramsey.
The project has been hush-hush for more than a year after Ramsey purchased the property from longtime owner John Holt. That, of course, led to plenty of speculation.
Here’s what we know:
- Copperfield’s book store and Plaza Gourmet kitchen shop, which are currently housed in the building, will remain. A fabric store has gone out of business and Valette has offered $25,000 to help another business relocate.
- The coveted 43-space parking lot behind 106 Matheson will be for the exclusive use of the restaurant and retail patrons not, as was rumored, for another hotel project.
- Renderings for the historic building include a mixed commercial space with a 98-seat restaurant called ‘The Matheson’ on the main floor and an al fresco dining experience on the rooftop called Roof 106. A mezzanine level will have overflow seating during busy summer and fall seasons.
- The Matheson will be a family-friendly affair with a price point to match according to Valette. Explaining his vision, Valette says: “The Matheson will be a social gathering place for everyone in Healdsburg, locals and visitors alike, to share the beauty that we call home. There will be a focus on the art of the craft, the doers and makers of Healdsburg and Sonoma County.”
- The ground floor restaurant will have a dining room, bar area, and private back room. Roof 106 will have quick bites and European-inspired cuisine cooked in a Mugnaini Wood Fired Oven.
- Extensive landscaping around the building and parking lot, new bike racks in the parking area, drainage improvements, repaving, updated trash enclosures, new lighting and the creation of a fire lane are planned.
Not everyone is excited, however. After years of construction, most notably the delay-stricken roundabout and several large hotel projects, some local residents are concerned about yet another large construction project. At a Planning Commission meeting in December, some expressed ire about the size, scope and price point of the restaurant. The Matheson’s lead architects, according to a report in Sonoma West, submitted several alternative designs to appease critics.
“Some ask why this isn’t located somewhere else in Healdsburg. It is intended and designed as a casual restaurant that will add to the beauty and charm of our Plaza,” said Valette. “People will walk to other establishments, maintaining the European standard of walking and creating a sense of community. The economic model is to be casual and affordable, designed to be a natural extension of the Healdsburg Plaza.”
The address has special meaning for Valette whose great-grandfather Honore operated a bakery in the space 100 years ago. The family relocated the bakery to 344 Center St. in subsequent years, where Valette opened his eponymous restaurant in 2015.
“There will be no change to the Plaza, other than the restoration and refurbishment of the facade, there will be no change to the Matheson street side of the building and no change in how a pedestrian would experience walking on this block of Matheson. The new restaurant respects the Plaza and the community by setting the new addition to the building back from the street level. The new addition is designed with a fresh and unifying theme that blends well with the adjacent architecture,” said Valette.
If you’re wondering about the name, it’s an ode to General Colonel Roderick Matheson, a Civil War hero, activist, close friend and confidante of President Abraham Lincoln, commissioner to Mexico and Healdsburg schoolteacher. The restaurant will pay homage to this founding father.
Full details about the project, including renderings, are available at thematheson.com and Valette hopes to gain support for the project before the next public hearing is Feb. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at Healdsburg’s City Hall.