The Seed Bank to Leave Sonoma County National Bank Building

After a ten-year run in the iconic Sonoma County National Bank building at the corner of Petaluma Boulevard North and Washington Street, the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed folks will soon be moving their Seed Bank retail business across the street a block away, to the Fraley building at 110 Petaluma Boulevard N.

In an audacious bit of exuberant optimism, Missouri Seedsman Jeremiath Gettle first opened the Petaluma Seed Bank in 2007, as banks and automakers were failing and the effects of the Great Recession were reverberating throughout the world.

The symbolism of the move – opening a retail seed (average price of a pack of seeds around $2.25) business in the mammoth, iconic shell of a long-gone financial institution – mattered. The Seed Bank’s opening was an extraordinary drop of good news amidst a tidal wave of bad in the media at the time, helping fuel a nationwide sustainable food and agriculture movement and receiving international press attention. When combined with the company’s vocal support for genetically-modified foods labeling at the state level and its launch of the annual National Heirloom Exposition, the opening of the Seed Bank engendered an abundance of good will amongst farmers, gardeners, advocates, foodies and the public in general.

I wrote about Gettle for Civil Eats in 2012:

One week after General Motors filed for bankruptcy protection, just a city block from the former local branch of Washington Mutual Bank, then the recent record-breaker for the largest bank failure in U.S. history, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds opened a very different kind of institution, perhaps desperate for good news for a change.

Amidst the wreckage of the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression, the Gettles made an ingenious choice for a west coast branch of their predominantly mail-order seed business. Jere told the local paper at the time that it was just good business sense–half their California mail order customers lived within an hour of Petaluma.

“Well, we just fell in love with Petaluma, but we were awestruck by that building in particular and,” he said with a laugh, “we wanted to do our part to support the banking industry and give it some good press for a change.”

“We wanted to make this a place to get people thinking about what’s in their seed, their soil, and their food, to get a broader discussion going about people supporting their local farmers and emphasizing the need to support their local businesses and keep small businesses going. We really loved that about Petaluma–the abundance of small ‘Mom & Pop’ stores. We thought the Seed Bank would be a great place for people to congregate and learn.”

Join the Seed Bank folks for a Pre-Moving Sale on Friday, December 29, from 9 am – 4 pm at 199 Petaluma Blvd N., Petaluma. According to a Facebook post, “increases in rent” were the primary cause of the move.

1926 image of the Sonoma County National Bank building in Petaluma. Photographer unknown.


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