Putting a new face on the Grange
JIM CALLAHAN and Margarita Ramirez-Dalton examine the stove at the Sonoma Valley Grange while Mike Acker and Ray Gallian look on.
The Sonoma Valley Grange is looking to conduct an extensive remodel in its Highway 12 facility, including installation of a commercial kitchen, remodeled ADA-compliant restrooms, a new roof and refurbished flooring.
The project won’t be cheap – it will cost an estimated $250,000 – so Grange officials are embarking on a fundraising campaign.
The commercial kitchen will take the lion’s share of the costs and is budgeted for $150,000.
Mike Acker, one of the members of the kitchen committee, said the county has specific requirements for a commercial kitchen.
“There’s a whole list of requirements,” he said, “and there’s no half-measures.”
Among the requirements spelled out are for plumbing, the number of sinks, grease traps, lighting and the like. A new sewer line is also included.
“We need a modern kitchen,” Acker said.
Jim Callahan, another member of the committee, said a commercial kitchen would be an incubator for cottage industries that have been springing up. “It’s a way people can convert products from their back yards into cash,” he said.
A commercial kitchen would provide value that goes beyond money, he said. “It will enhance life in the community. But it will be a revenue source.”
Acker said the renovation is not a business investment, but an investment in the community.
The “Brown Baggers,” a group that makes burritos and sandwiches for the hungry and homeless, use the kitchen on Wednesdays.
The hall is also used by Transition Sonoma Valley for its gatherings; for bingo; barn dances along with the monthly pancake breakfasts.
Ray Gallian, another committee member, said that three years ago, the Grange in Willits installed a commercial kitchen as part of the farm-to-table movement.
But before work can start on the kitchen, the bathrooms must first be remodeled. And the committee is hoping to start that part of the project in November. The kitchen is penciled in for January through March 2014; the roof in May 2014, and the floors last.
“The bathrooms are first so we can use the hall while we remodel the kitchen,” Callahan said. “The ADA regulations have few wavers. There’s a priority that you must make it accessible.”
Callahan called the Grange a civic asset. “This is a community meeting place,” he said. “It brings an anchor to the neighborhood.”
Included in the budget are new tables, serving utensils, cookware and dishes.
The Grange can seat about 75 to 100 people for sit-down meals and about 125 people for a meeting. And all the money from rentals gets plowed back into the building.
Grange officials are planning to apply for grants, including a USDA Rural Development Grant that they couldn’t get a few years back because there wasn’t enough poverty in the Springs.
The building has been the Grange Hall since 1934, when it was purchased from what used to be Rosenthal’s Resort.
Callahan said there’s a small nest egg from past administrators of the hall who put on a lot of pancake breakfasts and pot-luck dinners, and were frugal.
As the first of a series of fundraisers, the Grange will host its fifth annual Spring Chicken fling on Saturday, March 23. It will feature grilled chicken along with a “locavore” menu that will be determined by what’s fresh and in season, prepared by local chefs – many of whom are Grange members.
Tickets are available for the Spring Fling online by going to sonomavalleygrange.com, and clicking on the Spring Fling link.
People who are interested in donating to the remodel can contact Acker at 939-6488 or email@example.com.
While the Sonoma Valley Grange isn’t a 501(c)3, the California State Grange Foundation is and will re-gift tax-exempt donations back to the Sonoma Valley Grange.