Coffee and kindness: Sonoma finds light in darkness
Sonoma awoke on Wednesday to a still, cool morning and no power.
The few cars on the road before dawn navigated the streets carefully, traveling through dark traffic lights.
Most of the early risers said they were in search of coffee and several compared notes on street corners as to who was open and who was rumored to have coffee.
Safeway had expected to be ready for customers early, but trouble with its generators delayed the supermarket's opening until early afternoon. Lucky and Sonoma Market were open but neither had coffee and many shelves had been cleared - either because the goods had warmed or they were sold out.
With wifi out almost everywhere, Sonoma's spotty cell coverage was readily apparent. AT&T customers wished they had Verizon and vice versa.
When the doors opened to the charging center at the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building at 8 a.m., no one was waiting, but by mid-morning more than a dozen people were inside, charging their devices.
Mark Bodenhamer, CEO of the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce and Tim Zahner, director of the Sonoma Valley Vistors Bureau, made the rounds around town Wednesday and Thursday, working on lists of who was open. Volunteers showed up bright and early to the Visitors Bureau offices on the Plaza ready to help tourists who found themselves in the middle of an unusual vacation.
Stores that were determined to open made adjustments.
Friedman's Home Improvement Center staff met customers at the door and personally accompanied them around the large dark store by flashlight.
Homegown Bagels gave away much of its bagel stock to quickly clear the shelves.
HopMonk Tavern and the Reel & Brand were among the first restaurants to open on Wednesday, with grills in their beer gardens. Food trucks and farmers market set-ups cropped up all over town Wednesday and Thursday to appreciative customers.
The Bonneau 76 gas station in Schellville not only managed to keep pumping gas, but, according to Bodenhamer, also continuously brought in extra ice -- and lowered its prices.
Acts of kindness
Despite -- or maybe because of -- the frustrations of the outage, random acts of kindness were spotted all over town. Former City Councilmember Gary Edwards, drove around in his refrigerated truck and offered to store perishables for several local restaurants. Sweet Scoops ice cream, knowing the shelf life of its popular product, set up its stand at several locations around town and gave its ice cream away.
The Basque Boulangerie was the first to offer early morning coffee on Wednesday thanks to a generator brought in by one of its employees. By Wednesday afternoon, the cafe was giving away all of its inventory.
Vineyard manager David Cook's CVM store on Eighth Street East offered free donuts and coffee and a charging station.
On Thursday morning, 3 Badge Beverage company owner August Sebastiani opened the doors to the 3 Badge Firehouse on Patten Street for free coffee and pastries, fruit and a charging station.
From the moment the lights went out, MacArthur Place hotel was fully operational under generator power and staff told everyone who stopped by to spread the word that they had wifi and lots of outlets. By mid-afternoon Wednesday, the bar was packed with locals, including a half-dozen kids propped against walls charging their devices.
'I am hearing really cool stories about the community rallying together,' said Bodenhamer. 'Businesses are really working hard to figure out how to serve the community.'
Fun after dark
After nightfall, a convivial crowd nursed cold beers in complete darkness at both Steiners and the Town Square bar. Murphy's Irish Pub had its generator working Wednesday night and a full house, but alas couldn't figure out how to offer its weekly trivia game.
What did the kids do?
Students spotted around town seemed cheerful to be out of school for the rest of the week and all sports events were canceled for the athletes.
For the kids home from school on Thursday and Friday, both Sugarloaf State Park and the Sonoma Ecology Center quickly put together one-day pop-up camps. A robust crowd of kids was also spotted at the oft-deserted skate park on Highway 12.
'I found it heartwarming to hear about families living without electronics,' said Sonoma School District associate superintendent Bruce Abbott. 'Family board game night is back.'
Sonoma Valley High School senior Reagan Wheatley headed down to Corte Madera to go shopping.
'We ran into a bunch of our classmates there, some of whom were shopping and the rest doing homework outside on the wifi,' said Wheatley.
'While this is inconvenient, at least people can easily leave town and a short drive away get to power and internet,' said City Manager Cathy Capriola. 'Hopefully people will take advantage of this time with their families and do something fun.'