Entertainment to continue to be a focus for new owners of Sonoma’s Reel

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Music at the Reel

Friday, Feb. 22 - the Pulsators at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 23 - DJ Moses G at 9 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 24 - Sideline

The Reel Fish Shop and Grill, the roadhouse and dance hall in El Verano, has changed hands. The new owners are Kevin Kress and Jeff Spencer. Escrow has not yet closed, but they have taken over the operation of the restaurant from Aiki and Hillary Terashima, effective Feb. 1.

Kevin Kress has spent the last 10 years as vice president at Gordon Biersch Brewery in San Francisco. He brings lots of business experience and a love of music to the partnership. “We love music, we all are excited to have music in our lives.”

When it comes to music, Kress not only talks the talk, he walks the walk as a euphonium player in Sonoma’s Hometown Band.

Jeff Spencer has been an accountant in Sonoma for 35 years. He has experience “in the back side of the restaurant and bar business, in an advisory role,” said Kress. “He is the financial guru.”

The Terashimas opened the Reel in early 2017 with a focus on fine dining and ultra-fresh seafood. They received accolades for their food and rocked the place with great live music.

Previous to the Reel, the charming wooden structure hard against Maxwell Farms Regional Park was called Rossi’s 1906. Under owner Max Young, the location was modernized and the family-oriented outdoor area improved. Its rebirth was beginning. Young still owns the building.

Prior to Rossi’s, the place was long known as Little Switzerland, and was a popular regional hangout for years for generations of families. Sunday was Polka Day, and people came from far and wide to spend time oompah-oompah-ing. When the Terashimas purchased the business, they knew and understood that they were becoming stewards of a long-lasting and much-loved musical venue. The new owners, Kress and Spencer, understand that as well. Both said they had long dreamed of owning such a venue.

To introduce their approach to their new endeavor, Kress said, “We are locals, supporting locals. That’s what we do.” They plan to have a grand opening in late April.

When asked via e-mail if they intend to keep the name, Kress responded rather cagily, “We have some tricks up our sleeves, which will be revealed (at the grand opening).”

Kress stressed that they plan to “…keep all the fish dishes everyone enjoys and add some of our personal touches down the road.” A meat-lover himself, he said prime rib and burgers are planned.

Since the Reel has such a nice stage and large dance floor, any changes will impact the Valley’s lively music scene. Kress spoke enthusiastically about their plans, saying, “We would like to have some form of entertainment every day.” He noted that he himself will be booking the entertainment and emphasizing bands with no cover charge.

Kress said that his great grandparents often came up from San Francisco to Little Switzerland back in the 1940s, so he is well aware of the history of the place. His family has owned land in Sonoma since 1947. “Including my children, we will have five generations who have enjoyed the Little Switzerland location.”

Jeff and Jenni Spencer have lived their entire lives in Sonoma County, and more than 30 years in the Valley.

A visit last Saturday night to the Reel revealed a busy bar and a full dining room. Sebastopol-based band Washington Hill had the room full of friends and relatives. The dining room already has a sleeker appearance, and heralds great things in the works.

Asking the question that all inquiring minds want to know – “How much did you and your partner spring for the joint?” – Kress again showed his poker face. He cited a non-disclosure agreement regarding the sale.

But it is safe to say they understand the place is priceless. It seems that whatever the new owners have in mind, the Reel, nee Little Switzerland then Rossi’s, remains in good hands.

Music at the Reel

Friday, Feb. 22 - the Pulsators at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 23 - DJ Moses G at 9 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 24 - Sideline

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