Locals invest to purchase downtown Point Reyes building

07/08/2020

The block-long, historic Emporium building in the heart of downtown Point Reyes Station changed hands last week in a $2.3 million deal. Four West Marin residents who hoped to keep rents affordable for the longstanding businesses housed in the building stepped in as investors, helping Leslie Kruth of Dogtown—whose parents, Jean and Larry Marks, bought the building in 1991—and her husband, Hal, to buy out the other heirs. The new group of owners intends to keep all the same tenants, including Cabaline Country Emporium, Point Reyes Books, Bovine Bakery, Leona’s, and those who use several offices upstairs. “We’d like to keep this building in the community,” said Dick Lemon, an Inverness resident and investor. “This isn’t a real estate investment by itself. There’s a double bottom line: it’s also an investment in the health of the community.” The rent has been kept below market value for years and will remain that way for the foreseeable future, though increases will be phased in over the next five years in part to fund needed upgrades. (All tenants were consulted, Mr. Lemon said, and indicated they could survive the hikes.) Negotiations for the sale began in January but were waylaid by the pandemic. Uli Weeren, a Marshall resident who for the past decade has operated a web design and development company in one of the offices, also invested. “I’m so glad to be able to stay. It’s a wonderful place to be,” Mr. Weeren said. David Morris, a Point Reyes Station resident and another investor, described the sale as part of an effort to support local business owners and to keep out corporate buyers. “For this community, especially this kind of community, where things are changing all around it, this is how it can determine its own future. The future is determined by those who own it,” Mr. Morris said. “We want a healthy, locally owned retail sector that primarily serves the local community, otherwise we could get chain operations that primarily serve the tourists.” The final investor remained anonymous. The building was constructed in 1898 by Peter Scilacci, a Swiss immigrant who started a general store he called the People’s Store. In the early 1930s, the name changed to the Palace Food Market, which Mr. Scilaci’s son sold in 1939 to Waldo Giacomini. In 1961, a subsequent owner, Tony Taveggia, moved the business across the street into a steel barn, where the market stands today. The Emporium building was the founding place of the Dance Palace Community Center, and many of the current tenants have been there for decades. The Marks family, who lived in Inverness in the '50s and '60s before relocating to Novato, founded the Olema Campground and owned the Inverness Water Company; its heirs also own Point Reyes Station’s Creamery building.