Seashore Realty: A historic Bolinas business

David Briggs
Connie Pepper-Lewis and Flower Fraser carry on a family legacy in Bolinas.   

It’s been a hot year for the owner of Seashore Realty, Flower Fraser, and her partner, Constance Pepper-Lewis, who together sold seven properties in Bolinas, including two to the Bolinas Community Land Trust. Though both women live in Point Reyes Station now, their roots in Bolinas run deep. 

Ms. Fraser, a Kansas native, started at the real estate office in 1978, shortly after moving to the town with her then-husband. “My work here was the key to me coming out my shell: I grew into it,” she said. “I thought because of the water moratorium it would all end, but it didn’t.” 

Seashore Realty was founded by George and Margaret West in the late ‘60s, and the second owner, Ms. Dunn, gifted it to Ms. Fraser when she retired in 2000. 

Ms. Fraser describes being mentored by two women: Ms. Dunn and Ms. Pepper-Lewis’s mother, Louise Pepper, who retired in 2005 at the age of 80 after nearly 40 years in the office. 

Ms. Pepper-Lewis is a fifth-generation Bolinas native, but spent three decades of her adult life in the Sierra foothills. In 2006, she retired from styling hair and got her real estate license; three years ago, she and her family returned to West Marin. 

She walked into her mother’s old office and asked for a job. Ms. Fraser recalled, “I’ll never forget the day she came in here and said, ‘Can I ask a question: Do you think I could work for you?’ I had been alone for a couple of years, and worked with her mom for 27 years. She was my second mother. I told [Connie] where her mom used to sit, and gave her that desk.” Seashore Realty’s sales vary from year-to-year; this year, the last four months especially turned out to be good ones. Three listings sold on Aspen Road for $2 million, $1.2 million and $900,000; a cabin with an ocean view on Rosewood Road went for $815,000, and another on Larch Road for $860,000. 

The remaining two properties went to the land trust, including a 20-acre parcel of the ranch owned by the Tacherra family on the Big Mesa, last fall; and, earlier this year, a 2.5-acre property downtown. 

Preempting any criticism, the women say that none of the owners plan to use the properties for short-term rentals, though some plan for it to be a second home. Ms. Pepper-Lewis said it’s her mission to make it possible for first-time homeowners, and families, to live in town, where her memory of growing up is characterized by the strength of community. She said she thinks the land trust is going make the town “come back alive.”  

Ms. Pepper-Lewis’s personal connections have proven particularly useful in her role as liaison between residents and the land trust. “Having grown up here, Connie is very dedicated and has a great perspective,” the trust’s executive director, Arianne Dar, seconded, noting that the last three of the trust’s transactions have been facilitated by Seashore Realty, including a water meter. (Ms. Dar also commended the other two local real estate agencies, which are also run by women.) 

The Pepper legacy in Bolinas is dazzling: the family generated a line of landowners, business operators and builders who all but built the town of Bolinas. 

Five generations back on Ms. Pepper-Lewis’s line, Nellie and Frank Waterhouse first came to visit Nellie’s parents, who were staying in Bolinas—at that time just a few houses tucked into rolling ranchlands. 

According to Bolinas historian Elia Haworth, the couple wanted to build a house, but first had to cut a road—now Brighton Avenue—out of pasture land and subdivide it in order to do so. 

Their effort, which began in the late 1880s, also cut Terrace Avenue, Park Avenue and Canyon Road, and built the structures that today house the post office, St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church—and the Waterhouse building, where the office of Seashore Realty operates today.