The small, family-owned store that endures
By MALLORY GIUNCHIGLIANI / Towns Correspondent
Fifty years ago, a walnut orchard stood where Molsberry Market’s stockroom is now. Today’s deli space used to be a hardware store, next to the market that has always been owned by the Molsberry family.
Milt and Tress Molsberry opened it in 1959 in what is now the Larkfield Center on Old Redwood Highway. They wanted their community to have a small family-owned store, choosing a patch of land separated from their house only by walnut orchards.
Brian Molsberry, one of four current owners and grandson of Milt and Tress, said the community at the time thought his grandparents were nuts. “The store was too far out in the country,” he said, in an area several miles from downtown Windsor and Santa Rosa that was mostly agricultural.
Now 50, Molsberry has worked their officially for 35 years, though he remembers his grandparents and parents putting him to work when he was little.
“We used to go through the gates, through the orchard and be right at the store,” he said. The house is still there, but the orchard where his family hunted Easter eggs is now a parking lot and part of the store.
Molsberry owns the store with his brothers, Joe and Dean, and sister-in-law Lori. Until several years ago, they had two more locations: the Healdsburg store, which they sold, and the Rincon Valley, on which they lost the lease in 2009.
They decided at the time to focus all their energy on the current location, “and it’s really working out,” Molsberry said. “We’ve expanded twice.”
A little over a decade ago, they converted the next-door hardware store into a deli with a full catering kitchen. Almost every day they fill a catering order, sending things like small meat and cheese trays ($29.99), croissant sandwich trays ($29.99) and Seafood Fantasy trays (cooked jumbo prawns, $39.99) to schools, hospitals and others holding special events.
Each Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, they serve BBQ in the parking lot, selling plates of BBQ tri-tip, ribs, chicken and pork tenderloin for $6.99 each.
Donna Lane is the “BBQ Queen,” having worked at the store for 14 years. Lane also runs the gourmet meat counter, which sells locally grown meat and homemade sausages.
Molsberry calls Scott Slocomb, who runs the seafood counter, “the new guy.” He has worked there for 10 years.
Most of the market’s 65 employees have worked there for at least a decade, several for more than 30 years, including wine buyer Joann Stibi, who has been there 35.
Many start work as high school and college students and like it so much they stay after graduation, Molsberry said. “It’s pretty unique to come to work and enjoy everyone’s company, especially when it’s family.”
The store opens daily at 7:30 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m., 8 p.m. on Sundays, with at least one Molsberry always on site. There are 12 to choose from, including Molsberry’s son, Shawn.
“I show up at 4 a.m. and see the milk man deliver,” he said. “My brothers or sisters-in-law stay until closing. Everyone is a little independent, so we’re not stepping on each other’s toes.”
Molsberry is the natural, gourmet and organic food buyer. Joe is the grocery buyer and general manager, Dean is the scan coordinator and IT manager, and Lori is the night manager.
The market’s niche is upscale products like Fulton Valley free-range chicken and Harris Ranch beef, “what you won’t find at a big store,” Molsberry said. “Walmart hits you with the dry goods. That’s not what we specialize in.”
For convenience, they stock things like deodorant and soap, but they also carry more than 400 varieties of gourmet cheese, locally grown fruits and vegetables, and a wide selection of gluten-free products, posting a list so customers can quickly find them.
And to make shopping as convenient as possible, Molsberry said, they take requests and make special orders.
“If someone needs pickled kumquats, we’ll find them. We are very hands-on, and customers like the special treatment.”
Molsberry Market is located at 522 Larkfield Center. Visit molsberrymarkets.com for more information and weekly specials, or call 546-2331.