John Stewart of Custom Health & Fitness


By Michelle Francis

John Stewart of Custom Health & Fitness – A Man Determined to Achieve

You know things are different the moment you pull up to Custom Health & Fitness on California Boulevard. For one thing, there’s a large sign that reads Open 24 Hours, which is certainly a rarity around town. And, in the middle of the day, I find I can’t enter the building because I don’t have a key card to grant access. That’s because safety is of great importance to proprietor John Stewart. His goal is to offer the people of Napa “high quality, convenience, cleanliness, and community involvement – all at an affordable price.” And he knows how to deliver.

Stewart is a champion Powerlifter and Bodybuilder, who earned the title of “Best Lifter” at the APA California “Raw” Powerlifting meet in 2009 – six years after sustaining an injury that was supposed to have rendered him unable to do much more than lift a toothbrush or a coffee cup. “I suffered a complete tear in my [right] pectoral muscle, and was told I’d never lift again,” Stewart said.

Undeterred, Stewart doggedly searched for a surgeon who knew how to fix his injury. And after undergoing surgery, he established his own physical therapy regimen that had him working out four hours a day, four days a week for an entire year.

It was during this period that Custom Health & Fitness began. Officially started in January 2004, Custom Health & Fitness began as a one-man, traveling-fitness operation. Stewart offered in-home fitness training to clients wherever he could find them: as a result, he would often traverse Napa, San Francisco, and Sacramento in a single day. His tenacity paid off. By 2005 he had a strong client base in Napa and was able to provide personal training by appointment-only in a small building at 520 California Boulevard. The business grew in a way that is true to the community spirit of Napa: positive word-of-mouth reviews helped the business flourish, and that growth hasn’t stopped. In 2006 Custom Health & Fitness evolved from personal training by appointment into a standard health club, and business kept steadily improving so that, come 2007, Stewart was able to expand into a second unit in the building. In order to better serve members with varying schedules, in 2008 Stewart decided to make the gym a 24-hour fitness club with key card security; he has since added two more sections, providing a total gym space of 5,000 square feet.

What seems to drive John Stewart, aside from his complete love of, and respect for, health and fitness, is a sense of purpose.

John returned to Powerlifting and Bodybuilding in 2008 to prove to himself that he could. He bulked up from his then-weight of 195 pounds, to 250 pounds, won his trophies, and returned to see his original Physical Therapist who had told him he’d never lift again. He has officially retired from the sports now, but he is able to apply those same principles of quiet dedication and fortitude for the benefit of his current clients. When I asked him to talk about his favorite success stories, he told me of clients who worked with him for multiple years to learn about healthy food, overall nutrition, and proper exercise, and who were able to lose more than one hundred pounds in the process. He also told me about clients with back pain who came to him looking for a functional version of fitness therapy; these individuals worked on stretching and strength training and, over time, transformed from clients who had difficulty sitting in their cars to clients who could perform the daily functions of life without pain. He beams with pride as he describes the stories of single clients whose success inspired entire families to pursue healthy living. But, what seems to be nearest and dearest to his heart are his connections with members of the community: with other local businesses and with individuals who began as clients that have become lifelong friends.

It’s not surprising, then, that when I asked him where he sees his business in five years, he readily responds that he hopes to expand from 5,000 square feet to 7,500 and increase his interactions with the community.

In order to maintain the community feeling and positive word of mouth, Stewart takes his commitment to his cliental very seriously. Cleanliness is of utmost importance, as is continuing to upgrade his machines and equipment. Custom Health & Fitness replaced every single piece of equipment in 2013, and hasn’t raised fees since then. Stewart happily explains that improvement is always a goal, and that he is “introducing all new Life Fitness and Hammer Strength machines, as well as top-of-the-line Power Step mills, treadmills, cross-trainers and elliptical machines, as well as Hammer Strength-designed weight equipment.”

It’s a testament to the something-for-everyone feel of his business that Stewart keeps his Powerlifting and Bodybuilding trophies upstairs in his office. He is there, his wealth of knowledge is there, and he seems ready to share with anybody who comes through the door in search of such information. But, if you’re beginning a health club membership for more modest reasons, those professional lifting mementos won’t be staring you in the face as you begin your healthcare regimen. Custom Health & Fitness boasts a six-person staff of easy-to-approach professionals; and, just in case you’re still a bit shy about approaching someone, there’s even a suggestion box open to all members.

Stewart takes great pride in the fact that he is able to offer versatile membership plans at affordable prices. In order to help honor your holiday fitness goals, Custom Health & Fitness has a special Napa Valley Marketplace promotion: from December 1st-21st, 2015, Napa residents can join for free with enrollment in any membership plan.  Whether you want to work on serious strength training or simply lose a little weight, Stewart makes it clear that “Custom Health & Fitness [is] Napa’s premiere local fitness destination.”

Napa Valley Residents Join for free

December 1-21 with enrollment in any membership plan

520 California Blvd. Suite 12, Napa  |  (707) 224-2300   |

Carpe Diem “Seizes the Day” with Great Food and Wine… Better than Ever Recovering from the Earthquake!

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By John & Dorothy Salmon

Our original Carpe Diem review was written for the September 2014 issue, but as we all know, August 24, 2014 drastically changed everything in downtown Napa. When Mother Nature put them out of business until repair crews could prop them back up, Carpe Diem opened a pop up in the Oxbow Market. Thanks to Mike Di Simone and so many others, Carpe Diem is back open in their beautifully updated location and doing well. We love these guys and know you do too!

Chef/owner Scott Kendall and Chef de Cuisine Andrew Martin are remarkable guys and smart enough to hire Jim Foster as their general manager. Jim was beloved at Tarla when it first opened and now he is on hand to delight diners at Carpe Diem. Mother Nature offered Carpe Diem a new opportunity to create two separate dining areas and a third room offers an inviting space for overflow crowds, cocktail lounge, or private parties. If you are a “look on the bright side” kind of person, that’s good news.

We had been told by many friends who are 10 to 30 years younger than us that we would love Carpe Diem and, of course, we did. Originally, we decided to stop by after a movie for a light, easy dinner and we were instantly impressed with the friendly atmosphere of the place. We decided to sit at the bar and talk to Jim, because we love him.

As we enjoyed our dinners we recalled a couple of previous restaurant incarnations that we used to visit at this location. There was PJ’s in the 90’s, with the very best BLT’s in the world, followed by La Gondola. Carpe Diem found the perfect combination of cool décor, great lighting, friendly qualified staff, GREAT food and a pretty darn good wine list that changes often. Jim Foster really knows his stuff when you ask wine questions and everyone loves talking to him.   

Carpe Diem seats 55, with 36 in the dining room and the bar. It is best known for its fabulous “Happy Hour” with half off for wine and appetizers from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Andrew Martin was in the kitchen cooking up a storm as we got to bask in Carpe Diem’s resurrection and feel grateful that once again, we can all enjoy their unique food at reasonable prices in small plates that you can easily share. Most of the people sitting with us at the bar were doing just that.

Carpe Diem’s executive Chef Scott Kendall has been in the kitchen since he was a teenager and went on to major in business management in college. Scott runs a tight ship and he is a fabulous chef who also makes a mean batch of beer.

Carpe Diem shifts its menu on the last Friday of the month to keep their guests coming back to see what’s new. Executive Chef Scott Kendall and Sous Chef Andrew Martin work together creating really wonderful dishes in the kitchen in the back of the restaurant at the front door as you enter Carpe Diem. Dishes like baked Quack ‘n Cheese are favorites along with Shredded BBQ Chicken Flat Bread, Prosciutto and Melon Flatbread. They make great salads, especially an amazing house-made Burrata with Heirloom tomatoes, caramelized onions, jam, cabernet sea salt, basil and crystals all served on grilled bread ($14). The folks sitting next to us went on and on and on about the Burrata. Next time, we will try that. Carpe Diem always offers at least 6 beers on draft including Lagunitas Fusion, 90 Minute Dogfish Head IPA and the Russian River collaboration with Sierra Nevada, Brux, and Monkey Fist IPA by the bottle.

Dorothy started with a glass of Presquill Rose’ ($11) and John took the beer route with a glass of Lagunitas Fusion ($7). For dinner, Dorothy ordered the Thai Curry Prawns with Jasmine, Kaffir lime rice and scallions, and sweet chili ($18), which was great. John ordered the Crispy Buttermilk Chicken with collard greens, grilled stone fruit, sweet potato smash and mustard seed gravy ($18). We remembered our trip this year to Charleston SC, so John was still on his collard greens kick with sweet potatoes and chicken cooked “Southern style” and he concluded that Carpe Diem did a better job on those items that the folks in South Carolina!

Carpe Diem’s menu includes great starters like Ahi Tuna Tartar ($13); Diver Scallop Carpaccio with picked rhubarb, strawberry and micro greens ($14); Artisanal Cheeses, like Delice De Bourgogne, The Tickler, Five Year Aged Gouda, Drunken Goat and Blu De Moncenisio and Charcuterie plates of 12 month aged Prosciutto, Loukanika, Ghost Pepper Salami, Housmade Pork Tillette and Wild Boar Salami. Pick one for $6, three for $13, or five for $19. Such a deal! The Small Plates include Filet Mignon Steak Skewers ($16); Crab Stuffed Squash Blossoms ($15); Cabernet Braised Short Rib Tamales ($14); and for $3.50 you can add an organic duck egg, crispy pancetta, roasted chicken or do it “Carpe Diem Style” and add a duck egg and crispy pancetta for ($5). Carpe Diem also serves delicious flat breads and Ostrich Burgers with creamy brie cheese, cranberry caramelized onion and cabernet reduction sauce on toasted brioche bun ($19). Want Truffle Fries? You can have those too with your Ostrich Burger! Carpe Diem has a pretty impressive Wine Book with over 250 selections from which to choose, a variety of flights to try, and an impressive reserve list and, of course, their beer list with over 35 of the best beers from all over the world!

We skipped dessert, but for $8 you can order their house made Twix Bar which we were told is INCREDIBLE. Also to tempt you is their White Chocolate Bread Pudding or Pot De Crème; Lattes and Mochas are $4 and Espressos and Cappuccinos are $3.

Carpe Diem’s wine list includes over forty wines by the glass and a number of great local and imported wines that are really unique. Jim will entice customers to try a wine they have not tried before, and trust us; he knows what he is talking about! Carpe Diem offers special dinner/wine pairing events once a month. During these events, guests are treated to a five-course menu designed with a specific winery’s inventory in mind. If you are interested in bringing a group of friends with you for these special dinners, contact Carpe Diem now offers a new wonderful private dining space located adjacent to the restaurant that can host 40 seated diners or up to 50 guests for passed appetizers and drinks. If you are thinking of hosting a bigger party at Carpe Diem, you can do that too for up to 100 guests and you get the entire restaurant mid week only.

We left Carpe Diem very impressed and our total meal came to $58.32. Now, that’s a bargain for a great perfectly sized meal, a great glass of wine and a great beer. We passed on their Twix Bar for dessert, but next time, we are going back for it!

1001 Second Street, Napa  |  (707) 224-0800   |

Open Sun-Thurs 4-9 & Fri-Sat 4-10



Don Perico Reopens in Dwight Murray Plaza Following the Quake

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By Craig Smith

Marco and Berenice Castaneda, owners of Don Perico Mexican restaurant, now in Dwight Murray Plaza at 1116 First Street, are long-time Napa residents. Like most people in Napa, they were jolted awake at 3:20 a.m., August 24, 2014, when the earthquake shook Napa to its core. “It was scary,” said Marco Castaneda. “We looked around the house to make sure everything was safe, then went to the restaurant.”

Castaneda knew things were bad as soon as he got downtown. The streets were strewn with broken glass and, in some cases, large sections of buildings that had collapsed during the shaking. Water leaks from burst pipes, some of it gushing, was evident everywhere. Shell-shocked, but busy, merchants were already helping each other make sense of it all and restore order. Castaneda opened the front door of Don Perico, and used a flashlight to look around. “It was pretty bad,” he said. Large areas of the ceiling had collapsed, and rubble was everywhere. It was obvious that, had the quake hit during dinner the night before, people would have been seriously injured, or worse. Castaneda wound his way through the mess, turned off the gas, and looked around. He realized there wasn’t much else he could do right then. Still, it never occurred to him that the restaurant was doomed at that location. “I knew the damage was bad, but figured we’d be open again in a couple of months.”

Shortly after moving from Mexico,  Castaneda started his restaurant career as a busboy in a Mexican restaurant in Bakersfield..  He worked hard, paid attention to everything about the business, and was promoted repeatedly over the next ten years. His boss wanted to open a restaurant in Napa and invited Cataneda to be his partner. At the time, Castaneda had no savings, but saw this as an opportunity to make a better life for his wife and family. He borrowed from relatives and made the plunge. Don Perico opened in Napa in January of ’94. As the years passed, Castaneda bought out his partner until he was eventually sole owner. The restaurant has been a local favorite, almost since opening. The year of the earthquake was also their twentieth anniversary.

“When we knew we couldn’t return to our original location, I started looking for a new place.” Finding a spot wasn’t easy, and Castaneda and his wife took part- time jobs in a wine-storage facility in American Canyon. One day, he was commiserating with the owner of the restaurant across the street from Don Perico.  After talking awhile, Castaneda offered to buy out the owner’s  lease. The two men agreed, and struck a deal. That turned out to be the easy part.

At the time, the building, which is also home to Kohl’s, was not locally owned. The parent company, based in Arizona, put Castaneda through the same hoops they would with a new, prospective tenant. His quick handshake with the now-former restaurant owner turned into five months of negotiations with the building’s owners.

Don Perico re-opened May 15th this year. The restaurant was scheduled to open at 5:00 p.m., but people were waiting by 4:30, so the Castanedas opened the doors early. For the first month after they reopened there was a wait to get a table for dinner almost every night.  The Castanedas are gracious, unassuming people, who are very grateful for everyone who dines with them. The support from the community has been humbling. Castaneda was recently given the American Dream Award by the Napa County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Don Perico is warm and inviting, offering good, honest, Mexican food. Take the family, and enjoy a relaxed night out.

Napa County’s Bustling Airport

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By Laird Durham

On an average day, 30,000 cars pass by Airport Boulevard at the junction of Highways 29 and 12.  There is a good chance yours is one of them, if not every day, at least once in a while.  But, the chances are that you do not know much about what goes on at the end of the road. You probably know it is an airport, and, maybe sometimes, while waiting for your traffic light to turn green, you see an airplane climbing up or circling in for a landing, but that’s about it.  Well, it may surprise you to find out that the Napa County Airport is a busy, exciting place. Among other things, it is an ideal place to train airline pilots and mount search and rescue operations. And, airport tenants provide more than $1
million a year for Napa schools.

First of all, on a peak day at the airport, there could be as many as 300 take-offs or landings – the Federal Aviation Administration lumps take-offs and landings together as “operations” – from twin-engine jets to small 2-seat planes, some built by their pilots from kits.  The operations are controlled by FAA Air Traffic Controllers housed in the state-of-the-art tower.  James Swanson, a second-generation, ATC Supervisor, says the Napa ATC crew is the youngest, most collaborative, and most professional he has ever worked with. They are so good the Napa tower is rated as a training center by the FAA, Swanson says.

The biggest and oldest operation at the airport is the 68-year-old, Napa Jet Center that manages or supports most of the private air activities: aircraft charters and rentals, jet fuel and av-gas supply, aircraft and engine repair and maintenance, aircraft sales, flying lessons, guest parking, pilot lounge and kitchen, and emergency medical service.  The Jet Center also will make reservations for fly-in visitors’ hotels, dining, car rentals, and wine tasting.  That last service is a big one:  Mark Willey, the Jet Center’s CEO, says 90% of visiting aircraft come here for winery visits.

Besides private and business aviation activity, the airport is a hub for law enforcement and search and rescue operations.  The California Highway Patrol has a flight operations center there, covering seven Bay-Area counties, with two helicopters and two fixed- wing airplanes manned almost around the clock by 24 pilot officers and

medics.  They have made some dangerous rescues over the past few months, from lifting injured hikers from rocky cliffs to off-shore boating accidents. At other times, CHP pilots have used high technology to direct ground officers to burglary or robbery suspects hiding in the bush. A group of some 20 airplane owners, based at the airport, support the Napa County Sheriff with a volunteer, Sheriff’s Aero Squadron that monitors emergency situations and helps with search and rescue operations.   

The International Airline Training

Academy, next door to the terminal building, has a fleet of 13, single-engine, Piper, flight trainers to qualify pilots for Asian airlines. For several years the academy was used to train pilots exclusively for Japan Airlines, but now it is training pilots for a handful of Asian airlines that some planners estimate will need 500,000 new pilots in the next ten years to meet the demand of Asia’s exploding growth. Unlike the US, with a large supply of airline pilot candidates from military and general aviation, Asian airlines must create pilots from scratch.  Captain Ron Davis, Chief Flight Instructor for IATA, expects to have 200 or more trainees this summer.

Many of the 197 aircraft owners who keep planes at the Napa airport are members of the Napa chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association, and the Napa Pilots Association.  Both of those organizations sponsor the Young Eagles program that gives free airplane rides to youngsters 8 to 17 – more than 1 million children at last count. On one recent flight, an 8 year old wondered about the small, black dots in a meadow below, then realized they were cows. “Wow,” the young eagle said, “the earth is a really big place.”

The EAA also hosts monthly displays of vintage aircraft, and annual visits of a B-17 and a Ford, Tri-Motor airliner with rides open to the public.  Sometimes these activities are joined by
ground-based, historic automobile displays.

Some members of the EAA are building their own airplanes in hangars at the airport; some from kits and some plans of successful models. Their aircraft are classified as “experimental” by the FAA, a designation the Feds apply to any aircraft other than a factory-manufactured, certificated model.  Once built and test-flown 40 hours to meet FAA specifications, the home-built airplanes have the same degree of airworthiness as factory-built airplanes.

There’s a restaurant in the Napa Airport terminal building called “The Runway”. It is the successor to the long-closed, Jonesy’s restaurant, once a favorite of many old-time Napans. Besides a full menu and bar, “The Runway” is a microbrewery producing its own pale ale. Across the lobby is a gift shop with aviation-themed merchandise.  Tops in popularity are child-sized, flight jackets.  Grandmothers love them.

What is CanDo’s 2015 Napa Valley Give!Guide and Why Should You Care?

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In 2013, Napa Valley CanDo, the vibrant community service nonprofit that helped rid Napa of single-use plastic bags, works diligently to keep our rivers and creeks clear, and grows fresh, local produce for the Napa Food Bank, introduced another project: the Napa Valley Give!Guide.

The Give!Guide is a perfect fit for the approaching holiday season. It seeks to inspire a community of givers. Whether you’re a young or first time donor, or someone of any age who may not yet see yourself as being in a position to give, Napa Valley CanDo’s Give!Guide is for you.

The goals are simple: 1) To raise awareness and funds to support the exceptional work of a select group of small, medium and large local nonprofits serving Napa County residents, and 2) to encourage collaboration among these amazing nonprofit organizations.

HOW ARE THEY DOING?   In 2013 the Guide helped raise $106,000 with this end of year campaign. In 2014, that rose to an astonishing $235,000. This is a truly collaborative venture, with all the local nonprofits pitching in to extend their reach and support one another.

WHEN DOES IT TAKE PLACE?  From November 1 through midnight, December 31, CanDo will gladly accept your donations on-line or with a check. Donations begin at $10. A real-time ticker on the Give!Guide website helps everyone keep track of how each nonprofit is doing, moment by moment.

By the way, a kick-off gathering, free and open to the public, takes place on November 4 in the Paul Ash lobby of the Napa Valley College Performing Arts building, 5:30-7:30PM. You’re cordially invited to join in this celebration of community spirit in action.

How Does It Work? CanDo’s Give!Guide format makes giving a snap. 

  Watch for your November edition of Marketplace Magazine. Inside will be a bright orange pull-out catalog. It’s your personal copy of CanDo’s 2015 Napa Valley Give!Guide. Need more copies for a classroom or social group? Email

CanDo at or call 252.7743.

  November 1, the website is launched. features brief profiles of  each nonprofit with links to learn more about them.

You make a choice. You make a difference. The Give!Guide makes it easy.

  You can donate to one or multiple NPOs and you may vary the amount you give to each. You may also honor friends and family with your donations. When you’re ready to give on-line, there’s a single charge to your credit card. If you prefer, you may donate with a check using the tear-out sheet in the catalog.

  With the exception of usual credit card fees, every penny goes to the nonprofits you’ve selected. Napa Valley CanDo takes no fee.

• All donations are tax deductible.

  Incentives valued at $100 or more are offered every day to further sweeten the deal. Individual nonprofits may also offer incentives. See the website for details. Facebook keeps you up to speed, too:

2015 Give!Guide Nonprofits


Napa Humane

Sunrise Horse Rescue

Wildlife Rescue Center of Napa County

Wine Country Animal Lovers


di Rosa

Napa Valley Museum

Suscol Intertribal Council


Church Women United Clothing Center

Habitat for Humanity

Napa Circles Initiative

Napa County Bicycle Coalition

Napa Valley Community Housing

On The Move:  VOICES



Community Resources for Children

Girls on the Run Napa & Solano

Napa Valley Education Foundation

Napa Valley Nursery School


Napa County Resource Conservation District


Aldea Children & Family Services

Canine Guardians

Community Action
of Napa Valley (CANV)

Cope Family Center


Moving Forward Towards Independence

Napa Valley Hospice & Adult Day Services


NRRC | Napa Recovery Resource Center

The Pathway Home

The Table


Big Brother Big Sisters of the North Bay

Boys & Girls Clubs of Napa Valley

Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Helena and Calistoga

Enchanted Hills Camp for the Blind

Foster Kids Fund

Girl Scouts – Upper Valley Service Unit

Loving Animals Providing Smiles

Molly’s Angels of Napa County

Napa CASA,  A Voice for Children

Remembering Napa in the Fall


By Lisa Adams Walter

From that sensation of something in the air, to the ever-so-subtle change in the colors of foliage, to gathering up fresh school supplies, to the toasty-smoked fireplace fire aromas that gently spread across the now-cooler evenings, certain things signal the change of the season in the Napa Valley.

I remember feeling quite small beneath the enormous black walnut trees, with the rush of cold morning air swirling around me as some of the best natural light of the year filtered through the leaves. Cold cheeks and fingers to match moved quickly, while we chatted and laughed, scouring the crusty, fertile ground for the best picks. My autumnal memories include those early Saturday mornings with my best childhood friend Carolyn, gathering the harvest from her family’s walnut orchard on Redwood Road in Napa. If I remember correctly, her dad offered two options for compensation: 25 cents per flat or the reward of a snow skiing trip that following winter. We always chose the trip to the Sierras, by which time the natural black dye from the ripe walnut pick would have been long worn off of our hands!

Today, there are other things that signal the end of summer and the beginning of fall. School is back in session (though it now begins in mid-to-late August throughout most of Napa County, a time that not that long ago would have been considered the final days of summer), the grape harvest is in full swing, the number of visitors to the valley seems to rise (most of us can impatiently relate to the experience of the joys of traffic up and down the valley in September and beyond) and the bounty of the local farmer’s markets is at its prime.

Yet, even the most subtle change in the landscape, a back-to-school event, school bus sightings and my tradition of swapping out the shorts for the sweaters, takes me back to those walnut orchard days. Napa County locals, those that remain nearby, and many who now live elsewhere, also have vivid memories of what this particular change of the season was like, way back when.

Many of us remember earning money over the summer and local school clothes shopping. My own mother has long told stories about picking prunes to earn money for school clothes. Stay with me here, and keep in mind, that not too
very long ago there weren’t any malls nearby.

Marilyn Hicks recalls picking prunes in the 1940s to earn money for school clothes, usually in August. She also has memories of enjoying the foggy cool mornings, and of very sticky hands from picking the prunes, off the ground. “Got 25 cents a box! Had a few ‘prune fights’ with fellow pickers. Good memories.” “School started way after Labor Day,” Carol Blessing remembers, “So kids could continue picking prunes and grapes. I picked for Dr. Parrett on Garfield Lane,” who added that she also tried picking grapes, but it was really hard work.

Nanette Mitchell who now lives out of state, worked by babysitting, mowing lawns and she had a paper route to earn money to purchase a bicycle and some of her school clothes. “That always gave me extra money to go to the movies and maybe Nations after,” Mitchell added. Yum, the old-time Nation’s Giant Hamburgers. The Third Street location is actually still here!

LeeAnn Hefley Togstad picked prunes at 50 cents per box and recalls ending up with purple hands. She too wondered, like I did with the black walnut hands, “Why we didn’t wear gloves?” She also babysat at 50 cents per hour for up to five kids. Can you imagine the per-hour cost of childcare for five kids today?

Judy Gulke recalls that she picked prunes and delivered the Napa Register and then bought clothes at Mervyn’s, Trade Fair and JCPenney.

In the mid-to-late 1960s, Harry Gochenouer remembers working in John Hanna’s orchard at the corner of Dry Creek Road and Orchard Avenue, picking prunes and shaking the prune trees to buy school clothes.

School and school clothes dominate many of the memories. Trian Elan who lived out in the country in Carneros recalls passing smudge pots on the way to Schearer School and, “…the great old brick building with the polished wood doors and ramps and stairs that was Shearer, the smell of new school supplies in the fall, paper straws in the milk cartons. I remember shopping for school shoes at Schalow’s and clothes at Carithers or Mervyn’s.”

Other local retail establishments remembered include Albert’s Department Store (which later became Mervyn’s), Marlene’s, Roberta’s and Modern Eve. “Matching skirts and sweaters and Spaulding oxfords were the big deal,” remembers Blessing,
“Going shopping you always saw people you knew.”

I actually remember all of those stores in town, in addition to local merchants such as Brewster’s, IXL Toggery and the aforementioned Schalow’s Shoe Store (who could forget Mr. Hennessey, who owned that store on First Street for 35 years?). At Schalow’s Shoes every family had an index card where Mr. Hennessey kept track of purchases by hand, after reaching a certain number the next pair of shoes would be free! It is the first customer loyalty program I can recall.

Blessing also recalls catching the school bus very early for a long winding route to Napa High. It was cold on those early mornings waiting for the bus, and by afternoon it was very warm in those new clothes. She also mentioned Burrell’s Ice Cream Parlor, an authentic old-time establishment with beautiful wood fixtures and a black and white floor and Partrick’s. I too have memories of Partrick’s, a store filled with an unparalleled and intoxicating fragrance of chocolate and mint. It was a magical treat to get to go into Partrick’s, which is now Anette’s Chocolate Factory, on First Street. Elan also recalls the smell of the rain in the orchards, mentioning that it always smelled fresh as the hills changed from gold to green. The beauty of our still-relatively-rural community was as appealing then, as it is now.

With the local deer season opening every year in August and lasting into the fall, Gochenouer remembers wearing the same clothes during deer hunting in the hills of Napa to disguise his body scent, a hunting tactic learned from his father. There were many orchards and farms around Napa County that produced a wide variety of items other than wine grapes. Rather than deer hunting, some of us were hunting for fresh items to pack away for the winter months.

Our family always went to the Bucher Ranch on Big Ranch Road for apples and we would also hop over into Suisun Valley for crates of peaches. With my mom we’d make pies, LOTS of apple pies, which were frozen and saved for holidays and other special occasions throughout the year. John and Verna Bucher became close family friends as I grew up with their youngest daughter. Their legacy includes the rural memories of their ranch enjoyed
by several generations, as they eventually replanted the apple orchard transforming it into a Christmas tree farm and then later farmed wine grapes.

Mitchell has fond memories of riding horses with the Gibson and De Laca families through the vineyards and hills in the Dry Creek region. “It was so beautiful in the fall!” exclaimed Mitchell who also played soccer in the fall and
remembers a significant amount of physical work, “We also did a lot of wood cutting, splitting and stacking with my dad, to clear out the old prune orchard on Dry Creek Road at the old nursery.” I remember that nursery as well, which was actually just to the north of that walnut orchard where I “worked” for several years.

We were all pretty fortunate to be able to grow up spending time outdoors in Napa County. Thepreferred method of transportation for kids, was definitely a bicycle. Daryll Borges, now a professional musician and music educator in Las Vegas, fondly remembers riding his bike through mountains of freshly raked leaves.

Parents were not driving their children all over the place, to multiple destinations and activities, all day long. For those of us raised in more traditional neighborhoods, we’d stay out late until the sun set. Many times we knew that it was time to go home only because the street lights began to illuminate, or we would hear a family member loudly calling our name from a street or two away.

Tammy Lee-Madison concurs as she remembers playing outside until dark and hearing her parents call them inside and being sad that the day was done. There were no video games or computers back then she added.

When I was a bit older, the tradition of homecoming parades and the Big Game between Napa High School and Vintage High School were fall traditions that have lasted to this day. Fall is definitely football season in Napa whether attending Friday night games at Memorial Stadium or Saturday day games (this was before field lights) at Justin-Siena High School.

Today our landscape is obviously dominated by vineyards that evolve from lush to brilliant, providing a fitting backdrop for our county in the fall. Some things are unwavering, and there are traditions that continue to today. Eventually the days become shorter, the chill of the morning lasts well into the day,
normally the rainy season sets in, and then winter is on its way.

Game On! It’s CRICKET! Globally Popular Sport Unites Napa Valley Locals


By Lisa Adams Walter

The international influence in the Napa Valley is undeniable. The influence of Spain and Mexico runs deep, as evidenced by the history of local land-grants from both the Spanish and, later, Mexican governments nearly two centuries ago. Many early settlers also came from Europe, bringing traditions from Italy, France and Germany that have had a lasting impact on our local lifestyle, wine and cuisine.

Today, modern-day immigrants, many of whom come to Napa to learn more about or work in the business of wine, continue to influence the fabric of our deeply-diverse community. One of the latest international influences to locally make itself
at home, is the game of cricket.

Cricket. What is it?

Most of us are familiar with soccer, baseball, football, basketball, and even the rapidly-rising-in-popularity game of lacrosse. Now, a serious group of locals have sparked an organized club of cricket players. Cricket? What is it?

One of Napa’s most creative and enterprising recent transplants is Andrew Healy who arrived from Ireland a few years ago. Healy is a co-founder of the Napa Valley Cricket Club (NVCC) which, in 2015, after a mere four years in existence, has a membership of players from countries in addition to Ireland, including Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa, as well as a handful of Americans within the nearly 60-person
membership roster.

“Cricket is both a great game to play and watch in my opinion,” explains Healy. “It’s similar to baseball in that it’s very tactical, but differs in a number of ways, the most obvious one being that the ‘pitch’ – the area that we bat in – is in the middle of the field as opposed to at the edge. Batsmen also stay in and can score multiple runs while at bat and on-field decisions are made by the captain on the field as opposed to a coach on the sidelines, or in the dugout.”

While it may sound confusing, Healy went on to add, “We are actually lucky that we have baseball to compare cricket to when explaining the games to inquisitive locals. Baseball’s origins are found partly in cricket, so some of the principles of the game are similar. The fielding team is trying to get the batting team out while the batting team is trying to score as many runs as possible. They take turns in doing this – more times in baseball depending on the number of innings, as cricket teams generally get to bat only once.”

According to Healy, more detailed descriptions of playing include the fact that bowlers, the cricket equivalent of pitchers, have their bag of tricks to get the batsman out too. Different bowlers have different styles that the on-field captain can use to keep the batsman guessing by rotating through the bowlers. The bat that the batsmen use is very different from baseball, being flat on one side and the batsmen use it to play their shots in a full 360-degree range, given that the pitch is received in the center of the field.

It is difficult for me to imagine the biggest notable difference: fielders catch the ball bare-handed, without wearing a glove! Healy describes a cricket ball as fractionally larger, and slightly harder, than a baseball, “They say in cricket that ‘catches win matches’ so this ‘no glove catching’ can be the difference between winning and losing games, and often it is!”

Cricket. Where did it come from?

From where did cricket come? Cricket is a worldly sport, carried around the world centuries ago.

According to Napa Valley Cricket Club President, Phil Bourke, originally from Victoria, Australia, and a local, wine-industry
professional who has resided in Napa for a decade, “as many other sports, it originated in England back in the 17th century and then spread around the world with the British Empire. It was, up until the time of the Civil War, even the dominant, summer sport in America. It remains a dominant sport in many parts of the former empire including Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, South Africa, the West Indies and others, as well as England itself, of course.”

“The first-ever international game between two countries was in 1844 when the USA played Canada. While the rules
may seem to be complicated at first, watching or playing a game or two will soon have people hooked,” Healy shared. “In one game last year we put out a team that had players from seven countries, a truly international game being played right here in the Napa Valley.”

As it turns out, cricket is the second-most played sport in the world after soccer and is played in more than 100 countries.

The worldly play of the game explains the internationally-diverse team in the Napa Valley. “When you grow up with a game, it’s sort of ‘in your blood’ for a lot of the club members. Some first held a cricket bat not long after they could walk, while some have come to the game more recently having watched the game their whole lives,” said Healy.

When I first heard about the game of cricket, I was curious about the large population of expats involved in the sport. As Bourke explained,“cricket is the dominant sport in the British Commonwealth countries, so the expats who play have all grown up playing or watching cricket, just as an American would with baseball.  One great thing about cricket is that it is very much played as a ‘club’ sport around the world, with both the playing and social members getting together after games and for other social events. I think a lot of the expats, while being keen followers of American sports and particularly the local professional teams, miss that club atmosphere. We have strived to reproduce that environment here and that has appealed to our members, both expats and locals,” said Bourke who went on to declare, “Most other clubs around the area, and probably the country to be honest, are mostly made up of expats. However, in Napa, we are working hard to encourage Americans to either take up cricket, or at least be involved in a social way. In addition to those we have playing this year, we have more who have simply joined as members for the social side. The future of cricket in the US is definitely dependent on its moving from being an expat sport to one enjoyed by Americans.”

Cricket. Can anyone watch? Can anyone play?

Both Healy and Bourke said that the NVCC welcomes new adult players of all skill levels as it fits squarely with their principle of social cricket. They hold weekly nets sessions, usually indoor in Napa, but occasionally, outdoor in Calistoga. At the nets session there is an opportunity to learn about bowling (pitching) and batting, by donning pads and gloves and experiencing the difference in batting in cricket as compared to baseball. If newbies enjoy that experience, they may want to play a game. In a typical season (which runs from April through October) the club has about 15 games scheduled.

New to this game, I also wondered if it was a brutal and demanding sport. According to Healy, brutal, no. Physically demanding depends on the level of play, “If you’re at the top level of international or even national cricket you are considered an elite athlete and with that comes the pressures to be strong and fit, as cricket has become a 12-month game. Closer
to home at NVCC, some of the members are in their 50s, and some of their opposition teams have had players in their 70s,
proving that if the mind is willing and the body is too, cricket can be played by players of any age!”

Women play cricket too, and the sport for females is growing internationally and in America. Healy stated that a number the top cricketing countries internationally now have professionally-paid women’s teams, and that the International Cricket Council plans to have cricket as a women’s Olympic sport and therefore must be on an equal footing to the men’s sport in terms of participation at international level. In Northern California, the Firebirds women’s cricket team competes in the Bay Area Cricket Alliance League in the South Bay.

If you are more of a sports spectator, the NVCC welcomes crowds! Both Healy and Bourke agree that the easiest way to become involved is to attend one of the local cricket games. If you simply introduce yourself to one of the players, they will be happy to explain the rules. “We love having people come and watch our games and we have a busy schedule through the end of 2015,” added Healy. The best place to check the schedule is on the club calendar on the website at and the games are always free. In August, there are three games scheduled in Calistoga. “Pack your chair, sunscreen and a picnic basket and head to the Calistoga Fairgrounds for a game of cricket,” he added. Weekend games usually start at 10:30 a.m. and last until about 4:00 p.m. with a civilized break for lunch.

Newcomers are also welcome to the weekly training sessions, currently held at Put Me In Coach, 2371 Pine Street in Napa, usually on Thursdays beginning at 7:15 p.m. (however, it is best to check the website as the training sessions are occasionally held on their home field in Calistoga).

Another way that locals can get involved is by participating in the newly-formed, Last Man Stands. Currently played in several countries around the world, the NVCC was part of the US launch last fall and will participate again this year. These eight-a-side games (a normal cricket match is 11-a-side) last for only two hours, involve a lot of action, and have even adopted some concepts from baseball, including a “double play.” More information at

The NVCC also ran a cricket pilot-program at Vichy Elementary School earlier this year, running sessions and, finally, a small game with students. Directed by club President, Bourke, the program was created in conjunction with the US Youth Cricket Association and included video instruction on the basics of the game and hands-on skills clinics on batting, bowling and fielding, in addition to a game at the end of the school year. NVCC hopes to continue this program in the coming school
year with the possibility of Irish-born, club–member, Caen Healy, a class of 2016 Senior at Napa High School, planning to base his senior project on the program that the NVCC launched.

Finally, Bourke mentions that the most famous and most historic cricket series is underway in England; known as “The Ashes” and dating back to 1882. It is held once every 18 months between England and Australia and can be viewed for free as the games are aired from now through late August if one has access to WatchESPN. These are ‘test matches’ according to Bourke, who explains that each game can last up to five days of about six hours play per day, so there is a lot of time to watch!

Ready to watch? Ready to play? Game on!

For schedule and team information, contact the Napa Valley Cricket Club at: