SweetPea – a unique boutique
Many outside RP find way to quaint gift shop
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By Jud Snyder  May 24, 2013 12:00 am

It was one of those warm May or June nights back in 1987, when a small group of senior women decided they’d like to open up a store to sell their hand-knitted baby clothes and hand-strung bead necklaces they’ve busily accumulated. By October of that year they made a deal to rent a store on Southwest Boulevard, Rohnert Park’s original Main Street. The store’s founders volunteered to staff it and invited craftswomen and seamstresses to consign their goods here.

The harsh reality of the mercantile world, not quite ready as yet for genuine handicrafts as it is these days with outdoor crafts fairs, intruded,  and their store only lasted two years. 

Help from Codding

The rescue came when Hugh Codding, head of Codding Enterprises, made a deal with the City of Rohnert Park to sell his Hunter Drive headquarters so a center could be started here for the growing population of seniors. It was a natural to add the struggling Craft Shoppe to the new tenant list. It was also decided to change the name to SweetPea Gift Shoppe in honor of the city’s chosen floral symbol. Their new location opened to the public November 1990.

What once was a sewing hobby and bead-craft store has become a genuine unique boutique. Infant jammies and mittens are still here as are handsome strings of beads, but they’ve been dwarfed in variety and amount by handcrafted jewelry, bracelets, scarves, handbags, ceramics, colorful hats, pennants, vests and socks for all ages and an amazing collection of knick-knacks for shelves, cabinets and mantels. 

“Boutique” almost becomes an understatement. Many craft-skilled workers from other Sonoma County cities and rural workshops have discovered this busy little outlet for their labors.

More volunteers welcome

Consignors are invited to volunteer to staff the shop. If they had more volunteers, craftswomen or men (yes, they’re attracting more men with their crafts skills), they could expand their hours. Currently the hours are 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and the second  Saturday every month. 

SweetPea Gift Shoppe can honestly claim a special uniqueness in a city laden with chain department stores loaded with imported crafts from elsewhere. There are no China or Bangladesh labels here. 

It is run by a board of directors and Shelley Melville, a part-time community services director at the senior center, has the job of overall management of the shop. She’s been with the shop and center for the past five years.

Retired from the Marin Municipal Water District’s as a technician in the engineering department after 27 years of service, Shelley, 55, born in Lucas Valley, worked with the MMWD’s chief, Dietrich Stroh, all that time. “We meet for lunch several times year just to catch up with our activities,” she said. The former Shelley Blanchard graduated from College of Marin and Indian Valley College. She’s married to Dan Melville, a hardwood flooring contractor, they have a son, Craig, 24. They’ve lived in Rohnert Park since 1984.

For details, they can be reached during store hours at 585-6786.

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