Husband and wife Ken and Sharon Foster opened Hometown Store (previously ER Energy) on State Street in Ukiah in 2001 as an extension of their hearth and home business.
"I think my dad was nostalgic for the feeling of a downtown general store that carried quality goods and tired of the big-box throwaway culture that dominates our lives," recalls their daughter Hannah.
Early on, the family began carrying lines like Lodge Cast Iron and John Boos Co., emphasizing the importance of U.S.-made products and gaining a reputation in town for high-quality goods that were not easily available for rural town folk.
Twenty years and a few building moves later, they're still family owned and operated in Ukiah. In fact, it's Hannah (right), who happens to run the boutique Eden just down the street, that has stepped up to the cast iron skillet to play a larger role in Hometown Store's continued success. "I moved around during my twenties and built my personal communities in other places, but I was really craving the feeling of being rooted to a physical place and having that close proximity to the people who made me who I am," she says.
With "hometown" in the store's name, you better believe once you step inside, this Downtown Ukiah spot oozes all the right homey vibes. There's a little bit of everything, from thoughtful gifts like WoodWick candles and Holly Yashi jewelry, to gourmet kitchen items you might find at places like Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma. But instead, you're shopping at a small, family-owned business whose roots run deep in the Mendocino County community.
Now that The Fosters have entrusted their daughter with breathing some new life into the business, Hannah has made it her priority to mix the tried-and-true with the brand-new since she came on in January. "I've really worked on bringing items back to the shop that we previously carried that shoppers haven't seen in awhile," she says. "COVID has made it very hard to get U.S.-made products, especially steel, but I'm beefing up our Kitchen Aid line and trying to bring in staples for your home that you don't have to drive to Santa Rosa or order online to buy. I've brought in some locally-made products like handcrafted magnetic knife storage and I plan to really increase our quality artisan offerings where I can.
"I hope customers start to notice that the products they are finding are designed to last and are more thoughtful environmentally as I spend more time curating the product lines."
If you're wondering whether or not Hometown Store offers bridal registry, it does! It's such a great option for small town brides and grooms looking to support local, have a more personal touch with planning their registry, and make things easy on local family looking to treat them for their bridal shower and/or wedding day. "Hometown is really about setting roots in a place and being invested in the people and physical space around you," Hannah remarks. Whether you're planting your roots in Mendocino County or celebrating a couple who is, there's just something perfect about purchasing a gift from a place called "Hometown Store," isn't there?
Next time you're in the Store and don't know where to begin, consider picking up Hannah's picks for a $30 budget. "A Kuhn Rikon 4" paring knife for $10.99 and a bottle of Butt Rub seasoning for $18.50 (we also have smaller sizes but this is the big ol' BBQ bottle)," she says with certainty. "These are both products we've offered since almost the beginning and they've withstood the test of time and taste in my home that long."
We'd recommend popping in during the late morning on Saturday when the nearby Farmers Market is in full-swing and Hometown Store is open!
The store's hardworking team recently made the thoughtful decision to close on Sundays so they could all spend more time with family and have some time in the week to just pause. "As a family business, we are always blending the line between work and home life and that can be incredibly difficult as a lot of people learned when they started working from home last year," Hannah says. "As I get more in-step here at Hometown, I'm hoping to strike more of a balance and spend a little less time stressing about work and more time with friends and family."
For many of us, Covid has been a time to reconnect with family, to try our hand at complicated cooking recipes, and to make our homes feel, well, more "homey." It's no wonder a place like Hometown Store is such a beloved business in our Mendocino County community. "I think everyone values their home and their space, and I really believe we're looping back as a culture away from finding the cheapest product that we end up having to throw away and investing more in goods from the people in our hometown and hometowns like ours," Hannah says. We couldn't have said it any better.
Find Hometown Store here or on Instagram and connect with them for the latest happenings in all things home-related: @hometownstoreinc
Photos courtesy of Hannah Foster