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Winters Express
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On urban redwood and small town changes

By Edmund Lis
Hard to believe that this is the 50th column I’ve written for the Winters Express. I thought I would take this milestone as an opportunity to reflect on my perspective of living in Winters.
When Diane and I bought our house here in 2001, it was really more about pricing than location. We had been renting in Vacaville since moving to California in 1999 but the problem was that we were already priced out of that market so we started looking in surrounding communities.
I saw an ad in the paper “for sale by owner” in Winters. The moment I set foot in the house I got chills and an overwhelming feeling that I was home. We had to get it, but of course it wasn’t that simple. Long story short, with a lot of hook and a little crook, we got ourselves a house.
It was damn near perfect, a big redwood out front and a palm tree out back. Half a block in either direction we had a funky little Irish Pub or the public library. Around the corner there was everything we needed, restaurants, bank, drug store, art gallery, antique shop, hardware store, and two video stores. We felt safe because the police and fire stations were barely a block away and the neighbors looked out for each other. There was an instant feeling of comfort and
On Sundays, I would walk up to Lester’s for pastries then come home and sit on the porch with my coffee and read the paper. On that short, quiet walk I would stop in the middle of Main Street and look west towards the gap with the sun shining on it and I would think, “This is paradise.”
But that was a quarter of my lifetime ago and my perspective, as well as Winters, has changed. Let’s start with that majestic redwood just six feet from my bedroom window. What I once thought was great, now I wonder who the hell planted that monster so close to the house, oh and don’t get me started on that nasty, seed spewing, frond dropping, palm tree out back.
That funky Irish Pub is now a loud, busy bar/restaurant with an outdoor patio less than 100 feet from my porch — no more sitting and relaxing on a quiet Sunday or evening. Even the walk to the bakery can be a pain trying to dodge the people waiting for tables at the café.
Fifteen years ago when I drove over the freeway I barely noticed the gas station because I was so mesmerized by the view of the water tower, the Berryessa gap, and the town spread below. Now all I notice is fast food and what will soon be a massive training facility.
The retail mix downtown has also changed and I own up to my part in that change. When we decided to open Steady Eddy’s 12 years ago, it was partly because I couldn’t get a good cappuccino in town. The original idea was for a small coffee bar that just Diane and I would run and would fit into our quiet downtown lifestyle. But no, I let the landlord talk me into a bigger space that then meant everything had to be more.
Around the same time, music and wine venues opened and thrived downtown. Tourists drawn by the new vibe started coming on the weekends, we started getting good press and a visit to the café by Triple D didzn’t hurt.
Now we have hotels and
a Starbucks coming, more retail and construction on Grant and more new houses in the pipeline. With all the growth we’ve had and everything that’s coming in the near future I can’t help but wonder what Winters will look like, or more importantly, feel like in the next few years.
For me it’s an emotional conundrum. On the one hand, I know that my living situation’s not getting better and there’s not much quiet in my future. I don’t recognize most faces around town on any given evening, which takes away from that small town feel, and on the few occasions that I get in my car, I’m surprised by how much traffic there is up on Grant or even downtown.
On the other hand, the value of my house is increasing, the business where I work keeps growing so there’s some job security, and when I want to go out to eat or drink ,I have some wonderful choices.
So, I guess from my perspective, I can’t really say if Winters is better or worse. What I can say is that it’s different and it really just depends on if my glass of wine is half full or half empty.
For archives of Edmund’s columns please visit www.whatsthepoint-