Not too long ago, I received an email from Lynne Butcher telling me there are several new businesses that have recently opened in Upper Lake. Lynne would know. Lynne and Bernie Butcher are the proud owners of the recently restored historic Tallman Hotel and Blue Wing, which hosts live music Friday through Monday in the courtyard year around. Their businesses are already two great reasons to visit Upper Lake, and I couldn’t wait to see more, so I eagerly set up a day trip to see for myself.
Double D’s Coffee and Old Town Iron
Meet James and Diane Devries, both local high school graduates and owners of Double D’s Coffee and Old Town Iron, Upper Lakes’ new gym. It’s a bright spring day when the temperature isn’t too hot, and the sun still feels welcoming.
“We bought the building two years ago, a total fixer-upper,” explains James as we make our way down the old walkway of Main Street toward his gym. He’s tall, wearing a T-shirt, and his arm reaches as he opens the door. To my surprise, there’s nothing old about this building or the equipment in it. Everything is new, clean and fresh.
“Yeah, I built this because so many people like myself who live locally in Upper Lake, Nice, or Lucerne don’t always have time to drive to Lakeport and make it to the gym every night. And it turns out there are lots of people like me, and the business is doing great. We got a hundred and fifty members in just three months!”
After a few minutes, James’ wife, Diane, greets us, and we make our way to their second business, Double D’s Coffee. Double D’s Coffee is not necessarily new to Upper Lake, other than its location.
“We bought it in 2019, just before covid,” James begins. “And everything was shutting down, so we decided to shut down too and save our energy and money for remodeling,” Diane smiles as he shares. The remodel makes the place look great. It’s brightly lit, and fresh paint brings an airiness to the open space. It’s a welcome start to anyone’s day, whether just finishing up at the gym or beginning a day of Lake County adventuring.
The Dragon’s Den
Speaking of adventuring, mine is just getting going as I cross Main Street to the Dragons Den to meet owners Aletha Willard and Dustin Scott. I can’t help but smile. High above, nearly touching the ceiling, is a massive dragon. My amazement is obvious when I’m greeted by Aletha. “It took us five months to build this dragon,” she laughs. My eyes grow even larger.
It seems like we’ve entered the dragon’s lair and are only allowed with the dragon’s permission. And what is its loot? All things Pokemon, all things Dungeons and Dragons, complete with a ramen bar for customers to make their own bowl of ramen after school. And don’t forget the row of stuffed animals and stickers galore. And if you are into DnD, this is your home for games on the weekend, where you can battle Dustin, co-owner, for Pokemon badges. The one thing you won’t find are video games. But trust me; you won’t miss them once you enter the Dragon’s Den.
Upper Lake Hobby Toys
So one thing you should know about Upper Lake: It’s now home to two toy stores! Meet Ron Sussio, owner of Upper Lake Hobby Toys, which is home to Upper Lake’s very own remote-controlled rock crawling course located just out back of his store. “Yeah, I built it for the community,” says Ron while ushering me to the back of his store. It’s going to be L shaped once it’s finished and have multiple courses. It’ll have crawling, a drift course, and mini-z tracks. It should be an hour or two of good fun,” he finishes.
And sure enough, along the fence line hangs a suspended track with rocks and boulders underneath. I smile, knowing nothing about mini-z’s, drifting or the other thing he mentioned, but I understand it’s for the community and another thing for the family to do together in Lake County, so count me in as a huge fan! If smaller toys are more your thing, you’ll find a plethora of Hot Wheels, Legos, science stem projects, models, and Nerf guns. One thing is certain–if one toy store doesn’t have it, the other one just might.
Upper Lake Grocery
And if you’ve spent an afternoon in Upper Lake as I did, now comes the difficult decision of how to turn the perfect day into the perfect evening. One choice is to visit the Blue Wing for one of Lake County’s finest meals and live music. Or you could stop by Upper Lake Grocery Store and bring home some steak for the family. And that’s where my day ends when I meet Ben Gunther, proud co-owner of Upper Lake Grocery.
“A lot of people don’t know we have great meet packs that are very reasonably priced. We’ve got USDA Tri-Tip for $7.99/lb and Rib-Eye for $14.99/lb. just to get you started for that summer BBQ. This isn’t just your beer and snack stop,” he laughs. And for that quick meal, I was happy to see fresh deli sandwiches you can grab when you’re on the go. “Yeah, we’re proud of our local community and want to help other small businesses get started and be seen. So we also sell veggie starts, house plants, candles, and lip balms all from local small businesses. And boy, do those things fly off the shelf!” Ben laughs.
It’s been quite the adventure, I smile when I thank Lynne for giving me the chance to meet these new store owners. “We’re thrilled to have these new stores in Upper Lake,” she says. “I think it really makes a difference that they are young, local, and invested owners of their small businesses, and many of them own their buildings, too!” Her eyes dance. I agree before saying our goodbyes and making my way back down Main Street to my car. I can’t help but notice other pedestrians and cars driving slowly to see what’s new to see on Main Street. And to think I only got to visit four of the up-and-coming businesses. I do believe I’ll be coming back to see more sooner than later!