The highly anticipated Little Saint opens in Healdsburg

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The huge industrial-style space that once housed SHED Modern Grange in downtown Healdsburg opened Friday as Little Saint, a restaurant, cafe, bar and retail space from the owners of the restaurant Single Thread, three Michelin stars.

The highly anticipated opening comes four years after SHED closed in 2018, leaving the prime 10,000 square foot space empty just off bustling Healdsburg Avenue. Since opening in 2013, SHED had been a popular central location for an increasingly upscale dining scene in Healdsburg.

On Friday, locals entered Little Saint not knowing what to expect and with faces registering a combination of recognition and surprise. Everything and nothing is different when you walk in. The layout of the cafe, coffee bar, shopping and food counters has changed little since the SHED closed, but there’s a new warmth with comfy banquettes, floor-to-ceiling curtains adorned with modern art, and double the seats. The 25 North St. location is welcoming in a way that builds on SHED’s original vision, but with Single Thread’s skilled hospitality and in-the-moment cuisine.

Behind the project are Kyle and Katina Connaughton of high-end Single Thread, designer Ken Fulk of San Francisco’s nonprofit Saint Joseph’s Arts Foundation, philanthropist Jeff Ubben and his wife, animal activist Laurie Ubben, and program director Jenny Hess. In addition to its food offerings, the sprawling Healdsburg space will also be used as a community hub for conversations with thought leaders, live music performances and events.

“It’s a community gathering place that’s been missing for a few years,” said Little Saint general manager Akeel Shah, most recently of Single Thread. “That’s what SHED was, and it’s exciting to bring that back.

“Immediately when we told the community that we were opening our doors, it ignited a spark,” Shah said.

Little Saint both embraces and expands on the ideals of SHED founders Doug Lipton and Cindy Daniel, who took a leap of faith by self-funding the design and construction of a “modern barn” in 2013. At the time, their project aimed to celebrate Sonoma County’s farms, wines, makers, artists and thought leaders in a modern, vibrant space.

When it closed in late 2018, the old SHED lay fallow, with rumors of a purchase lingering. When the Ubbens purchased the building in 2020, they vowed to carry on the SHED legacy.

Single Thread’s management arm, Vertice Hospitality Management, manages the food and wine components of the space. Executive Chef Bryan Oliver will return to the kitchen, where he once worked with Executive Chef Perry Hoffman when SHED was in operation.

The restaurant’s forward-thinking cafe and restaurant menus pay homage to the Alexander Valley’s 30 acres of farmland: the 5-acre Little Saint Farm and the Connaughtons’ 25-acre Single Thread Farm.

The food, Kyle Connaughton said, features micro-seasonal produce from the farms, a reflection of what’s happening in Sonoma County today. Restaurant dishes include lavash with togarashi, purple carrots with crunchy rice and XO sauce, cauliflower biryani and rice pudding for dessert.

The cafe, open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., sells a variety of salads, bowls, and desserts with dishes such as beets with coconut yogurt, potato salad with eggless mayonnaise, and orzo with asparagus and candied lemons.

Fulk’s design elements include a cozy collection of vintage and custom pieces upcycled by local artisans. The curated art collection at Little Saint features the private collection of Ken and Laurie Ubbens as well as pieces by California Expressionist artists Jack Freeman and Gerald Wasserma. Facilities will change frequently.

Co-owner Laurie Ubben said the timing of the opening was perfect, after years of confinement and social distancing. The result far exceeded what she expected at the start of the project.

“How we interact with our environment is the future of food. It’s important to have a connection to where things came from. In a way, having everything here under one roof is representative of that,” she said.

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