Santa Ysabel General Store
and Backcountry Interpretive Center
30275 Highway 78 Santa Ysabel, CA 92070
The historic Santa Ysabel General Store, an iconic landmark, was purchased by Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) in 2011, and is being operated innovatively with five local natural history organizations, the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, the San Diego River Park Foundation, the Volcan Mountain Foundation, the Wildlife Research Institute and the Anza-Borrego Foundation. The soft opening was October 6, 2012. Since then it's been open every Friday-Sunday from 11-5. Come out to visit!
Scroll down for more photos.
Click here for a link to
SOHO's website for current times and directions to the new facility.
Dating from 1884, the store is now being restored, bringing a unique emporium brimming with heirloom and artisanal foodstuffs, back-to-nature gifts, wares for home and garden, and books and guides for the naturalist or cultural tourist. The store, ideally located at a well-traveled crossroads where state Highways 78 and 79 meet, is slated to be a popular destination as it doubles as a new Backcountry Interpretive/Visitor Center focused on public trails, birds and wildlife, recreational opportunities, and cultural heritage sites.
The historic store had been in business as a mercantile store for more than 80 years, before seeing a variety of uses in the last three decades. As the most principal site remaining from the 19th-century ranching town, returning it to its original use fits SOHO's educational mission well. Its authentic look and feel remain intact: antique display cases and wood counters, replicas of the original back shelving are being installed, tall windows and high ceilings, bare wood floors, and a wood-burning stove with country chairs and a checkerboard drawn up to it in neighborly fashion.
1918 above; 2013 below. Note SOHO's attention to detail in restoring the shadow lettering. Click on photo to enlarge.
The Santa Ysabel General Store is an updated version of the traditional central source of food and essential items for farmers, families, and travelers. Instead of huge burlap sacks of flour, corn and grain heaped on the floor, shoppers will find attractive, pantry-sized packages from heritage and organic food producers. Instead of agricultural tools and supplies, there will be heirloom seeds and bulbs, do-it-yourself cheese or craft beer making kits, and specialty honey, pickled vegetables and preserves put up in micro batches by food artisans.
Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO), San Diego County's historic preservation group, is the building's new owner and steward, responsible for the faithful restoration and reuse of a formerly closed and deteriorating store and social hub. Dozens of volunteers helped clean, repair, and paint the General Store earlier this year so that others will experience a lively representative of our rural heritage. Click here for links to photos of that work being done.
"Rural 19th-century ideals and practices have come back to the future in the 21st century," said Alana Coons, SOHO's Education and Communications Director. "We see this in the widespread popularity of and pride in DIY projects, organic gardening, handmade wares and artisanal provisions. The new Santa Ysabel General Store reflects this trend, with an emphasis on quality goods produced with the farm to table ethic highlighted. As a community partner, we are carving out a niche that will not compete with the area's existing businesses and galleries, but is designed instead to complement."
The nonprofit SOHO is also the operator of the nearby, newly restored Warner-Carrillo Ranch House, Stage Station and Trading Post. The gateway to California for hundreds of thousands of settlers and Gold Rush prospectors, the long-endangered adobe ranch house, barn and trading post make up one of San Diego County's nationally significant historic sites.
"Day trippers can easily visit the General Store and Warner-Carrillo Ranch in a leisurely outing that they may want to cap off with apple pie, wine tasting at one of the many local wineries or a seasonal, organic dinner at Jeremy's on the Hill, or any of the many other fine restaurants cropping up in the back country,"Coons said.
The new Interpretive/Visitor Center within the store offers maps, guidebooks, practical gear, binoculars and scopes, and information for hikers, mountain bikers, bird watchers, and other nature enthusiasts. It is staffed by knowledgeable members of four partnering organizations. The headwaters for the San Diego and San Dieguito Rivers originate near Santa Ysabel, so the focus on these regional watersheds is a natural fit for the Interpretive/Visitor Center.
The partners involved are San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, which supports the River Park mission and is over halfway complete with the Coast to Crest trail from Del Mar to Julian; their partner at the headwaters, Volcan Mountain Foundation, whose Administrative Director Colleen Bradley sees the store and visitor center as "a natural extension of VMF's Education-Outreach program and its mission to protect Volcan Mountain for all generations. It's a great way to connect with visitors to further enhance their appreciation, understanding, and experience of San Diego's wildlands, wildlife, water, and history." The Wildlife Research Institute of Ramona, known for their expertise in golden eagles and other raptors, intends to be ambassadors for all the wildlife in our region. Board member Leigh Bittner, who heads the educational program for WRI at the Visitor Center, says, "Bird-watching is one of the fastest growing hobbies in America. Our region offers tremendous birding hotspots and WRI can help the public learn about these areas and the habitat needed to support our wildlife." Rounding out the original group is the San Diego River Park Foundation, whose headwaters also start nearby. The newest partner is the Anza-Borrego Foundation.
These nonprofit groups share SOHO's commitment to preserving natural and cultural landscapes and East County's rural way of life.
Free and open to the public, Santa Ysabel General Store and Interpretive/Visitor Center hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. For more information, contact SOHO at (619) 297-9327 or visit www.sohosandiego.org