The owners of The Elk Store may be the new kids on the block, but the store itself has been operating since 1927. Sean and Elise Ferrarese fell in love with Elk while driving through about ten years ago, “We were driving from our home in Eugene, Oregon to visit family in the Bay Area over the holidays, and Santiam Pass on I-5 was closed.” said Elise. “Our route was detoured to Highway 1, and we really loved the Mendocino coast. We began day-dreaming about moving to Elk and buying the store, and it took us eight years, but we made the move.” Elise left her job as a stream ecologist, and Sean left his job as a teacher (he taught Urban Farming at the University of Oregon and fifth grade). They packed up their young family and bought The Elk Store in August 2014.
The couple is committed to bringing high-quality, local items to the little country store. “We carry a ton of local products because it’s important to us to support the local economy and other small businesses. Plus we really believe in these products and the people behind them. We have gotten to know so many great people in Mendocino through the store” said Sean. The shelves are stocked with goods from The Apple Farm in Philo, Mendocino Tea Company in Albion, Albion Farmers Market soaps, and Piment d’Ville from Boonville, to name a few. They continue to expand their selection, and plan more changes in the future. “We look at the store as a work in progress, and we have a lot of ideas for improving and expanding our business,” remarked Sean.
The Elk Store deli makes an assortment of hot panini sandwiches, specialty deli sandwiches, and soups. They feature ciabatta, focaccia, sourdough and rye breads from Fort Bragg Bakery, high-quality meats and cheeses, and organic avocados, onions and tomatoes. “We believe a good sandwich starts with great ingredients, so we use the best,” said John Holmes, the deli manager. The menu features sandwiches like a hot roast beef panini with grilled onions, cheddar and Jack cheeses with a horseradish aioli served on Fort Bragg Bakery sourdough, or the very popular NorCal with turkey, avocado, Jack cheese, tomatoes, sprouts, and “house mix” (a combination of Mendocino mustard and mayo) on whole grain. The deli serves a house-made clam chowder from Elise’s family recipe (she is from Massachusetts and claims their “chowdah” is “the real deal”). There is also a rotating soup of the day.
Not suprisingly, the Elk Store has a large selection of Mendocino County wines. “Putting in a large wine section was one of our first moves after we bought the store,” said Sean. “We mostly carry Anderson Valley wines, and there is still a ton of variety here.“
“People are always amazed that such a little store has so many great wines, and we have had a lot of fun choosing our wine selection. A lot of our customers are tourists and we like to show them what Mendocino County is all about,” said Elise.
Their business is truly a family affair. Elise and Sean welcomed a new baby boy to their family this fall. They frequently have both of their kids in the store while they are working. Sean’s father helps with deliveries and built the beautiful redwood display tables. They also employ local teens. “This is what our move to Elk was all about,” remarked Sean. “Spending more time together as a family, and making the store a great place for this community.”