Diekmann’s General Store, Tomales.
The building that now houses Diekmann’s General Store, built in 1867, was, in its earliest years, Newburgh & Kahn’s, whose stock included groceries, dry goods, hardware, clothes, hay and grain, coal, gun powder, lumber, wallpaper, and furnishings. After three more owners Walter Diekmann purchased the business in 1948.
One of the four Diekmann brothers to make a mark on the North Bay grocery business (older brother William owned the 405 Market in Santa Rosa, Herman operated Diekmann’s Bay Store in Bodega Bay, and Ed Diekmann would later be proprietor of Valley of the Moon Market in Glen Ellen), Walt Diekmann was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Iowa. He and Mildred Bartels had been married less than two years, and had a new baby boy named Billy, when a phone call came from the older brother, William, bringing a message echoing countless others that had been crossing the country for a hundred years: “there’s money to be made in California!”
After an investigatory trip to look over a Tomales general store that was for sale, Diekmann returned to Iowa, where he and Mildred auctioned most of their household goods , packed the rest in a tiny, one-wheeled trailer, and set off with 1 ½ year-old Bill for California. The Diekmann family eventually included three children, Bill, Mark and Kristin, and even after Mildred’s sad and unexpected death-Kristin was only two years old-Walt managed, with help from relatives and neighbors, to raise the kids and work 6 and a half days a week. As the children grew they took part in the business, absorbing the finer points of small town storekeeping along the way.
Everyone, it seems, has memories of Diekmann’s General Store: the ice water-filled, lidded barrel with bottles of soft drinks inside, the post office at the rear of the store, and the well-filled comic book rack at the front corner, where the patient proprietor put up with the frequent reading-and not so frequent buying-of local kids.
After Walt Diekmann died in 1972, Bill and Kristin took over the business (which they sold, while maintaining ownership of the building, in 2000). In the late ‘70’s Bill oversaw the rehabilitation of the venerable building, which included restoration of some original cabinetry and other interior details. The store, a focal point of the village’s commercial district, has deservedly become a beloved icon of Tomales. Kristin now runs the Two Silos Mercantile on the second floor which offers antiques, consignment and selected seconds merchandise.
Excerpted with permission, from the Tomales Regional History Center Bulletin, October 2006. Editor Ginny Magan