Napa’s Empty Storefronts

This weekend I’m in Napa, gateway town to the Napa Valley, the most famous winemaking district in the US. I’m spending a long weekend in the area with my partner leading up to his son’s graduation from UC Berkeley on Tuesday. We flew up to Oakland yesterday and drove to Napa, which I expected to be overrun with tourists, souvenir shops, and high-end art galleries, along the lines of Ojai or La Jolla.

There must be tourists somewhere, since I had no luck finding a charming b&b to stay at — all of them booked — but downtown Napa at 5pm or so on a Saturday was alarmingly empty. We strolled among an odd mixture of newly built mixed-purpose condo projects, old Victorian mansions from the town’s heydey, and a whole lot of empty storefronts — too many to be recent effects of the economy. We chatted with the hosts of a wine bar who explained about the lack of tourists — this is the weekend *before* Memorial Day weekend, mainly — though we didn’t bring up the empty storefronts issue.

Today we head up the valley to visit wineries and have lunch at the CIA. Tonight: back to the city. Monday, perhaps: a visit to the gleaming Locus HQ tower in Oakland.

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