Constructed in 1946, The Historic Soda Canyon Store is a true family affair for co-owners Bonnie Mott, Gina Ergun and Kristi Seitz-Banducci.
During the 1970s, the location housed a general store and gas station that served as a community meeting place for Silverado and Soda Canyon residents alike. The nondescript building was replete with video games, good old Yuban coffee, and a signature waft of smoke emanating from nearly every employee and patron inside. It was central to the nearby community and a place for visitors of all walks of life to ply their stories, and rest and relax before, during, and after a hard day of work in the Valley.
Gina and Kristi’s father, Steve Longo, an electrician by trade, wandered into the store for a little refreshment one afternoon in 1978 and encountered Bill Conaster seated inside; his feet propped atop the counter and with a lit cigarette in hand. Conversation between the two led Steve and his wife Gail, the girl’s mother, to purchasing the store from Bill & his wife Verla later that year. The future of the Soda Canyon Store was born anew.
Having passed between a number of owners and undergone many additions over the years, upon acquiring the store, Steve and Gail had the insight to expand operations further. Construction of the original deli counter and additional expansion of the market’s offerings to include a broader selection of sundries, grocery items, live bait & fishing tackle were but a few of the Longo family’s entrepreneurial contributions to the store’s rich and storied history.
In 1981, the Longos split and Gail continued operation of the store. Soon after, at twelve years old, Gina and Bonnie met, becoming fast friends. The two, along with Kristi, were recruited to work together for Gail in the store throughout their school years. Always engaged in community spirit, the girls enlisted the help of many neighborhood friends to assist in the daily ongoings at Soda Canyon Store.
The girls relate fond stories of their grandfather Frank Longo visiting the store regularly during those years, with gifts in hand of homemade minestrone and his famous eggplant parmesan he’d prepared from the bounty of his own garden. As was the fashion of the times, these culinary treasures were eagerly shared with patrons and neighbors.
When Bonnie, Gina, and Kristi were college-bound, the store continued onward. It wasn’t until 1996 that Gina and Kristi would reunite under the roof of their family business, with an exciting proposal to add ‘fancy coffee’ to the store’s otherwise blue-collar offerings. Not believing that her patrons would pay such outlandish prices for a cup of coffee, Gail allowed the girls to set up shop within the operation, but only under the agreement that their businesses be kept separate.
Armed with a single espresso machine (which lasted an uncanny 21 years), the sisters found success almost immediately. Soon after, they expanded operations to include fresh fruit smoothies; yet another venture that nobody believed would be successful. These endeavors ultimately established one of the first truly lucrative coffee and smoothie bars in the area.
Wanting to retire, Gail placed the store on the market in 2000, and interest in its purchase came swiftly from the owners of Dean & Deluca. Gina and Kristi contemplated leaving the business until Bonnie, who had been overseeing operations for years at the Genova Delicatessen in Napa, approached the two sisters and encouraged them to purchase the store from their mother. It was at this pivotal point in September of 2000 that Bonnie, Gina, and Kristi’s partnership in the store officially began and its legacy persevered.
On the new partners’ first day of business and with a store full of locals enjoying lunch, at 1 pm the store had to be immediately closed. A fire broke out leading to the evacuation of the store, its patrons, and employees. The fire and subsequent smoke damage ultimately shuttered operations while the interior was gutted, restored, and remodeled.
Seeing the fire as an opportunity to grow rather than a threat to their operations, efforts were made by the partners to improve the layout and design of the store and again expand on its offerings. Concurrently, the footprint of the deli was relocated and increased, as was the overall size of the kitchen. On September 23, 2001, nearly a year after their original opening, Soda Canyon Store opened with life anew under the partnership of the “Three Daisies,” whose symbolism adorns the store’s logo to this day.
Early on in the partnership, Kristi departed from day-to-day operations. She and her husband Mike Seitz, a young and upcoming star in enology, winemaking, and viticulture, founded Brookdale Vineyards and the cult-favorite 13 Appellations wine brand. His knowledge, strong will, and tremendous charisma made him a pioneer in the industry in his own right. Tragically, Mike passed in 2003 as the result of a harvest accident. Kristi, with their newborn son Charlie, opted not to return to the daily business with Bonnie and Gina, and instead carry on wine operations in her husband’s name. Still to this day you can find her successfully running Brookdale Vineyards where she produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir.
The three, whose partnership has experienced many challenges, trials, and tribulations over the years, remain as close as ever; each relating to the other not only as best friends but also sisters…indeed, a true family. Some might see this relationship as rare in a collective such as this, but the trio has withstood the test of time through hard work, perseverance, and genuine trust in one another. Their husbands, Troy Mott, Kenny Ergun, and Brian Banducci, are also the closest of friends.
Fond memories and stories of their early years are often shared, as these were by far the most difficult and where days wore on longest. Tales of making it through the day exhausted, fueled by beer hidden in paper cups behind the work-counters, bring smiles to the owners’ faces. 16-hour days punctuated those years regularly, but their labor of love kept the store alive.
They’ve raised their own families under the roof of Soda Canyon Store and operate today with assistance from the next generation. Bonnie’s daughters, Kennedie and Peyton, along with Kristi’s son, Charlie, have often worked in various roles. Their family dogs also can be spotted greeting customers and keeping company in the store office. Even their father Steve still frequents the store, making repairs and checking in on the legacy he started so long ago. He is a staff and customer favorite, and brings an energy to the room that is second to none!
When the Atlas Fires blazed through the nearby Soda Canyon district in 2017 and destroyed numerous homes and structures neighboring the store, the girls found a renewed sense of the important role Soda Canyon Store plays within the community. Both a gathering place during the fires, and a hub for so many friends and neighbors during reconstruction, the store remains at the center of activity along the Silverado Trail.
After having celebrated its 40th anniversary of family operations in 2018, Soda Canyon Store continues in operation under the Three Daisies, with Bonnie and Gina responsible for day-to-day functions and Kristi partnered silently. Their partnership celebrated 20 years in November 2020! Soda Canyon Store remains a comfortable and approachable pillar within the Napa Valley and continues to foster neighborly spirit for patrons from all walks of life; all centered around a bountiful offering of healthful, delicious handmade offerings.