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County Clubs, Groceries and Pot

Columnist: Bill Meagher
January, 2015 Issue

Bill Meagher
All articles by columnist

How hard will it be to sing “Kumbaya” at the PTA meeting while texting about StoneTree’s dance Saturday night?

As we move into 2015, a couple of local projects bear watching. The Bay Club, which has two campuses in Marin (Corte Madera and Kentfield), purchased the StoneTree Golf Course last year and has said it plans to sink $10 million into the Novato property to transform it into a “resort without room keys.” And Fairfax-based Good Earth Natural Foods plans on opening a second store in Mill Valley’s Tam Junction later this year.
The San Francisco-based Bay Club has a dozen locations, with all but one found in the Bay Area; the sole outlier is in San Diego. The 2,000-employee company has been around since 1977, offering fitness facilities, social events as well as its branded Sanctuary Spa to 55,000 members. The company was sold by KSL Partners LLC to hedge fund York Capital Management, JMA Ventures, as well as a Bay Club management group last June for an undisclosed price. They plan on moving the Bay Club toward a model closer to hospitality and less gym. The new ownership wants to buy golf courses and transform them into country clubs with an emphasis on families and kids using the facility.
Future plans for StoneTree include adding a practice area for the golf course, a possible aquatic park as well as clubhouse improvements and bringing in a pair of restaurants.
The Bay Club currently offers a trio of membership levels that let members have access to all clubs chain wide, have regional access, or have a membership at a single club.
York Capital is a hedge fund with offices in New York, London and Hong Kong with holdings that include blue chip stocks such as Yahoo, American Airlines and Time Warner. It also holds other investments including an interest in a joint venture to acquire container ships with Costamare Inc. JMA, a minority owner, is a San Francisco-based developer with holdings that include the Tahoe Biltmore Hotel, Alpine Meadows Ski Resort and San Francisco restaurants Epic Roadhouse and Waterbar.
StoneTree and the surrounding homes were built in 2001 after a brutal battle that included giving the much-beloved Marin institution known as the Renaissance Pleasure Faire the boot—a move that was akin to telling Mother Teresa to hit the bricks.
It will be interesting to see how the concept of a modern country club is embraced in Marin. While there’s no shortage of disposable income looking for a home around here, and Marin parents believe nothing is too good for the kids, there’s also a projected value of inclusiveness in this county. And the bedrock of any membership-based club is that not everyone belongs. How hard will it be to sing “Kumbaya” at the PTA meeting while texting about StoneTree’s dance Saturday night?
The folks at Good Earth Natural Foods have it easier, though the grocery market in Marin is tough. The Fairfax store has a loyal following that includes a lot of shoppers from Southern Marin, part of the genesis for the new store. The Tam Junction location will make it easy for both locals and folks heading out Highway 1, bound for West Marin, to stock up on groceries. Good Earth won’t have to build from scratch, instead moving into the existing 26,000-square-foot store that was formerly Delano’s IGA Market. (The store requires renovations and Good Earth hopes to open in the fall.)
From a demographic standpoint, Good Earth is a natural fit for Southern Marin residents, who tend to be health conscious and favor quality over price shopping, organic over conventional. It will also be interesting to watch how Whole Foods reacts to the geographic competition. The national grocer has two locations in Mill Valley, and Good Earth must have designs on slicing off some of that pie.

Your Marin moment

The Lappert family has been in the ice cream business for a while and its Bridgeway shop in Sausalito is always crowded. Started by Walter in 1983 (a rendering of his mug is the corporate symbol), the business is now run by his son, Corte Madera Mayor Michael Lappert, and Walter’s grandson, Isaac.
Lappert’s was creating unusual flavors before Ben met Jerry. But Isaac’s latest venture has topped Lappert favorites like Manila Mango and Mexican Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl. Isaac has created Cannabis Creamery.
His Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream contains 60 milligrams of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) that, among other things, makes you want to eat a little ice cream. It won an award at the HempCon Kush Kup last year in Southern California, copping the “Best Dessert Edible” hardware.
While Lappert’s cannabis-infused ice cream is only available at some medical marijuana dispensaries, with a large political push coming to place a measure on the 2016 ballot to make recreational pot use legal, Cannabis Creamery could be positioned to become the Häagen Daze of the hash set.


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