You’ll find this story and an array of other inspiring, practical content, from bits of wisdom to recipes and events (some day soon, we hope), in our 2020-21 EMV Guide, which appears within the August 2020 issue of Marin Magazine.

Depot Bookstore & Cafe, circa Feb. 2020.

PictureEldon Beck, author, “Edges: Mountains, Forests and Creeks.”

When acclaimed landscape architect Eldon Beck moved to Mill Valley in 1963 with his wife Helen and two children, he took a “monumental step in my quest for the unknown” that “opened my senses to the remarkable partnership of nature and village,” he writes in his 2019 tome, “Edges: Mountains, Forests and Creeks.”

Beck’s book poetically positions Mill Valley as a place with a deep connection to the nature that envelops it. Since Beck moved from Homestead Valley, where he was surrounded by nature and wildlife, to a house on Sycamore Ave., just a stone’s throw from downtown, he’s loved his walks to the Mill Valley Lumber Yard – “what a wonderful front door to the town,” he says of it – and downtown.

“The setting of Mill Valley has real permanence to it,” Beck says. “It’s an anchor, a kind of security blanket in the midst of all of the illness and tumult we’ve been going through recently.”

When he arrives downtown, Beck’s immediately drawn in by the Depot Plaza, which “functions as a meadow, an ecotonal clearing in a forest” where “parents, grandparents and others retreat to the edges to watch the performers, “mostly kids, adventure into the plaza.”

PictureDepot Bookstore & Cafe Managing Partners Mark Martini and Paul Lazzareschi, above and at left, in the soon-to-be reinvigorated downtown landmark.

​“The flexible, level space in the plaza, free of cars, breeds imagination,” Beck writes. “Above pavement scrawled with kid-powered chalk lines and crooked hopscotch boxes, toddlers exploring the vertical world of scooters and trikes fueled by shrieks and laughter mix with the parade of every size, shape and color of dog. Children board the rebuilt Gravity Car and pretend to guide it down precarious trails.”

The dominant feature of that “meadow” is a building that, as Beck notes, is in the midst of ​“its third life.” The current Depot
Bookstore & Cafe began as a train station, built by the Northwestern Pacific Railroad in 1928. It served as the terminal for trains that ran between Mill Valley and the Sausalito ferry. Shut down in the 1940s, it morphed into a bus depot, used first by Greyhound and later by Golden Gate Transit.

“In a stroke of civil genius, bus stops were relocated, parking was removed and the parking area became the brick-paved plaza,” Beck writes about then-Mayor Dick Jessup’s creation of the plaza in 1982. The Depot assumed its new life as a coffee shop and bookstore, “a center of socializing and village life,” Beck writes.

Though it doesn’t qualify as the fourth life in its history, the Depot has entered a new chapter, a renovation that largely has two ​components: an overhaul of the Depot space, bringing the historic building up to code, upgrades to its infrastructure and spaces to ensure a great customer experience, as well as the construction of a pair of long-sought public restrooms adjacent to the Depot. The Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center remains in the building.

Paul Lazzareschi, who also owns Vasco restaurant, bought the business in 2016 from the family of the late Mary Turnbull, who founded the famed bookstore and cafe with her husband William Turnbull in 1987.

“We are thrilled to show off this revived and renovated Mill Valley institution to the entire community and visitors who come from far and wide to check out a landmark that is integral to this town,” says Mark Martini, a longtime local resident and a managing partner of the Depot.

Beck looks forward to taking one of his walks into town and spotting a just-revealed, gleaming Depot, surrounded by both nature and the din of children and parents.

“I can hardly wait,” he says.

You’ll find this story and an array of other inspiring, practical content, from bits of wisdom to recipes and events (some day soon, we hope), in our 2020-21 EMV Guide, which appears within the August 2020 issue of Marin Magazine.

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