Liz Fiedler had launched the business nearly a decade earlier. The couple grew it exponentially over subsequent years, so much so that renowned La Boulangerie partners Pascal Rigo, Nicolas Bernadi and their team bought it.
But tragedy struck in 2017 when, after living in Santa Rosa for just five months, the couple lost their home in the Tubbs Fire that was, at that time, the most destructive blaze in California history. Upon evacuating, they fled to the Acqua Hotel in Mill Valley, the town where they’d lived for three years before heading northward.
It was in that moment, and in the months that followed, bringing so many highs and lows, that two ideas dominated their thoughts: beer and Mill Valley.
The latter was simple: after years of living in San Francisco’s Presidio, then the 94941, then Healdsburg and Santa Rosa, “we realized that we just wanted to live here again,” Liz Fiedler says. In a supremely odd twist, the fire “gave us the opportunity to move back here and we realized our commutes had been terrible and that we just really loved it here.” Fast forward two years, and the couple is in the midst of rebuilding a house here in Tam Valley.
And then there’s the beer: Dez Fiedler, a longtime attorney focused on real estate and financial services litigation before joining his wife to expand Loving Cup in 2013, is beer obsessed. Fiedler’s dream has been to open a beer garden in Tam Junction, a place where he could showcase the small batch microbrews he loves, from Santa Cruz to Half Moon Bay to Sonoma County.
”This has been an odyssey for me,” Collins says. “When I bought the building, I needed about 500 square feet of space for my business and now I had 6,000. Collins had minimal intentions for all that extra room – he planned to just park old cars there and fix them up over time.
When the Fiedlers approached him with the idea, he said, “No, no, no, you want a silk purse and I’ve got a sow’s ear here. I had no business plan, really. They came along and they are, quite honestly, visionaries. They see this whole block and they see a whole new world.”
If he needed any additional convincing, Collins’ soon-to-be 88-year-old mom Patricia gave him an extra nudge. “She told me, ‘What are you waiting for?’ It is a now a truly a silk purse. It’s a transformation that I never ever envisioned.”
The couple quickly realized that they also needed plenty of outdoor space if they were going to realize their vision for a dog-, kid- and bicyclist-friendly space where families could gather.
That was before outdoor space became the most sought-after real estate in the midst of a terror-inducing pandemic.
They turned their attention to a portion of the massive land behind Martin Brothers Supply, the longtime Tam Junction staple founded by Jack and Judy Martin. Part storage facility, part junkyard, the massive space was everything the Fiedlers had hoped for. But it’s also a completely separate property from that of Collins. That meant finding a workable arrangement involving two neighboring landlords agreeing to lease space to the same business.
So Dez Fiedler simply went and knocked on their door.
Not long after, they had a deal, a move that provided not only nearly 5,000 square feet of outdoor space to complement the 3,000 square feet of inside space, but also the property’s massive parking lot that allowed them to meet the County of Marin’s parking requirements for a business taking that much space.
“We weren’t expecting to be approached about it,” says Judy Martin, noting that the Martin family sold them the business in 1985, and they sold it to Rob and Gina Tuckey in 2005, but the family continued to own the land. “But we always thought this kind of thing, a more community-oriented business, was what we always wanted to see happen.”
The Fiedlers spent the next 12 months clearing out the detritus, and as they drew closer to their vision, they realized it lacked a critically essential element: food.
Peter Romeo is a plumber who has played a major role in residential and commercial buildouts all over the Bay Area for nearly 40 years, including Loving Cup locations for the Fiedlers. He told the couple that Krupman, a former software product manager turned local legend of sorts in the Bay Area food scene for having built a business on making pizzas in the streets and parks of San Francisco’s Mission district in the “FrankenWeber,” a modified grill that he turned into a mobile pizza oven, had just moved to Sausalito. Given the continued success of Krupman’s Pizza Hacker brick-and-mortar business in Bernal Heights, Romeo said he might make for the perfect food partner for The Junction.
Having known the Fiedlers for years and as a diehard fan of Krupman’s pizzas, Romeo told them, “You guys would be so great together. It’s a marriage that just sort of had to be.”
Krupman says the timing of it all – his move to Marin and Pizza Hacker’s SF location long since solidified – compelled him to dive in almost right away. “I probably skipped a few steps on the due diligence front,” he jokes.
“But it works so well – I have no interest in beer and wine, and they have no interest in pizza,” Krupman adds. “A great fit.”
Krupman notes that Pizza Hacker’s pizzas at The Junction will be 33 percent larger than those of his shop in Bernal, and he’ll also be serving his Internezzo and Kale Caesar salads, as well as Mexican Coca-Cola. He’llalso be selling jars of his tomato sauce, made from tomatoes from Maqiquita Farms in Watsonville.
The Junction‘s 30 taps are focused on “breweries with super limited distribution,” Dez Fiedler says, from Cooperidge Brewing Company in Santa Rosa to Hop Dogma in Half Moon Bay. “We have three craft beer distributors but everything else is direct.”
Those relationships have an added beneficial twist in the COVID-19 era, Fiedler says. Because tasting rooms are closed, beers that are rarely if ever available outside of those tasting rooms are now more widely available. For instance, The Junction has HenHouse’s Red Overalls, a hard-to-find Vienna lager.
“It’s the fun part of the business,” Fiedler says. “With direct relationships, you are meeting the people brewing the beer. A lot of the breweries we’re working with are not big yet. You can help them grow. These are all small businesses predominantly within 100 miles of here, and every single beer on our tap list is from California.”
The Junction also features a pair of rotating taps of hard kombucha, two taps of wine, and more by the bottle, glass, or to go.
“This is truly a place where you can come hang out and bring your kids and everybody can gather, almost a replacement for so many of us in Mill Valley with small and/or sloped backyards,” said Liz Fiedler. “It’s really great to put something there that the whole community can enjoy.”
“As plumbers, we love restaurants and cafes – we’ve built 40 or 50 of these places and we love have to relationships with them afterwards,” Romeo says. “And when you can put all of that together and bring people together, that’s the magic you need once in a while.”
The 411: The Junction and Pizza Hacker are at 226 Shoreline Highway in Tam Junction. Opens Wednesday, July 29. Open 3-9pm weekdays, 1-9pm on weekends. Enter directly through the backyard (not front door for now), and park on the south side of building (parking lot is connected to Dipsea Cafe parking lot). Eventually, long after The Junction’s interior space is allowed to open in compliance with County health and safety guidelines, they’ll host live music in the space as well.
Here’s the full menu of pizzas and food. (The Meatballer has been renamed Romeo after Pete the Plumber).
On the way: Gluten-free and takeout options.