Spirit of 1960s TV show alive in small town
06/22/2012 6:51 PM
06/23/2012 4:06 PM
If there's a Mayberry in the Sacramento region, it might be Loomis, a small town in Placer County.
Realtor Kari Jo Clark of Windemere Real Estate, and Scott Paris, owner of High Hand Nursery and Conservatory, both label Loomis a Mayberry type of place, after the fictional small town made popular by the 1960s television series "The Andy Griffith Show."
The community motto -- "A small town is like a big family" -- may seem a cliche, Clark said, but living in Loomis genuinely reflects that sentiment.
"(It's) like you've gone back to Mayberry," she said. "It has retained that home-town feel over the years."
Paris, who has lived in Loomis since age 6, said the town had no traffic signals in the 1970s, and its fire department consisted of volunteers.
"It was an unincorporated township in Placer County, and the fruit sheds were bustling," he said, referring to the 30 historical agricultural buildings that were once central to a booming fruit industry in Loomis. "It was a Mayberry place and still is today. To be here then and to be here now is fun."
From the early 1900s through the 1980s, growers brought peaches, plums and pears to the sheds, where crews packed the fruit for shipment by train around the country and to Japan and Europe.
Several old photographs of Loomis and of fruit packers hang in the historic High Hand Fruit Shed, which is adjacent to the nursery and an open-air cafe. The shed now has several shops and galleries.
Another iconic shed, the Blue Goose Fruit Shed at Taylor and King roads, is the site of special events throughout the year.
Along Taylor Road are several shops and restaurants. Among them is Wild Chicken Coffee, Tea & Specialty Drinks. Owner Charlotte Langston, who is president of the Loomis Basin Chamber of Commerce, thinks of Loomis as "an island unto itself."
"It has kept its grassroots feeling and, because of building and land-use restrictions, is not overbuilt," said Langston, who relocated from Los Angeles seven years ago.
She said she considered opening her shop in other communities but immediately loved the friendliness of Loomis.
"There are no chain stores or malls, but it has everything a hometown should have -- bank, post office and grocery store," she said. "Shop owners actually work in their businesses."
Paris opened High Hand Nursery in 2004 and three years ago added the cafe. The adjacent fruit shed is a venue for several independent shop and gallery owners who sell art, antiques, fabrics, Oriental rugs and candles. Three wineries, Ciotti Cellars, Cristaldi Vineyards and Popie Wines, offer tastings.
"None are just stores," Paris said. "People can come here and learn to garden, make candles and make wine."
Gail Hargis, a Realtor with Windermere Real Estate, likes the relaxed style of living in Loomis.
"Loomis is one of only a few places in the area that still has horse properties," Hargis said. "There are high-end homes and smaller homes with prices that are holding well, considering the market. They appeal to first-time homebuyers and those who want large estate homes with properties."
Home prices range from $199,000 to $3,300,000, with the median list price at $472,000, the median pending price $380,000 and the median sold price $305,000, Hargis said.
"Properties are going fast, with multiple offers, because inventory is so low," she said.
Clark said home sales have not been affected by the market as much as in other communities.
"People are moving here from the Bay Area and Sacramento because they want a country feeling," she said. "It's a whole new world here."
Residents and visitors are attracted by several special events in Loomis.
The Loomis Thursday Night Family Fest through August features crafts and business vendors, a classic-car show and music. The 18th annual Cowpoke Fall Gathering Nov. 8-11 will have cowboy poetry, music and storytelling.
The biggest event in town is the Loomis Eggplant Festival. The 25th annual event Oct. 6 will offer a day of entertainment, arts and crafts, food, children's activities and, of course, eggplants.
"That festival was one of the deciding factors for me to locate in Loomis," Langston said. "A community that has an eggplant festival would likely accept a coffeehouse named Wild Chicken."
Loomis has several venues for outdoor recreation. People can golf at Indian Creek Country Club or hike, bike, picnic and play ball at Loomis Basin Community Park.
"The sports fields are busy 24-7 with organized sports for youngsters," Hargis said.
Loomis students in kindergarten through eighth grade attend schools in Loomis Union School District, and ninth- through 12th-graders attend Del Oro High School, which is part of Placer Union High School District. A charter school, Loomis Basin, is on Laird Road.
"There's excellent parent participation in the schools," Hargis said.
"Everybody supports football, basketball, water polo and other teams at Del Oro," she said.
Loomis has had several names since it was first settled in 1850. It was called Placer when the post office opened in 1861, and the name was changed in 1862 to Smithville, after L.G. Smith, a prominent community leader. The name was changed again to Pino in 1869.
In 1890, the community was named after one of the town pioneers, James Oscar Loomis, who served as postmaster, saloonkeeper, express agent and railroad agent, all at the same time.
Loomis remained a Placer County unincorporated area until Dec. 17, 1984, when the town of Loomis officially incorporated. It's one of a few area communities called a town rather than a city.
According to the town website, "Residents voted to incorporate to preserve local control, partly on the issue of preserving the small-town character and historic structures, such as the High Hand and Blue Goose packing sheds, which sit between Taylor Road and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks."
The railroad played an important part in the development of Loomis, which was a train stop on the transcontinental railroad for many years.
The packing sheds reflect the area's prominence in growing, packing and shipping fruit in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Loomis, along with Newcastle and Auburn, were important stops for the trains that transported fruit.
The three communities and the key agricultural area of Salinas on the Central California coast were vital to the invention of refrigerated train cars, which used ice to keep cargo cold and fresh en route to markets in the Midwest and East.
The Southern Pacific Railroad yard in nearby Roseville was the largest ice-producing plant on the West Coast.
Today, Amtrak trains speed through Loomis, but the old freight depot has been refurbished and is the site for town council meetings and community events.
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