Wild West Ferments Puts Down Roots in Point Reyes
For Luke Regalbuto and Maggie Beth Levinger, taking Wild West Ferments to the next level didn’t mean a nationwide expansion; it meant putting down roots in the region they call home. And when a vacancy opened up in a prime Point Reyes Station location, it was a serendipitous fit for a business that had formed and blossomed in Marin.
From its inauspicious beginnings at local farmers markets to expanding into wholesale, creating a brick-and-mortar store was the logical next step. Though they’ve been operating out of a kitchen in Petaluma for the last several years, the husband-and-wife team are based in Point Reyes, and Levinger herself is from Inverness. So basing the business in West Marin, a region famous for agriculture, was an important goal. And it just so happens that their new location previously belonged to a local heavy hitter that’s served as an inspiration for Regalbuto and Levinger: Cowgirl Creamery. By stepping into the cheese company’s former Barn Shop and Cantina, they’re ready to carve out their own place in West Marin’s food culture.
That’s not to say they haven’t already made a name for themselves. Wild West Ferments is well-loved for its probiotic-rich batches of sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles and fermented fruit sodas. Everything is made in line with the company’s guiding principles of quality and integrity, produced with organic, primarily locally grown ingredients and with no plastic involved. Thanks to their new building’s commercial kitchen, Wild West Ferments will be able to move production on-site, and the large space means that in addition to selling their products, they can offer fermentation and food preservation workshops there, too. This is an aspect they’re especially excited about — creating opportunities for concrete, experiential learning, giving people a chance to not just enjoy their food but connect to it as well.
“We’re hoping to create a place where people come to get inspired to learn something, to support a local producer and to eat something really delicious,” Regalbuto says. Levinger hopes they can create a regional food system hub: “Not just a place to come be a consumer, but to learn about the importance of regional and local agriculture and food production.”
For Regalbuto and Levinger, a thriving community doesn’t just come from people maintaining healthy diets, although that’s a huge part of it; it also means maintaining a functioning, nonindustrialized food system and really putting an emphasis on locally grown and made organic goods. In addition to preserving food, they’re trying to help preserve the local agricultural legacy. “It’s more resilient for a community to produce its own food,” says Regalbuto, adding that relying on national distribution systems isn’t foolproof, as evidenced by empty grocery store shelves seen during the pandemic. “A connection between the consumer and the farmer makes it easier for everyone to thrive.”
Though Wild West Ferments products can be found at a number of natural food stores in California, Regalbuto and Levinger are eager to do more business directly with customers at the new location. They’ll be the anchor tenant in the new building, but they’re looking forward to expanding the property’s impact by bringing in other local vendors to sell their own products.
“We’re hoping this space can act as an incubator and launch pad for people who might want to start producing food in our region, and highlight what’s already going on,” Levinger says, adding that Wild West Ferments should be open by summer. “The sky’s the limit, and there’s so much potential with the building and its location and all the strengths that already exist in the community.”