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Find True Western Heritage in Downtown Cottonwood

01/23/2015 09:15AM ● By Jon Lewis

Spirit of the Old West

February 2015
By Jon Lewis
Photos: Kara Stewart

The spirit of the old west is so alive in Cottonwood that a visitor half expects to hear the jingling of spurs while meandering through its historic downtown.

Cottonwood comes by its Western heritage honestly, says Tanya Spalti of the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce. From its earliest days, the town has served as a hub of the North State cattle business and reminders of that cowboy life abound.

Front Street, the heart of the historic downtown area, is nice and wide and was designed that way to accommodate a 12-horse team or a herd of cattle passing through on the way to the train depot, Spalti says. The sidewalks are a couple feet tall to make unloading horse-drawn wagons a little easier and the embedded metal rings positioned along the sidewalks provided cowboys a handy way to hitch their horses while gathering supplies in town.

“That’s part of the reason the Cottonwood Rodeo is such a big deal here,” Spalti says. “So many families are steeped in that lifestyle—that’s how they make their living. It hasn’t really changed that much.”

Not much needs to change in downtown Cottonwood,says Joan Smith, the owner of Joan’s Vintage, an antique and collectible shop. Smith has had her shop for 20 years and has been in the business for 50 years. “We were pickers before there were pickers,” she says.

Cottonwood’s slower pace prompted Smith to relocate from the San Francisco Bay Area in 1961 and it continues to suit her. “I like the small-town feel. Everything is pretty close.”

Joe Galvan, proprietor of Everything Nostalgic, calls Cottonwood “a safe little town” where he’s comfortable raising his three children. “This is a community where everyone knows everyone and respects everyone. Cottonwood is a town where time stands still.”

Inside Galvan’s colorful shop, time has indeed stopped, but at different intervals. Each room in the historic building is packed with trinkets, signs, tools, clothes, toys and more from the 19th century clear on up through the 1950s.

Christmas is the prominent theme at Country Lane Antiques, so much so that locals refer to it as “the Christmas store.” Judith Klages has operated the expansive emporium for the past 38 years, and manages to find a never-ending supply of ornaments, decorations and figurines to tuck into every corner.

One of Klages’ clerks, Sandy Elledge, took time out from helping customers to note that Cottonwood is “a little close-knit town” and then encouraged a visitor to check out Aggie’s Kountry Kuts, a salon operated by her aunt, Aggie Keeler.

“I enjoy the country feel of it,” says Rosemary Purdie of her Cottonwood home. Born and raised in a “ropin’ and riding” environment, Purdie says she longed to return to that lifestyle, so she left Orange County three years ago to settle in Cottonwood.

“I like the rodeos that go on, the wonderful little shops. The people are just wonderful and I feel safe walking around,” says Purdie, who was browsing for a pair of earrings at the Rhinestone Ranch.

Sue Teixeira runs the Rhinestone Ranch, a fun store she described as a Western consignment boutique and saddle shop. She’s owned it for a year and a half and acquired it after discovering it almost by accident. “I didn’t even know there was a store here,” she says.

Business was slow at first, but has since picked up to the point where she finds it worth her while to open on Sundays, in part due to the brisk brunch business across the street at the Cottonwood Eatery.

Famous for its desserts, the Eatery is downtown’s go-to establishment for old-fashioned hospitality. A diner from Stockton summed it up well in her Yelp review: “OMG! This place was wonderful! Great food, great service, a real find! I had one of the best burgers ever, don’t remember what it was called, but it had jack cheese, fried jalapenos lettuce, tomato, onion on a toasted bun—out of this world! … All in all, I can’t believe we found such a great little spot in such a tiny, out of the way place!”
Directions: 16 miles south of Redding, take Gas Point Road exit off of I-5