Local Petaluma Treasure Finds Hope Among Community

After nearly 62 years of service, Petaluma’s local open-air fruit market, Palace of Fruit -located on the intersection of Old Redwood Highway and Ely Road- went up in flames on Saturday, September 12.

Amaia Garay, Reporter

After nearly 62 years of service, Petaluma’s local open-air fruit market, Palace of Fruit -located on the intersection of Old Redwood Highway and Ely Road- went up in flames on Saturday, September 12. During the early morning hours, approximately three a.m., four joy-riding highschool students crashed their car into the front of the building, causing a devastating loss for a local Petaluma family.

The Palace of Fruit has been a family run business since its opening in 1958 by now owner, Kenny Ebertus’ parents. During its time open, the open-air market has served as a local grocery store for Sonoma County residents as well as a wholesale distributor for local small businesses in the area. One business, Caprara’s Pizzeria -located just down the road from the market- has been a longtime friend and business partner with the Ebertus’.

Joe Caprara, the owner of Caprara’s Pizzeria, commented on the long time partnership between their two local businesses. 

“I have a pizzeria right up the street in Penngrove and I buy all my products from them [Palace of Fruit] and I have for many years, since 1997,” said Caprara. While many in the community now have to shop at different markets for their produce, Caprara says he is still able to get most of the produce for his business through their wholesale business.  

When asked about the effects of the loss on his own business, Caprara said, “It’s affected us a little bit but they’re pretty good with us, because they’re still operating out of the warehouse and walk-in cooler that they have in the back.” 

The owners, Kenny Ebertus and his highschool sweetheart, Gina, are not only facing the loss of a family legacy but their only source of income as well. Before the fire, the Palace of Fruit was still operating at a high capacity during the pandemic, serving all their usual products as well as some essentials, like toilet paper, that were unavailable in other stores. 

Kenny Ebertus, the owner of the produce market, gave remarks on the loss of his lifelong business. 

“It’s a big lifestyle change because you do something every day the same way for your whole life and all of a sudden that’s gone,” said Ebertus. 

“As far as the community goes, I mean, the outpouring of support as rebuild and everything else [goes] it’s just been phenomenal,” said Ebertus, “The fact that we’ve been here for 62 years, a lot of people would come at three or four years old with their grandparents, and so it’s kind of generational.” As news of the devastation, and plans to rebuild, started circulating among community members, a GoFundMe page was set up and has amassed donations of $36,390 since September 12. 

With rebuild plans underway, Ebertus said that along with the loss came some positivity, in that he and his wife are using the circumstances to reconfigure and expand their retail business. He also stated that they plan to have their market reopened, and “better than before” by the beginning of next year. 

“I want to say thank you to anyone that participated in everything. I can’t thank people enough for their support,” said Ebertus, “[It] was phenomenal and it overwhelms me because I was the little grocery guy in the corner, you know, and I didn’t realize that I had that much of an impact on everybody, but it’s been quite a ride.”