Mill Valley Market – Our March Business Partner of the Month

On July 3, 1929, Frank Canepa arrived in Mill Valley in his best suit, ready to open his grocery store for the first time.  What he found instead was the largest forest fire to hit the area in Mill Valley’s history.  Someone handed him a shovel, and he spent the next three days – still in his best suit — working beside his new neighbors to beat back the flames, saving not just his own business but all the shops that formed the town’s backbone.

Four months later, the stock market crashed, and Frank found himself manning a different sort of firebreak.  As his customers lost their jobs and their businesses he traded groceries for services like fence painting, cabinet-making, even the delivery of his children.  From those who had nothing to trade he accepted their promises to pay when things got better.  There are still people in Mill Valley who remember eating food that Frank Canepa put on their table during those difficult years.

So began a tradition of community service that, along with Frank’s grocery store, has been passed down through four generations of the Canepa family.  Frank’s sons, Jim and Bob, helped build the bridges at Boyle Park and the cafeteria at Tam High.  Jim founded the annual Mill Valley Wine and Gourmet Food Tasting, which benefits the Chamber of Commerce, and ran it for 25 years.  Bob helped create the Tam High Foundation and has served on the boards of the Redwoods, the Rotary Club, Kiddo!, and numerous other nonprofits.

The market’s current owners, Doug and David — Bob’s sons – “were brought up to understand that you work with your town,” says David.  They’ve served on the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Parking Committee, the Business Advocacy Board, the Rotary Club, the Boy Scouts, and the Redwoods.  They’ve coached and sponsored Pop Warner football teams, CYO basketball teams, and Mill Valley Little League teams – including, this year, an All-Star team that made it all the way to the state regionals.  Between Jim, Bob, Doug and David, there’s hardly a civic institution in this town that hasn’t had at least one Canepa among its members during the last forty years.

Beyond offering their volunteer services, the Canepas have provided financial help to dozens of local nonprofits.  In 1992 Bob Canepa created Mill Valley Market’s Shop and Give program, by which shoppers can request that 2% of their purchase amount be donated to one of 91 different organizations. Since its inception this program has funneled more than $800,000 to groups as varied as the Mountain Play, Wildcare, and Hospice of Marin, and currently puts about $75,000 a year in the hands of people who are making a difference in our county.

Many of our local businesses support our schools, our arts, and our citizens in need.  This is part of what makes our community so vibrant.  But there is no business that has done as much, for as many, for as long, as has the Mill Valley Market.  In the words of longtime Mill Valley resident and former mayor Dennis Fisco: “Think of any local non-profit organization and I can guarantee you that the Canepas have helped them out with their donations, wisdom or work.  From health matters to sports to schools to seniors these folks just do not say no.”

Because of this, the Mill Valley Market has been honored three times as Business of the Year, and Bob Canepa twice as Citizen of the Year.  The Canepas appreciate these approbations, of course, but they aren’t why they do what they do. “We’re caretakers for this institution,” Doug says.  “This is a business, but we’re here for Mill Valley.  We have an obligation to fulfill what these others have started.”

The Tam High Foundation is grateful to be a recipient of the Mill Valley Market’s Shop and Give donations, and is especially grateful to be the Market’s Business of the Month for December.  During the entire month, Mill Valley Market will donate an additional one percent of sales to the Foundation through the Shop and Give program.  So as you shop for holiday gift baskets, wine, and the trimmings for holiday dinners, please visit Mill Valley Market – because every time you do, you’ll not only become part of a legacy of civic support that stretches back eighty years, but you’ll help make a very real gift to Tam and its students.