The fortunes of Boyes Hot Springs have waxed and waned. In the heyday of the resorts, it was a prosperous summer retreat. As the resorts declined, property values fell, and Boyes became “the other side of the tracks,” for a time gaining a reputation for being dangerous. The story goes that the State of California released parolees there because rents were so low, but in 1988 Sheriff Dick Michaelson told the Index Tribune “the practice ceased a couple of years ago.” When yours truly move there in 1997, the rumor was alive and well.
In that year (1988) things were looking up for Boyes. Young people form San Francisco were discovering that they could afford to buy houses there. New businesses were opening, such as the Central Laundromat at the corner of Highway 12 and Central Avenue. But wane followed wax once again and the laundromat went out of business and the building stayed empty until the Barking Dog Roasters opened there in 1995. According to the Index Tribune, “ A building once held up as a bad example has received new life-and a major renovation…Barking Dog Roasters at 17999 Sonoma Highway was formerly the Central Laundromat-once pictured in this newspaper as an example of the problems along Highway 12 through Boyes Hot Springs. The new restaurant opened in mid-June, after a six-month renovation that involved new wiring, plumbing, flooring, interior plaster, and outside stucco….’It has been a real labor of love,’ Peter Hodgson (one of the owners) said.”
“The Dog,” as we know it, moved to its present location on the corner of Vallejo in 2004. The original building then went into another decline, sitting empty until Karen Waikiki commenced her grand transformation of the structure into El Molino Central, which opened in 2010.
Kathleen Hill wrote in that year, “When asked how she chose the name, Waikiki told us that every town in Mexico used to have a “Molino” where people took their dried corn to have it ground into masa, a very important and essential function.”
El Molino has been a huge success, even being declared the best Mexican restaurant in the Bay Area at one point. It continues to be packed with hungry people from all over the Bay Area and probably the world, given the restaurant’s proximity to the Sonoma Mission Inn.
Karen not only transformed the building brilliantly, but continues to embellish it seasonally with the work of artist Mark Marthaler (https://www.facebook.com/mark.marthaler.3/about)
Sonoma Index Tribune courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society
Photographs by the author and Mark Marthaler