'Premium price' paid for downtown property on Napa River

Standing outside his building at 807 Soscol Ave., Keith Borreson recalled how the busy city thoroughfare used to deadend at Third Street, just a stone’s throw from where his business, Borreson’s News Service, is located.

Back in the 70s, the city extended Soscol over the Napa River, effectively joining the north and south sections.

Today, traffic fills the corridor almost all day. However, in the coming months, there will be another significant change at the intersection. 

Borreson, along with members of the Gelow family, the longtime co-owners of the property, sold the site at 807 Soscol for $ 2.8 million on Sept. 18.

The buyer is Napa real estate developer Michael L. Holcomb.

Borreson’s business, along with separate business owned by the Gelow family called Gelow’s News Service, will move to a new location.

“We’re not going out of business,” said Borreson. “We’ll find something” to relocate to, preferably in central Napa, he said.

Through marriage, the Borresons and the Gelows are part of the same extended family. The names painted on the outside of the building stand for Keith Borreson, the late Bud Gelow and the late Mel Gelow.

Borreson said it was a family decision to sell the 26,276-square-foot property.

“We just decided it was a good time,” he said. “Napa is growing, especially downtown Napa. The value of the property has gone way up.”

Borreson’s company delivers newspapers to some Napa Valley Register subscribers as well as subscribers of the San Francisco Chronicle, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Sacramento Bee, Press Democrat and USA Today, among others.

Holcomb said he bought the building because of its river location, size and exposure along Soscol Avenue.

The most likely use would be as commercial space, he said. It is zoned for mixed use, according to a sales flyer.

“We have some ideas” for redevelopment, Holcomb said during a phone interview,  but he wasn’t ready to announce anything.

“We paid a premium price” for the property, Holcomb said. “We think it’s worth it” because “we think we can develop it into something that would make sense.” 

Holcomb is familiar with the area. He’s part of West Pueblo Partners, which owns the Borreo building across the street. That building, built in 1877, will become home to the Stone Brewing gastropub.

The Borreson and Gelow property is also close to the growing Oxbow district. Holcomb said his project will complement the area.

“We’re trying to add to downtown, make the buildings look great and make downtown a better place,” said Holcomb.

The Soscol Avenue property, which was once home to a liquor warehouse and a furniture store, has about 17,000 square feet of commercial space. Today, the two newspaper distributor businesses really only need closer to 3,000 or 4,000 square feet, Borreson said.

“We just don’t use all this space,” Borreson said. The newspaper printing business has contracted over the years, “but the reason we survive is that we’re distributing all the newspapers” – not just one, said Borreson.

The sale does not include the adjacent property home to the Loose Caboose hobby shop and Harley Davidson dealership. Those properties are not owned by the Gelow or Borreson families. 

Back in the 1970s when Soscol Avenue was extended north, the street was widened to within just feet of his front door. A steady stream of vehicles passes daily.

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“It’s not a big deal,” Borreson said of the traffic and noise.

With the front door securely closed and fewer windows facing the street, once inside, the hubbub of the street isn’t as noticeable.

Borreson said business at the two distributorships starts to pick up each night starting at about 9:30 p.m. when the newspapers start to arrive from printing plants across the Bay Area.

“From 1:30 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. this place is a zoo,” he said.

Drivers stand at rows of wooden work tables to “roll” their papers with inserts and secure them with rubber bands or plastic bags.

Sunday is the busiest day, naturally.

“Most people have no idea how much time it takes” to get a paper from the printer to a specific spot at the customer’s home – and on time, Borreson said. When a paper isn’t delivered on time or in the right spot, he certainly hears about it. 

“It’s really quite a challenge.”

Borreson said both companies deliver between 5,500 and as high as 8,000 newspapers a day. Together, the companies use a total of about 30 drivers.

He estimated that his company has delivered an estimated 42 million newspapers over the 45 years he’s been a distributor.

“I love this business,” said Borreson. “I’ve been doing this for so long, it’s just in my blood.”

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Craig Ballantyne

I love anything to do with Harley Davidson and have two beautiful children and a beautiful partner. In my spare time i like building websites and love anything to do with the internet.

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