Neighborhood portraits: The Springs

Posted on July 24, 2017 by Sonoma Valley Sun

HOS Leslie and Abi 4

By Jennifer Gray Thompson | Special to The Sun

Leslie Boutell, Urban Refind

I was born and raised in Berkeley, a very diverse, liberal, creative place. My mother was an artist and my father was a professor at Cal. I didn’t stay after high school because I wanted to get away and experience something different. I went to Chico State and then after college, worked on the Peninsula as a mental health counselor in a lock down facility. It was a very interesting, but extremely challenging job.

HOS Leslie Boutell 5 (1)My then husband and I wanted a change. Because of his job, we had to live within one hour of the airport. We took a drive to Sonoma and as soon as we entered onto East Napa Street, I said, “I want to live in this town.”

We chose the Springs because it was more affordable. We found a place up in the hills with a view. We built our home and raised our four kids here: Addison 30, Kalen 24, Layne 26, Kylie, 14. All of my kids went to the Charter School.

When we first moved here I worked at Ford’s Café as a waitress. I was a young hippie server with long hair serving old school farmers. The guys were always there before I showed up at 5am, waiting for me, teasing me about “What took so long?” By that hour, they were already done milking the cows and were ready for their coffee. After I had kids, I was a stay at home mom for several years.

I still live in the same house 32 years later with my partner, Simon Purshouse. We own Urban Refind and Good Riddance Hauling. Urban Refind is, and I am going to quote Larry Barnett here: “High concept Vintage.” Well-traveled and curated items. We choose things we love and that speak to us. We do a lot on online business as well. Everything we sell is refurbished and has a story.

I chose the Springs for my storefront because this place lends itself to an artistic vibe and attracts people who are comfortable with a little more fray to their edges. They are a bit more adventurous and crave an experience. That is part of my goal with Urban Refind: to provide an experience at a reasonable price.

I appreciate the other business owners out here. It’s really important to be supportive of each other as shopkeepers. I feel like when this is present, you are purchasing into a collective.

I met my neighbor Abi when she came into the store as a customer and we started talking about what her business. I mentioned there was a commercial space next door open for rent and now she is here! She’s super cool and very knowledgeable about herbs. She’s a busy mama and we totally relate. She has wonderful energy and is an artist in her own right.

Urban Refind is located at 17503 Hwy 12 and online at

Abi Huff, The Stinging Nettle

I was born and raised in Riverside County, Southern California. I wanted something different and needed to get far away from Los Angeles. I left at 17 years old and went as far north as possible to Humboldt County. I worked for the California Conservation Core doing creek restoration to give the salmon proper places to run. It was a very dangerous job because we used hand wenches and wire lines to pull trees to the creek. If a line broke or we got swept away, it could be fatal. After, I worked for the California Department of Forestry (CDF) doing trail work and fighting wild lands fires. As much as I loved my work and the place, eventually I was ready for a new adventure.

HOS Abi Huff 5I traveled alone throughout Asia throughout my twenties. I went to Thailand, Laos, many places. Then I met my husband — he is from Spain and England — when he was traveling. We traveled to India for a long time before settling down in Sonoma County.

We first lived in other parts of Sonoma County before landing in here when we started our family. We have three boys: Onyx, 6 years old, Orion, 4 years old, and Osiris, 2 years old.

I was talking to someone who has been in Sonoma for a long time and she said, “Sonoma decides who stays. It picks you.” I love this idea because we didn’t consciously choose Sonoma when we moved here, but it feels right.

I’ve been studying herbs for a really long time. I consider myself a folk, community, and clinical herbalist. I started a tiny apothecary on Licthenberg, but I outgrew it and found this place through Leslie. I do consultations, customized blends for people, and hold educational workshops.

I learned in school how to make tinctures to balms to creams. Working with plants and farming is in my blood. My dad’s side of the family were all farm people. My grandmother and my mother are from the Philippines where for generations, they had to take care of themselves. Plants sheltered, clothed and healed the community.

I’m continually amazed at plants and how they work with us. You can take something from plants that will help you sleep, calm your nervous system, and much more. It amazes me how the first peoples figured out what plant compounds do what. We’ve found gravesites from the Neanderthal Era that have some of the same plants present that we use today.

I’ve been in business in the Springs for three years. The Springs feels like an area for the people who live here. I love the beautiful diversity of businesses. I love the excitement of people who appreciate something coming in here that is both for them and by them. It’s beautiful. It feels like community. Every single person and business owner on the strip is welcoming and supportive. Since I have entered this space, the community has really opened up for me.

I love my neighbors at Urban Refind. Leslie and Simon have been more than supportive. I was a little nervous moving next door because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to resist buying everything. I have a few things from there in my store. We always joke about building a hamster tunnel between our businesses. In all seriousness, I would love it.

The Stinging Nettle Apothecary is located at 17509 Hwy 12 and online at



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