Applying their passion for dining to Little Saint's mission of farm-forward sustainability, the Connaughtons assembled an expert team to develop a menu that utilizes each morning's harvest to its fullest potential. (Brendan Mainini)

Healdsburg has a new heart; it’s called Little Saint. 

In the luminous glass and steel building on the corner of North and Foss streets, which until 2018 housed the gathering space and eatery SHED, Little Saint has taken up residence with the same passionate mission of providing the people of Healdsburg with a place to eat, drink and participate in a bevy of arts and culture events. Healdsburgians can come into Little Saint at 6am for a coffee and happily stay through until dinner and live music or a speaker. 

From sunup to sundown, Little Saint is an active hub with myriad offerings. For the early riser, a coffee menu is available, with beans from Saint Frank in San Francisco. 

There’s a grab-and-go fridge full of locally sourced, made-in-house vegan foods for someone lunching on the run or looking to enjoy a casual bite outside. There’s space inside and outside for people to relax with a book, a bottle of wine and some nibbles. There’s a shop offering fresh veggies and florals from Single Thread Farm—a 24-acre farm in Dry Creek Valley overseen by co-owner Katina Connaughton—and Little Saint Farm, a five-acre farm located five miles from Little Saint itself, as well as local ceramics and textiles.

Little Saint serves a seated lunch and dinner Thursday through Monday, and brunch on the weekends. The menu is entirely plant-based, but not because of an agenda, simply to amplify the profound deliciousness of the local produce. 

There’s live music on Thursday nights from a variety of performers. Little Saint’s upstairs level, still currently in use for private events while it’s being developed, will be a fully-outfitted lounge, hosting chef events, book readings and signings, film screenings and more. 

The entire building pulses with lively activity and a sense of place. There’s something for everyone to enjoy, and the space to stay and enjoy it. In true European fashion, patrons are invited to linger over food and drink, to really experience the quality and ambiance. 

The idea-makers behind Little Saint are as consciously creative as the space itself. It’s hard not to be excited on Healdsburg’s behalf that such an amalgam of characters has joined forces. Meet Kyle and Katina Connaughton, of the three Michelin-star restaurant Single Thread, along with designer Ken Fulk; animal activist Laurie Ubben and her husband, philanthropist Jeff Ubben; and program director Jenny Hess. 

Laurie Ubben, who along with her love of animals and activism in the nonprofit-sphere, was also the executive producer of the 2017 film Loving Vincent, first came up with the idea for a plant-based restaurant with a community and arts aspect while sheltering-in-place in Healdsburg. 

Fulk, who founded Saint Joseph’s Art Foundation—a foundation dedicated to supporting art and artists in San Francisco and Provincetown, which handles Little Saint’s programming—brings an expansive community of thinkers, artists, musicians, writers and environmentalists, along with a one-of-a-kind interior design eye.

Little Saint is outfitted with unique features like stools made from recycled denim donated by the staff, banquettes made from antique rugs and a rotating collection of art works. 

In a call with Hess last week, she told me once Ubben connected with Fulk, they called her with the idea, which almost died on the table as Covid hit in full swing just after her first site visit.

“I came out to look at the space at the end of February, 2020. I thought it went dead after Covid hit, but I came out again in May of 2020, and we decided we wanted to do it. We were totally flying by the seat of our pants, but it all came together.” 

The Little Saint proposal, along with unexpectedly falling in love with Healdsburg during the pandemic-induced visit—which she’s never come back from—brought Hess permanently to the West Coast and on board. Prior to this project, Hess had spent 20 years in event planning, management and production in the financial services, media, fashion, entertainment and non-profit sectors. She also spent 10 years in risk management and trading for such companies as Citigroup, Credit Suisse and Lazard Frères. 

Katina and Kyle Connaughton were a natural fit, not only because Fulk had been collaborating with them on a Japanese style garden in the parking lot of Single Thread, but because the two had also been looking for a way to make their cuisine more accessible to the community who might find a Michelin-star restaurant unfeasible. 

Hess said that Cindy Daniel and Doug Lipton, SHED’s owners, have also been invaluable in learning to steward the 10,000 square foot community space, and that the residents have been incredibly welcoming.  And the resounding results of this team’s efforts are still being felt by the community as Little Saint just crosses their two month threshold. 

“The community seems to love it,” said Hess. “They miss SHED, but I think we’re getting it right; we want this space to be available again. You can head in at 6am and not leave until 10pm. That’s really something. We are loving watching [Little Saint] take shape and seeing how people want to use it. So many places have so many rules, and we don’t want to put too many rules on this. Just come, enjoy.”

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