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Then and Now: Quinn's Bar

The Mill Valley Market's deli and booze section was once home to one of the town's more colorful haunts.

The room that contains the 's deli is also home to one of the finest beer, wine and liquor selections in all of Marin. But if you'd walked through those doors before 1975, you were likely greeted with someone a bit rougher around the edges than the members of the Canepa family, the market's longtime owner.

Although Mill Valley Market has been a fixture in downtown Mill Valley since 1929 and in its current building since 1955, it did not occupy the entirety of its current space until 1975. When the market moved from its old space at 118 Throckmorton to its current location, it shared the building with up to three other businesses. One was a real estate business, more or less where aisles 5-7 are, as well as a restaurant, more or less where the current wine section is, and a bar that stood where the deli is now. The bar went by the name "Meet The Quinns” or “Quinn's Bar.”

The bar was owned by Jimmy Quinn, who was also the bartender and by most accounts a colorful character. Don't think of the amiable Sam Malone from Cheers fame, but rather than Soup Nazi from Seinfeld fame. Jimmy was known for not only NOT serving those he didn’t like, but he’d throw them out of his establishment.

The Canepa family remembers Jimmy Quinn well, noting that if you were on his good side, he was great to deal with. If he didn’t like you, for whatever reason, he could be a real jerk. Bob Canepa, one time co-owner of the Mill Valley Market, said that if Quinn didn’t like the way you looked, he’d throw you out. If you had long hair, he’d throw you out.

But word around town was that more work on the City Council took place in Quinn's bar than ever took place at the . And the members of the made Quinn an honorary member for all the times they'd race across the street and grab a quick drink during their alcohol-free events, according to Richard Mills' digest of the lodge's history.

Jimmy Quinn lived in Mill Valley at a house on Sunnyside from 1929 to 1975. He opened his business as an ice cream parlor in 1929 while prohibition was still the law of the land. (It was suspected he was running a bootleg business for a time as well.)  He changed over to a speakeasy not long after prohibition was repealed. It was a bar until 1975, the year he died.

Not long after Jimmy died, the Mill Valley Market expanded into the space, gutting it and the adjacent restaurant. Since 1976, Mill Valley Market has occupied the entire building, 12 Corte Madera Avenue, as we know it today. We haven't heard any reports of anyone getting thrown out of Mill Valley Market for having long hair...

Mark Richards June 02, 2011 at 09:58 PM
I live in his old house at 61 Sunnyside Ave Mark
Barry W. Young June 03, 2011 at 04:26 PM
Great story & background on the "inner workings" of that social hub. -Barry Young (raised in the Fifties on Tamalpais Avenue, with siblings in town through the 90's...and my bus driving or Lodge work in town from 2001 to present)

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