* Reprinted with permission from Bob Behme

The Dreamer Who Owns Old Edna
By Bob Behme

Pattea Torrence and her husband, Jeff Kocan, own a town, or more accurately they own the nearly 100-year old remains of an historic 2-acre town site known as Old Edna. You can find it at 1653 Old Price Canyon Road, facing Highway 227, the busy back-country route that links San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande.

Torrence is the town’s mayor, chief restorer, most ardent dreamer and its biggest booster. A restored Old Edna is at the center of the dream that is still in the works.

“I’ve always had a love for town sites because I love architecture, design and restoration,” Torrence said.
The land is located in historic Edna Valley, surrounded by outstanding scenery, excellent vineyards, and layers of Central Coast history waiting to be discovered. The valley was the site of famous Mexican Ranchos and early California farms and Old Edna fronts what is left of a stagecoach road that linked San Luis Obispo and the south county. The magnificent narrow gauge Pacific Coast Railway ran through the property and one building is reputed to be the depot. Torrence says she thinks of her town as “the hub of the Edna Valley wine country”.

A resident of Shell Beach, Torrence came to the property after spending time in San Luis Obispo where she operated Finder’s Keepers, a store that specialized in consignment clothing. As business improved she expanded her stock to include antiques, but loading and unloading in the busy down town core became a problem. Exasperated, she decided to sell.

A Central Coast native, Torrence was raised in Los Berros. She attended local schools, graduating from Arroyo Grande High in 1979. As a teenager Pattea kept her horse at Old Edna and fell in love with the town while still a girl. Her father, Walter Torrence, is an engineer and is better known as “The Duke”. He worked at Vandenberg, and later became a Central Coast builder.
Pattea Torrence and Jeff Kocan met in Avila Beach. As she tells the story, Pattea was driving with a girl friend who thought Avila would be good place to meet young men. As a friendly gesture Pattea said she’d go a long.

“As it turned out this great-looking guy walked past. He was handsome and he wasn’t talking with all of the girls, the way his friends were,” Torrence recalls.
Jeff was employed at Diablo Canyon by a contractor who was there on a temporary project. After courting and falling in love, Pattea realized that Jeff was scheduled to return home. The two were at a crossroads, but after talking, Jeff said he would stay. They were married. The couple has a six-year old son, Kienun.
“Jeff is my rock, that’s for sure,” Pattea said.

When it came time to leave San Luis Obispo, Torrence had Old Edna in mind. At first the owners, Robert Wendt and Dennis Ahern, were not interested in selling, but Torrence persisted.
“Finally, I told them ‘I am almost 40 years old and this is the last time I’ll ask. I really want you to know I will make this work,’” Torrence recalls.

With the help of developer Rob Rossi, a personal friend, Torrence came up with an offer and the owners relented. Her purchase included a wood-frame, tin-sided storefront near the highway, two homes, a storage room, a shed, and a large barn, all in need of repair. Built between 1906 and 1908, the various buildings have served as a family home, a store, a saloon, a blacksmith shop, dance hall and a butcher shop. The original owner was John Tognazzini, a local pioneer.

The tin-roofed building that fronts the highway was restored by Torrence, her husband and her father in 1998 and as it stands today, is a replica of a tin-roofed building that burned to the ground in 1906. Torrence converted it into a gallery for her antiques. As business grew, the pressure of finding suitable stock and displaying and marketing it, left little time to spend with customers, something Torrence likes. She decided to close the store, rent the building and to develop an empty residence that stood behind the store.
She began by renting the front building. Edy and Paul Fiala leased the first floor and opened Fiala’s Gourmet Cafe. They serve an array of sandwiches, soups and special dishes to locals on their way to and from San Luis Obispo and to travelers who pause to explore the town. Food is served at tables inside the rustic building and on a shaded patio where customers can relax to absorb the special Old Edna atmosphere.

The second floor was once a dance hall, supposedly attracting customers from as far away as Pismo Beach. It has been restored and rented to Paulina Burton, a professional singer. The dominating feature is a 100-year old stage on which an orchestra played the tunes of the day. Burton holds workshops for aspiring singers and offers students an experience that is difficult to duplicate: they can sing and train on the old stage.

Torrrence had been considering the idea of opening a bed-and-breakfast inn and while Edna is removed from major highways, the Tognazzini house, built in 1908, had history and charm. It seemed made to order and she decided to follow her instincts.

“It was a big step, but in order to attract people you have to have a lot different things. Basically, I believe if you build it, they will come”, Torrence said.

Torrence, her father, and Rick (a local craftsman) transformed the 1200 square foot, three bedroom farmhouse by renovating the interior. Outside they’ve kept the building’s original lines while creating a French countryside ambience that reminds Torrence of Provence. The home has been named “Suite Edna” and opened its doors in April.

As it is now converted, the building has three bright and cheery suites, a single bath with a marvelous claw-foot tub and a large, cheery kitchen. The floor plan is an ideal weekend rental for an extended family or for a single family and guests. Suite Grace has twp rooms with a queen-sized bed, Suite Edna offers two rooms with a king-sized feather bed and pillows. Suite Pattea is a single room with a double-sized feather bed. The large kitchen has a modern stove, a country look and an old farm table roomy enough for a relaxed coffee or a meal. Beyond the welcoming front porch, a fenced and private garden is just right for sunbathing, relaxing, or a BBQ.

The next project on Torrence’s agenda is a home for her, Jeff and Keinun. She believes the old Blue-belly barn might be the perfect place. It is located at the western edge of her property, is a perfect match for the rest of the town and has a grand view of a world-class vineyard that rims the property. While she has not finalized plans, Torrence wants to either convert the barn or to use its materials. But, that’s still part of her dream.

Additional information is available by checking the website oldedna.com or by calling 544-8062.

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