A head of hospitality and community in Cloverdale and north county, Kathleen Kelley Young, died on Jan. 3.
“Kathleen Kelley Young will be missed in so many ways,” said Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Neena Hanchett. “She was a tireless Cloverdale supporter and her ‘stamp’ was on so many events. A Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce Board Member, fellow business associate, advisor and friend, her light shone in all directions.”
For numerous years, Kelley Young could be seen walking with the chamber of commerce during the Citrus Fair Parade, helping to cultivate a sense of community wherever she went.
She died after being diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer nearly five years ago, in July 2016.
Kelley Young was born in 1957 in Madison, Maine. She moved to California after graduating high school to pursue a career in the medical field, but realized that the expense was too high for her budget. After starting her pre-med degree at University of California San Francisco, she decided to shift her focus to accounting.
Eventually moving to Marin County and starting her own accounting business, Kelley Young began taking on more clients in the wine industry. One of her clients, Robert Young of Robert Young Winery, eventually asked her to be his personal accountant, encouraging her to move up to Sonoma County. Kelley Young moved north, taking on more Sonoma County wine industry clients, eventually working in the office at Robert Young Winery.
A few years later, Kelley Young and Jim Young began a whirlwind romance after prior marriages had ended, dating for a year and a half before getting engaged and marrying in a tiny church house in Alexander Valley a total of 5 years later. Her marriage to Jim also brought with it a bigger family — in addition to her daughters Madeline Kelley Stewart and Courtney Cuberly, Kelley Young also welcomed in Jim Young’s children Elizabeth, Nicolai and Ethan Young. At the time of her death, she was also a grandmother to Barrett Barnard.
“My mom always liked to have a brood around her,” Stewart said.
Kelley & Young Wines was started in 2005, brought on by Kelley Young’s desire to expand the Robert Young label in a time where the Robert Young crop was producing excess Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Instead of expanding, Kelley Young and Jim Young decided to start their own label entirely.
For the first 10 years, Kelley & Young Wines was managed out of their family home in Alexander Valley before the family eventually opened up shop in Cloverdale.
In 2015, Kelley Young opened Kelley & Young Wine Garden Inn on North Main Street after hearing that the previous owners were leaving the country.
According to the Reveille archives, longtime Kelley & Young wine club members who owned the Vintage Towers bed and breakfast in Cloverdale called to cancel their membership with the wine club, since they were moving to New Zealand. They had received an offer for the inn from someone in San Diego, but the potential owner planned to convert it back into a private home.
“I thought that was a shame. It's a beautiful B&B and with all the history and all that and they said, ‘You want to make an offer?’” Kelley Young said in a 2017 interview with the Reveille. “I said ‘I don’t know, let me think about it,’ and that was a Friday. They were going to accept the offer but hadn’t yet so they gave me the weekend to think about it and on Monday we made an offer and they took it.”
It took about seven months to get the newly christened Kelley & Young Wine Garden Inn up and running, and as part of the operations, they offered wine tastings and wine and food pairings, overseen by Kelley Young’s daughter Madeline.
Having a bed and breakfast was always a dream of her mother’s, her daughter said during an interview this week.
“One of her favorite things to do was just to sit and talk with people — half of the time I’d be in our office flagging her down (to get work done.) She was the best at it. She truly made everyone feel welcome,” Stewart said. “She always wanted to find out everyone’s story and get to know about them.”
The North Cloverdale Boulevard tasting room for Kelley & Young wines opened in November 2017, 12 years after the wine label began.
In addition to her work as a business owner, Kelley Young was a fervent supporter of local nonprofits and of the Cloverdale community. She served on the board of the Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce since 2018 and, through her wine label, sponsored and poured wine for events and nonprofits such as the Alexander Valley Film Society and the Cloverdale Performing Arts Center.
A love and appreciation for the arts is something that was ingrained in her from the time she was young — her dad taught Latin and drama and her mom taught English.
“Growing up, we always had to watch educational TV and she was a huge supporter of PBS … she was always the type of person to support the arts,” Stewart said. “When it came to donating our money, our time, our wine, whatever we could, a lot of our donation went to the arts. My mom always wanted to make sure that the arts were well taken care of and well represented.”
In her adopted home of Cloverdale, Kelley Young really got to live out her dream.
“That was her love child,” Stewart said, talking about the inn. “It was weird watching her, because it was something that she was truly born to do, but she had no experience in hospitality growing up. She was really great at absolutely everything that came with the hospitality side of people. If there was a guest that was upset or grumpy, it would be her goal to make them smile and laugh — she really just wanted to make everyone feel loved, that was her bottom line.
“She loved to entertain, she loved to host people, she loved to make people feel welcome and make sure that everybody had what they needed. If there was anybody who ever needed something, she was always the first one to jump in and volunteer, or make an extra dish, or host a party. She was kind of like that ultimate mom figure.”
“The people in Cloverdale, all of the people that supported us, there were countless people that helped us with support, with making everything happen and she absolutely loved Cloverdale — she felt like home there,” Stewart said. “She truly loved everything that Cloverdale gave her.”