Six Films; Six Weeks: Mill District Debuts A Series Of Films To Highlight Women Entrepreneurs Making An Impact

May 20, 2022
HEALDSBURG, Calif. (May 19, 2022) –– The magic of Healdsburg is rooted in local community character, awe-inspiring scenery, and in the entrepreneurial spirit of some pretty incredible women.
This Sonoma County city synthesizes old and new, appealing to visitors and residents alike for its exceptional food, local wine, and charming walkability. Steps from the historic Healdsburg Plaza on the south end of town is Mill District, a 9.6-acre neighborhood that enhances and elevates a former lumber yard that milled quality wood products for decades. This design-forward development explores a fresh approach to highlighting what makes Healdsburg one of the most appealing small towns in the U.S. to live and visit, through a new film series debuting today.
The series, aptly named Why Healdsburg? spotlights six women entrepreneurs who chose Healdsburg to solidify and grow their career passions and raise their families. Mill District Marketing Director Josie Gay Carroll said the film series perfectly encapsulates the spirit that makes Healdsburg completely unique.
“The vision for Mill District intentionally distills the essence of Healdsburg, extending far beyond traditional luxury residential development projects,” Josie Gay Carroll explained. “Community partnerships are the ethos of Mill District - they are how we have curated and will continue to curate the lifestyle experience for each of our residences and why the project is embraced by locals.”
Why Healdsburg? directed by Sundance alum Kim Carroll, invites viewers to understand what motivates these six women to innovate and work hard to achieve excellence. The film series explains how the endeavors of its subjects contribute to the overarching Healdsburg experience and dynamic of everyday life. Why Healdsburg? is composed of six compelling films, each shorter than a radio song.
Episode 1: Laura King, Former Triathlete & Pro-Cyclist
Watch Laura’s Video:
Laura King has always associated Sonoma County with some of the best cycling in the world. Considering that she’s a former triathlete and pro-cyclist, and happens to be married to professional cyclist Ted King, her assessment is packed with perspective. In episode 1, King highlights Mill District Velo, which provides access to world-class cycling amenities, events and an in-house stock shop loaded with premium gear. Mill District Velo stores and maintains homeowner bikes, maps customized routes with approved stops for wine tastings and pain au chocolat, and is managed by locals who live and breathe the sport.
“Sonoma County is known as wine country, but I’ve coined the term Ride Country. When it comes to road cycling, there is no prettier or more majestic place to ride a bike. I feel really lucky to be able to call my passion my job.”
Episode 2: Katina Connaughton, Farmer/Floral Designer/Co-Owner of SingleThread Farm, Restaurant and Inn and Co-Collaborator of the newly opened Little Saint
Watch Katina’s Video:
Captivated by the agricultural and maker spirit of Healdsburg, Katina Connaughton likes to keep things local. Co-owner of SingleThread and Co-collaborator of Little Saint (alongside her husband, Chef Kyle Connaughton) she is responsible for the restaurant’s culinary gardens – a 24-acre farm in the Dry Creek Valley. Prior to establishing roots in Healdsburg, Katina and Kyle lived in Hokkaido, Japan where Katina studied sustainable farming techniques – techniques she broadened and amplified on her own. From emphasizing the importance of crop rotation for the land’s ecosystem to harvesting crops in alignment with shun principles and walking through the gardens with restaurant Chefs, Katina believes in farming with nature and never against it. In fact, SingleThread and Little Saint menus are built entirely around the freshest ingredients from within a small radius. 
“When I get to devote my energy to the land and spend an entire day out on the farm, it refuels me and feeds my soul. Working in the natural world is very humbling. There is so much beautiful diversity that ranges from these small local farms to the rolling hillside with vineyards. I feel wonderfully proud to be part of the incredible people in this community and create alongside them.”
Episode 3: Shelly Rafanelli, Winemaker & Managing Partner at A. Rafanelli Winery
Watch Shelly’s Video:
Shelly Rafanelli is a fourth-generation winemaker and great-granddaughter of Italian immigrants who found the hidden gem of Sonoma County. Located in Dry Creek Valley, A. Rafanelli Winery is founded upon long-established family values and the quality commitment from grape to glass. This history, this thread through time, is a major part of the experience at a cult winery that has become renowned for Zinfandel.
“Born and raised in Healdsburg, what’s not to love?” she says, reminiscing of the many times she followed her grandfather through production systems at the winery. “What we do here is special in and of its own right, but when you think about the traditions and the legacy it’s even more meaningful and unique. I like to think we capture that history in every bottle.”
Episode 4: Marne Dupere, Co-Owner of Plank Coffee
Watch Marne’s Video:
Co-owner of Plank Coffee, Marne Dupere believes in the culture society Healdsburg offers. As an entrepreneur, she is committed to adding value to the world, whether that’s through her community or on behalf of the environment. An owner of two businesses in three different locations, Dupere is intentional when it comes to personalizing her establishments through design, ingredients and art.
“Healdsburg is a great town for so many reasons. Culturally it’s more interesting; the diversity of people here is a melting pot of humanity. We love that element of Healdsburg and have very purposefully chosen our locations on the outskirts of town, because we want people to find us in order to appreciate what we’re doing here.”
Episode 5: Sarah Opatz, Co-Founder of Young & Yonder Spirits
Watch Sarah’s Video:
Most people who visit Healdsburg come for the wine. In recent years, however, several breweries and micro-distilleries have stolen some of the spotlight and generated interest of their own. One such brand is Young & Yonder, an artisan spirit producer with a distillery and tasting room just behind Healdsburg’s City Hall. The brand was founded in 2017 by local wife-and-husband duo Sarah and Josh Opatz.
“We have such a vibrant community here and it’s exciting to see the community—and the city itself—continue to grow. You always see Healdsburg on travel publications ‘Best Towns to Visit’ lists but it still has a small community vibe that I don’t think it will ever lose. The fact that our little company gets to be a part of that, the fact that we get to keep people happy while they’re making Healdsburg their home, that’s one of the best things about this job.”
Episode 6: Melissa Yanc, Owner & Chef of Quail and Condor Bakery
Watch Melissa’s Video:
Philosophically, the goal at Quail and Condor is simple: To highlight local produce. Sweet scones incorporate local fruits. Savory galettes feature vegetables and edible flowers from local fields. Yanc bakes pumpkin pies for the holidays with heirloom pumpkins from Bernier and Preston Farms. Having lived in many states, among vastly different communities, she is settled in Healdsburg and happy to call it home.
“Quail and Condor is my life’s work, and it’s given me all I could ever ask for. Healdsburg is so hidden, yet such a moving place. Everything here is of such high quality we’d be foolish not to lead with it.”
Mill District screened the films earlier this spring at a private event for Healdsburg residents. The film series is now available on, and will be available as individual snippets on social media in the coming weeks. The film series also is part of a broader project celebrating women entrepreneurs in Healdsburg and the surrounding part of Sonoma County. That project, dubbed “Wonder Women,” will debut as a standalone microsite later this year.
Dani Hannah, (559) 801-5805