Walking through the shop and grounds at The Barn at Hoey Ranch on Hecker Pass Road in Gilroy is like stepping back in time.
“This area has grown so much, we are trying to keep that old ranch feel,” said Debbie Hoey, shop proprietor and wife to Jim Hoey, whose family connection to the land goes back more than 150 years.
The old red barn, which originally stored hay and housed draft horses, is full with what Debbie calls “fine, rustic barntiquities,” an assortment of vintage furniture, tools and decorative items for the home and garden.
“We specialize in true American primitives,” said Debbie, an interior designer who works with residential and commercial clients to create their desired vintage look.
“For retailers, wineries, breweries—the vintage look is so ‘in’ right now,” she said. “You can get really creative with blending the old primitive with the new.”
The couple source their unique finds at auctions, estate sales and through good old fashioned “picking,” traveling around in their trailer to find rustic pieces.
“You can’t recreate this old finish—just add a bit of wax to keep the patina,” said Debbie, pointing out a solid wood chest of drawers. IKEA this is not; this particular piece of furniture was meant to last, its drawers made out of thick-cut pieces of wood and covered in a green paint that has been worn down over the years through constant use.
“These are ‘workhorses,’” said Debbie. “Just think how much they were used and they are still here.”
It’s not difficult to envision the life of a homesteader at the end of the 19th century in this 130-year old barn.
There is the old ice box that kept food chilled before electric refrigeration became the norm.
The wagon wheel and water pump that kept families moving and their thirsts quenched before the automobile and indoor plumbing came to the valley.
The row of kitchen tins that once held cocoa, baking powder and coffee.
Items that were once functional necessities have become decorative or been repurposed for a new generation of householders in search of something different.
A keen salvager, Debbie said she sees value in objects others would generally discard, and lovingly refurbishes and upcycles them into useful items for the home.
“It is the ultimate in recycling,” she said.
The Barn at Hoey Ranch is located on the same plot of land that has been in the Hoey family for five generations.
In 1854, Samuel and Electa Ousley (Jim’s great-great grandmother) came to Gilroy after leaving their home state of Missouri. They settled in the Hecker Pass area, formerly called Bodfish Mill Road, with their nine children to raise cattle.
The land was once part of the Solis Rancho, a land grant consisting of 9,000 acres awarded to Mariano Castro in the early 1800s by the Mexican governor of California. The ranch began as a 630-acre parcel, then grew to 1200 acres before reducing to its present size of 530 acres.
Patriarch Samuel Ousley died just one year after arriving in Gilroy, leaving a pregnant Electa in charge of raising the family and holding onto the land.
With the help of her grown children, Electa was able to double her land holdings and in the course of doing so, became the first American woman to officially own land.
In the 1870s, the Hoeys married into the Ousley family, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Looking toward the future, Jim and Debbie Hoey are excited for the ongoing development of the Hecker Pass area. Plans for new housing were recently approved by the City Council, clearing the way for 95 units of single-family housing and 31.2 acres of open space.
“With the wineries this is such a beautiful tourist area,” said Debbie. “There is so much potential.”
The Barn at Hoey Ranch is located at 2480 Hecker Pass Hwy., Gilroy. Hours: Thursday through Monday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday by appointment. (408) 309-1179.
Phil Laursen contributed to this story.