Peet’s Coffee & Tea has revived its 2-year-old bid to open a store in Cotati, a town famously protective of its anti-corporate identity.
The Emeryville-based coffee company hopes to open up in a former ice cream and burger joint, Frank’s Freeze, at the north end of Old Redwood Highway, Cotati’s main commercial strip.
Cotati in 2007 passed an ordinance limiting the number of chain restaurants that could operate in town.
But two are allowed in what’s called the northern gateway of the downtown area. Peet’s in 2008 received a use permit that would have made it the second before it put the project on hold as the economy slumped.
The renewed prospect of a publicly listed company opening a store on Main Street stirred some alarm among people with strong feelings about this town of 7,500.
“Peet’s is the Wal-Mart of coffee. Because of stuff like that, there’s less individuality,” said Petaluma resident Jeff Mason as he was having coffee at Cotati Coffee, located at the other end of town from where Peet’s wants to open.
“There’s already a coffee shop right there,” said Tiana Sherman, a Cotati Coffee employee, pointing across the street at Redwood Café, a popular local institution. “And then there’s us here. I think Cotati’s a bit small for that.”
Others were more conflicted.
“Even though it’s a corporation, they still do nice coffee,” said Michael McCullaugh, co-owner of the Redwood Café.
Still, he said, “I think there’s enough coffee shops in town.”
Then he added: “But am I against another business coming in? Absolutely not.”
Because the company has not yet signed a lease, it had no comment, said a Peet’s spokeswoman, Pamela Coddington.
City officials said the town, whose voters in April passed a half-cent city sales tax measure billed as a lifeline for its strained budget, needs the new business. Also, they said, a Peet’s would boost the prospects of reviving its northern entrance, which has lost a number of key stores.
“We’re glad to have something at that end of the town to set the tone for our future development of that section of the city,” said Mayor Robert Coleman-Senghor. “It’s welcome because of that.”
Councilwoman Pat Gilardi said there “certainly there will be people” opposed to the Peet’s because of their feelings about chain stores, but that she views the company, which was founded in Berkeley, differently.
“For me personally, Peet’s isn’t on the same playing field as a McDonalds,” she said. “It’s not as big and it originated here in the Bay Area.”
The company likely will appear before the Planning Commission in June to renew its use permit, which expires in July, said City Manager Dianne Thompson.
There are five Peet’s in Sonoma County, two each in Santa Rosa and Petaluma and one in Windsor.