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Peet’s causing stir in Sonoma over chain stores

By DEREK MOORE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Controversy again is brewing in Sonoma over a chain store possibly coming to town, in this case a Peet’s Coffee & Tea that would be a block away from the Plaza in what used to be the city’s fire station.

The proposed developer of the 10,500-square-foot property at the corner of Broadway and Patten Street on Thursday confirmed Peet’s interest in the site.

“If we want them, we can have them,” said Doug Wiele, president and founding partner of Foothill Partners Inc., which is based in El Dorado Hills.

Wiele’s company is negotiating to purchase the property from the city’s redevelopment agency. He said the deal would require him to lease space in the new retail complex to both a “local-serving” coffee shop and restaurant.

Wiele said Peet’s fits that criteria. But others view the Emeryville-based coffee maker, which has 192 stores in six states, as a corporate threat to Sonoma’s independently owned stores.

The fact the coffee shop would be a stone’s throw from the city Plaza also is drawing concern.

“When you bring in the franchises, they are going to kill the mom-and-pop stores, which is what is unique about Sonoma,” said Kanak Raj, who owns Crown Cleaners and Formal Wear on Broadway, just north of the old fire station.

Sonoma has frequently wrestled with the issue of chain stores, most recently over plans by Staples to open in a 14,000-square-foot building that formerly housed a Ford car dealership.

The lively community debate over those plans prompted the City Council to consider adopting new zoning codes to regulate chain stores. But that discussion went nowhere.

Wiele said he’s yet to decide whether he wants Peet’s to occupy his proposed development.

A spokeswoman for the coffee company said Peet’s does not disclose information about upcoming stores until a lease is signed and permits have been issued.

But the online brochure for the property already displays Peet’s logo on a 1,799-square-foot space on the corner of the building closest to Broadway.

And the brokerage firm representing Wiele’s company, Retail West, Inc., represents Peet’s in other acquisitions.

Wiele said that no matter whom he selects to occupy the complex, the tenants must have a long-term and viable business plan.

“I need to show my bank that these are not all start-ups with a hope and a prayer of succeeding,” he said.

But some other coffee shop owners in Sonoma perceive the publicly traded Peet’s as a threat to their bottom lines.

The company’s corporate filings state that Peet’s competes not just with the likes of Starbucks — which also has outlets in Sonoma — but also with “small single-unit independently owned coffeehouses.”

“It would certainly impact our business in a tough economy,” said Dave Mock, who owns Hot Shots, a drive-through coffee outlet about a block away from the fire station development.

Ro Rhodd, a Hot Shots customer, said she would continue to patronize the outlet even if Peet’s opened down the street. But she said she supports Peet’s coming to town for economic reasons. “The more businesses, the more jobs,” she said.

Even Raj, who’s operated his cleaning business on Broadway for 33 years, acknowledged that Peet’s could benefit his bottom line by drawing more people to the area.

“The town has already opened the door to Starbucks, so it will be difficult to stop it (Peet’s),” he said with a shrug.

Wiele said he hopes to complete the purchase agreement for the fire station site soon. He said he will host a community meeting for feedback on the plans, which will be reviewed by the city planning commission.

Wiele said he hopes to begin construction by January 2012.





5 Responses to “Peet’s causing stir in Sonoma over chain stores”

  1. Sam & Janet Evening says:

    Get a life. People are dying across the Middle East for their right to representative government. Meanwhile, the folks in Sonoma are arguing about whether Peets constitutes a threat to the existence of independently operated coffee shops. Patrick Henry did not say “Give me liberty or give me coffee that is produced under conditions in which the man behind the counter is sole proprietor of said establishment and his business is a wholly owned subsidiary.”

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  2. Ben Boyce says:

    First Staples, and now Peet’s. The quaint little town of Sonoma, described by travel magazines as one of the prettiest cities in America, has caught the attention of the national chains. The big-box sector, having displaced most retail trade with large format stores, is now heading into mid-size formats. The big-box chains will now seek to conquer the remainder of the retail market with 10-15 thousand square foot stores. Even WalMart has introduced the mini-Walmart, ideal for suburban locations.

    The question for Sonoma is: is this the path we want to follow? Right now, under existing retail ordinances, there is no protection against being overrun with chain stores, thereby negating the very charm that makes the city a tourist destination. We do have a remedy. Enacting a Community Impact Report (CIR)will give the city the tools need to assess any new business applications on the basis of impacts on existing retail, affordable housing stock, living wages and labor standards, and public health services. Businesses with living wages and good healthcare benefits, who are meeting a clearly identified niche in the retail environment, will score high. Low wage, low benefit businesses that externalize their costs on the community in the form of increased need for affordable housing and drawing down public health resources will score low.

    Under the current regulatory environment, there is no way to make these important distinctions to help maintain economic and social vitality. We need a CIR in Sonoma.

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  3. Coco Silvestri says:

    Ben & Jerry’s is already on the Plaza. Why not Peet’s?

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  4. Greg Karraker says:

    In January, 2008, Peet’s applied for a permit to open in Cotati in the abandoned Frank’s Freeze location. 39 months later, the location is still a vacant eyesore, as are three of the four corners at that particular intersection.

    Cities like Cotati and Sonoma can have Economic Development Summits every day of the week, but they have as much skill at attracting business as POTUS has at balancing the Federal budget.

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  5. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    If I lived in Sonoma I would be welcoming Peet’s. They have treats to die for, a great selection. I like their healthy reduced fat fruit and nut scones.

    I’m not a big coffee drinker but I like to choose a breakfast treat. Peet’s is where I go.

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