As Sonoma small business owners we’ve taken a big hit with this recession and some of us have taken a greater share of pain through increased competition from big box stores and the internet. Our saving grace is being located here in Sonoma. The community of Sonoma supports small business, the family-style, community-centered small business of years past.
Sonoma still has that small town feel. We have great locally owned shops, restaurants and services. We love this community and how it looks and feels. We may not get rich with our little stores, but we all have become wealthy in the relationships they have brought us over the years.
Staples is representative of other ‘big box’ stores with multiple departments. They have literally millions of dollars to buy Sonoma’s business. They can mark down pricing and spend tons of dollars in advertising to put an end to their local business competition. Once the competition is gone they can go back to any pricing method that gives their “out of town” ownership the greatest profit.
Staples/Big box stores will:
• Open the door to other national chains. Say hi to Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowes, and Target, then say good bye to our small town. If we say yes to Staples how can we say no to Wal-Mart?
• Give our community a different feel. It begins to feel like we become a bigger city with bigger city issues. The quaint town atmosphere becomes simply another city. Look at Rohnert Park with its many national retail and restaurant chain operations. Is this Sonoma in a few years?
• Welcome travelers at the city’s north entrance. Sonoma has been an attractive destination location in the heart of the wine country. Is Staples the first look we want our visitors to see after driving through the beautiful Valley?
• Offer an industry much different and whose impersonal make-up would erode the unique flavor that reflects our local business operations in Sonoma.
• Effect all other businesses in Sonoma in the long run; the businesses themselves, their employees and, ultimately, our tax base. It is a fallacy that big box stores increase revenue dollars. Businesses from the community keep their money here and reinvest here, not in Arkansas, Texas or China.
• Cause business vacancies and reduction of real estate values as multiple businesses fail so a big one can succeed. How many shops will close for this one store to open?
We prefer a city that keeps its small town identity, feel and look. We believe that the community at large would be willing to sacrifice a little inconvenience to keep our community atmosphere intact.
We therefore propose the following to the Sonoma City Council:
Change business zoning requirements to retain our unique small town’s identity, feel and look. We propose that the city business zoning be reviewed and changed to reflect the community’s desire to keep our town free of big box store conglomerates. We request that no other than existing national chain stores with multiple departments (of a certain size to be determined) be permitted until after public review of business zoning changes. We request that the city council enacts a use permit moratorium to include Staples and any other big box store until these new zoning standards can be developed, reviewed and implemented.
With sincere care and consideration for Sonoma’s future, the following people and businesses agree and encourage the council to act immediately.
Rick Pappas, SonomaTronics/ Wireless Group
Vicky Frank, Sonoma Valley Office Supply
Stan Pappas, Pipe Pirates
Carla Haskell, The Toy Shop
Sid and Ellen Hoover, Sonoma Blueprint
Paula Farwell, Copy Store & More
Bill Mapel Victoria Leff
Marc A. Snyder
The city council will discuss the issue on Monday night.