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Grocery war taking shape in Santa Rosa

  • Tara McRann checks out Anne-Marie Allen, a loyal customer for 25 years, at Community Market in Santa Rosa, June 11, 2011. (Crista Jeremiason / PD)

Sonoma County retailers long have a history of making it as tough as possible for out-of-area competitors to horn in on their home turf.

Yardbirds for years thwarted Home Depot from getting a toe-hold in Santa Rosa.

Friedman's Home Improvement similarly bankrolled the opposition to Lowe's on Santa Rosa Avenue.

Pacific Market in Rohnert Park warned it would close if the nearby Wal-Mart was allowed to sell groceries and promptly did.

And Santa Rosa's downtown restaurants even ran a group of food trucks out of town in part because some hailed from Napa and Sebastopol.

The latest front in the local versus out-of-area chains is opening up over a possible Sprouts Farmers Market natural foods store on Santa Rosa's Mendocino Avenue.

The fast-growing Phoenix-based Sprouts is eyeing the northeast corner of Mendocino's busy intersection with Bicentennial Avenue, across from Kaiser Permanente Medical Center. The four-acre site is covered with oak trees that hide a 22-unit apartment complex and two homes.

It also is less than a mile north of Community Market, a small specialty organic grocery with a long history and loyal following.

Nica Poznanovich, outreach coordinator for the market founded as a co-op in 1975, said despite its strong local support, when Whole Foods arrived in Coddingtown, annual sales of about $5 million fell 10 percent.

“I don't know how we would handle another 10 percent,” Poznanovich said.

Some of the market's 35 workers probably would lose their jobs, she said.

At least one supporter said he couldn't see how the market could survive if such direct competition sprouts up nearby.

“They don't have the deep pockets to withstand the loss of market share,” said Terry Garrett, operations officer for the Sonoma County GoLocal cooperative.

Community Market is a member the group, which has become the most vocal advocate in the area for the economic benefits of favoring locally owned businesses.

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