Peet's Coffee causing stir in Sonoma

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.

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