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.
Poznanovich rallied about two dozen Community Market supporters and employees to attend a city Planning Commission meeting last week meant to discuss the first step in any Sprouts project — the rezoning of the property to allow such a retail use.
Commissioners tried to keep the debate focused on whether the site was better suited to a retail than commercial office use, which is its current zoning despite its use as residential property.
But because the applicant, Arizona-based developer AVB Development Partners, has confirmed its hope to build a 30,000-square-foot Sprouts there, the debate spilled beyond those confines.
Sprouts, which has Northern California stores in Sunnyvale and Roseville, with another planned for Dublin, has declined comment on the proposal.
Property owner Ubaldo Tambellini, who attended the hearing, said later that he's not yet struck a deal with the developer or Sprouts, saying he's about "50-50." He said if he does, competition with the other grocery stores is part of business.
At the hearing, Commissioner David Poulsen said, "It's kind of being framed as Community Market versus Sprouts, and that's kind of not what's before us tonight."
Nevertheless, the commission got an earful from supporters of Community Market and Oliver's Market, which has two stores in Santa Rosa and is getting ready to replace its Cotati store with a bigger one.