When the Friedman Brothers flagship Petaluma store closed in 1976 for rehabilitation of its dilapidated building, owners Benny and Joe Friedman placed this sign in the window: "Closed, but we will be back."
Four months later, the building burned down and plans to reopen were shelved.
Now, after 46 years, Friedman's Home Improvement is poised to return to its hometown.
On Tuesday at the Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting, Bill Friedman and his son, Barry, unveiled plans for their fourth North Bay home improvement warehouse.
"Their dream was always to come back to their roots," Bill Friedman said of the company's founders, his father, Benny and uncle, Joe. "Well, here is their dream."
Friedman's is set to return to the city of its birth next year as the anchor tenant of Deer Creek Village, the second-largest shopping center in Petaluma. The site will include a 78,000-square-foot main store along North McDowell Boulevard at Rainier Avenue in Petaluma.
Bill Friedman said he and his son hope to bring to the Petaluma store "all the best things from our other three stores" and ideas from other stores they've visited nationwide.
"We want to put it all together and make this the shining star of our fleet," he said.
The front of the store is planned to have two 35-foot-tall "living walls" covered in live greenery that will be fed and watered automatically, changing with the seasons. Two similar 16-foot walls will bracket the entrance to the 20,000-square-foot nursery.
"It just makes it wonderful," Bill Friedman said. "It softens the whole concept of the store."
There also will be a 35,000 square foot lumber shed, Friedman said. The building will be prepared for solar panels and will incorporate a glass front amid the green and yellow entryway color scheme.
A large mural of Sonoma County with its farmland and vineyards also is planned.
"It is welcoming everyone into our home and the dreams of what they want in their own homes," said Barry Friedman.
Greg Geertsen, representing the shopping center developer, Merlone Geier Partners of San Francisco, said the changing heights of the living wall concept will be continued throughout the Deer Creek Village architecture, as will skylights and natural lighting.
"It will be the most unique project ever built in the city," he said.
Deer Creek Village – 344,000 square feet in total – will be built in two phases over two years, with Friedman's going in first. He declined to name other potential tenants until leases are signed.
The project has major approvals from the city, but still must go through the Planning Commission and design review before building permits are issued. The design is scheduled to go before planners in August and possibly to the City Council by October.
Plans are to open the store in the fourth quarter of 2013, Bill Friedman said.
Friedman's first opened in Petaluma in 1946 with $4,000 the brothers saved from their Army pay. By 1976, their East Washington Street building was deteriorating and the landlord said he needed to close it temporarily to remodel. The brothers figured they'd reopen after the work was complete.
But the New Year's Eve left the brothers focusing on their Santa Rosa store.
In the meantime, Yardbirds and Home Depot have come and gone in Petaluma, which currently has no home improvement warehouse store. Lowe's was originally planned as the anchor tenant, but pulled out during a downsizing move, citing the city's slow planning pace.