Local office supply stores are bracing themselves for the arrival of big business in town: Staples, which just leased a vacant unit on West Napa and Riverside, is slated to open in Sonoma.
Business owners like Victoria Frank, who took over in 2008 after 25 years as an employee, are worried that the retail merchant will run them out of business.
"I'm sure that when they come to town their main point is going to be to knock me out...their prices will be lower than mine and then once I'm gone they'll go right back up," said Frank.
Several Sonoma-based office supply stores closed after Staples opened in Napa and Santa Rosa, according to Frank.
"I counted about ten local businesses that could be affected," said Pat Benttinelli, owner of .
But the choice of selection versus care and character is up to consumers.
"We put ribbons in typewriters, last week I saw someone in the back room teaching a customer Word so they could use their label-maker - it's a lot of little things," said Dressen.
Customers seem to agree: a petition sitting in Frank's store advocating for legislation blocking "big box" chain garnered about 100 signatures after only a few days.
Because the vacant building, which formerly housed a Ford dealership, is zoned for commercial use, Staples is not required to obtain a use permit and the City has limited power to prevent the store from setting up shop, according to Sonoma Planning Director David Goodison.
"If they were to propose to divide the building or expand the building that would be subject to use review, but because neither of those things are happening the building is not subject to use permit review," said Goodison.
A group of twenty local merchants, including the owners of SonomaTronics and Sonoma Valley Office Supply, have drafted an open letter to Sonoma City Council demanding a reworking of current zoning ordinances to prevent chain stores from putting up shop in Sonoma.
"We request that no other than existing national chain stores with multiple departments (of a certain size to be determined) be issued a new Business Use
Permit in the city of Sonoma until after public review of business zoning changes," reads the notice.
The City Council will examine amending these rules in their next meeting on Monday, April 4.
But in order to block incoming chains, the Council would have to amend the city's general plan through an interim ordinance - requiring a 4/5 majority vote, and is an action limited to events which provide "a current and immediate threat to the public health, safety or welfare," according to state law.
Staples has also submitted applications to amend several signs and re-plaster their front door, which will be reviewed at the Design Review Commission meeting on April 19.
Merchants recognize that a Sonoma Staples will come to fruition, the next question - how to respond.
"I hope that they don't just come in for a year and say 'we'll take the loss because big business is big business,' and they're big," said Benttinelli.
But Frank is braced for a good old competitive fight.
"When you get down to it Sonomans are loyal...I think Staples is going to be very surprised," said Frank.