Big box solutions
All the attention about big box, chain or franchise stores is something the city will not be able to effectively deal with. It will be a waste of committees and resources. This topic is a slippery slope and the city knows it will end up in litigation. The real issue is what to do about it.
All of the above-type stores are looking for customers willing to give up their money. These stores have money to identify areas of profit and time to plan their attacks. They have money for advertising and discount prices/gimmicks to bring people in the doors.
So here are some examples of what our community can do in response. Banks should become a willing lending source to support the community and small business. Local for-profit businesses will usually spend money in town while big-box monies will go to corporate headquarters in another state.
The city and county taxes and permits should be changed to give a sole proprietor and partnership an advantage. The local paper should change their advertising practices and provide a special section for local businesses with a standard three-by-three-inch box at a low cost so locals can compete. Most locals don't place ads because they are too expensive and get overtaken by half pages bought by big stores.
Next, we, the local consumers, need to help advertise by telling our neighbors of good local businesses. Maybe the newspaper could have a "local business good story section" that has recommendations from buyers.
Local business owners, listen to your buyers: if they need something you don't have, get it. I can believe people would want to have Staples come in because it has ink for their printers. You would think someone in business locally would have surveyed locals and had inks on hand.
My daughter started her business in Sonoma a year ago, when the economy was at its lowest. It was interesting to watch the city, county, banks and newspapers all change their rules and prices on everything. Her business is focused on providing an environment and experience that people appreciate and enjoy, and her reward is having them happy when they leave. That is one thing a big-box or chain cannot offer.
Local businesses are not getting rich; they are trying to make a living. Let's get the word out, everyone talk about a good local experience.
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Steve Lucia is a resident of Sonoma.