Sonoma Planning Commission mulls Williams-Sonoma cooking school/cafe

A diverse agenda will greet the Sonoma Planning Commission Thursday, Oct. 10, when it takes action on an 11-unit apartment complex, a cooking school and cafe, and an 80-foot redwood, monopine communications tower.

The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Meeting Room at 177 First St. W.

Of unusual interest will be consideration of a cooking school and cafe with a small retail component and a housing unit in an existing building at 599 Broadway. The structure, now owned by Williams-Sonoma, is the original site of the nationwide chain, and the building is to be rehabilitated in honor of its founder, Chuck Williams.

Williams, who moved to Sonoma in 1947, opened his first store in a section of a former hardware store in 1956. It had a small kitchen where he tried out recipes and shelves where he meticulously displayed and sold special cookware that had previously been available only in Europe and in professional American kitchens. His store’s logo, a pineapple, was designed by a Sonoma artist. Overwhelmingly successful, he moved his store to San Francisco two years later, at the urging of his friends.

The chain now has more than 250 stores, exceeding the city’s 2012 formula store ordinance that prohibits restaurants with more than 250 outlets from opening on the Plaza. But the Williams-Sonoma store is not on the Plaza, although it will be subject to use permit review, and it is not clear what the nature of the proposed cafe will be. Unlike most Williams-Sonoma stores, the retail portion will be small and associated with the culinary classes. A cafe and a housing unit already exist on the property.

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