A pink too far?

WILL ROSE, an employee at Grandma Linda’s Ice Cream, leans against the shop’s pink door. Some say the Plaza storefront’s bright exterior doesn’t fit Sonoma’s historic downtown. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

WILL ROSE, an employee at Grandma Linda’s Ice Cream, leans against the shop’s pink door. Some say the Plaza storefront’s bright exterior doesn’t fit Sonoma’s historic downtown. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune


It’s not that it’s pink – it’s that particular shade of pink.

So say a dozen Sonoma residents unhappy with the front door and façade of Grandma Linda’s, an ice cream shop on the Plaza with a new name and colorful makeover.

Too colorful for some locals, who say that shade of pink (the shop owners call it “cerise delight”) runs counter to downtown Sonoma’s historical feel – even though it was indeed approved by the Design Review and Historic Preservation Commission on Dec. 17.

“It’s too garish for this town,” explained Sonoma resident Fred Burger.

He and 11 other people have appealed the commission’s decision, paying $100 and submitting a written explanation as part of the process. The Sonoma City Council is set to hear their appeal on March 3.

According to the critics, city code (updated just a few weeks before the Dec. 17 decision) requires the commission to “safeguard the historic character” of the Plaza and downtown – something they believe three of the commission’s five members failed to do when the color was approved in a 3-2 vote.

They also say the ice cream shop’s owners, Dawn and Troy Marmaduke, submitted an incomplete application when they did not provide a backup color in case the commission didn’t like cerise delight.

Wendy Atkins, associate planner with the city’s Planning Department, confirmed that the Marmadukes did not submit a backup color as city staff recommended. But she also pointed out that, “The design review committee ultimately approved the pink color,” adding, “It’s always commission discretion.”

“There isn’t an approved color scheme for any properties within the city of Sonoma,” Atkins said – meaning there’s nothing in the rules specifically barring cerise delight.

She said that whenever business owners want to paint an exterior, they first go to city planners, who help guide them through the commission review process. “We give them some feedback and we let them know it’s a good idea to provide some color schemes” in case the first color choice isn’t approved.

“Any time paint is proposed, we let them know (if) it’s been contentious in the past,” Atkins added. The last time this happened was a very similar situation: Last year, Top That Yogurt wanted to put some pink detail around the storefront door and windows at its 531 Broadway location.

In that case, too, the owners went through the Planning Department. “Because it was pink, staff encouraged the applicant to come back with an alternate (color) proposal,” Atkins said. “And they did not.”

And yet, Top That Yogurt got the color approved anyway.

So too in the case of Grandma Linda’s Ice Cream Shop: “There was never a backup color – but the commission said OK anyway,” Atkins recalled.

The Marmadukes have operated an ice cream shop on the Plaza at 408 First St. E. for a few years, but it was always a Ben & Jerry’s franchise. Then in October, they successfully disenfranchised and reopened as an independent.

Dawn Marmaduke returned a call over the weekend, but was not immediately available on Monday to talk about the issue. In an open letter to the City Council, which ran earlier this month in the Index-Tribune, she wrote that the December meeting “was a thoughtful discussion/review between us and the commission, and in the end we all agreed with the illustration we presented. We left this meeting feeling like it was productive and fair.”

She also wrote, “The shop is named after my husband’s mother, who passed away too young with ALS. She was the most wonderful grandma to our kids. The ice cream shop will be in memory of her and a celebration of all grandmas.” That color of pink was said to be Grandma Linda’s favorite.

“So they’re pulling on our heartstrings,” said Burger, who believes that the color is just plain wrong for the Plaza.

“I think a more subdued color would be more in keeping with what the Plaza’s all about,” he said. “This looks more like Disneyland.”

He also believed that allowing it could lead to more bright colors on the Plaza, because, “They’ll have an excuse. ‘You let this guy do it, I want to do it too.’”

Other appellants also had been willing to discuss their position – but then the issue started heating up. One person refused to comment on the record, citing anger over previous comments that appeared in news reports.


  • Willie


  • dcs

    The highlighted front page article in the paper is about a door painted pink? Wow, how will we all survive such a blight on the all too precious plaza? The epitomy of a slow news day I guess. From the wonderful former boxer hot dog cart vendor who was refused enrty to sell on the pristine plaza to the corner of 1st and Spain sitting empty for what, 7 years, the plaza has become the joke of the high brow tourist town. However, all drunks and drug addicts are welcome between Napa and Spain streets

  • Mike Stephens

    I am curious why people didn’t start complaining sooner about the odd decisions the planning department allows on the plaza. Burger and Vine Awning and Barrel Flower Boxes, Bright Blue Coldwell Banker Awning and now a bright pink facade. It is getting out of hand. If i lived in town and not the county I would form a committee like Healdsburg, Yountville, St. Helena have that regulates what can be done on the square so that good taste prevails. If we continue down this path I can only imagine how tacky the plaza will continue to become. HELP!

  • Lank Thompson

    This is really dumb. Burger and company need to get the boot out the door.

  • Hilary Onstott Gruendle

    Wow, some people need a hobby to keep them occupied.

  • Wyneaux

    Its an ice cream shop, folks…. not a mortuary… get a life!

  • H. Miller

    Sonoma’s control-freak lobby heard from once again…

  • http://www.westcottdesign.com G. Westcott

    I LOVE it! What’s wrong with giving the plaza some personality besides history and wine?

  • Brooke

    It’s a pink door people, a little color on the plaza isn’t going to hurt anyone or any businesses.

    • Jim Pacheco

      The problem is that it opens the door (no pun intended) to garish colors on other buildings on the Plaza. What if the El Dorado Hotel or Sonoma Hotel wants to paint their building this bright pink?

      • Lank Thompson

        I’d say hooray, go for it.

  • Sweetsinger

    Obviously Mr. Burger and company don’t like ice cream. Or have any sense of fun. It’s perky and delightful. It’s done, people. Move on. Find something meaningful to whine about.

  • East Side

    Burger and Company go make yourselves useful volunteering or something. It is an ice cream parlor. It should be bright and inviting. I like it!

  • Jay Watson

    Wait a minute, it isn’t April 1st is it. You just can’t be serious that you oppose the color of a door . Really? A door! Ever heard of the phrase “get a life.”

  • sonomadeegan

    I think it’s the perfect color for an ice cream parlor/store. Besides, who can get past that gawd-awful Burgers and Vine awning to even notice a pink door?