Sonoma Cheese Factory for sale

Historic Plaza cheesemongery listed at $4.25 million, described as a 'diamond in the rough' by global real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield.|

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The Sonoma Cheese Factory, the venerable local business in a signature downtown building, is being listed for sale for more than $4 million.

The wine, foods, gifts, ice cream and barbecue deli has been closed since the end of 2018, as owners the Viviani Trust – consisting primarily of Maria Viviani and Nina Viviani Respicio, daughters of co-founder Pete Viviani – struggled to find a working business model that would meet the terms of its use permit in the city.

The 11,420-square-foot retail, office and storage manufacturing space at 2 W. Spain St., built by Celso Viviani, his son Pete and Tom Vella in 1945 in an unusual post-deco tile architecture, is being listed at $4,275,000. This is the first time the property has made available for sale during its 75-year history.

Shuttered for over a year, the Viviani Trust had hoped to transform the Cheese Factory into an Oxbow Market-style multi-tenant artisan center, but failed to gain the type of permitting from the city required to allow for such an expansion. The Cheese Factory closed on the last day of 2018 with plans to reopen the following spring, but never did.

Maria Viviani and Nina Viviani Respicio did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.

David Viviani, who ran the business with his father Pete for many years but who is not part of the current ownership, said that he hopes any new proprietors would honor the family’s long cheese-making legacy. “I trust this tradition will be honored as this historic property evolves and continues to serve the local community and beyond,” David Viviani told the Index-Tribune.

Don LeBuhn and Dan Wald, of San Francisco-based retail investment advisor firm Cushman & Wakefield, are handling the selling of the property. Describing the property as “occupying a prominent location on Sonoma’s historic Plaza,” the real estate firm outlined its appeal in a press release. “Offering unparalleled visibility and frontage at this national tourist destination, the property will be delivered vacant and is expected to draw interest from a wide range of parties interested in its repositioning into a vibrant retail and commercial destination, serving Sonoma residents and visitors alike.”

As of last year, the Viviani Trust still held out hopes to reopen a modified expansion of the 75-year-old business under the terms of a 2004 use permit. But that permit’s approval by the City Council was appealed by a neighborhood group called Protect Our Plaza, which claims to represent several Plaza-area businesses and other interests.

City of Sonoma officials declined to comment on the status of the appeal, or what affect the sale of the property would have upon it.

LeBuhn, of Cushman & Wakefield, was optimistic about the timing of the property coming on the market.

"We are confident that there will be substantial investor interest even in the current environment," LeBuhn told the Index-Tribune.

In the announcement, LeBuhn described the property as a “diamond in the rough” that offers “a wide variety of uses and potential redevelopment solutions.”

“With its visibility on the Plaza, outdoor seating and easy access from public parking we believe developers can bring new energy and creativity to the property and return it to its rightful place as a key component of the Sonoma Plaza experience.”

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