Walt Cook, The Union Democrat

Some shifting is underway in Sonora's downtown business community.

A leather clothing retailer is set to close by mid-April, an expansion is under way at Grocery Outlet, a new specialized landscaping store has opened downtown and the owner of Sonora's taco truck has grown operations.

In addition, a longtime auto shop - Wright's Tire Services - once near Sonora's Subway restaurant has moved across the street. The shop is now located at 694 S. Washington St.

Other developments downtown include the pending opening of new shoe

store, Downtown Shoes, located in the former Hammond Shoes on

Washington Street, and the expected opening of a new yogurt shop, It's

Yo Good Frozen Yogurt.

Opening dates for the two stores have yet to be announced.

Sal's Taqueria - the signage for which proclaims it's "by the owner

of the taco truck" - is at 145 S. Washington St. The upstairs location

is the former site of Toukie's, a vegetarian restaurant, which closed

last year.

The menu at Sal's includes items sold at the taco truck, including

tacos, chile rellenos, enchiladas, burritos and more. Like the taco

truck, the restaurant also serves some exotic traditional Mexican

dishes, including beef tongue and menudo.

Fans of the taco truck don't need to worry - it can still be found

at its usual location, the Grocery Outlet parking lot, 685 S.

Washington St.

A short walk north of Sal's sits Garden Fresh Flowers and Art. The

store, at 27. S. Washington, sells a variety of homemade landscaping

items. Its specialty is plant arrangements inside hollowed-out pumice


Mike McDonald, who makes the arrangements and carves the stone, is

hoping the arrival of spring weather will spur more visits to his store.

The largest downtown-area development, Grocery Outlet's expansion,

will result in an extra 2,700 square-feet of floor space. The space

will allow for a greater product selection, according to Grocery Outlet

spokeswoman Melissa Porter.

Departments expanding include groceries and wine. In addition,

wider aisles are expected to create a better shopping experience.

The store is open during the remodel, which is expected to conclude March 31.

Not all business developments downtown involve expansions and

openings. CP Jain, owner of Cottage Emporium - a leather garment store

at 8 S. Washington St. - is focused on liquidating his inventory. He's

slashed prices on his assortment of largely leather jackets and is

offering two-for-one deals on most items.

He plans on closing by April 10.

His reason for closing is simple: "I'm not able to make any profit."

He surmised he couldn't compete with big-box stores.

He brushed away theories that the down economy is contributing to

his business difficulties. People still seem to have money to go to the

bar and smoke cigarettes, he said.

He noted that most of his client base is from the Bay Area or Modesto.

Nonetheless, he said he appreciates Sonora for its support.

"I'm thankful to the people of Sonora," he said. "They are loving people."

Jain - who owns the business with his wife, Veena - plans to focus

on his other business, the El Dorado Motel in Twain Harte. He said if

he's unable to sell all his inventory by April 10, he will sell the

rest of it at the El Dorado Motel.

In addition to Jain's pending store closure, downtown stores the Pet Boutique and Bella Vie for Home and Baby are for sale.

Contact Walt Cook at wcook@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4530.