Several new businesses are opening in downtown Sonora over the coming weeks and months, some bringing in new ideas and others sticking with tried-and-true concepts.

One of those new ideas is a retail fly fishing and outfitting shop at 78 S. Washington St., the former location of Sonora Mixed Martial Arts Academy.

Brian Fischer, 41, of Sonora, assumed the lease for the building this month and plans to open the shop fully next spring, with a potential partial opening for a few weeks around the holidays.

Sierra Nevada Adventure Co. has operated a store at 173 S. Washington St. since 1994 that sells outdoor products for a wide variety of activities, including kayaking, backpacking and climbing.

Fischer said his shop, which will be called Sonora Fly Co., will be geared more toward fly fishing and will sell equipment, gear and offer other services like lessons in tying fly fishing knots.

“A lot of people here want to learn how to fly fish, but they don’t know where to start,” he said of the hobby, which he described as more “cerebral” than regular fishing.

The plan is to eventually start offering guided fly fishing trips at the shop, but Fischer said that might wait until after the first year.

Fischer also said he wants the shop to be a kiosk for booking guided outdoor adventures through other vendors and better connect the downtown area with the recreational opportunities throughout Tuolumne County.

“It’s a draw for the type of community I want to see here,” he said. “I’m hoping we take more advantage of the recreation.”

This isn’t Fischer’s first business venture in downtown Sonora. He co-owns and operates PhoneSmart at 27 S. Washington St. with Derek Nunes and runs a logistics business on the second floor that coordinates shipments of refrigerated produce.

Fischer and his wife, Sally Anne, also operate an Airbnb in the back of the building that houses PhoneSmart and his logistics business.

“The phone shop was practical, this is what I’m into,” he said of the fly fishing store.

In addition, there are new businesses planning to open in the storefronts where Joan’s Boutique at 52 S. Washington St., Main Street Photo Shop at 199A S. Washington St., and Winters Tavern Motherlode Grill at 275 S. Washington St. were previously located.

Gold Rush Pizza is anticipated to open sometime in September at the former Winters Tavern Motherlode Grill location, which has been home to several different restaurants and bars over the years.

Gary Singh Dhanoa, who owns the historic Gunn House Hotel across the street with his wife, purchased the building last month from Larry Bezaitis, whose family had owned it since 1968.

The building long served as the home of The Europa, a landmark downtown Sonora restaurant that was built by Italian immigrants in the 1920s and named after their continent.

It later became Wilma’s Cafe and Flying Pig Saloon when the Bezaitis family sold the business in 1989, before sitting vacant for a number of years.

Larry Bezaitis and his wife tried to re-open the business in 2012 as The Europa Deli, Sports Bar and Grill, but closed again in 2015 due to the family experiencing some health issues and needing time to rest.

Winters Tavern Motherlode Grill was the last to occupy the building, but shuttered in February after about a year in business.

According to public records, Larry Bezaitis sold the building for about $320,000 to Dhanoa’s company, Shaan Ekjot Foods, Inc.

Dhanoa said he and his wife are positive about the prospects of their new business at the location, which will serve specialty pizzas, pasta, and feature a smoothie bar and ice cream parlor.

They are hoping to attract customers staying at the Gunn House and other major hotels in close proximity.

“Business is really good, especially in the summer,” he said. “People will be happy with what we’re bringing in.”

Dhanoa said they plan to set themselves apart from other pizza places by serving up unique variations of the classic dish, including steakhouse pizza, seafood pizza, and macaroni-and-cheese pizza, all of which will be made from fresh ingredients and dough made from scratch.

The new restaurant will also serve beer and wine, in addition to having games for kids.

City officials confirmed that Edward Jones Investments is planning to move into the former location of Main Street Photo Shop, which is currently under construction with a large trash bin parked out front.

No one from Edwards Jones could be reached Tuesday for comment. The storefront has sat vacant for several years since the Main Street Photo Shop moved to Jamestown.
The new store going into the former Joan’s Boutique, which closed earlier this summer after 30 years in business, has a sign in the window that says: “Get ready to feel beautiful… Coming late October 2019.”

Shanna Huber, of Sonora, said she wanted to keep some of her plans under wraps to build anticipation, but described it as “a specialty boutique that will help fill the void” left by the closing of Sharon Malone Lingerie at 146 S. Washington St.

The lingerie shop, which offered personalized fittings, shut down in June after more than 40 years in business because the owner, Alice Scott, decided to retire.

“We’ll be carrying on some old traditions and bringing in some new,” Huber said.

Huber has worked as a barber, exercise instructor and nurse over the years, but she said this will be her first time opening a business.

Among the reasons why Huber said she wanted to open a business in the downtown area was to fill a need and help keep Washington Street stocked with small, locally owned shops.

“You’re looking at a lot of empty buildings, which leaves people worried or saddened, but it does look like we’re seeing some new exciting things coming in,” she said. “I believe if you provide a specialty service for people, they’ll still come.”

The Sonora Brewing Co., the city’s first microbrewery since the Prohibition era, is one of the new businesses that has generated enthusiasm for the downtown area since opening in July.

In addition to craft beer, the brewery also has a full-service restaurant in the location of former Lighthouse Deli.

A new business called The Independent Wine Co. appears to be close to opening at 13 S. Washington St. It was occupied by Talulah’s Restaurant, which abruptly shuttered in May after 12 years because the owner decided to retire.

The one-story brick building was constructed in the 1850s and originally housed the offices of Judge W.S. Cooper, the justice of the peace for the city at the time.

It was later the home of The Tuolumne Independent, a weekly newspaper from 1872 to 1945.

Gardner Davis and his father, Eric, have said they plan to operate the new business as a wine bar and small food eatery.

A handwritten note on paper covering one of the front windows simply reads: “Soon. Real soon.”

Other existing businesses are also making some changes and adapting to what people say they want.

Marianne Wright, owner of Servente’s Saloon, is planning to move all of the antiques and housewares being sold in the front of the building to a new space she’s leasing in Jamestown.

The Jamestown store will be located in the historic Congdon Building and called Tar Flat, the same name as the shop she operated for many years in downtown Sonora before purchasing and renovating the Servente’s building.

Wright plans to expand the selection of wine and liquor in the front section of Servente’s, which people can take home or drink at the bar.

No one younger than 21 is allowed beyond the front section under the terms of Wright’s liquor license, so she plans to add some cafe tables up front, nonalcoholic drinks like Shirley Temples and card games for kids to play.

They are also planning to open later at 3 p.m. and close later, because Wright’s found that most people come into the bar after work.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

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