Recent weeks have brought much good news and one piece of bad news for downtown Sonora. Several local residents are investing large sums of money in existing businesses or buying property.
This is a sure sign that local people believe in the resurgence and strength of the area and are willing to invest. It’s the best version of economic development: grow what you have.
Steve and Cindy Zelinsky, owners of Emberz, added to the restaurant by taking over the space next door, which fills what used to be a JC Penney.
They did more than expand. They added a new type of eating establishment to downtown— 21 and older upscale bar with something new: do-it-yourself wine tasting of 18 varieties. And Cindy Zelinsky went to great lengths to be able to do that, convincing a business owner in New York to make the wine vending machine for her.
Then there’s Marianne Wright, who has owned businesses and buildings downtown for years/ She bought the historic Servente’s Saloon, refurbished the bar and added a store to the front trading on the roots of the business, which began as a grocery store. It will sell beer, wine, liquor and Italian dry goods such as pasta and olives. Again, a new idea.
Meanwhile, Brian Wahlbrink and his business partners bought the long vacant Sonora Family Bowl and are considering what to do with it. One idea is storage units, which Wahlbrink says is needed downtown. Another new idea.
Several new businesses have been opened by people from other areas as well. Floral design, body care products, also new. A microbrewery is on its way as well.
Variety will boost downtown. Now it’s up to us to shop local.
It is with sadness, though, that we say goodbye to Sonora Used Books, which has been in its South Washington Street location for 30 years.
Tracy Hoyle has owned the bookstore for nine years. She said she had to close because the building owners are selling, and she couldn’t find a place she could afford.
Bookselling is a tricky business, at best, in this day of Amazon, but every downtown needs an independent bookstore. It’s one of the great draws for any downtown that trades on tourism.
We are lucky to still have Mountain Bookshop at the Junction Shopping Center. It’s a first-rate shop. (One of its salespeople, Bess Parker, in December won one of the annual holiday bonuses from prolific and hugely successful author James Patterson for excellence in bookselling.)
The shop has been in business more than four decades.
Independent downtown bookstore thrives when it offers more than books — events, readings by authors, other types of merchandise — or they have a famous author at the helm like Louise Erdrich who owns Birchbark Books in Minneapolis or Ann Patchett, Parnassus Books in Nashville.
Thank you to the business owners who have brought new ideas to downtown Sonora.