February 21, 2021

Business Journal: Are Chain Businesses A Threat To Downtown Placerville?

Two businesses are at the center of a debate in Placerville over whether chain businesses…

Two businesses are at the center of a debate in Placerville over whether chain businesses threaten the downtown area’s charm and independent shops.

So-called “formula businesses,” businesses that have an identical design and name in five or more locations, need approval from Placerville’s Planning Commission before moving in. 

But even with approval, two recent examples, the sandwich shop Sourdough & Co. and a retail business called Therapy Stores, have faced ongoing challenges from opponents. 

CapRadio’s Mike Hagerty spoke with Sacramento Business Journal’s Digital Editor Sonya Sorich about the debate.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Interview Highlights

On the process for “formula businesses” to open in downtown Placerville

To open in Placerville’s Central Business District, a formula business must get a conditional use permit and site plan review. There are two recent examples of this sandwich shop called Sourdough & Co. and a retail business called Therapy Stores. 

Both businesses — which fit the definition of a formula business — received the necessary approvals from Placerville’s Planning Commission. In both cases, opponents appealed the decision to Placerville City Council. The council then reaffirmed the initial decision by the Planning Commission.

On if the two companies have opened their storefronts

Therapy Stores, which is based in Campbell, is expected to open soon in downtown Placerville. That will be its 12th location. 

Sourdough and Co. is an El Dorado Hills-based sandwich shop with more than 40 locations that are either open or in the works, according to its website. The sandwich shop opened last year but until recently faced a legal challenge from a group called Friends of Historic Hangtown. 

An El Dorado County Superior Court judge recently dismissed that legal challenge.

On why some object to these types of businesses and if there will be any resolution soon

Opponents say that because they have multiple locations, formula businesses threaten the unique charm of downtown Placerville. They’ve also argued that chain businesses have more buying power and threaten the livelihood of independently owned businesses downtown. 

But other people say there is room for formula businesses to coexist with local merchants in downtown Placerville and existing businesses shouldn’t be afraid of competition.

I expect this will remain a topic of debate in Placerville, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see additional legal challenges in the future.

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