Business owners protest franchise
A downtown restaurant owner said Wednesday he has collected more than 100 signatures to protest a franchise business coming to Nevada City.
Eric Engstrom, who owns the Dos Banditos Mexican restaurant on Sacramento Street, said he has learned a deli that has leased space in the Tintle Building on Union Street is a franchise for Beach Hut Deli, which started in Granite Bay 27 years ago and has 19 locations in Northern California.
“Everybody I’ve talked to is ready to fight on this one,” Engstrom said.
Cindy Smith, who plans to open the deli in August or September, said she was startled when she heard Wednesday that a petition was circulating in opposition to her business.
“We don’t mean to come in and stir anything up,” Smith said. “We’re just local people trying to make our way in life, also.”
Smith, who lives in Grass Valley with her husband, Steve, said the company intends to hire local workers and purchase food from local vendors.
“We’re as local as you get,” she said, adding that all Beach Hut provides is its name and training. They are getting no corporate financial support, she added.
Engstrom said franchise businesses will undermine the historic nature of downtown Nevada City and have an unfair competitive advantage over the city’s small, family-owned businesses.
“This is a fight for the community and the historic value of Nevada City,” Engstrom said. “This is about helping moms and pops stay in business.”
Gary Tintle, who leased the space to Smith, said Beach Hut Deli is not like a McDonald’s or a Starbucks.
“What is confusing to me is, what is a franchise?” he said. “I’ve yet to see corporate people.”
Smith has a good business plan, and a recent Nevada City survey said overwhelmingly that a deli is needed in the community, Tintle said.
“I thought this would be a good fit next to the (Robinson) plaza,” he added.
The petition, which was circulated Tuesday, calls for the City Council to begin “enforcing existing ordinances and/or enacting new ordinances banning formulaic and/or franchise businesses such as drive-ins and/or fast food chains from operating within Nevada City’s historical district.”
Kipp Wardell, an attorney working with Engstrom, said he is concerned that any franchise “will open the floodgates” for other franchises to come to town. The group plans to present the petitions to the City Council at its Aug. 6. meeting, he added.
Nevada City has no ordinances that ban franchises, City Planner Cindy Siegfried said. She points out that Bank of America and Coldwell Banker are doing business downtown.
Businesses that want to locate in Nevada City’s historical district need only get their signs and architectural plans approved by the planning commission, which is expected to review the deli’s signage plans at one of its August meetings.
Kirk Valentine, who owns the Classic Cafe and sits on the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce board, said he signed the petition to help preserve the character of the town.
“This town is full of small business people who came here to get away from this sort of thing,” Valentine said.
To contact Staff Writer Pat Butler, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4239.
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