PETALUMA -- Friedman’s Home Improvement, the largest locally owned home improvement retailer in the North Bay, today announced it’s returning to Petaluma 66 years after brothers Benny and Joe Friedman opened the original store there.

Friedman’s ( signed a long-term lease with Merlone Geier Partners to become the anchor tenant at the proposed Deer Creek Village Shopping Center in Petaluma. If the 36.5-acre project on vacant late at Rainier Avenue and North McDowell Boulevard is approved, construction could begin by this summer, and an 88,000-square-foot Friedman’s store could open on 9.25 acres of the development in the summer 2013.

 "We are returning to our roots,” said Bill Friedman, chairman and chief executive. “This has been a longtime dream of all three generations. In fact, I grew up helping my father and Uncle Joe in the Petaluma store. It’s very heartwarming to return to where we started our family business in 1946. We have been working diligently the past five years evaluating many locations and feel the Deer Creek Village Shopping Center offers our customers the best available location.”

With locations in Santa Rosa, Sonoma and Ukiah, Friedman’s currently has 320 employees. The Petaluma store would add close to 100 local jobs and generate sales and property taxes to the city.

The Petaluma City Council on Feb. 27 is set to consider certification of the final environmental impact report for Deer Creek Village. The city Planning Commission on Jan. 10 voted 5-1 not to recommend the City Council certify the document.

Lowe's Home Improvement in October dropped plans for a store at Deer Creek Village. San Francisco-based Merlone Geier has been negotiating with Friedman's and The Home Depot to take that place.

Friedman's has been trying to open a Petaluma store for five years and has been in serious negotiations with owners and developers of as many sites, according to David Proctor, chief operating officer. 

"We require nine to 10 acres with the right zoning in the city limits of Petaluma, and there are not many of those sites around," he said. "We've looked at, I suspect, all of them."

A plan to put a store in a retail redevelopment near the old city wastewater treatment plant fizzled, and a home-improvement store addition to Regency Centers' East Washington Place development was dropped in late 2010.

Design aspects of the Petaluma store likely would mirror those incorporated into the 2008 remodel of the 35,000-square-foot Sonoma store, Mr. Proctor said. Such features include solar panels on the lumber canopy (the Petaluma site would be built to accommodate panels), significant insulation upgrades, a number of skylights to reduce lighting use and current rainwater runoff treatment methods such as bioswales and petroleum filters for the parking lot.

“For our loyal customers in Petaluma, they will now be able to get the products they need in their own backyard,” said Barry Friedman, vice president. “We provide the widest assortment of products to our communities; the do-it-yourselfer, contractors, and the agriculture community should have a local choice. We look forward to opening another outstanding home improvement center tailored to Petaluma’s needs.”