On August 10th if you had had a chance to open your Sonoma Valley Sun E-blast and gone to the “What’s Happening” section you would have had the pleasure of reading a very nice interview with our one and only Brother Dan Eraldi. Dan has been a rock of support, hard work, and dedication for the Sonoma 111 parlor and our community for some time now congrats to you and your family on a very nice article
Below is the interview by Larry Barnett
Eraldi’s is a real fixture on the Plaza. How did it begin?
My Grandfather David lived in Sonoma and owned the Star Saloon, which was just south of Depot Park on First Street West. He decided to start a Men’s store, and in 1922 opened Eraldi’s near where Della Santina’s is located today. Then he moved into the Pinelli Building, which he shared with Pinelli Hardware. Finally, he built this store on First Street West in 1959 and we’ve been here ever since. Back then negotiations ended with a handshake, that’s the way it was.
And your father Don took it over at some point?
Yeah, Dad started full-time when his mother pulled him out of High School at 15. His brother had joined the navy; it was during World War II. After 71 years at the store, Dad retired two years ago at 86 years old. I started working at the store part-time in 8th grade.
You guys start young. What did you do?
In the beginning I stocked shelves, straightened out, and just learned about the business. I worked part-time right through college and started working full-time in the 80s. The original store had mostly men’s wear, but also some ladies. It was an eclectic mix from the beginning; fine clothing mixed with work-ware. When I got into buying I wanted to try new things, but my Dad wanted to buy his usual lines. We worked it out. We still sell an awful lot of work boots and have long-time customers from all over the Bay Area.
How about these mounted stags and antlers?
They’re Dad’s. He loved to hunt and fish and I grew up eating venison, wild turkey and quail. We keep these trophies in the back office but people see them from the street windows and want to get up close. Happens every week.
Has the store changed?
Everything changes, but our product mix is essentially the same. Our customer base has changed. Nowadays we get more tourists; they are probably about 50 percent of our sales. I like them and they spend more than average. But we’ve always been about service, old-fashioned, personalized service. We measure, we fit; when people buy shoes we measure both feet! We’re kind of a throw-back, but we don’t want unhappy customers.
What else has changed?
People come in with their smart phones, take a photo of a pair of pants or scan a tag and do price comparisons. One guy came in and compared us with Zappos. Our price was $10 less and he couldn’t believe it. And the parking on the Plaza, now it’s three hours instead of two. That’s reduced the turnover and I hear other merchants complaining about its effect on local shoppers. The enforcement is too irregular. Business employees still take up a lot of spaces that should be for customers; we all park in back of the store.
How about a 4th generation running Eraldi’s?
I have two daughters, 24 and 21, both in nursing. Maybe one of them will marry someone interested in selling clothes. I figure I still have another 15 years; as long as I enjoy it and it’s still fun I will continue.