By SHELDON BERMONT / Petaluma Correspondent

When a flurry of news items on any particular topic show a pattern, it’s always interesting to hear from concerned people who have definite opinions about the subject.

The question for this week stems from the closure of a few small Petaluma businesses due to poor sales and ever-increasing overhead.

What do you think the city can do to help downtown merchants increase foot traffic and sales?

Brianna Malvino, salesperson at Louis Thomas, men’s clothiers, 150 Kentucky St. — “It feels weird to have a Target, or any big-box center, in Petaluma. I just wonder if the city’s powers-that-be understand the long-range, negative effect that will have on small businesses in the downtown area. As far as this section of the downtown shopping district, the walkways between Petaluma Blvd. and Liberty St. could do with some upkeep and upgrades to make visitors feel more comfortable.”

Russ Stirling, co-owner of Dawg Groomers, 225 Second St. — “The streets and sidewalks need work. There are potholes and curb height issues that need attention. Plus, there are residential vs. merchant parking issues that cause frustration to business owners and customers. If my patrons can be assured of a good experience shopping in the neighborhood, they’ll be more likely to return and shop all over downtown.”

Dylan Cohen, owner operator of Sonoma Cutlery, 130 Kentucky St. — “The city decided to put two park benches on the sidewalk in front of my shop. Although well intended, all it ended up doing was attracting smokers from the bar next-door. Why doesn’t Petaluma have a smoking ordinance that requires smokers to be a certain number of feet away from any business’s front door? That would help me and make the entire downtown area more shopper-friendly.”

Stacey Badaglia, owner of Stink, women’s clothing, 126 Kentucky St. — “They need to help beautify the downtown area. Clean the sidewalks. Light the trees. Potential business owners need to have an easier time with the red tape/paper chase involved. At the same time, detailed zoning laws could help elevate the types of businesses allowed. We want people to think of Petaluma as a destination.”