Plans for Thrift Store Irks Merchants in Upscale Shopping District

Print Share on LinkedIn More

February 28, 2011; Source: San Francisco Chronicle | This is the kind of story we expect to read when retailing giant Walmart says it's planning to build a new outlet in town. This time the culprit is Goodwill, which wants to open a thrift store in Berkeley's upscale commercial shopping district.

Merchants in this California city oppose the plans because, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, they fear "it would be a magnet for the homeless, noisy delivery trucks and bargain-hungry shoppers not likely to patronize the area's boutique baby stores and Persian rug shops." Says Anni Ayers Forcum, who owns a jewelry store in the area being scouted for a Goodwill store: "We need specialty stores that will draw people here, and that's not going to be Goodwill."

Not surprisingly, it's Solano Avenue's popularity as a shopping district that also makes it an attractive location for the nonprofit's thrift shop. "We're looking at Solano Avenue because there's a lot of foot traffic, and we don't have much of a presence in North Berkeley and Albany," said Kimberly Scrafano, the group's vice president.

To prevent the store from opening, some merchants are collecting signatures for an anti-Goodwill petition and making the argument to the city that a thrift store would have a damaging effect on the neighborhood. "We have nothing against Goodwill, we just don't think they belong on upper Solano," said Gerry Ruskewicz, an employee of Sottovoce women's clothing boutique. "We're worried about the homeless and people leaving bags of donations outside."

While that sentiment is shared by many merchants, it's not universal. Hannah Hernandez, owner of a used children’s clothing store says she doesn't feel "threatened by them coming in. We provide different services. I'm really not worried about it."

Because Goodwill hasn't yet signed a deal with a landlord for space, the city can't act either way on the proposed project. But, if it goes ahead, the nonprofit surely hopes to find lots of good will for its plans.—Bruce Trachtenberg

  • Nicole Poole

    Thanks for posting this – I run Thrift Store Confidential, geared to helping second-hand virgins learn how to shop in style. With millions of Americans struggling to recover from the recession, it slays me that the community seems to stigmatize those who either choose or don’t have the ability to pay retail. Personally I wonder if they’re just afraid of the competition. However, it speaks quite loudly that they’re worried about “the homeless.” If they were truly worried, perhaps they’d find ways to give back to the community, as Goodwill does so diligently every day.

  • Susan Parrish

    To support our local Habitat for Humanity affiliate, we operate a Habitat Home Store (affilaited with the Habitat for Humanity ReStore network) that sells gently used items for the home. What the folks in Solano do not seem to know is that our, and other thrift store, parking lots are usually filled with VERY high end vehicles. Our clientele is equally from the most affluent in the area to those that cannot afford to shop elsewhere. Our presence in the local shopping center has added so much traffic that other merchants look to us for leadership in marketing efforts. The folks that do not want the Goodwill store need to research the positive effects of a well-run thrift store before they speak such unsubstantiated things.

  • Bruce Trachtenberg

    Nicole, Susan,
    Great to hear these comments and both of you are making the case eloquently that those worried about having Goodwill as their neighbor are being short-sighted and could learn lots from you two.

  • Lee

    Funny but most wealthy people buy and contribute to thrift stores. Goodwill will drive more traffic than any of the ’boutiques’ that depend on foot traffic only. The brand Goodwill would do better contributing their huge increase in traffic were they are appreciated. Also, goodwill I imagine makes tremendously more money than any of the ’boutiques’. It is truly ironic!!!!!!!!