'Good' for Business

City Affairs: Anyone interested in the Solano shopping district's success should welcome news that Goodwill wants to open a store.

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It's surprising that, given the economic downturn, anyone would be resistant to the opening of a new store to occupy two of the many vacant storefronts in the shopping district on Solano Avenue.

Even more surprising is the reasoning the local business owners provide in arguing against Goodwill's proposal to open a clothing-and-furniture reselling operation. Store owners have complained that Goodwill will attract homeless people and accrue piles of unwanted donations and that it would drive preexisting secondhand stores out of business.

We doubt that either of these concerns are warranted. There is no indication that the opening of a Goodwill would clutter up local storefronts with donated clothing or furniture - we have never seen a Goodwill that encouraged dumping at its front door. In fact, the Goodwill website explicitly forbids leaving items unattended outside donation centers.

The concern that Goodwill would drive out local businesses also seems like a stretch. Goodwill occupies a unique niche, providing high-volume, variable-quality secondhand goods at low prices - hardly competition for the high-quality clothing stores or boutique used-clothes stores currently occupying Solano Avenue.

The debate over Goodwill also brings to attention shortcomings of the current permit system. Goodwill is considering combining two spaces into one, but doing so would prompt a lengthy permit process.

The Berkeley City Council should consider easing the hurdles new businesses must face - any business is good business, and vacant storefronts and "closed" signs will never be preferable to an open store with real customers.

The only guaranteed impacts of opening a new Goodwill store on the Solano shopping district would be more jobs, more foot traffic and fewer vacant storefronts. Attempting to stop the store from moving in - whether by raising specious arguments about increased clutter blocking sidewalks or forcing it to undergo a discouraging and cumbersome permit process - would be a sacrifice that the district cannot afford.






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