Goodwill, bad idea: isn’t it ironic?

The new Goodwill store opens in downtown Ventura on July 9.  (Yay! . . . Not.)  Located on the corner of Oak and Main where Nicholby’s was and should still be, I’d hope the irony of a “grand opening” of a thrift store in downtown Ventura is not lost on anyone who has followed the redevelopment of this district over the past decade.

I could be wrong, but if memory serves, there was a fairly focused vision for downtown Ventura that did not include thrift stores, or at least a preponderance of them. Yet, here we are, more than ten years into what has been a very successful effort to evolve downtown Ventura from a tumbleweed town to a cultural district, and the mother of all thrift stores is set to open. And not off the beaten path but in an extremely visible and desirable location in the heart of downtown.

To add insult to injury and ratchet up the irony factor, the retailer has partnered with the Artists Union to decorate its windows with art.  Not only is this a case of using art purely for the purposes of decoration (unless, it’s an intentional act of irony on the part of AU. A form of protest, unwittingly embraced by its subject), it’s a transparent attempt by the owners of the store (bless their hearts) to fit into the “new art city.”

I have nothing against thrift stores or Goodwill, but I do have a problem with our inability as a community, an extremely locals-loyal community, to help a struggling business stay afloat, especially when that business is such a key part of the culture of the area.

I don’t know the details surrounding Nicholby’s Antiques closure, but like most businesses struggling downtown,  it was likely a combination of dwindling sales and skyrocketing rent. The greed of property owners in this town will eventually bite them in the ass when people just stop trying to open businesses here and downtown Ventura is once again a ghost town.

There must be a way to encourage property owners to give struggling longtime businesses a break, and there must be a way for us to help the businesses stay open. Trueblood’s was forced to close yet the space then remained either empty or leased by junky thrift stores (Trueblood’s had huge amounts of character.) What was the point of that? Let’s not forget Bonnie’s, either. Rubicon Theater and Zoey’s are businesses critical to the culture and quality of downtown Ventura that are currently struggling… if we don’t help them, everyone hurts.

If we are to stay true to the identity we’ve been nurturing for so many years, we must take the actions that support our vision. We should be embarrassed that we traded Nicholby’s for a mega thrift store in the center of the cultural district. No amount of fine art in the windows will disguise the fact that, as a community, we screwed up.

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4 Comments to “Goodwill, bad idea: isn’t it ironic?”

  1. My art gallery was next to Bonnies. The owner of the building said he would rather have it vacant then recieve less than, “market value rent”.
    David SchwARTZ

  2. Hey there! I did not know that Goodwill was moving into Nicholby’s space. Thanks for the info. I’ve been following your blog for a while and just felt like commenting on this post.

    It was sad to see a landmark like Nicholby’s shut down; at the same time, I’m not as upset as you that we traded an antique store for a thrift store.

    I don’t see either option as necessarily being more pro- or anti- ‘new art city’; they seem instead to lie on a spectrum between ‘tourist’ and ‘sustainable’. I could be totally wrong on this, but it seems like antique stores cater to tourists, while thrift stores provide things that local residents will actually find useful.

    While I love the beauty of our town, and I understand the importance that tourism has traditionally had for our local economy, I don’t think it’s healthy. Do we want to be dependent on the ebb and flow (and there’s been more ebb, than flow, lately) of the global economy? Do we want our local job market reduced to an ever-dwindling pool kof service jobs? Do we want to be gentrified into the next Santa Barbara?

    Or do we want to rebuild our town with a focus on the people who live here, and making a thriving, healthy, local economy that everyone can participate in?

    Again, it doesnt seem to me like a conflict between ‘art’ or ‘no-art’. Groups like Green Art People have shown that true art can be a local community thing, not just a touristy thing. To me the conflict is between a sustainable local economy, and one heavily dependent on something as fickle and shallow as tourism.

    Cheers,

    Rev. Stevo

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