The issues surrounding Family Dollar coming to our neighborhood have caused a lot of debate. There are many factors to consider and not all of them are obvious. I think preserving what makes our neighborhood unique should be at the forefront of our decisions.
Let me start out by saying that I understand and share many of your fears. When you start a new business that you are passionate about, many factors could put that investment at risk. The best way to provide security for that business and the employees that depend on it is to grow that business as quickly as possible. Anything that might impede that is seen as a threat. As home owners many of you have already seen the homes you have invested so much in threatened by an unstable market. Any change to the area is suspect. The careless development of Seminole Heights could have unforeseen consequences on the neighborhood and its residents.
I am not a booster for Family Dollar. I think they have become a symbol of a larger issue in our neighborhood that needs to be addressed but before I do, let me talk about some of your concerns regarding FD. These were gleaned from the various threads on Seminole Heights Patch over the past several days.
Family Dollar will bring traffic.
Most restaurants get one delivery a week from their main distributor for staple items, condiments, and disposables. They get several other deliveries from specialty vendors for produce and seafood and such. They get weekly deliveries from their beer and wine distributors and their soda distributor. They also get dumpsters emptied twice a week and periodic service and repair calls. The bars receive similar beer and wine deliveries and service calls.
Several business owners have expressed an interest in turning the Florida Avenue corridor into a ‘destination’. This means bringing people from all over the bay area to shop, eat, and drink. Afterwards they will drive home, unfamiliar with our streets.
Small retail establishments like FD usually get one truck a week from their central warehouse containing most of what they sell. A few items like soda and snack cakes are delivered by their own trucks.
With so many FD stores around town our FD will not be a destination for anyone but our neighbors. In fact I believe that FD will actually REDUCE traffic east of Florida Avenue because residents from the west side will no longer have to cross over to visit the FD stores on Nebraska.
FD will negatively effect parking.
I agree whole heartedly. While the lot has plenty of parking for FD’s customers, it will negatively affect parking for a business that opened with absolutely no plan for parking of their own. When Cappy’s opened they had few parking spaces. It soon became an issue and they secured an agreement to use the lot across from their location for overflow parking. When the Independent opened they had no parking. They used Cappy’s lot until it became an issue. The nearest available parking was the lot were the proposed FD store will go. The management of the Independent made an agreement to use that lot but now that the lot is selling that agreement seems to be invalid. With no other lot available near by, this could be a disaster for the Independent. It is no coincidence that the owner of the Independent is one of the main opponents of FD. I ask this- should FD and the neighbors who may choose to use it be punished and vilified because a local business owner didn’t have all of their ducks in a row? Further more is this disregard for adequate parking regulations any different than FD’s alleged use of loop holes to keep opening costs down? As long as local business owners want to make Seminole Heights a destination, parking will be an increasingly important issue.
FD is a corporation with low pay, no benefits, and has been fined $35 million for labor violations.
This is the reality of many low skill jobs like bar tending and waitressing, too. With the rise in popularity of cooking shows on cable many culinary schools have seen a huge rise in enrollment. The market has been flooded with more trained help than ever before, many of them with student debt to pay off, yet food industry wages have barely risen in years. I’ve worked in many restaurants but the only time I was ever offered benefits was at a large corporate chain. The same is true for small retail outlets. Unless the local businesses offer higher than average pay and benefits this is not an issue.
As far as worker protection goes FD is actually far superior. Many small locally owned shops are exempt from labor laws applying to larger businesses. The fact that FD was fined $35 million for violations is proof of that. For an employee to seek justice from a small employer they must pay a filing fee with the wage and labor board. Even if several employees went after an unscrupulous employer it wouldn’t amount to enough to attract a lawyer willing to work on contingency. Wronged workers with a large corporation will have lawyers lining up to take their case as a class action suit and make a fortune. The sheer size of a large corporation almost guarantees a certain level of scrutiny and transparency that a small business never faces.
I understand your distrust of big business. I know that issue is why some of you are involved. If that was the only issue I’d be right there with you, but it isn’t. The fact that one of the main opponents of FD in the business community stands to loose quite a bit if FD gets built is suspicious. The fact that a bunch of middle class folks on Facebook claim to represent the whole neighborhood is suspicious. The fact that quite a few of the NFD people have made references to the undesirable nature of FD’s customer base or a vague threat to their own safety but refuse to explain what they mean is suspicious. The fact that no one has been door to door in my area is suspicious.
I know some of you. You are leaders and community media representatives. You are liberals and artists and free thinkers. Do you really think taking a stand against a corporation is worth alienating or making decisions for your neighbors or allying yourself with people who do?
FD is not well maintained and doesn’t match the aesthetic being pursued by the newer businesses.
While it is true that the FD stores in some areas are in a sad state, many stores outside our area are in fine shape. Has FD been bad for the Nebraska Avenue corridor or has Nebraska been bad for FD? Nebraska has just barely curtailed their prostitution and crime problems, is still full of transient housing, and has a much larger drug presence than we do. The two areas cannot be compared. Our FD will serve our neighbors and will reflect how much civic pride they are made to feel. Will they feel the pride of inclusion and belonging or the contempt of the disenfranchised?
As for the aesthetic concerns I can only point out that the building is currently in a complete state of neglect with peeling paint, old commercial vehicles parked on the side in plain view, and foliage growing out of the roof. That is the state that the tenants have let it be in for quite a while. These are 'desirable' tenants in creative field and yet they let the building deteriorate. Greg Baker has expressed concern that a new FD will ruin the view from his restaurant. Will Family Dollar really be worse? There are a few other businesses in need of some paint as well. Those who live in flakey houses shouldn’t throw stones.
FD will displace several local businesses and cost many jobs.
From what I’ve heard some of the displaced businesses are staying in the area and none are going out of business so no jobs will be lost. What about the money and resources saved by all of us by having a FD store close by?
Family Dollar does not meet the needs of our neighborhood.
Family Dollar is a five and dime selling a wide variety of products used by most people on a daily basis. No other local business can claim to serve a larger potential market. The bike shop will not sell you a shiny new sidewalk bike with training wheels for your kid or replacement parts for your mountain bike because they specialize in a very specific type of road bike. I recently called the record shop to inquire about three artists in the top ten pop music chart. I was told that they didn’t have it and they suggested I try another shop outside the area. A business concerned with serving their community may have offered to order it or tried to find something similar. I guess music that’s popular with average Americans doesn’t fit the hip image of the new Seminole Heights. I know from experience that if you enjoy popular beers like Guinness or Budweiser you will be disappointed at the Independent. Unless all of your neighbors ride fixies, listen to dubstep, enjoy exotic beer, and use expensive specialty salon products, perhaps the hip new businesses don’t meet the needs of our neighborhood as well as they think they do.
800+ likes on FB proves that our neighborhood doesn’t want a Family Dollar.
The NFD folks have done a great job of organizing and mobilizing their people using Facebook. The problem is that not every one uses FB. FB is overwhelmingly middle class. Does the NFD group have a Myspace page? Have they used any other method to reach out to their neighbors who don’t use social media?. Why are there not any NFD signs in Spanish? If they haven’t reached out to all of us how can they claim to represent the majority?
Why can’t we have a _______ in the space instead?
Because no one was willing to invest the money to put one there.
We already have enough FD locations in walking distance.
That’s relative. Are you overweight, handicapped, or elderly? Do you choose to walk or do you have to walk? Walking three hot and cranky kids to the store in August to buy necessities is very different than walking your dog up to buy fancy biscuits or leisurely strolling the tree lined sidewalks of your neighborhood.
Family Dollar will prevent other hip businesses from moving here.
By other hip businesses do you mean more specialty shops that don’t have anything to offer the majority of our residents or perhaps more bars? Does our neighborhood have room for people who are so judgmental that the presence of a five and dime causes them to run away shrieking? If these new businesses can’t coexist with a discount store how will they be inclusive of all of our residents? Family Dollar won’t drive away businesses that are good for us but they just may help filter out some of the businesses that we could do without.
Family Dollar’s customer base doesn’t fit the target demographic of the type of businesses we are trying to encourage.
This doesn’t even deserve a response but I’ll just say this- If these businesses look at FD customers as undesirable how will they look at you or your neighbors? I shop at FD regularly and I'm glad to know that I'm not the kind of customer some of our local businesses are looking for. It really helps me decide where to spend my money and where I recommend my friends and family go.
Family Dollar sells primarily cheap Chinese imports.
Those cows are long gone so quit trying to close the barn door. Unless you can explain what you did to stop the exodus of American manufacturing in the 80’s or you have a real solution, don’t waste your time. China is where stuff is made now. I have given up trying to find some things from American manufacturers. We lost that one long before most of us had even heard of a Family Dollar and they are surely not to blame.
Again I want to repeat that this wasn’t written to convince you that Family Dollar is the best thing that could possibly happen to us. I wrote this to respond to some of the misconceptions and unfounded fears. As I said earlier, I think FD has become a symbol of something bigger that needs to be addressed. Do we want our area of town to be a neighborhood or an entertainment destination? Do we want the decisions about the future of Seminole Heights to be determined solely by businessmen and property owners? What will happen to our quiet neighborhood if more people are drawn to it? What good are rising property values if you are staying and making a home? What good is a bustling business corridor catering to hipsters if you’re not a hipster?
Tune in next time for the second part of this article where I tell the sad and cautionary tale of a naïve young man who watched paradise bloom, wither, and be sold off to the highest bidder.