Last week I walked out of City Hall after the meeting of the City Plan Commission after the dead lock vote on Goodwill opening a new “upscale” resale store in the old Inca building downtown west Dearborn, with anger, surprise and a lot of questions regarding the survival and future of my beloved city.
I read a statement from Councilman Robert A. Abraham in discussions about west Dearborn, paid parking, and future plans. “If you run your business today, like you did five years ago, you will most likely go out of business.” And this reflects all of west Dearborn. A successful business has to re-invent itself time and time again, to follow the times, changes in economic circumstances, change in demographics, etc. It is imperative to follow trends and what’s going on in your market area.
Goodwill is no exception, going from a typical not so appealing, second hand thrift store to a new brand, new store designs, new way of doing business that are very successful in area after area. They have found their sellable difference, and stands out among the competition. Let me explain why I say this.
When the discussions of a Goodwill store in west Dearborn started, my first thought was negative, we don’t need another discount or store selling used items, the antique store on Michigan is just an upscale flea market, have no or very few real antiques, most of the stuff could be sold at a garage sale or flea market, and all the dollar stores and other discount stores around the proposed location. But instead of just making up my mind, I took the time to first drive to the Salvation Army’s second hand store on Ford Road, the smell, the mess inside the store and the pile of garbage in the back left a very negative impression on me. This is not good! I kept on Ford Road to Canton and the Goodwill store. Anyone who has done this has to agree with me, its two different worlds. The Goodwill store is clean, nice lighting and gives you the same feeling as coming into a Target or any other big box retailer, no mess, no garbage outside, just a very pleasant experience all over. This eliminated my worst fears; this store is different from all the other resale stores around. And this is the first reason for my support in a Goodwill store in Dearborn.
Why this specific space in downtown Dearborn? There are so many different empty buildings in east Dearborn, on Ford Road, on Michigan west of Telegraph, which really could use a retail spot like this. I soon found out the reason why they are willing to invest $500,000 into the Inca building instead of going into the Borders building on Ford Road were the investment would be minimal. And I don’t think we understood this. If I have a retail store, and my inventory gets low, what do I do? I call my supplier and order more inventory. Goodwill cannot do that, they rely totally on donations, and the demographics for donation are as important as customers coming in the door. Within a five mile radius of the proposed store, there are over 100,000 households with an income of $50,000 to $150,000, and that’s the demographics they need to have a secure supply of donations (inventory). Goodwill has done their homework! This is the second reason for my support.
Now to the sad side of this… the City Plan Commission. The only reason they are involved is an old ordinance that is limiting strip clubs and that you cannot sell used inventory, have arcades, and boarding houses within a 700 feet area from residences and schools. You then need a special land use, and the City Plan Commission is the place to get this. You then have to comply and get neighbors, businesses and schools to “approve” your request. Goodwill complies with every requirement, has 84 percent of the residents on Park Street welcoming Goodwill. Every business in the strip mall, except West Village Dental office, has signed their support, even Father Petroske at Sacred Heart Church and School has in writing supported the opening of a Goodwill store across the street from the church and school. All of this in itself should direct the Plan Commission to approve the issue. This is the third reason for my support.
At the first meeting in January, only four commissioners showed up, no vote could take place, but the “problem” at that time was that the wrong demographics should come to west Dearborn, when Goodwill now presented the actual demographics they would serve, that argument was changed in the February meeting to be in the wrong location, only one of the commissioners continued with discussions of “undesirable” people.
At this meeting Goodwill presented all the facts, all the statistics, changes that would be made to avoid any “garbage” being visible from Military or the street in addition to answering all concerns. There is a hidden agenda going on here, could it be the mayor whispering in their ears, it is known that he does not want Goodwill in Dearborn, some of the commission members will most likely run for City Council next election, and wants the endorsement from the mayor? They have tried before and failed to be elected. Or is it against Newman Building Company? They don’t have the best of reputations as a landlord, but this has nothing to do with Newman.
One thing is clear; the people of Dearborn want Goodwill to open a store in the Inca building. The Patch survey shows 80 percent for Goodwill and 20 percent against. I have never seen so many comments on one issue in Patch or on Said Deep’s blog and it will only continue until the city get the message. The city of Dearborn needs to understand their mission, which should be a service organization for the businesses and residents of Dearborn, and not an enforcement organization without any service feeling at all. We have all been “fighting” with Building and Safety, and other departments in the city.