By Bill Tatsuda
May 26, 2007
Jewelry stores are not the cause of the problem the proposal seeks to rectify. The exodus of business from downtown began years ago in the 60's with the development of the Westend when Wingren's Food Store and Race Avenue Drug opened, and later Safeway, A&P, The Plaza, and more recently Wal-Mart. The downtown's lack of parking and available large retail spaces was a lot of the problem. Even Tatsuda's IGA on the Southend contributed to the demise of a couple of small grocery stores downtown. As businesses and residents moved out of the downtown area the remaining businesses did not have enough volume to make a profit. I recently closed JR's Grocery downtown, not because of high rents, but because of lack of business. The rent was not unreasonable. There were too few customers after the cruise ships pulled away from the docks.
One can blame the growth in the cruise ship and visitors industry along with the location of the cruise ship docks for the seasonal nature of downtown business and for the high number of jewelry stores. Jewelry stores are not the only seasonal businesses downtown. T-Shirt shops, Stuffed Animal shops, Salmon shops, Art Galleries, Native Art Shops, Curios, Charter Fishing and Tour businesses, restaurants, food booths, etc. also close during the off season. Limiting the number of jewelry stores will not change the seasonal nature of downtown. To accomplish that we should prevent cruise ships from stopping here and dismantle the docks.
Limiting the number of jewelry stores will hinder further development of tourist oriented projects. Is anyone going to refurbish old retail buildings or build new ones if this proposal goes into effect? Not as many for sure. The jewelry store limit will lower the demand for retail space and make such investments unprofitable.
Jewelry stores have been going out of business regularly downtown. Empty storefronts will become more prevalent, because new jewelry stores will not be permitted. Property values will go down, mill rates will go up, and local homeowners will have to pay higher property taxes.
What if local people come up with exciting new concepts for jewelry, manufacture it here and want to sell it downtown? What about the local Native artists? Are we going to tell them that they have to sell their jewelry through established stores rather than opening their own outlet? Do we really want to hand existing jewelry stores that kind of competitive advantage?
Fewer jewelry stores means fewer jewelry store employees, which means fewer mouths to feed, apartments to rent, houses to live in, etc. I will sell fewer groceries, restaurants fewer meals, bars will serve fewer drinks, barbers will cut less hair, the hospital will have fewer patients, drug stores will sell less shampoo, and contractors will have fewer remodels and buildings to build, and so on. How does this increase our quality of life and help any of us make a living in this little remote town.
We have been fortunate to have growth in tourism to keep our town alive. We do everything we can to get tourists to visit us, so we can provide them with services and sell them things. We can not dictate to the tourists what they choose to buy. If they buy jewelry, more power to them.
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