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Selling the Streets of Long Beach : Roadside Signs and Other City Castoffs to Be Sold at New Boutique


Sandblasted fire hydrants, old street signs, used desks and stoplights. These are some of the city castoffs that Long Beach officials plan to offer for sale when they open their own city boutique next week.

The premise behind City Goods, scheduled to open Nov. 25 on Pine Avenue downtown, is that residents and visitors are eager for Long Beach souvenirs. People regularly steal street signs, officials point out. Why not give them a chance to buy the real thing?

Some pessimists find it hard to believe that shoppers will actually buy a refurbished fireplug for $170, but Sharon Daniels, a city projects officer who is heading the boutique project, said other cities have had success with similar ventures.

"West Covina and San Diego are already selling an entire line of items that you wouldn't think would sell," Daniels said.

West Covina opened a city store in a new shopping mall about a year ago. The merchandise has became so popular that the city now produces a gift catalogue that is mailed to a growing list of out-of-state customers, said the city's finance director, Abraham Koniarsky.

The West Covina store is breaking even financially, Koniarsky said.

San Diego has stores in City Hall, a major shopping mall and a tourist village. A fourth store was closed in the past year, Daniels said.

Lakewood opened a store Monday in City Hall. The shop features a signature line of clothing labeled Club Lakewood, said Donald Waldie, a city spokesman. Glendale opened a city store earlier this month.

Nobody expects these outlets to balance their city budgets, officials say, but they believe marketing their city will promote civic pride.

Daniels says she looks forward to donning a T-shirt with the official Long Beach logo when she travels, and she believes that others will want to do the same. The shirts and hats will help promote the city's image as a tourist destination, she said.

Besides, it's cost-effective to sell old street signs, parking meters and water meter dials rather than offering them for scrap metal, officials said.

"We were selling old street signs for scrap at 30 cents a pound," Koniarsky said. "Now they're going for $15 a sign."

Long Beach has no plans as yet for a gift catalogue or additional stores. At this point, city staff is waiting to see how the idea takes hold. So far, the city has agreed to spend $205,000 to lease the store, to pay retail consultants to establish and manage the shop, and to cover other operating expenses.

Daniels said she hopes the boutique will make enough money--especially during the lucrative holiday season--to cover expenses and turn a modest profit within a year.

City Goods, 309 Pine Ave., will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.

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