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Goodwill store in downtown L.A. to close

There's not enough business, a spokeswoman says. But for 35 years the store provided clothing bargains for nearby residents and workers, as well as quirky artwork and inexpensive furniture for lofts and offices.

December 31, 2010|By Bob Pool, Los Angeles Times
  • Joyce Jones stands in front of the Goodwill store on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. Jones says everything she is wearing and holding, other than her shoes, was bought at the store.
Joyce Jones stands in front of the Goodwill store on Broadway in downtown… (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles…)

Its prices were low. But in the end, the downtown Los Angeles used-goods shop simply wasn't used enough.

That's the reasoning behind the planned closure Friday of the 35-year-old Goodwill Store at 235 S. Broadway.

"The downtown store is actually in the lower-to-middle range in terms of volume of business," said Sasha Itzikman, director of marketing for Goodwill Industries of Southern California.

Nonetheless, countless downtown loft apartments and business offices have been outfitted with quirky artwork and inexpensive furnishings since the store opened in 1975. And the closure will affect thousands of residents and office workers who stretch their shopping dollars by buying secondhand clothing there.

Although known for its bargains, the Goodwill store achieved national fame in 2007 when the New Yorker magazine reported on arachnologist Greta Binford's spider hunt in the basement. She had collected 30 live members of the South American species Loxosceles laeta, a more venomous cousin of the brown recluse.

After the story's publication, experts from the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum sought permission to gather their own spider samples from the basement but were turned away by Goodwill staffers.

On Wednesday, dozens of shoppers were perusing racks neatly filled with $12.99 sport coats, $5.49 long-sleeved blouses and $7.99 jeans. Near the center of the store were shoe racks lined with boots, sandals and elegant footwear that included a $5.99 pair of jewel-encrusted pink stilettos.

At the back of the 5,000-square-foot shop, bargain-hunters were checking out $19.99 upright vacuum cleaners, 19-inch TVs tagged at $29.99, VCRs for $9.99 and $5.99 toasters. Atop one display shelf, a 1970s-era lava lamp seemingly held together by duct tape was priced at $5.99.

"Downtown will miss this place," said Joyce Jones, 59, an office technician in the state attorney general's office on nearby Spring Street, who has been a noontime regular at the shop for more than 25 years.

"I bought sweaters today," she said. "But this coat, my jewelry, the bag I'm carrying the sweaters in, this umbrella, everything I'm wearing but the shoes, I bought here."

Jones said lawyers in her office shop at the Goodwill store. "A lot of offices in my building are decorated with things from here. They sell things we can use at a reasonable price," said the South Los Angeles resident.

Another customer, Caltrans analyst Vernon Gray, purchased a tailored leisure suit Wednesday. In the past, he said, he has acquired such things as a signed copy of novelist and playwright Langston Hughes' 1942 book "Shakespeare in Harlem" at the Broadway store.

"This place is like a staple of the community. You have a lot of artists in lofts who shop here. It's not just for poor people," said Gray, a Mar Vista resident who has patronized the Goodwill store since 1979.

Alma Rios, 29, of Boyle Heights emerged from the back of the store with three children's books, including Dr. Seuss' "The Tooth Book." She purchases books for her own children and for youngsters in the pre-kindergarten class she teaches.

"There are collectables here and affordable things for people who lack funds," Rios said.

The store's wide appeal was noted by Anne Williams, vice president of the Central City Assn., a downtown business group. "What's great about this particular Goodwill store is it's very democratic, where people from all walks of life met. It's a loss for downtown that will be very difficult to fill," she said.

Itzikman said the shop's employees are being transferred to other Goodwill stores. Included among the agency's 65 Southern California stores is an 8,000-square-foot outlet at 1500 W. 6th St. that opened two years ago.

She said Goodwill Industries at one time owned the 115-year-old Broadway storefront, but sold it years ago. Its current owner leased it back to the thrift shop operator on a month-to-month basis.

"The store is definitely one of our older operations. We anticipated there might be a time when the Broadway lease would expire. Opening a more up-to-date store on 6th Street was a proactive move," she said.

Itzikman said she was unaware of the basement's spiders and of the New Yorker article.

She promised, however, that "the spider and his pals" have nothing to do with the store's closing.

bob.pool@latimes.com

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