Last week’s column prompted a second thought.
I can understand the concerns of those who say Atascadero doesn’t need another secondhand store, especially in the downtown. Those concerns were expressed as news that the North County Christian Thrift Store might just return to the downtown site where the old Golden Way Garage burned to the ground in March 2009.
I agree that Atascadero has a sort of “thrift store” appearance and seems to be well supplied with stores that sell clothing, appliances, kitchenware and furniture.
But I’ve been fascinated with the Christian Thrift Store since its very beginning. That retail outlet has provided thousands of dollars of support for the local Christian school, which serves students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
And frankly, for many years, it was probably the largest retailer in the downtown, with more foot traffic than any other store open for business between Rosario Avenue on the north and Highway 41 (Morro Road) on the south.
What grabbed my attention was that the Hoff family (represented by Mary Beth Alvord and her brother, Ben) is thinking of rebuilding a retail space for the Christian Thrift Shop. The Hoff family is the property owner. That is why I saw an opportunity to encourage the construction of a new building that reflects Atascadero’s earliest history as retail began to spring up along El Camino Real starting in 1923.
As I mentioned in this space last week, William E. Kulgren built what became known as the Golden Way Block between 1925 and 1928, three years earlier than the Carlton Hotel complex, which was across the street from Kulgren’s business buildings. Kulgren’s last building was known as Hotel Atascadero.
I think a city has the power to direct a developer into building a certain type of structure. County planners require it be done in Templeton. Paso Robles required Lowe’s to construct a building that reflects that community’s rural agricultural character.
Once the building is completed, it can house any number of tenants as the economic and social times change. A 10-screen theater once proposed for this site, on the other hand, couldn’t have been used for much more than a theater.
But putting a successful retail shop in a historic-looking structure makes sense for the immediate future. The uses of retail buildings can and do change many times over their useful lives as we have all observed, not only in Atascadero, but any city we know.
I hope the Hoff family is able to move forward with plans for a new building, and I hope that knowing it may house a secondhand shop does not preclude the city from issuing a permit to build it.