Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Chain Reactions

By Daryl Kelley
As city officials consider banning chain stores in Ojai's historic downtown, chain restaurant owner Dan Burrell wonders whether he should have ever opened a Jersey Mike's sub shop near the city's centerpiece Arcade last June.
Burrell, a youth sports coach and Ojai resident for seven years, said the last thing he wanted to do was to upset his neighbors. But he never expected to become a lightning rod in a heated discussion over how to preserve Ojai as a place that locals love and tourists want to visit.
“I'm not sure that if I knew how upset some people were going to be that I'd do this again,” said Burrell this week. “We got phone calls at home and people said things to my son. I thought, wow....I don't feel great about upsetting people. And I totally understand where people are coming from.”
In fact, Burrell, who owns three other Jersey Mike's in Ventura County, said he never considered opening one in this town of art, oaks and the Pink Moment until he discovered the Subway sandwich chain was negotiating a lease with the owners of Fitzgerald Plaza. So he beat them to it.
“I love Ojai,” he said. “I wanted a real deli here. I don't want my son eating fast food, processed food, either.”
Ironically, Burrell's concern about having a large fast-food chain restaurant in Ojai's signature downtown melds with the mood of the City Council, which two weeks ago directed city planners to develop a law that would keep chains out of the town's Mission-style core while withstanding legal claims over constitutional property rights.
Read the complete report in Wednesday's OVN.
Read previous posts on the chain store issue

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Blogging in from Santa Barbara, where there are so many who have lived here so long who are so sad at the direction this town has taken re: giant chain stores on State St. A mall turned inside out. Landlords who have not just doubled but tripled rents when a lease is up, putting longtime viable business right out.

Look at this trend, and RUN the other way, Ojai. Having had 3 businesses here, and finally walking away due to extreme rent, I can say from experience it is an utter nightmare, to be avoided at all costs. Costs being the operative word. A sandwich shop is one thing, but Juicy Couture is beyond the pale. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Who wasn't too excited about
Jersey Mikes was Georgio's who
sells sandwiches and has a hard dollar as it is-like many small business owners here. When Ojai decision makers approved JM's the writing was on on the wall in setting a legal precident- how can they deny others from coming in but allow this one? A combination of unsound and disingenuous decision
making.

Anonymous said...

Chain stores would change the face of Ojai as we know it today, something that I don't believe any of us want to see. If you want or need chain stores go to Ventura, Oxnard, or Camarillo. We are so blessed in Ojai to have so many wonderful entrepreneurs who put their heart and soul into their independently owned business. The City should foster this environment to promote more independent businesses in town.

Ojai, as a tourist destination, doesn't need chain stores. The unique shops, galleries and restaurants represent the foundation of Ojai and are what draws visitors to the area.

There are many small towns who have implemented ordinances that restrict chain stores in main downtown areas to maintain the quaint small town character of their communities. Ogunquit, Maine; Port Townsend, Washington; Nantucket, Massachutes and others have taken the lead to pass and enforce such ordinances. The City staff and council, working with their legal counsel, should use these ordinances as models for developing something that makes good business and legal sense to ensure Ojai maintains its unique small town character.

As for Jersey Mikes, why did we need this anyway? We had a nice independently owned deli, Howie's, over on Matilija. Bringing in Jersey Mikes chain has cannibalized business for Howie's. This is what would happen if other chain stores were allowed to open in the downtown area. Let's keep Ojai unique by limiting or prohibiting chain stores from coming to our beloved community.

evan austin said...

what's with all the anonymi? not a huge issue...just a curiosity.

about chains:
i hope Mr. Burrell is reading this, because i want him to know that i (and, i hope, most of us) wish him no ill will. much as George Bush is not alone representative of or responsible for the perversion of our laws and democracy, neither would Dan be solely responsible for the chain-driven downfall of Ojai. though it's certainly uncomfortable to BE one, sometimes we do need a lightning rod or a catalyst to prompt needed changes.

someone recently noted that with the exception of the Arcade, Ojai Avenue isn't as picturesque as we'd like to believe. it's full of chains (Carrow's, BofA, Chevron, Jersey Mike's) and eyesores (abandoned buildings at either end, where Frostie and Video Adventures used to be), with no coherent theme along the way. my fear is that a consistent building code and storefront "look" should have been written into the city plan AGES ago...if it's not there already, it's kind of too late. i'm not sure we can ban the kinds of businesses we already have, nor can we mandate that the existing businesses retrofit to a newly-defined image.

no solutions here, i'm afraid. just more fear and frustration.

Rae Hanstad said...

It is important to acknowledge all of our local establishments. Many people in Ojai -- our friends and families -- own, work for, and chose to enjoy a variety of businesses that should not be judged simply because of a corporate logo. Aside from offering jobs and services, many Ojai business owners -- formula or not -- also generously support local nonprofits with team sponsorships, raffle prizes and significant annual donations.

"Chain Reaction" offered some of the balanced information we all need to keep in mind as we work as a community to create a downtown plan.

The "face of Ojai" is not just the natural and built environments, it is the people who live here and become part of the Ojai Valley community.

(I agree that anonymous comments are odd -- and sometimes seem to lack conviction.)

Anonymous said...

Yet no one said a word when the Smoke Shop opened up in the same strip mall selling, tobacco, bongs, knives and porn!

Anonymous said...

Let's take out dirty Vons, and put in a TRADER JOES!

Laurinda93023 said...

I think that Rae has a better way of looking at the issue that all of the anonymouses. The city needs a plan that limits but not eliminates the chains Jersey mikes is as good as the restaurants that open and close every year or two in fact it may be better because Ojai needs the employment and it has a better chance of not only providing that but lasting long enough to keep doing it. I've lived in Ojai since 1978 and yes there have been changes some better some worse but Ojai has a habit of complaining more and resolving less. Give Jersey mikes and it's owner (a local) a chance to see how it goes. It beats empty buildings that only the rich from L.A. can own or operate.
(I think if we are Ojai we should be used to people knowing our opinions and it's silly to be anonymous)