Merchandise is spread along the sidewalk in front of The Trading Post and Blue Mountain Treasures in Milton-Freewater.
Photo by Alfred Diaz.
MILTON-FREEWATER — A boom in secondhand merchandise stores has not been without its growing pains, especially for residents pained by how much merchandise store owners put on city sidewalks.
“We were getting a lot of complaints. A lot, not one or two, many complaints pushing us to make people get their stuff off the sidewalk,” City Manager Linda Hall said.
The three-block section of Main Street that is the center of the debate — and the latest hot spot for antiques, collectibles and re-purposed items — stretches from Ivy’s Attic at 1113 S. Main Street to Buster’s Trading Post at 905 S. Main, with Nine Lives, Blue Mountain Treasures and The Trading Post in between.
All five store owners say they rely on the tried-and-tested method of bringing in customers.
“We are just trying to draw customers in. I have people stop by and say they would have never stopped if they hadn’t seen (sale items),” Trading Post owner Larry Luke said.
Over the last year, however, the city has addressed the issue with recent City Council discussions, the writing of at least one abatement notice that was given to Luke last summer, informational visits by the police chief to store owners and intermediary visits by Council member Sam Hopkins-Hubbard, who recently contacted owners to help resolve the issue.
“The only reason I contacted them was trying to mediate between them and the city. I also run a small business ... so I contacted them to try and help with a solution,” Hopkins-Hubbard said.
All the attention from city officials, however, was not taken in a positive light.
“You know what I told them — take the frog out. It is blocking my window view,” said Blue Mountain Treasures owner Tim Halseth. “We have always complied with making sure there was room to walk. And I am helping in building these businesses downtown.”
The only code on the city books requires merchants to maintain a 4-foot-wide clear corridor for pedestrians. Hall said some of the complaints dealt with not having the corridor and the practice of merchants putting items alongside the curb, which made it difficult for motorists to get out of their vehicles.
“I also understand people are trying to earn a living in this economy, and I also understand, as I have been educated by merchants and others, that this is a common business practice by merchants to try and draw people into their store,” Hall said. “Let’s be reasonable. Please don’t completely block the sidewalk.”
Even James agreed it was getting out of hand but it now seems to have gotten under control. And in the last few weeks, secondhand goods merchants have scaled back their placement of items on sidewalks.
“At first they were being a little bit out of hand because they were putting it right up against the (curb) side so people couldn’t get out of their cars, but they are doing much better right now,” James said.
Hall added there are currently no plans to add additional sidewalk clearance codes and that the number of complaints has greatly diminished.
“This has been resolved to our perspective, and I am not receiving the phone calls. And it is a lot better,” she said.
Alfred Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8325.