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Store Wars: Vista council talks 'image issues,' bargain stores vs. 'higher-end'

City Council thwarts Family Dollar attempt to buy empty property in Vista, provide jobs.
City Council thwarts Family Dollar attempt to buy empty property in Vista, provide jobs.
Carla Miles

Vista council members spent time discussing image and potentially changing a policy which would either embrace or reject a national corporation like Family Dollar into the city.

The fact is that Family Dollar's website highlights the company as being "one of the nation’s fastest growing retailers." The language used on the website seems focused on meeting the needs of families with budgets, looking for a variety of items and good deals. Shoppers, it states, "can find many items at $1 or less, most items in the store are priced below $10, which makes shopping fun without stretching the family budget."

Appearing before the council was Cliff Kaiser who stated that while he could see why there might be a desire to having higher-end and mid-range businesses and an objection to having adult shops or hookah lounges, he did not understand what the problem was in having a Family Dollar in Vista, which seems to be right there in the middle between those two extremes. Let the market decide, Kaiser suggested.

Another guest speaker, who had appeared before the Planning Commission previously, encouraged the change to be made in favor of Family Dollar being allowed to serve the low and middle income residents on North Santa Fe Avenue. Sue Doucette stated:

"I did attend attend the planning commission," she stated, while also pointing out that Family Dollar sells all new items, and not used which a thrift store would. "I know when they came in there was a lot of hoopla about it," Doucette said while adding later that Family Dollar store researched the demographics. She also said that if there was a problem with the number of bargain stores, perhaps the Planning Commission and the City Council should accept responsibility for those.

Aguilera: 'We have a lot of vacant property'

Current deputy mayor John Aguilera reminded his colleagues on the dais about the goals they had just set earlier this month. These were:

  1. Eliminate the budget deficit
  2. Deal with the blight
  3. Economic Development

Said Aguilera:

"If we start being real selective about what businesses to allow ... we lose money. We have a lot of vacant property in our city that needs to be filled."

Further comments by Aguilera also mentioned that the once empty, boarded up property gets cleaned up by the new business, is painted and maintained. Codes and regulations on loitering, graffitti are enforced also.

He kept reminding his colleagues "... we have businesses that want to come in, that want to generate business and money."

Council member Dave Cowles told Cliff Kaiser he agreed with him:

"There is an end of the spectrum."

He mentioned that he had family/friends disappointed that Big Lots disappeared, because they enjoyed browsing and finding bargains. "I am open to modify and adjust some things," Cowles stated.

Council woman Amanda Rigbymentioned the work of the Planning Commission and lowering the threshold on sold items from $5 to $2. She was not in favor of that, however, and told Mr. Kaiser:

"...there is an image issue...they are not well maintained."

She also said that bargain stores are not "the kind of thing that we want here." She then brought up that Vista has no "higher-end" retail outlet. She ended by saying this was a very complex issue and she wanted to be fair to everybody. "Likely it won't be our last discussion on this issue."

Council member Cody Campbell essentially agreed with Rigby and respectfully disagreed with Aguilera. He did mention the fact that the Big Lots which disappeared, at Emerald and Vista Way, will now be a Smart and Final store.

Historical information provided on the Family Dollar company's website states:

"In November 1959, Leon Levine opened the first Family Dollar store in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was on his way to becoming a retailing legend. Right from the start, he had a well-developed philosophy of what Family Dollar would be and how it would operate, a philosophy from which he and his management team have never strayed. The concept is a simple one, 'the customers are the boss, and you need to keep them happy.'”

On information given to investors:

Family Dollar has 8,000 Stores in 46 States; 50,000 employees and states that since the stock went public in 1970 at $14.50 per share in 2008, it finished as the top performer on the S&P 500 $8.5B in sales and had more than $388M in earnings in Fiscal 2011.

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