Press "Enter" to skip to content

Thrift Store Boosters Still in Sales Mode, Not Civic Participation Mode

The thrift store committee still isn't listening.

At Tuesday's Lake County Commission meeting, Jerry Johnson said that he and his fellow boosters plan to forge ahead with their plan to build a million-dollar thrift store to replace three buildings in downtown Madison. Following significant public opposition, the boosters plan to slow down. That's a good thing.

But they aren't slowing down to talk with the community. They plan to spend more time talking to the community:

Jerry Johnson told commissioners that the committee intends to do more education on the benefits of the proposed store.

Johnson told commissioners that the reason the group came to the county for support is because of the welfare and indigent needs in the county. Johnson said the committee felt it would be a good partnership because the revenue from the thrift store could help out with some of the county's welfare needs. He told commissioners he couldn't understand how residents would have such issues with something that helps local programs [Sue Bergheim, "Thrift Store Committee to Continue Work on Proposed Project," KJAM News, 2012.07.18].

In Johnson's eyes, there can't be anything wrong with his pals' plan. The boosters just need to educate us more so we understand what a great plan a million-dollar thrift store is.

At last week's city commission meeting, thrift store committee member Clark Sinclair said that he and his fellow boosters had listened to the community and were taking folks' concerns seriously. But apparently they aren't taking those concerns seriously enough to rethink their plan and engage the community in an open dialogue. No, in classic patronizing, hierarchical fashion, Sinclair, Johnson et al. are taking our complaints seriously only as objections to overcome as they cling doggedly to their thesis that their small group knows what's best for the community.

Pay attention to what I said last Monday... and heck, to what you yourselves seemed to say at the meeting before that. We need a real community conversation, not another sales pitch.


  1. Eve Fisher 2012.07.19

    In the immortal words of Talleyrand, "They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing."

  2. Linda 2012.07.19

    Before they tout the benefits of such a thrift store, please show us the figures that prove such a store has a good chance of succeeding financial wise with such large input costs. As I have stated before, why the need to spend over a million dollars? I know the committee is probably reading this blog. Why not provide an answer to this basic question? If it's such a good idea, prove it and quell a lot of the opposition.

  3. Sue Janssen 2012.07.19

    I thought Jerry Johnson sounded pretty defensive on the radio story I listened to -- I expected him to be more interested in the public's opinion.

  4. Rorschach 2012.07.19

    I'm not from Madison, but for the life of me I can't figure out how they think they will make this work or why they want to compete with existing businesses.

    If competing with existing businesses and potentially ruining them isn't an issue, why don't they build a community liquor store and pass ordinances that nobody can sell liquor but the city store (ala Brookings). That would guarantee profits they could use to fund indigent needs. Or how about a city-owned car dealership?

    This thrift store idea is a debacle in the making.

  5. Eve Fisher 2012.07.19

    Actually, my impression - after talking to a few of the "powers that be" - is that they are actively hostile to this blog, and consider much of what's said here an attack. And they ingenuously refuse to understand why Gayle Maberry's so upset and defensive about her business, but at the same time tell me there's no way we're getting another grocery store - and, when I keep asking why not, what have I got against Mr. Roeman?

    They are going to push this through. My favorite part of the article in the paper last night was where we found out that the Madison Community Foundation, which will own the building even though technically it doesn't exist, has done so much good for the community. The proof? $171,000 in scholarships - for memberships to the Community Center. (1) The word scholarships has always implied education (at least to me), and (2) by memberships, do they mean that the MCF is funding the discounts that employees of various community businesses get to the Community Center? and (3) how do we sign up for these "scholarships"?

    Finally, this is the whole point: you want to build a thrift store that competes with already existing commercial businesses, fine. Just don't do it with my tax dollars. Find another way to raise that $300,000 (city and county request). Then I'll shut up about the whole thing.

  6. John Hess 2012.07.19

    No one likes to be criticized and the blog comments do make it seem the Heidelberger Gang of Grumblers are never satisfied (with anything). The thing is, there is widespread ill feelings about this from people who have no idea there is a Madville Times. I've heard only one positive remark, but they probably get much more feedback from people who agree with them. That's always much easier to say, so consider the feedback they get, like the feedback here, is skewed. It may require a vote to reveal what people really want which might be the best thing. Actually, as part of the main street program some fresh polling on various issues would be useful (if people accept the results).

  7. Justin 2012.07.19

    You guys are wasting your time with this.

    I've got a plan to develop a strip mall with a thrift store, christian book store, payday lender, pawn shop and "bath salts" store. We will clean up. Maybe even video lottery.

    I figure that's $5 million for 5 stores. Now I just need a relationship with somebody in public office.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.07.19

    Now, Justin, payday lenders commit usury. Very un-Christian.

    Linda, you are absolutely right. The fact that we haven't seen any solid numbers or standard business plan ought to more than explain to Jerry why people would oppose investing a million dollars in it.

    Johnson rightly celebrates the good that the MCF tries to do with its scholarships. However, that good has nothing to do with whether the MCF could effect any more good with the thrift store. People don't have to be defensive and take policy criticism personally; they just need to answer the honest questions raised by folks like Linda and Gayle.

    John: good point about polling. A good series of community conversations (with a significant online component for added reach and instant documentation) would do work very much like a poll, not just gathering public opinion but giving us all a chance to discuss it and build consensus and plans thereupon!

  9. Justin 2012.07.19

    Usury is more of a crime in Islam. It doesn't really matter because the bath salts store will be the profit center. The bookstore is just so I can accuse my opponents of opposing a Christian bookstore, probably not a profit center.

    It would be interesting to see whether the bath salts or the payday lender would make the most money.

  10. Linda 2012.07.19

    Enjoy Paris! We were right where you were standing a couple years ago. Beautiful country!

  11. Elisa 2012.07.20

    Eve, The community center scholarships toward memberships that are paid by the Madison Community Foundation aren't business discounts; they go toward memberships for low-income families that can't afford full memberships and you have to fill out an application to ask for that discounted rate.

  12. Eve Fisher 2012.07.20

    Glad to hear that, Elisa. Good for them.

Comments are closed.