Value Village and Affton could be very good for one another

There’s a Value Village thrift store in Shrewsbury that’s being displaced because the plaza it’s in–the same place I used to go to buy Commodore gear–is going to be demolished to make way for a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Whether Shrewsbury needs a Wal-Mart Supercenter when there’s one six miles away is another question for another day.

Value Village needs someplace to go, and Affton has an available retail space that’s been empty since the hardware store previously occupying it went out of business more than a year ago. County councilman Steve Stenger (D-Affton) wants to block the move, essentially saying that Affton is too good for a place like Value Village.

Value Village is a thrift store. Like any other thrift store, it sells donated secondhand merchandise. If you’ve never been in one, picture a store the size of a typical dollar store, selling garage sale-type merchandise that’s open during regular retail hours, and you won’t be too far off. There’s a perception that the only people who shop in thrift stores are people who are one step away from being homeless, but that stereotype isn’t accurate today, if it ever was. During the recession, many middle-class families started shopping at thrift stores to save some money. And it makes sense. There are a lot of household necessities, like small appliances and lamps, that you can buy at a thrift store for very little money and they’ll work fine. Instead of spending $30 for a new one, you can probably get one for $5 at a store like Value Village. Besides things like household staples, you can frequently find a lot of other odds and ends. Collectors frequent thrift stores looking for collectible bargains. I frequently see estate sale operators at thrift stores, buying things they can plant in their estate sales the following weekend. I’ve even seen goods at estate sales that still have the tell-tale grease pencil thrift store price written on them.

Value Village isn’t going to lead to a rash of riffraff in Affton. More likely, it will lead to more traffic in Affton, since a Red Racks (Disabled American Veterans) thrift store recently opened in Affton and has been getting about half as much traffic as management hoped. With two stores on Gravois about 2 1/2 miles from each other, both stores stand to benefit.

Now let’s talk about Affton.

Don’t get me wrong. Affton is a nice place. It’s home to two private high schools, Grant’s Farm, and several of my favorite specialty stores. But it’s a working-class, inner-ring suburb. It’s not Beverly Hills. Ikea isn’t eyeing that old hardware store as a possible location. Neither is much of anyone else. Three parking lots away, there’s a strip mall that once was home to a Subway, a consignment shop, a salon, and a gun store. The gun store, Subway, and salon all moved to larger locations elsewhere in Affton, and I don’t know what happened to the consignment shop. The strip mall has been empty for at least two years, except for a check cashing/payday loan place.

That’s right. Stenger is arguing that a retail location literally 10 doors away from a payday loan joint is too high-end for Value Village.

I agree with Affton resident Jim Meyer, who closed out the story by saying if Value Village can afford the rent, they ought to be able to locate there.

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