Good Stuff, Bad Stuff

by Turkey Vulture, January 11, 2012

Greetings one and all. If you are sitting comfortably then I shall begin. And what better place to start than with the startling news that has been reverberating around the Valley over the past few days: ”All that Good Stuff,” the Valley’s one-stop-shop for so many needs, for so many years, is apparently under threat of closure! Let me hand over to The Valley Observer, Steve Sparks who has sent me an update on this shocking development.

”After 22 years in business, providing many, many customers with a wide range of goods and services, from greeting cards and birthday gifts to a copying machine and a UPS drop-off, it appears that ”All that Good Stuff’s” landlord, Johnny Schmitt, proprietor and chef at The Boonville Hotel, is thinking seriously about other plans for the business space in the Farrer Building that he and his partners own in the very heart of Boonville. If these plans come to fruition, storeowner Leslie Hummel, having just negotiated a sale to store employee Claudia, a sale that was to provide a retirement nest-egg for Leslie and a wonderful opportunity for Claudia to run her own business, will have to close and make way for a cheese and wine tasting establishment to be run by Johnny and his partners.

Now, before I go on, this is not necessarily going to happen in the next month or so, in fact it may not happen at all if the members of the community with whom I spoke over the past weekend have anything to do with it. Or perhaps Johnny will reconsider and write it off as an idea whose time is a long way off.

However, if he sticks with the plans he has recently expressed to those affected, it is likely that the best possible scenario for the tenants is for some sort of temporary ”stay-of-execution.” In that case, the store will remain as it is for as long as Leslie and Claudia can get Johnny to agree to at the meeting held between the interested parties this week.

Nevertheless, whatever that time period may be, and three years may well be the maximum, the inevitable will happen and at that time Leslie and Claudia will be left with virtually nothing to show for their endeavors. The current store would be worthless and unsaleable with such plans in place for its future in the relative short term.

Needless to say the community will not be happy with this development. Leslie is personally very popular and is regarded as a mainstay amongst the small business owners of the Valley. Many people have already expressed disapproval of Johnny’s proposed actions and I have been contacted by three people close to the situation, each asking me to write about events and pass it on to the Turkey Vulture column.

It appears that the wine and cheese tasting operation would be run by Johnny and partners so Leslie and Claudia would have no legal recourse — the lease ran out several months ago and Leslie has been on a month-to-month lease since then. Claudia was going to pay Leslie off for the business over the next few years, it is her only option, and Leslie was going to rely on this for a significant part of her retirement income. That deal will obviously be compromised if Johnny's perceived intentions are carried out and Leslie will have nothing to show for her 22 years at the store, hence the ‘angry villagers’ I spoke with over the weekend.

I have heard that ”aesthetically” the quirky store is not in keeping with the landlords’ ideas about what businesses ”fit” in their Farrer Building, alongside the Mosswood Market, the Farmhouse Mercantile Store, and Paysanne Ice Cream. It is not Healdsburg, but I think you get my meaning. That is fine of course, the businesses all provide good quality products, and Johnny, to his great credit, has put as great deal of effort into improving the look of the place and its surroundings. However, to add a cheese and wine tasting venue to complement these businesses at the expense of such a versatile community store as ”All that Good Stuff” is surely not the way to go. Certainly not in the eyes of local people, it isn’t.

Johnny has expressed his grief at having to do this to his long-standing tenant. Whilst this may well be true, and I have no reason to think otherwise, the real question is why do this in the first place? Wines and cheeses are available all over the Valley; ”All that Good Stuff” is a unique store for the community, one that provides many of us with ”Stuff” (goods and services) that you cannot get anywhere else around here. This fact, coupled with the ill-conceived idea to kick out one of the more popular local business owners after 22 years of serving the community, really does mean that any backlash hurled in the direction of Johnny would not be at all unexpected.

What can be done about this? Well, as I said above, nothing legally. However, perhaps the landlords will be quite sensitive to any negative public opinion, which could well lead to a backing-off on their behalf. Other than that it is difficult to see what else the aggrieved tenants can do about this situation. Community ill will and a boycott of The Hotel by Leslie's ”crowd” is hardly a threat since the vast majority of them are not regular customers there. I would be surprised if Johnny shopped at Leslie’s store himself and most people I have spoken to feel that he has misread the situation and has no idea that the feelings will be very strong in support of ”our Good Stuff.” From his point of view, he is in the process of making what he believes to be a sound business decision, and ultimately that is his right of course.

Ideally, Johnny may realize that this ”cheese and wine” idea of his will cause more ill feeling than he imagined, or wish to confront, and he and his partners will decide to forget the idea. That may well be the wise thing to do. It would certainly be viewed as the ethical move and one that would bring him kudos rather than the undoubted dishonor that will be placed upon him if the idea moves ahead. If it does so, then I believe this past weekend’s relatively mild tirades of negativity expressed his way are just the beginning.”

Well thanks for the report, Mr. Sparks. I think a public protest, an old-fashioned chanting of ”Hands off our Stuff!” and a placard-waving gathering outside either the Hotel and/or Leslie’s Store might have an effect, but I’m just a troublemaker and could be wrong. Meanwhile, before moving on let’s have a couple of relevant Quotes of the Week. First it’s the words of Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774), the writer, poet and physician, a native of Ireland, from the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy, who said, ”Honor sinks where commerce long prevails.” And a second comment would be that of Henry Ford (1863-1947) who said, ”A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business.” I couldn’t agree more, Henry!

Public Service Announcements. Calendars and pens at the ready. #64: The vets from Mendocino Animal Hospital are back for a visit to the Valley on two occasions this month. They will be at The AV Farm Supply tomorrow Thursday, January 12th and then again in two weeks on the 26th, from 2-3.30pm each day. They have asked me to inform you that you do not have to arrive early and then wait a long time — everyone showing up before 3.30pm will be seen. #65: Crab Feed tickets are now available. The first of these very popular annual Valley events will benefit the Senior Center and takes place this coming Saturday, January 14th, just a few days away! You can call Gina Parlini for tickets at 895-3609 or stop by the Senior Center or any of these other Valley locations: Lemons’ Market, Laughing Dog Books, All That Good Stuff, and the Mendocino County Fair Grounds. Then it is the ”Original” Crab Feed on Saturday, February 4th for which you can get tickets by calling Gloria Ross at 895-3071. Both events are at The Apple Hall in Boonville and are two of the best Valley gatherings of the year. As my attorney told me many times, and I’ve since shared his words with you on many occasions. ”Trust me on this, you can thank me later.”

Time to take my leave. Until we talk again, Keep the Faith; be careful out there; stay out of the ditches; think good thoughts; and may your god go with you. Oh, and of course, one final request, Let us prey.” Humbly yours, Turkey Vulture. PS. Contact me with words of support/abuse through the Letters Page or by e-mail at PPS. Hi, Silver Swan; behaving yourself? Hopefully not!

One Response to Good Stuff, Bad Stuff

  1. Matthew Barnes Reply

    February 22, 2012 at 12:51 am

    Mr. Sparks,

    I actually purchase stuff at ‘The Stuff’. I don’t ever remember seeing other locals in the store purchasing stuff when I was purchasing stuff. I’ve often wondered how ‘The Stuff’ stays in business or significantly contribute to Leslie’s retirement.

    I think there are far fewer purchasers of stuff at ‘The stuff’ than there are people that want to complain about ‘The Stuff’ getting sacked.

    I think the person(s) we need to protest is not Mr. Schmidt, but the landowners of any or all of the run-down buildings in Boonville. If ‘The Stuff’ had a viable rental option elsewhere I don’t think that Mr. Schmidt would be perceived as such an evil-doer.

    Mr. Barnes from the Eagles Perch

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