Pet shop may occupy planned Goodwill

Anna Vignet/Senior Staff
Pet Food Express may move into the space Goodwill previously planned to occupy.

After failed negotiations with the landlord and resistance from the business community over the opening of a Goodwill store on Solano Avenue, plans are in the works to instead bring a Pet Food Express in its place.

The Goodwill Industries of the Greater East Bay store — which would have occupied a 5,000-square-foot property that was previously the World of Dance studio at 1831 Solano Ave. — ceased negotiations in March due to concerns over competition with existing businesses and logistical operations of general business. Pet Food Express, a locally owned and operated Bay Area chain that provides general pet food and pet care products, has yet to apply for a permit for the location but is currently negotiating with the landlord.

Though Goodwill received a city operating permit in July 2010, plans to move forward with business were compromised due to outside party resistance. In particular, Goodwill’s idea to tear down the dividing walls that would connect to an adjacent vacant space once occupied by Front Row Video, thereby increasing location size, was not well received, according to Allen Cain, executive director and events manager of the Solano Avenue Association.

“What is ultimately to blame are failed negotiations with the landlord, the concern of lower foot traffic on Solano Avenue and business community resistance,” Cain said.  “Some merchants on the street, particularly on a three-block radius from the location, felt that Goodwill did not meet the boutique character of the east end of Solano Avenue.”

Goodwill representatives could not be reached for comment.

As for the prospective opening of a Pet Food Express, Co-Founder and President Michael Levy said that the business has to go through an approval process, which could take anywhere from three months to a year.

“We would definitely like to open a store on Solano, and on average it’s probably a three-month process or could be a lot longer,” Levy said. “My understanding of reception so far is that overall it’s very positive — our customers from the North Berkeley area would love for it to be closer to them.”

However, some merchants said they feel that though Pet Food Express may be a good fit, Goodwill should have been better welcomed into the shopping district because it would have generated much needed revenue.

“It’s unfortunate that a store that was willing to spend $1 million couldn’t be more welcomed into the neighborhood — we don’t need more empty storefronts,” said Shelly Alvarez, manager of the nearby gift store Greetings. “I will say that Pet Food Express will not be as nice as having Goodwill, but it will fit into the neighborhood since customers have lots of dogs and (the nearby pet shop) Pugnacious Pet Provisions also gets a lot of business.”