Campus alum Sarah Wiener remembers passing by the Dollar Tree in Downtown Berkeley on her way home each day. Because she recalls the store receiving consistent shoppers, news of its closure led her to consider how Berkeley has changed since her days as a student.
The Dollar Tree located on Shattuck Avenue closed permanently Saturday, according to an employee of the store. Dollar Tree spokesperson Kayleigh Painter said the store, which had been open for 15 years, does not have plans to relocate.
“I’ve been out of Berkeley for about ten years now, so I wonder what might replace it, and how that will impact the people who used it most,” Wiener said in an email. “I’m reflective on the way the landscape has changed so much since I was a resident there and how many places I used as landmarks, or even just scenery, are gone or have changed.”
Wiener said she was “definitely glad” to see Berkeley businesses still open despite the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a resident of Contra Costa County, Wiener added, she has noticed an increase in the popularity of dollar stores; she has wondered what the closure of the Shattuck Avenue Dollar Tree might mean in the context of Berkeley’s increased cost of living.
Campus senior Aidan Hill, former vice chair of the Berkeley Homeless Commission and a 2020 Berkeley mayoral candidate, said the store’s closure would impact residents who rely on discount stores to meet their basic needs.
“It’s unfortunate, Dollar Tree was such a good investment in the community,” Hill said. “The fact that it’s closing means people have to move further away. It shows things that are cheap and affordable aren’t being prioritized in our community.”
Hill noted that near the beginning of the pandemic, the Daiso, a discount store similar to Dollar Tree, on Telegraph Avenue also closed, and that Dollar Tree’s closure leaves residents looking for inexpensive products with limited options. The nearest Dollar Tree is now on San Pablo Avenue, nearly three miles from the Downtown Berkeley location.
Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed financial strain on businesses and individuals nationwide, including declines in retail business and sales tax in Berkeley,
However, Dollar Tree announced in March that the company plans to open 600 new stores this year.
“Dollar Tree didn’t provide us with any reason why they were closing the store,” said Bruce Whitten, the Shattuck Avenue Dollar Tree property landlord, in an email. “They simply let the lease lapse and didn’t ask to extend it.”
Whitten added that he is early in the process of deciding on a tenant to replace the store, and hopes to make a final decision in the coming months.