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DECLINE WORRIES THRIFT SHOPS; RESEDA MERCHANTS FEAR IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT WON'T HELP.

Byline: Enrique Rivero Daily News Staff Writer

Business has been tough of late for some thrift shops at Reseda Boulevard and Sherman Way, and the people who run them are worried they may go out of business before planned improvements to the area are complete.

Some merchants and customers say they've seen a steady erosion in foot traffic along the otherwise busy intersection since the 1994 Northridge Earthquake that devastated much of the San Fernando Valley. Other merchants say that business is not that bad but still believe that things could be much better for such a busy area.

Though city and local chamber of commerce officials say there are plenty of projects in place to improve the region, some thrift shop merchants are meeting informally Monday morning to see if they can do more to bring in business.

Meeting organizer Nancy Reisner, manager of Aunt Fannie's Attic - a thrift shop at 7131 Reseda Blvd. run by the nonprofit National Asthma Center - said that business had dropped by about 50 percent in the years since the quake.

She thinks the booming economy is partly to blame for the decline of business at her store, which has been in the neighborhood more than 20 years and moved from directly across the street to its present location about 18 months ago.

More people are working, and the neighborhood mothers who used to stop by after dropping their children off at school in the morning now go straight to work instead. Also, people have more money to burn at the big shopping centers and more expensive retailers, she said.

``I'd like to try to get feedback on why we think there's a decline in business and what, if anything, we can do to improve business - or if this is just a sign that it's not going to happen,'' Reisner said.

And she thinks that the recently approved Reseda Business Improvement District won't help because it's mostly about improving the area's physical appearance - a criticism that local officials dispute.

``I don't think it's going to do anything to create more business in the neighborhood,'' Reisner said.

Reisner's store isn't the only one suffering. The Council Thrift Shops outlet at 18511 Sherman Way is the weakest of the six stores operated by the Los Angeles-based National Council of Jewish Women, said Renee Hilton, director of thrift shops and special sales for the organization.

``We're part of the neighborhood, and we want to be part of the improvement of the neighborhood,'' Hilton said. ``I don't know about our future there, either. I certainly would like to be part of any effort to improve the area and the neighborhood.''

Jane Merkin, manager of the Goodwill Industries of Southern California shop across Reseda from Aunt Fannie's Attic, said her store opened in April and hasn't been there long enough to have experienced a dip.

But she's heard plenty of complaints from other merchants about the decline - enough so that she plans to be at Monday's meeting.

``We're doing OK, but I'm concerned that all these other thrift store merchants are seeing this downward trend,'' Merkin said. ``I want to know how to circumvent it.''

Some local officials, however, say there are already plenty of projects under way that will improve the area's business - which they say is already robust.

According to Ann Kinzle, executive director of the 235-member Reseda Chamber of Commerce, foot traffic has remained at the same levels as it was before the earthquake.

Still, she said projects like the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative are sure to boost pedestrian traffic and bring new businesses into what she calls ``Reseda Village.''

For example, under the initiative some 300 new trees will be planted along Reseda Boulevard and Sherman Way, and the new streetlights, bus benches, walkways, traffic signals and crosswalks it will bring will make the area a more inviting place for both merchants and customers, she said.

All this is expected to start in about a month, Kinzle said.

``There's so much happening here, and foot traffic is going to increase tenfold,'' Kinzle said. ``It's going to make such a difference to the Village - that's what we're calling it, Reseda Village.''

Steve Aufhauser, president of the Reseda Business Improvement District, said the district's recently approved assessment - and the $478 per business per year fee - will pay for maintenance, marketing and security.

The marketing component, for example, will involve outreach that will help merchants better conduct their business and bring in customers, and lure big businesses that will in turn benefit the small operations.

``Larger businesses will help smaller businesses,'' he said. ``People will have additional reason to come to Reseda and not just come to the anchor store, but stay and patronize the smaller businesses.''

Beyond that, however, he said some of the thrift shops are eyesores and should blame themselves for not pulling in the customers.

``Some of the secondhand shops and businesses there, I don't want to walk into them,'' Aufhauser said. ``I don't know what these people are doing to bring in business, but to blame it on the community and not look at themselves does the community a disservice.''

CAPTION(S):

Photo, Map

PHOTO (Color) Gladis Barrera is manager of Council Thrift Shops, one of several secondhand stores near Sherman Way and Reseda Boulevard.

Charlotte Schmid-Maybach/Daily News

MAP: Reseda area thrifts
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 8, 1999
Words:890
Previous Article:DOCTOR GROUPS LEAVING VALLEY.
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