Gordon Huether Responds to Napa Local

A letter to the editor from Napa artist, businessman and 2010 city council candidate Gordon Huether opposes the Napa Local movement. What do you think? Tell us in the comments.

Editor's note: has kindly sent us the following letter. It is a response to another letter recently published as a . The writers have also provided their letters to other local media.

26 August 2012

Dear Editor, 

I read with great interest the letter from Karen Garcia and Catherine George, “”

I am a Napa Local since 1963 and own a business downtown. Although I sympathize with the writers regarding the loss of a “local” business I could not disagree more with their proposed solutions that border on the ridiculous. 

I might start by pointing out that the City of Napa recently adopted (May 1st 2012) a 250 page Downtown Specific Plan that was developed in a public forum with a committee made up by local citizens that included a wide spectrum of our community, including local business people. There were 10 public meetings and many community workshops. No one from the public or the committee expressed the slightest interest in restricting who and who couldn’t open a business in downtown Napa or asking property owners or the City to subsidize local small businesses.

In a nutshell we already have “asked residents to visualize downtown”, yes our residents have a say in what happens downtown and they have spoken, I am compelled to ask Ms. Garcia and Ms. George, where were you?

Anyone can read the document on the City of Napa’s website under the heading, Downtown Specific Plan.

And what according to “Napa Local” constitutes a local business? Is the owner of the local business required to live in Napa? Did you know that the owner of Baker Street lives in another County? And would she be required to sell cigars and cigarettes that are made only in Napa?

The evil empire of Starbucks started as a small business and so did Apple … is Apple now too rotten (too successful) for Napa if they wanted to open a store here? These businesses and many like them should be welcome in Napa, not discouraged. These businesses were built by people with vision, courage, innovation, and hard work and are an important part of what makes this country great. These are vital components to a thriving local economy.

And what of the evil developers and property owners? Do you mean local entrepreneurs like Harry Price, Todd Zapolski, Michael Holcolm and many others like them? These local people have invested heavily in downtown Napa at great personal risk. I find it ludicrous to suggest that we should somehow have “Napa Local” visa vie an ordinance, dictate what the rent should be for buildings rather than letting the free market system and market value drive rents.

I support with all my mustard a thriving downtown, I’ve staked my future on it by opening a business there. I believe a thriving downtown needs to be a mix of local business and the corporate big boys. They are not mutually exclusive but rather are mutually dependent for a successful, thriving downtown that serves locals and visitors alike.

It is short sighted to not recognize the economic and social benefits of having an Apple store for example in downtown. Any idea on how much tax revenue these kinds of businesses generates for our local economy? And how about jobs? Or I guess we can continue to drive to Walnut Creek or Santa Rosa and waste our time driving and putting money in another local economy.

The solutions offered by “Napa Local” for downtown are not solutions but rather would be an enormous impediment to the positive transformation we all long for. The answer is not in discouraging businesses to come to Napa but rather creating a friendly business environment where they can thrive, where we can all thrive.

If “Napa Local” is so concerned about local business I would suggest that they raise some capital, borrow some money, take some risks and open a business. At the very least, how about helping our property owners find tenants that will open new businesses and get Napa going.

Half the stores downtown sit empty … follow the suggestions of “Napa Local” and we can expect more of the same for years to come.

I would encourage our local elected officials, present and future to reject any ordinance that would hinder our economic and social future.

Gordon Huether

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Mama San August 31, 2012 at 06:58 PM
What the downtown needs is a good anchor store, something that has alittle bit of something for most people. Then the independents could build around that. Kohls and McCullahs are not big enough to be anchor stores - we need a Macy's. I know that makes Napa Local cringe but it would help downtown becomes competitive again. I remember Woolworths too and Penneys etc.
Catherine George August 31, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Thank you Mama San - Great comments. FYI Napa Local won't necessarily cringe. I'd really like to dispel the misconception that Napa Local is completely against chains or wants to ban chains. Not true. Napa Local wants what it seems like many of us are saying - let's try to keep and encourage local businesses in our downtown. An anchor store makes sense. We just don't want the entire downtown to become generic, full of chain stores, or only have expensive stores for tourists. We want our downtown to serve the locals too. Also, we don't have all the answers. We don't have it all figured out. Nor have we claimed that we do. We invite your ideas. Let's figure this out together.
Catherine George September 01, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Lorie - I can't speak for Alex, so I would suggest that you address him for clarification on what he meant re: anchor stores. I will say that I'm perfectly fine with the fact that there are individuals within the Napa Local group who have different opinions about things. As we all do.
Alex Shantz September 01, 2012 at 05:00 AM
You can check the public record. There were up to 30 Downtown Merchants who signed a statement of opposition to Starbucks. Several of them spoke that night. It is completely incorrect to claim there was consensus within the Downtown merchant community in support of Starbucks. The main opposition came from property owners and developers. You are blinded by what you want to see. The public record isn't.
Alex Shantz September 01, 2012 at 05:11 AM
I do not buy this idea of anchor stores. First off, anchor stores don't have to be corporate chains. There could be ways of using local businesses as anchor stores. Secondly, anchor stores might be ONE way of increasing foot traffic into Downtown Napa but it isn't the only way. And, if by anchor stores we mean corporate chains then it isn't best we can do since corporate chains remove money from the local economy. Why not find a way that increases foot traffic into Downtown without depending on corporate chains that remove profit from the community? That is the question we should be asking ourselves and our elected officials.


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