Trouble in Downtown?

October 18, 2010 149 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

An owner of a recently closed downtown business wants everyone to know what he went through with his small downtown business, and asked that his notice be published on Metro Jacksonville and sent to the City Council, so here it is verbatim:


Tonsor Barber Shop, located in the Carling on Adams Street, and owned by Joe Berardino, closed last week.  Joe taped the following notice in the shop's window in time for Art Walk.  The notice was covered for some time by DVI literature, but passer-byes removed the cover.  The notice was gone by Thursday afternoon, apparently removed by Carling management.  I don't blame them, since they have to find a new tenant.

Jerry Moran, owner of LaCena

The Letter

I would like to start by thanking Mr. John Rood, for with out his concern and assistance, I could not have had the chance to try to make my dreams come true of owning my own barber shop in downtown Jacksonville.  He was the only person who not just by word, but by his actions truly cares whether, the small business-owner succeeds.  Without his understanding and generosity my shop would have not stayed open as long as it did.  He is one of the few people that want Jacksonville to be a great city.

I do not understand why our observations and suggestions are dismissed when we are the citizens experiencing the effects of poor leadership; we are the citizens and small business owners willing to sacrifice our energy, resources, and talents in an effort to actually make a difference in improving our downtown Jacksonville.  Yet from the mayor’s office all the way down the chain to “Downtown Vision” there is this deluded version of what they are doing as being of such great help to the business owners in downtown Jacksonville.  WE ARE SO TIRED OF THE LIPSERVICE, GROSS FAILURE AND INCOMPETENCE, WHEN CLEARLY BY THEIR ACTIONS THEY DO NOT CARE AT ALL.  Where, I ask, is the reputable investigative journalists with a backbone to pull the masks and reveal the truth that any blind visitor can see?

For example:  When we had the Jazz Fest, how were we expected to make any money and thus stay in business and contribute to our urban community when officials close-off the streets for 6 days…. So my customers can not get to my shop; I therefore lose a weeks worth of revenue and no compensation or consideration is given — or even any thought for the small business man who does not own a restaurant or bar.  This is supposed to be the tax base of this city.  It smells like a deliberate attempt to drive out any business owners and drive down property prices in the urban center.  How far should one look to see who might benefit from this misconduct?

Another example is Art Walk.  “Downtown Vision” struts about falsely claiming this function was their brain child.  The unvarnished truth is that thousands of cities across the United States conduct bi-weekly Art Walks, but in Jacksonville’s instance the function had been implemented long before “Downtown Vision” was created.  DVI’s misrepresentations have caused the people who actually did institute Art Walk do get fed up with DVI’s take over and in the frustration they took their creativity and energy out of the downtown commitment.  What good was all that taxpayer money spent on mundane window and side walk decals when we do not have the people to read them, instead of using that money to help exisiting small business owners and bring new people and new business to downtown:  We are still left with empty streets and a bunch of unread decals.

When I was going to open my business I was lead to believe that this city was all about the small business owners and making this city grow, but as they say, “Actions speak louder than words.”  In this case it’s only about words. Example: the parking lot for the Jacksonville Landing.  How long did it take to make that commitment?  Need I say more?!

Finally, the "HOMELESS".  What a misnomer for the majority of them who are actually criminals, drug-addicts, alcoholics, and just plain bums.  We want to help those truly in need and desirous of help who will actually make use of help to improve their lives, but this HOMELESS thing is a "Cottage Industry" that no one dares speak out against.  Can’t we have a backbone and return common sense, which apparently isn’t so common any more?  The homeless is a “round robin” that has been a thorn in the side of all people that own businesses, live, work, or dare to visit downtown Jacksonville.  I do not understand why I have to bring 3 forms of I.D. down to motor vehicles department in order to prove who I am so I can renew my driver’s license after having one for more than 30 years, but we can’t even get the homeless shelters to create a data base so our home less will have proper I.D.  I don’t understand when everyone else, in order to do any thing in this country, get a job or an apartment and many other things need I.D. but our homeless do not have to live by even the basic requirements.  My answer is because the shelters get their money based upon  how many people they can count in their headcount, and if they were to keep count the right way with I.D.’s we would see that they are all helping the same people over and over again.  And guess what?  This would mean lower funding for the shelters cottage industry and so fewer shelters would be permitted downtown…. we would actually be assisting the legitimate Jacksonville homeless instead of creating the Jacksonville Paradise of Homeless shelters with the Greyhound bus station bringing them right into our downtown, only to panhandle about the urban center from the well-intentioned but na´ve visitors to the city, and then buy booze and drugs with the “chump change” only to later  bust into cars and defecate at the shop owners storefront.  Our city is known over the country as the best place to be if you’re homeless, because they are treated better than the tax payers that support the shelters.  I just do not understand!

Alas! I have become just another of the many casualties in a city with so much potential but just has failed in leadership at all levels for our urban core.  This is a city that does not let the right hand know what the left hand is doing and is only interested in keeping this city from being the jewel it can be.

I thank everyone that tried to help me make my dream of a downtown barbershop in a hoped-for vibrant growing city come true.  Good luck to all the existing business owners and residents and good luck to new people like myself who try to have a dream of owning your own small business in downtown Jacksonville come true!

Signed:  Just another small business owner in the urban core causality of this city

A Lesson For All Of Us

While dreaming about what large capital projects have the ability to revitalize downtown, don't forget about modifying the hostile public policies that make if difficult for small businesses to survive.  This is something that can be done in the near future with little to no expense, yet have a major positive impact on the business climate of downtown.