High rents, short-term leases, parking problems and construction are all reasons why Matt LaMariana is moving his popular thrift store to nearby Oakland Park in March.
“They were looking to develop the property and they couldn’t guarantee us any more than a six months extension. That is what happens with gentrification,” said LaMariana, president of the Animal Rescue Fund 501(3)(c) which operates Boomerang’s thrift store. “The amount of rent is definitely part of it as well. Every dollar we spend is less money we can give to the rescues. We definitely like to keep our overhead down.”
LaMariana has donated more than $500,000 to rescue groups over the years to give homeless animals a second chance. (The money is raised by the thrift store he operates.)
His store at 2365 Wilton Drive will move about a mile away to 3454 N. Andrews Avenue. The new store will be bigger, more upscale and have lots of free parking.
Also moving with Boomerang’s is the Good Luck Cat Cafe, a volunteer-run 501(c)(3) that has placed more than 125 homeless cats in forever homes since it opened in June 2016. LaMariana provides space so the nonprofit has a venue for adoptions.
Fort Lauderdale resident Rudolph Robinson, 66, said it’s the best place around to buy quality used shoes. He said he will follow the store to wherever it relocates and continue to shop there.
“I can’t find a better place. The stuff they have is good quality and their prices are reasonable,” said Robinson, who bought clothes, shoes, a toaster and a coffee maker on this day. “I wouldn’t go anywhere else, especially when it comes to shoes.”
A huge parking lot with plenty of spaces is something LaMariana says he is hoping will increase his store’s appeal, once it moves. He is constantly chasing motorists from his current parking lot because parking in Wilton Manors is scarce and drivers park in his lot and leave for other businesses.
“I won’t have to worry about chasing down people and towing cars for people who aren’t there and spend the day shopping all over Wilton Manors,” LaMariana said.
He is also glad to be leaving the downtown Wilton Manors construction behind.
Amuch-anticipated project to narrow Northeast Fourth Avenue/Wilton Drive from Sunrise Boulevard to Northeast 26th Street to two-lanes began in August and has moved into the city’s downtown area, causing parking issues. The goal of the project is to make the city’s downtown more pedestrian-friendly.
The Florida Department of Transportation project will include 7-foot-wide bicycle lanes, widen sidewalks, upgrade pedestrian signals and modify pedestrian curb ramps to meet ADA requirements. The project also includes road upgrades, pedestrian lighting, installation of new drainage structures and an upgrade of the existing drainage system.
“It’s 100 degrees in the summer. Everyone drives everywhere,” he said. “There is no pedestrian traffic.”
Don d’Arminio, vice chairman of the city’s Planning and Zoning Board, said the thrift store is better suited to another location.
“I don’t think it’s the right fit for the Arts and Entertainment District. I’m glad they found a more appropriate location for their very important purpose,” d’Arminio said.
Tony LoGrande, chairman of the Wilton Drive Improvement District and a retail branding strategist, echoed d’Arminio’s sentiments.
“We are sorry to see a business close on the Drive, however charity shops are traditionally … on fringe locations, not on main streets,” LoGrande said. “I think this has to do with any main street type area that is attracting higher rents and more complicated terms of business - including less parking because it’s a walkable district. Those don’t usually appeal to transitional businesses such as a charity shop.”
Bars, restaurants and clothing stores with higher business profitability are the type of businesses that generally need to be on pedestrian-oriented streets.
“[Boomerang’s] is a great addition to the Drive and they certainly play a wonderful role within the community but it is a factor of retail,” LoGrande said.
William Fleming, 36, a Chicagoan who visits Wilton Manors about six times a year, said the changing number of businesses on the Drive is noticeable.
“I really like this neighborhood but it feels like it’s losing some of its charm because it’s a revolving door,” Fleming said as he shopped at Boomerang’s on a recent Sunday. “I’m only here six times a year and I notice it. This is one of the few places I go because you can get parking.”