Chronic building and zoning problems at a major Granite City shopping center have resurfaced with the recent closing of the Salvation Army Family Store.
The 20,000-square-foot thrift store closed Saturday, mainly because the owner of Crossroads Center wouldn’t agree to make needed repairs, said Major Todd Thielke, administrator for the Salvation Army’s St. Louis Adult Rehabilitation Center, which operated the store.
“We weren’t getting very good service, so we had to close the store,” he said Monday.
A sign posted on the vacant storefront told customers that the store and shopping center had been unable to negotiate a lease that was “satisfactory” for both parties after four months of trying.
The sign mentioned the possibility of another Salvation Army store opening in a different location, but on Monday, Thielke said that wasn’t going to happen.
“We would have loved to stay in the area, but we couldn’t find a suitable facility that met all of our needs,” he said.
The shopping center at 3801 Nameoki Road has concerned Granite City officials for years. They’ve issued at least 10 complaints through the Third Judicial Circuit for code violations, said Steve Willaredt, building and zoning administrator for the city.
The Salvation Army space had “horrible leaking” because of a bad roof, he said. Other problems have included loose or missing soffit tiles and facade bricks, graffiti on back walls, debris in the alley and giant potholes in the parking lot.
“There are numerous issues,” Willaredt said. “The owners of the shopping center are from China, and they are located in China. They also have other properties in Missouri that have similar problems.”
The shopping center is owned by GM Crossroads Center LLC. Granite City officials, including Mayor Ed Hagnauer, met with the company’s attorney, Robert Waters, and one of its managers about two months ago, Willaredt said.
“We basically gave them an ultimatum that, ‘Look, you’ve got to get this done or we may not have any choice but to shut down businesses because of all the maintenance problems.’”
Waters, who formerly practiced in Granite City but now is based in St. Louis, declined comment until he spoke to his client.
Other retail businesses and restaurants in the shopping center include Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Kyle’s Trophies and Kyle’s Baseball Cards & Comics, Subway, Pizza Hut and No. 1 Nails.
Not all tenants are unhappy.
“Our roof doesn’t leak or anything like that,” said Kyle Claxton, owner of the trophy and comic shop. “We’re fine.”
We basically gave them an ultimatum that, ‘Look, you’ve got to get this done or we may not have any choice but to shut down businesses because of all the maintenance problems.’
Steve Willaredt on a meeting with Crossroads Center representatives
Thielke said the Adult Rehabilitation Center operated the Salvation Army Family Store in Granite City for about 15 years, selling second-hand clothing, shoes, furniture and household items.
Profits helped provide work therapy, counseling, classes and meetings for men with alcohol and drug problems in St. Louis.
“(The store’s closing) does deeply affect our budget, but we are looking to recover that shortfall with other programs, such as recycling and selling items by the pound,” Thielke said.
Phone lines have been busy at the Salvation Army’s Granite City Unit since Saturday, said Capt. Donna Rose, corps officer.
That unit has Sunday morning church services, operates a food pantry, helps with water disconnects and provides emergency shelter in Granite City. It was not involved in the store’s operation.
“When people started hearing that the store was closing, they thought we were closing,” Rose said. “It threw everyone in a panic. We’ve been reassuring people that we are not going away. Our church services and our social services are not going away.”
Dozens of people commented about the store’s closing on a Facebook page called “You know you are from Granite City, if ...”
Some mentioned its leaky roof, which apparently forced employees to use buckets and tarps and created a moldy odor at times. Others debated whether it was best to shop at Salvation Army or Goodwill. Still others recalled their favorite purchases.
“Salvation Army Family Stores have always been an integral part of the community, especially communities that have fallen on hard times,” Rose said. “With the steel mill cutting back on workers, there is a lot of unemployment in the area.”