The closure of a neighborhood pharmacy means the loss of much-needed services for downtown San Jose residents and business owners.
The CVS on The Alameda, which closed about two weeks ago, provided a convenient one-stop shop for groceries, basics and pharmaceutical needs, but it has also become a “magnet” for homeless residents who are staying at the nearby Arena Hotel, locals said. The situation made many uncomfortable.
Nanci Klein, director of the San Jose Office of Economic Development and Cultural Affairs, said the closure was part of a CVS company-wide initiative to close underperforming stores. Klein said that store was chosen because it was nearing the end of its lease.
“Of course closing a general retail store such as a CVS is a loss to a neighborhood,” she said, “and we hope that an equally helpful new tenant will soon take over that space. “
Over the years, downtown San Jose has seen all of its major retailers leave, including two grocery stores, family-owned Zanotto’s and Safeway, as well as the Ross store.
Scott Howell, 47, owner of Red Dot Fitness just across the street from CVS, considers the Alameda a “rising area” with the arrival of Google. Howell said he saw the pre-pandemic potential of the area, when the Alameda was visually and culturally changing. Tech workers had moved to the area for work but moved during the pandemic, he said.
“They were our customers,” Howell told San Jose Spotlight. “We feel that. I need people to settle in this area and see it as a viable place to live.
Although Howell has used CVS to fill prescriptions, he said police are called there regularly, in part because of homeless people who live at the nearby Arena Hotel who walk past CVS and in the parking lot. The Arena Hotel is part of a $113 million collaborative initiative to convert four hotels into housing to help address San Jose’s homelessness crisis.
Lane Marchetti, a 31-year-old man who works for Stanford athletics, and Kaytlyn Garland, a 39-year-old addiction counselor, live nearby. They found CVS “quick and easy” for picking up groceries and cold medicine. Marchetti received a flu shot and Garland a COVID test there. With its closure and the development of downtown Google on the horizon, Marchetti fears further gentrification of the neighborhood.
“It was super useful. It’s the only thing of this strain that’s on this road,” he told San José Spotlight.
Marchetti said it appeared the store was struggling and often closed earlier than posted hours. Customers may have been deterred from shopping there due to all the homeless people hanging around, he added.
“We have Whole Foods down the street and Core (Power) Yoga and other high-end stores,” he said. “We hope it doesn’t turn into something that isn’t affordable for everyone. With the arrival of Google… it’s difficult.
Charles Erickson, 63, who works at Ace Hardware, sees the closure as a great loss to the community. He would like to see another pharmacy or supermarket take his place.
“It’s the only store in the neighborhood that has pretty much everything you need,” he said. “Whole Foods is very expensive and not all of us can afford it. It’s very expensive to live in South Bay.
Colleen Mahoney, owner of Cultivate Kitchen and Whirlygig, hopes that once the Arena Hotel is “settled” the vibrancy will return to the area. Mahoney said the Alameda Business Association lobbied for additional security, social workers and on-site programs.
Mahoney said she cleans up trash and cleans the sidewalk in front of her businesses daily and would like to see more support from the city.
“My goal is to have stores that are open, safe and welcoming,” she told San José Spotlight. “Of course the price difference between Whole Foods and CVS is drastic, but I appreciate that when you go through Whole Foods you feel safe.”
She said there was no foot traffic between Ace Hardware and its stores, with the Arena Hotel being one of the main problems.
“I can’t wait to open a new business there,” she said.
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]
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