City shuts doors on furniture store

Owner of 5 Day Furniture Warehouse, Hai Tran, right, along with

– After just a month and a half in business,

Garlic town’s

newest and largest furniture retail store
– 5 Day Furniture Warehouse – could be completely shut down by
next week.
GILROY – After just a month and a half in business, “Garlic town’s” newest and largest furniture retail store – 5 Day Furniture Warehouse – could be completely shut down by next week.

An administrative hearing between city officials and the operator of the 180,000-square-foot warehouse at 500 E. Luchessa Ave. has been set for Feb. 19. City attorneys and City Manager Jay Baksa could decide to revoke the store’s business license if they find co-owner Hai Tran is operating illegally.

The hearing will culminate a weeks-long zoning dispute between the city and Tran, who says he is being “harassed” because his business threatens competitors, including Rosso’s Furniture, a longtime furniture retail store owned by Gilroy School Board Trustee Jaime Rosso. On at least two occasions, multiple police units were used to issue Tran’s citations which required him to cease all retail sales at the site.

Rosso, a well-known member of the community, says the city is just doing its job.

“We’ve inquired about that area before because this is a matter of fairness and equity in business, but I don’t think we’re the only ones who have concerns,” Rosso said Monday. “This nonsense about them being a wholesaler who does a little bit of retail is a bunch of bunk. They are a huge retail operation.”

Rosso stopped short of saying his company was one of the three anonymous complaints made to city staff over the last several weeks. Gregg Polubinsky, the city’s zoning code enforcement officer, said staff received three separate complaints – an anonymous phone call and two complaints made at City Hall. Staff does not take down names when complaints are made at City Hall in person, Polubinsky said.

5 Day Furniture Warehouse, which is in the midst of a multimedia advertising campaign, uses less than a quarter of its square footage (roughly 30,000 square feet) for retail, the co-owner said. Its parent company, Pacific Century Furniture, is a furniture manufacturer based in China which sells wholesale furniture throughout the Bay Area.

Tran says 5 Day does retail because occasionally shipped containers get broken and furniture is damaged. The retail profits help offset wholesale losses, Tran said.

On Friday, several Gilroy police officers served Tran with citations for business license and building permit violations. The police also videotaped the store operations and alleged code violations.

“I have people, even some customers, telling me this is harassment. We didn’t go in the back door, we went through the front door. Our business license says retail use is OK,” Tran said. “They always do this on a Friday so we can’t open up for the weekend. I’m tired of this. We’re going to fight it.”

Polubinsky, the city’s zoning official, stands behind his department’s actions.

“The area of town they are operating in is zoned for general industrial uses. No retail at all is allowed there and they are in clear violation of that,” Polubinsky said.

Tran’s business license application, however, shows the city did make a condition for some retail use. A hand-written note on the document reads: “Condition: This must be a wholesale business, with retail as only an ancillary use.”

To Tran, that means he can sell furniture. Tran also claims the city told him using less than 25 percent of the warehouse for retail was allowable.

Polubinsky says Tran was told that broken container furniture could be sold on occasion, but everyday retail use wasn’t a legal use.

“Just the fact that there is a note on the business license application suggests (the city planner) had a concern there would be too much retail at the site,” Polubinsky said.

The city’s arguments are not budging Tran, who along with co-owner Steven Tang claims he invested $1 million to open 5 Day Furniture Warehouse and spends $15,000 a month to lease the site owned by Leland B. Evans of San Mateo.

Tran, who was born in Vietnam and has lived in the United States since 1981, had to call police over the weekend to report stolen computer equipment and a digital camera on the wholesale side of the building.

“I don’t want to make any accusations, but this is a strange coincidence,” Tran said.

Tran said he and his lawyer may request a grand jury investigation.

If the city decides to revoke the business license for 5 Day Furniture Warehouse, the company can make an appeal to the City Council, Polubinsky said.

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