Fort Haven Thrift Store owner Michael Huff is a firm believer in second chances.
He sells used furniture and other goods at his store. He gives war veterans opportunities to work when no one else will hire them. He even offers food to those who are homeless and hungry in the vicinity of his store.
However, Huff believes city of Las Vegas officials see his opportunity to give second chances as detrimental to the community.
The store owner, who founded Fort Haven, a nonprofit organization that caters to veterans, closed the thrift shop’s doors Sept. 26 after a city inspector told Huff he could no longer operate his business unless he paid $1,000 for a special use permit to sell used goods. Businesses in Zone C2, where the Fort Haven Thrift Store is located, need a special use permit to sell secondhand goods, according to city standards.
Huff, who sold his car and put almost all of his money and time into running the store, claims he doesn’t have the necessary means to purchase a special use permit.
“We’ve really grown and have the chance to keep on growing,” Huff said. “I just don’t have the funds to (keep the store open).”
Huff, who opened the Fort Haven Thrift Store in January with the idea of selling its items to those less fortunate and to give veterans jobs as cashiers, was notified 11 days after receiving his license that he must hold a special use permit to operate the business.
But Fort Haven Thrift Store isn’t the first business at 608 S. Maryland Parkway to sell used goods. The store is in the former home of Mahoney’s Pro Music & Drum Shop, which sold used records and instruments for more than 30 years. Huff said had he opened the store six months earlier, according to city officials, he would have fallen under the grandfather clause of the ability to sell used goods without a permit.
Instead, Huff is left without not only a store but the means to help pay the veterans who work for him and a place for donation and food items.
“We’re in a desperate position,” Huff said. “The people we’ve been serving don’t have a place to go. If the community can help, we can continue (with the store open).”
City officials have worked with Huff since March, when they received a citizen complaint that he did not hold a business license, city of Las Vegas spokeswoman Diana Paul said. She said officials in the Business Licensing and Planning departments have continued working with Huff during the past six months, holding meetings with him about obtaining his business license and allowing the store owner ample time to submit paperwork for the necessary permits.
“As much as his business is important to the community, he refuses to fill out the paperwork (for a business license),” Paul said. “To this date, he has not submitted the necessary paperwork to the city. Therefore, he is not licensed to do business in the city of Las Vegas.”
Huff said he paid for a business license but was denied it because he did not obtain a special use permit.
Since the Fort Haven Thrift Store was forced to shut down, Huff is looking for a place where he can still operate his business in the area. He says buildings in Clark County are his best options as a special use permit is not required to sell used items.
Still, Huff’s biggest concern is having a central location for donations and the ability to serve families in need.
“We have small options (with buildings) for ourselves but they’re not big enough for what we need,” Huff said. “We don’t have any help (from the city) doing what we do.”
Huff said he is unsatisfied with the city’s lack of effort in helping nonprofit organizations. Other than working with the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, the Christ Church Episcopal and the Key Foundation to provide food to needy families, Huff receives little help with his cause in terms of getting donations and distributing them to others. He plans to auction off what’s left in the thrift store and continue collecting clothing, food and secondhand items for distribution throughout the area.
“If we give up our donations, we might as well give everything up,” Huff said. “I want to continue food deliveries, but we need help. We need a lot of help.”
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Lisa Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 383-0492.