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Has Mill Valley Morphed Into Salon Valley?

In the wake of the approval of a new tween-focused hair salon and retail shop, some local business owners and city officials are asking themselves that question. Should City Hall step in?

The Mill Valley Planning Commission earlier this month approved a tween-focused hair salon and retail store, which is expected to open in early April at 23 Throckmorton Ave., the space currently occupied by Thread Lounge and for years before that by the Tamalpais General Store.

Benni’s, as the new salon and shop hybrid is called, will bring the number of hair salons in Mill Valley to 36, according to the Mill Valley Patch business directory. That number is a subset of the 84 business listed under the category of Beauty and Spas.

Is that too much for a town of less than 14,000 residents?

Several local business owners and city officials say it is, with some planning commissioners saying that they felt their hands were tied in approving Benni’s since it met the city’s zoning requirements and there is no law on the books that calls for the city to regulate the proliferation of certain types of businesses in town.

As the city is in the midst of updating its General Plan for the first time since 1989, that could change.

So what do you think? Should the city change its policy and be able to step in when there are too many of certain types of businesses in town?

Vote in our poll below and let us know your thoughts in the Comments section.

Lou Judson February 23, 2012 at 02:09 PM
RE: "... 23 Throckmorton Ave., the space currently occupied by Thread Lounge and for years before that by the Tamalpais General Store." How many Patch readers remember Bennet's Variety store before all that? My family moved to MV in 1957, and Bennet's was among my favorite places to shop in MV.
Milena Parber February 23, 2012 at 04:20 PM
The trend has gone so far that it is now a joke. More and more, we have to get in the car and leave town for simple purchases. Don't really like regulation,even though a nice variety store such as Bennet's would self regulate. But it's all about the money. If the town now supports 36 hair salons, there has to be a change in sensitivity on part of consumers.
Joeph Hughes February 23, 2012 at 04:24 PM
While the city limits of Mill Valley may have 14,000 inhabitants, Mill Valley, ZIP 94941 is closer to double that number.
Steve McNamara February 23, 2012 at 05:17 PM
If the Council does that then I suppose they should also regulate the number of women's clothing stores, Italian restaurants, and, and…
james thomas February 23, 2012 at 05:53 PM
The current zoning and general plan in fact does have more controls on types of businesses through zoning regulations. The proliferation of salons in areas abutting the main commercial districts are NOT zoned for salons, but are zoned P-A ( professional-administrative) the city has allowed those businesses in over the years in violation of the current zoning rules. That zoning is now slated to be further softened, which would allow (legally) more salons and other businesses without so much as a conditional use permit. I always joke about the lack of ease in buying nails in town, in contrast with getting your nails done.
Ian M Rogers February 23, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Laissez-faire capitalism will work better than regulation, let the free markets work out the number of salon’s the town can support.
Jody Stickney February 23, 2012 at 06:42 PM
I remember and I still miss it!
Magoo February 23, 2012 at 09:03 PM
It figures. I see very few women with gray or white hair, nor do I see much uncolored roots.
Barbara Begley February 23, 2012 at 09:55 PM
I remember Bennet's well, and you are right, it was a great place to shop! We need another Bennet's!! Not another salon, or women's dress shop.
David Harband February 24, 2012 at 12:23 AM
I think it would be a great idea to have some public way for potential entrepreneurs to see who has applied for particular business permits, and see what is currently in business in a town. Sort of a cross between Zillow and a virtual Monopoly board. That way we don't have the same types of businesses setting up shop near each other (i.e. 2 frozen yogurt locations in the same block). As for total numbers of businesses, who cares ? The good ones will make it, the not-so-good will not.
Larry Bathgate February 24, 2012 at 07:33 AM
I do remember Bennett's. It was a great place. Unfortunately, the current citizens of this town and its environs must prefer all the beauty salons, boutiques, and coffee joints over the practical stores that once lined the streets of this town. I guess it's because they can just hop into the SUV and zoom up to Home Depot, Costco and Target for their more practical purchases. But I guess lookin' good is of the utmost importance to so many these days.
Laura Everage February 24, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Why do we have to leave town to buy the essentials? Bring back the General Store!
Rico March 03, 2012 at 02:27 AM
You don't really need to leave town to buy essentials, if you open your eyes, you will find all that you need here in southern Marin. Most likely, you have been programmed to drive, and avoid shopping locally. This driving is good for the economy, but not necessarily the local economy.
Jody Stickney March 03, 2012 at 04:42 AM
Ricardo, I don't know where you are going to find your essentials but the closest place for me would be Rite aid, etc..and they are woefully lacking. Plus I have to drive to get there.
Jody Stickney March 03, 2012 at 04:44 AM
Maybe it's because they are all so hopped up on coffee! ;)
Jody Stickney March 03, 2012 at 04:45 AM
What I wouldn't give for a department store.
Jody Stickney March 03, 2012 at 04:47 AM
I miss Lockwood's too. You could buy stationary, office supplies, cards, gifts, wrapping paper...
Rico March 03, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Jody, I admit it, if you live in Mill Valley you have to drive everywhere for shopping, work and errands, but it is only 3 miles from the top of Fern Canyon Rd. to the freeway. And there is no public transportation in 90 percent of Mill Valley neighborhoods. As for essentials, I suppose that is a personal decision as to what is essential. For food, there are 2 Whole Foods Markets and Mill Valley Market. I do a lot of shopping at Goodman's Building Supply, which is in Mill Valley city limits, albeit the very edge down on the freeway. Goodman's has a fairly good selection of electrical and computer cables, plumbing supplies, hardware, paint and misc. sundries. They also have a good sized lumber yard and Garden Center. I have compared prices of their lumber with the other lumber yards in San Rafael, and the prices are to the penny of their competitors. In this economy, they have to be competitive or they will lose sales. I also admit, that for a more complete selection of electrical, electronics, computers and office supplies a trip up to San Rafael is necessary, but those to me are not essentials for everyday living. And a drive up to central Marin is not really that far and does not have to be done every week. Actually, the Best Buy in Marin City is not far at all. Yes, I miss Lockwood's too, and Bennett's, and Varney's and Brown's department store downtown. Have you seen what is in the former Pleasure Principal's space ? It is a Tibeten jewelry store,
Jody Stickney March 03, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Well then, you haven't seen me! haha!
Jody Stickney March 03, 2012 at 07:29 PM
OK, this is embarrassing, I went into the Tibet store..and..bought a knit elephant cap and a little elephant key ring. I have a group that supports an elephant hospital in Thailand..I auctioned the items off..I realize this is way out of context but I couldn't resist. I don't care about salons and the clothing stores are not my kind of clothes, they are also expensive. We really need some basic stores but it seems we are a tourist shopping area now.

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