The store that never opened: Golden Chance Bodega space for lease
The building that formerly housed the Golden Chance Bodega, a Grass Valley retail store that never opened, is now up for lease after more than a year of inactivity.
Property owners Karen and Dennis Poskus have put the 2,400-square-foot space up for lease, and have made some renovations since the previous tenants moved out at the end of April.
“We had to wait and have them leave,” Karen Poskus said last month. “We’ve painted the outside, and the inside is getting painted. It’s getting all cleaned up and it looks real nice. It also has its own shared parking lot.”
The building was previously used as an employment office, but in 1979 the Poskuses bought the building and opened a natural food store. The building would eventually be occupied by Ames Bookstore, which would close and be replaced last spring by Golden Chance Bodega.
In July 2014, Golden Chance owner Michael Johnson told The Union he would attempt to bring an East Coast-style bodega to Grass Valley, equipped with fresh seafood, clothing, jewelry, music, toiletry supplies, and even a tanning booth.
While the bodega would eventually be adorned with gold-themed decor, including a pyramid-like fountain, lion statues and Egyptian-influenced murals, it never opened.
According to city officials, Johnson received all the necessary permits to open, including a business license he received on April 11, 2014, but he never renewed the license for 2015.
Johnson said the store didn’t open as planned because he was saving funds to purchase the inventory and resources he had previously promised the community.
“I don’t come from money,” he said. “I’ve had to work hard for everything I’ve got, so I was saving up and planned to open.”
Johnson, though, was arrested in February on a probation violation, and in April for failing to report to probation. He has been sitting in county jail awaiting extradition to Nevada in connection with a 2014 arrest in Las Vegas, where he faces charges that include being a felon in possession of a firearm, intimidating a police officer with a weapon, assault with a deadly weapon, malicious destruction of property, and spitting on a police officer.
He was arrested in Nevada County in February 2010 in connection with a home invasion pot robbery, and charged with second-degree robbery, first-degree burglary, false imprisonment by violence, and possessing stolen property.
He eventually pleaded no contest to the property charge in January 2014, in return for 180 days in jail and three years probation.
Johnson has alleged that his criminal woes are due to his race, a charge disputed by Nevada County Sheriff’s Lt. Bill Smethers.
“He was on probation and he failed to follow the rules,” Smethers said. “It had nothing to do with race. Nobody forced him to carry a gun.”
Even prior to his arrest, Johnson said he didn’t feel welcomed into the community. Originally from Philadelphia, Johnson grew up in Maryland, and moved to Nevada City in January 2014.
“When I first moved here, I would have old ladies coming to me crying and warning me that the ‘good ol boys’ were going to get me,” said Johnson. “My neighbor would spray water at my house and mess with my dogs and told me, ‘You’re not welcome here. Go back to the Bay Area.’ I’m not even from the Bay Area.”
When looking for a space for his business, Johnson recalls a property owner initially rejecting him upon meeting him saying “you should have told me you were black.”
Johnson said he would eventually sign a lease with the Poskuses in April 2014, but following his arrest, he could not renew the lease.
Johnson said he feels that the Poskuses did not renew his lease for Golden Chance Bodega because his credibility was tarnished due to the arrest and his past criminal record.
Karen Poskus would not comment on the reasons Johnson’s lease was not renewed, but said, “It just didn’t work out, and so it’s time to move on. We want a good retail fit for downtown Grass Valley. We’ve been here a long time and we’re very much a part of keeping the local community local.”
Staff Writer Liz Kellar contributed to this article. To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4236.
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