Media reports noted that a man was struck by an Amtrak train in Little Italy on June 24, but did not list his name.
But his 20 part- and full-time employees soon knew.
One of them, Priscilla Garcia, says the incident that put Jeff Clark in a coma was definitely not an act of suicide.
“He did have a mild stroke a while back and his vision was impaired,” says Garcia about the accident. She says Clark is in his mid-50s. “Plus he was looking down at his phone. You can definitely rule out suicide. He always wanted to look on the bright side. I think the reason he stayed in business is that he cared so much about everyone who worked for him.”
An associate close to Clark reports that Clark has improved enough so that he is about to be taken off a breathing machine. He is still comatose.
Clark founded the Music Trader retail chain in 1987, successfully cornering the once hot used CD market. At its peak, Music Trader had 16 outlets. Clark sold it in 1999. It was reported that Clark sold the chain for $1 million. After the sale, Clark launched Thrift Trader resale stores that resold cool clothing and pop music albums and music-related collectibles to scenesters. “It was all about quirky, weird and funky,” says Garcia, who explains that Thrift Trader was more selective than, say, a Goodwill store, but not as snooty or expensive as a Buffalo Exchange.
“A lot of the other resale stores would get their stuff from Thrift Trader,” says one longtime associate who declined to be named. He explained that the Thrift Trader inventory will be stored in an Escondido storage facility. “They had to get everything out by last night,” he said on July 14.
There were two remaining Thrift Traders, one in North Park and one in Pacific Beach, at the time of the accident. Two other local Thrift Traders had since been closed. Garcia says that the hope is that when Clark fully recovers he will re-open Thrift Trader. “I want to remain hopeful but I don’t see it happening anytime in the near future…He was kind of a one man show.”
“He was spending crazy money on payroll,” says the longtime associate. “You’d go in there and see like ten people working. He took care of his employees. He’d take them all to a bar. He would hire homeless people to stand outside with signs…All the people who worked there knew how to buy stuff [for resale], but none of them knew finances. They don’t know how he paid the bills.”