On the block

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east side observer


What’s missing — When a local business goes out, my thoughts are generally about the loss to the neighborhood and the business that is no more. And then I got to talking to Simon, whose eponymous jewelry store, Forever Simon, on Third Avenue between 91st and 92nd Streets, was originally located on the opposite side of the street, between 94th and 95th Streets. When the businesses along that block were demolished to be replaced by an avenue-long high-rise (which is still under construction), Simon found space nearby where he has been for several years. His jewelry store shares the block with a convenience newspaper store, a beauty-type salon, a UPS store, a Korean restaurant, and other businesses that survive on foot traffic. So Simon bemoaned the unexpected closing of Starbucks on the corner of 92nd. How come, I wanted to know. “Because customers going to Starbucks used to stop by and look at the jewelry and sometimes buy. We would talk.” Same sentiment from a customer in the UPS store who was sad to say that he’d miss stopping by to chat with the guy who worked there and get supplies. The kind of things that don’t happen in the online universe of shopping.

Today Target’s, tomorrow? — Everybody blames the landlord. And why not? They bring in the tenants who take over all those moms-and-pops and build the big boxes that everyone loves to hate when they hit their neighborhood. Big-box stores are great for one-stop shopping when you’re not shopping online. Better than online shopping in some ways — the food, the produce, the groceries, the beverages, the clothing, you name it... all right before your eyes and a shopping cart away. Your heart may be in the right place about wanting to keep small businesses alive and in the neighborhood, but heck, if it’s all in one place and you don’t have to wait to walk in and out of store, why not? Back to the landlord. These days Manhattan’s streets and avenues are chockablock with cooperative apartment ownership. Most have commercial space on the street level. The rents tenants pay for commercial space in co-ops impacts the co-op residents’ maintenance and other costs. These residential co-op owners, in many cases, have the ability and maybe the financial wherewithal to leave storefronts empty to assembly for a mega tenant like the Target coming to Third Avenue in the 70s. If the naysayers want moms-and-pops to exist, co-op owners may want to give more thought to the impact on the neighborhood and beyond and the role they play in the loss of small businesses.

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