In my walks through Bronx streets, stretched with the hot noise of train tracks and street vendors, I have been keen to witness the fall of the small business. Nowhere has this been more clear to me than in streets with my local shops.
A locally owned flower shop and 99-cent store wrecked in a train fire were no longer rebuilt, despite any clear insurance claims. Instead, on the property was opened a Planet Fitness. A woman’s clothing store was closed to make way for a Verizon store, and a dress shop had to be sold to make way for a new Sprint store. Much earlier, a local book store was closed and rebuilt into a Pay/Half, another small-clothing store was turned into a Children’s Place and a sporting-goods/men’s apparel store made way for a 7 Eleven. The most recent store to close was a local ice-cream store that was turned into a Subway.
This has all occurred with a single strip of stores on a couple of blocks; local and small businesses have been slowly replaced by large, national, chain stores. This is arguably because it is no longer friendly to compete as a small business in such an expansive world. Who wants to visit a small clothing store when a short drive can take you to a Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart or a Khol’s.
Considering there are about two deli groceries on the same block as the newly built 7 Eleven, who’s to say they will even last another year in business competing with the resources and abilities of a national chain? The sheer resources these big businesses have amounted are on such a scale that they can offer lowered prices and a dexterity that is impossible to imagine. For example, a 7 Eleven can afford to sell coffee at 50 cents a cup for its first month in business, but the deli it was built a store away from may not be able to.
I was shocked to see that the men’s wear store had closed after so long, but I was more shocked to see a 7 Eleven built and fully functioning within a week and a half of the permits being issued to the company. The efficiency these companies proceed with is impeccable. In contrast, a locally owned Chinese restaurant that opened a bit closer in proximity to my house took about 5 months to get built and become functioning.
Another interesting observation I have made is that large, competing businesses purposely seem to cluster near each other. On the street that new Sprint and Verizon stores were built, a T-Mobile store had been in business for years. This business of big chain stores out-crowding a block for competition is quite frequent. It is the equivalent of two gas stations opening across the street from one-another, and how often does one see that?
I do not disagree with free competition and big businesses. These are the companies that hire the majority of U.S. workers and compose a large part of the retail economy. However, I am sad to see the almost constant loss that a small business in America feels, and the effects of an economy based on a select group of powerful chain-stores has become evident now, even at the local level. To some extent, we cannot blame anyone, because everyone is in it for the money and some win and others fail.
Yet, there has to be some sort of a relief (tax, fee, or regulation-wise) established to help the small businessman be able to breathe and potentially expand or hire more, rather than be replaced by a big company that has a team of legal professionals that can take care of tax and regulation loopholes to be able to do the same thing.