Lately, as I have been walking to and from school on Main Street, I noticed something curious: more and more stores have “for rent” signs. First it was a fruit and vegetable store, then a bakery, then a mall supermarket. I felt a wave of nostalgia, remembering the times when I got stuck in the pouring rain and sought refuge from the downpour in some of these stores; I had to engage in awkward banter with the owners in order to pretend as if I was not just exploiting their roofed areas, but rather genuinely interested in hearing their life stories.
The more I thought about the matter, the more concerned I grew. In limiting the variety on Main Street, the market would contract. With fewer options and fewer places to shop, people would be forced to buy goods at higher prices. In fact, a shop selling certain items that no one else does would have a monopoly (exclusive control over the supply of a good). As you can imagine, the store could then boost the price because it is not competing with anyone else. The dearth of stores is an ominous sign for the Kew Garden Hills/Flushing economy.
I have been told that the rent prices on Main Street are astronomical. Thus, the revenue a small store earns can barely cover overhead expenses. A business’s demise is imminent if it cannot earn a profit. Additionally, it is a sad reality in a capitalistic market that some stores will thrive while others sink. The competition may prove to be too much for a store, in that it loses revenue from a dwindling customer base. Put in Darwinian terms, it is survival of the fittest.
Seeing stores that one grew up with suddenly go out of business is sad, but on a deeper, economic level, it is serious and potentially dangerous. Having many sole proprietorships (companies owned by one individual) brings in a stream of revenue. The area becomes better off because the owners provide jobs to people by hiring necessary staff, and then gain revenue as people buy the goods and services that they need. A portion of the revenue obviously goes to the government in the form of taxes. Thus, all three parties-buyers, sellers, and the government-are better off. (Rarely does this ever happen, where all the parties benefit!) The standard of living consequently rises, and people choose to flock to Queens.
With so many empty stores, however, Main Street will start to look like a ghost town. There is less for people to buy and consequently, less money pours in. The worst case scenario is that with so many abandoned shops, crime will increase. An empty place almost begs for drug dealers and gang members to come inside and use the space for their insidious activities.
In my home state of New Jersey, we have a stretch similar to Main Street, called Cedar Lane. It too has a variety of stores; it even offers a space for people to sit and relax. While Main Street has a problem of vacancies, here we have the problem of corporate takeovers. Our mayor had said that he would rather there be more sole proprietorships in order to benefit the people first. Unfortunately, there are now two CVS’s, and a Walgreens is about
to open up, despite the fact that there are already two Walgreens nearby. Not only does this limit the variety of stores, but it also cripples the flow of traffic because a double yellow line prevents drivers from entering from both directions. The beauty of Cedar Lane used to be that it provided everything and was therefore a source of convenience for shoppers. It also fostered a sense of entrepreneurialism for proprietors as well as unity within the community. Now unfortunately, with the emergence of corporate stores, people do not get as much as variety as they once did. They lose the intimacy of the customer-owner bond that manifests itself most visibly in sole proprietorships. What was once a place that provided a relaxed shopping experience will now become an area marked by strict business transactions.
Vital streets such as Main Street and Cedar Lane both reflect their respective areas’ communities, culturally and economically. Growth and innovation are crucial for the inhabitants as well as the longevity of the stores. People should not be afraid to harness their entrepreneurial side and start businesses or, at the very least, support up and coming ones-for their good, the city’s good, and ultimately, the future’s good.
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