Friday, June 26, 2009

The Closing of Greenwich Avenue

Greenwich Avenue is closed for business. Well, almost. Three more local merchants have decided to shutter their doors this week, and no doubt more are soon to follow. Will Greenwich Avenue, as your scribe once predicted in jest, become a ghost town in actuality?

The trend suggests that it's a very real possibility. This week we're saying goodbye to The Knitting Niche, Cocoon, and The Red Studio. Guy Flichy is rumored to have moved his antiquities business to Dubai. The old Marks Brothers store, once a mainstay of the Avenue, has been vacant for many months, ever since Wendy Gee pulled up stakes and left. Chilibear has moved to Old Greenwich. J. L. Rocks is closed, although your scribe continued to hear ads on the radio station for them until recently. Gives one a rather spooky feeling, it does.

Even Greenwich Magazine has moved to Westport. There is more vacant space on Greenwich Avenue and environs these days than probably at any time in history. Even during the Depression, the local businesses mostly stayed in business, as people still needed clothes and shoes and groceries and staples. No frou-frou shoppes on Greenwich Avenue in those days.

Will the trend towards more and more vacancies continue? You betcha. Even though landlords are suddenly willing to be more reasonable in terms of rent (one hears whispers of 50% discounts), there are simply no takers. And many, if not most, of the stores along Greenwich Avenue are hemorrhaging money left and right. For them, it's simply a matter of time....

We used to have such a nice Town center. Mike Guerrieri, who cut the young lad George Herbert Walker Bush's hair (and much later, your scribe's, for the princely sum of six dollars), The Yellow Brick Road toy store, the beloved Cheese Shop, the old Greenwich Hardware store with sawdust on the floor, D. W. Rogers, Woolworth's...the list goes on and on. All of them fell victim to the frou-frou shoppe mania of the last few decades. The Chamber of Commerce was complicit in the rising bubble of commercial real estate by encouraging more and more chains to come to Town, driving up rents and forcing the small local businesses to close.

We have sown the wind, and we are reaping the whirlwind. The chains are closing, one by one, and slinking away with their tails between their legs. And they are leaving us with, if not exactly a ghost town, a Town that is only a ghost of its former self. Quam mutatus ab illa civitate...


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