This past Sunday marked the final day of operation for a bakery that had been in business for sixty-one years. It was located in the Bronx neighborhood Riverdale, which is not too far from where I call home. The bakery was something of an institution—a mom-and-pop business that seemed like it would always be there. The reason for the shuttering of its doors: exorbitant rent that was too high for a bakery—even a popular one—to pay and realize a profit. A longstanding area fish store right next-door to the bakery closed earlier this year for the very same reason. Both businesses were dealing with a “fairer,” less greedy landlord—it has been reported—than the notorious conglomerate that owns a wealth of commercial property in this rather upscale neighborhood in New York City.
Having run out many mom-and-pops, that aforementioned notorious landlord’s “Store for Rent” signs are ubiquitous in windows, with many of the storefront’s remaining empty for years. I guess it pays—in some instances—to raise rents beyond what individuals can afford. I guess it pays—in some instances—to keep the spaces unoccupied, too. Now that doesn’t sound like very good public policy to me. And it is certainly a recipe for destroying the heart and soul—the uniqueness and diversity—of neighborhoods. But then that’s why landlords are so civic-minded and contribute in a big way to the politicians who make our laws.
The times are very definitely changing. And it’s not only the ridiculous rents. In the case of a neighborhood bakery, it’s harder to compete now for a whole host of reasons. When I was a kid, supermarkets didn’t have bakeries on the premises. We weren’t traveling to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Other small businesses are competing with the Internet and the likes of Wal-Mart and Target. Ten and twenty years ago, it would have been inconceivable that tony Riverdale would have a Subway, Starbucks, and Dunkin’ Donuts a hop, skip, and a jump from one another. But such is life, I guess—ever evolving and ever devolving.