6 March 2005
Not much in store
Last month I noted, somewhat belatedly, the lack of supermarkets on the city's northeast side, and it occurred to me afterwards that there wasn't an abundance of chain stores of any sort serving this largely-black quadrant: there's a CVS which used to be an Eckerd's (though, surprisingly, not a Walgreen's dogging its heels), one of Yum! Brands' KFC-plus-something-else stores, and a couple of Mickey D's around the edges, but chain retail is otherwise conspicuous by its absence. I wondered if this was an anomaly, but, says Karen DeCoster, it's worse in Detroit:
[U]ntil the Dennis Archer administration took over the mayor's office in 1994, there was hardly a single chain store anywhere that was willing to locate inside the city's borders. This was a phenomenon only known to Detroit. Most people whom I talk to, from other areas, cannot comprehend that the city of Detroit did not have mega-stores, shopping malls, retail giants, chain grocery stores, chain video stores, etc. within its city limits. This seems like a fairy tale to them. Phoenix, Chicago, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Dallas, etc. they have all had the benefit of economies of scale in their cities.
Detroit? Hardly a single K-Mart, Kroger, Meijer's, Blockbusters, or otherwise, was located in the city borders. Starbucks? Not a chance. The only businessmen left were the Arabs many are Chaldeans who opened up independent grocers, video stores, dollar stores, makeshift retailing outfits, etc. As one who had to shop at these places as a financially struggling 19-year-old, I can attest to the fact that these stores were absolutely awful: high prices, rotten food, poor selection, nothing fresh, and they were all dirty as all heck. It left city consumers with having to purchase their daily needs from these brave-but-less-than-efficient businesses, or make trips into the suburbs to find a place to shop. (Poor Detroit residents have consistently fought against these stores, what with their unkempt ways and high prices, but these people were the only ones, for the most part, willing to dare risk any kind of entrepreneurship in the city of Detroit.)
In some circles it is de rigueur to bash chain retail for its negative effects on local stores, an attitude which overlooks the possibility that some of those local stores might actually deserve it. And residents of northeast Oklahoma City who actually want to take advantage of the chains have had to venture into other parts of the city, or head east into the 'burbs. As close as Wal-Mart is likely to get is NE 23rd and Douglas Boulevard, in the north end of Midwest City, coming next year. Still, that's only six miles from MLK; imagine how far you'd have to drive or ride the bus to get out of Detroit.Posted at 2:30 AM to City Scene