Economic Model: A Mall filled with small, independent stores

In Economic Justice, New York City, Urban Planning / Space on October 9, 2006 at 3:00 pm

When I was younger, I thought malls were great. I couldn’t wait for the weekends when my family would get in the car and drive to the mall so that we could shop for everything we needed – after all, malls have everything right?

When I got a little older, I realized that I was starting to not like malls. Every mall I went to was the same. A collection of Kay Bee, Sam Goody, The Gap, Eddie Bauer, and a food court. Now, it’s not necessarily those particular stores that I’m opposed to (although if I looked into some of their behind the scenes practices, I’m sure I would be). It’s more about the idea that no matter where I went, I felt like I was in the same place, with the same stores, and the same items.

The lack of this characteristic is one of the things that i love(d) about NYC for a long time. Every neighborhood you went to would offer a different selection of stores, products, and cultures. With the invasion of many corporate stores over the past several years, especially in Manhattan, that has started to change. Starbucks uptown is just like Starbucks downtown (or the starbucks across the street is just like the one you’re looking at it from).

Last year I discovered something new in Manhattan that I found pretty interesting. It’s called the Chelsea Market. The basic concept of it is like a mall, but what sets it apart is that the stores are all unique compared to other malls. They are independently owned – you won’t find any chains. The mall also has an interesting feel and look to it due to occupying the same space as an old Nabisco factory. What I love about it is that it uses the same elements of malls that i loved as a kid (so many stores and things to look at within one space, convenience) but adds to it the element of independently run mom and pop stores (of a high quality).

Anyway, today I ran into an article at Gotham Gazette that made me realize the greatness of the Chelsea Market. Because, honestly, when I first visited there i knew I liked it, but i didn’t necessarily think about all of this. It has a great economic impact as well some character. For anyone interested in urban economics, space, gentrification, or neighborhood culture, I recommend looking into this article and the market itself. Here is the article.

And here is a excerpt from the article to give you an idea of the concept behind the Chelsea market:

We said first, every one of our tenants has to be a family owned business, at least half of the businesses have to be female owned, the owner of each business and its executive offices have to be located in Chelsea Market, and the tenants have to be both wholesalers and retailers. That is because when the economy in the city was good, their wholesale business selling to restaurants would be good. But when business slowed down, as it did after 9/11, the tenant could stay in business because their retail operation would cater to the people who were not going out to restaurants.

  1. We as New Yorkers need to take charge of what is happening to our city, if we want to preserve some of the character and flavor of our many great neighborhoods. I am so saddened to see what is happening to locally-owned business in NYC, and I think it is urgent that the current invasion of chains stores and restaurants be slowed.

    I think we can patronize local businesses more, boycott chain stores (as individuals or communities) and communicate our commitment to local business to our elected officials.

    I am finishing a documentary on this subject: wwww.TwilightBecomesNight.com. Please let me know if you’d like to be on the mailing list for a screening early 2007.

    Virginie-Alvine Perrette

  2. I also think a very important part of this process is to reclaim the zoning process in the city in favor of responsible scale development, not the way things are done under the current Doctoroff Doctrine.

    Zoning for Jobs from the NY Industrial Retention Network is a progressive effort to this effect (www.nyirn.org/zfj/index.php).

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