A Year In New York

A Daily Bite of the Big Apple

A Year In New York header image 2

Day 227: The Retail Gap

February 10th · 2 Comments

The outward sign of hardship here in Manhattan is the empty storefronts. One walks along a bright, continuous smile of retail establishments, and suddenly there’s a gap where a shop used to be.

When it’s a new one, I say “ohhhhhhh!” to myself in a sad sort of way. This happens even if I’ve never shopped there before and could have cared less what it sold. I didn’t realize I was soaking up the establishment’s cheer and chutzpah until it was gone. A store is a steady street-level source of color and light and activity, someone selling, someone buying. Truckers pull up out front with new shipments, clerks arrive on the subway from Brooklyn with a coffee cup in hand. The revolving door keeps turning.

It’s like a vacuum when that space is turned into bare swept concrete. I can’t quite remember what used to be in that spot.

On one block near my apartment, three out of six stores now stand empty. Now that transforms a place. A few months ago I might have taken Joo there to find a dress, and now I wonder if there’s any winos loitering around.

There aren’t. Yet. So far the gaps are just gaps. People are still walking around with shopping bags, though not as many as before. The city is wobbling in its four-inch heels; it hasn’t pitched forward into the gutter.

But a vacant store has me examine its neighbors with a new sense of rubbernecking curiosity. What is going on in the back room, behind all the bright lights and upbeat music? How much overstock is tumbling from the shelves? Is the manager having sleepless nights? Will that bright young sales clerk have a job next month? What business will disappear next?

And…if this keeps up, what will this city look like in a year or two?

Tags: Deep Thoughts · The Rat Race · Urban Survival

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Sulley // Feb 11, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    Did you hear about the many thousands of prisoners California proposes to release due to overcrowding? How about the raging drug gang war in Mexico spilling over the border into Phoenix with about 380 kidnappings last year, becoming the kidnapping capitol of the U.S.? We’re cooked.

  • 2 Ian // Feb 12, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Ferris, you’ve made it as a New York writer – you’re using Yiddish in your writing, no clearer sign of the New York influence than that. Congrats. (well you may have before and I missed it)

Leave a Comment