Walk along Palmer Avenue today and you'll see something that has become a widely talked about and unfortunate reality in Larchmont: strings of vacant storefronts with 'For Sale' signs in the windows.
The economic downturn has had a detrimental effect on local merchants nationwide. In Larchmont, some merchants are tackling the issue by actively building up public awareness of how the lack of business is hurting the community at large.
Lee Rubin, owner of the home furnishing store Wendy Gee, believes that one of the major problems is a decline in foot traffic. As a result of the store closings, he explains, "fewer and fewer people [are] walking the streets," which leads to even more closings. Rubin, however, has taken a fun approach to this: distributing buttons to local citizens and merchants, urging them to "Shop Local, Be Vocal." He "felt powerless" as a result of the larger economic situation, he said, and wants to address the issue "in some small way."
Just like Rubin, Helen Barlow, owner of the clothing store Outerluxe, also noted the cyclical nature of the economic situation. "[There's] less reason to come to Larchmont with each successive store closing," and as a result "it's hurting surviving retailers more," she said. Barlow has made a point of being vocal with customers about the problem, "whether [they] want to hear it or not." She also noted that "with less business revenue, residential taxes will increase." As a result, people will have "less money for discretionary income," thus further feeding the cycle.
But Barlow sees the glass half-full, saying she is "very lucky to still be standing," hoping that business will continue to survive and improve.
Carol E. Charny, the owner of Carol E. Charny Vintage, an interior decorating studio/furniture store, reminded locals that property value is not all about location and the quality of our schools, but also about the "charm of our Village" in a recent letter to the editor in the Larchmont Gazette. She places much of the blame on negligent landlords and apathetic community members, and the effect each group has on the other. "Many of the real estate agents tell me that they not only 'sell the Larchmont house' but 'sell the town' as well," she wrote.
In an interview on Thursday, Charny added a message to the landlords whose "unsightly empty lots" are harming Palmer Avenue's appearance: "Wash your windows. Get the rent sign out of the window. It's detrimental to all of us."