Is the Price Worth It?

Money Magazine named Fairfield the 9th best place to live in the United States. It’s great news, it’ll help real estate values and everyone has reason to be proud.

However, there’s a price to be paid for such attention.

This morning, I was walking along Post Road, one of the town’s two main drags, and was astonished to realize that the number of locally owned stores was rapidly dwindling. The small building that housed Fairfield Glass and a dance studio had been torn down and the workers were halfway done constructing a new building that would be anchored by a bank. In fact, the number of bank braches taking root in town reminded me of weeds settling in among the other businesses.

Another structure, across town, has housed a local grocery for years. Their lease is up on July 31 and the landlord jacked the rates up much higher. Why? Because he can, since, after all, Fairfield is a desirable place to live and do business.

The IGA was beloved by the elder citizens in that neighborhood and the owner had a nice rapport with them. The landlord, though, wanted more revenue and word leaked he was speaking with Walgreen’s and CVS. Julie DeMarco, my pal on the RTM, and several others, led a massive letter writing campaign to convince the landlord to deal fairly with the IGA and also put the pharmacies on notice that they were not welcome.

The local officials made numerous calls and applied as much pressure as they could, but it was a private matter so they could only do so much.

Word leaked last week that both CVS and Walgreen’s were going to bow to the pressure. People were cautiously overjoyed.

This morning the death knell was reported in the paper. Despite finally meeting the landlord’s asking price, the IGA was told their business was no longer desired. They would have to vacate by September 1 so Walgreen’s could begin t renovate the building and move in.

There’s a price to pay for being so desirable.

Fairfield has lost many of the “Mom and Pop” stores over the nearly fourteen years I’ve lived in town. The vanishing has quickened over the last year. Two of the town’s long time old style bars closed within weeks of each other in early summer. The restaurant Kate waitressed at a few summers back, also shuttered it doors. Other businesses have been displaced time and again as more chains move in to town.

There’s nothing wrong with chains. But as rents rise across town, since after all we’re a desirable place, those are increasingly the only ones who can afford to do business here. As a result, the town’s unique character, one of the reasons we placed high on the magazine’s list, will fade away and we’ll be indistinguishable from so many other towns up and down the Eastern seaboard.

There’s a price to pay, and some times you have to wonder if it’s worth it.

2 comments

  • This is, sad to note, a common phenomenon. In one of his books, Bill Bryson bemoaned the loss of the downtown “Main Street” kind of place in many small towns, in favor of large malls with chain stores at the outskirts.

  • bob ahrens

    Progress in the name of convenience… that’s what they’ll tell you…

    In “Family”, a 4th season Next Gen episode, Robiere Picard bemoans “Life is already a little too convenient”.

    Amen, Robeire.

    Bob A