The "Chains Are Ruining Our City" Myth

MLewyn's picture

I recently read about a blog complaining that New York was "suburbanizing" due to the "disappearance of small stores and restaurants" and their alleged replacement by national chains.

So I thought I would investigate: how rare are local stores, anyhow?  I discovered that even in suburbia, some industries are still dominated by non-chains.  For example, I went to menupages.com and looked at restaurants in Jupiter, Fla. (a sprawling Palm Beach County suburb).  Of the first 50 restaurant listings I saw, only 11 were recognizably chain restaurants - including a couple of local chains with two restaurants in Jupiter. 

How does New York compare? I looked at the East Village (the primary subject of the blog in question).  Among the first 50 restaurants listed in Menupages, only 8 were chains- and I recognized all of them as local, rather than national chains.  Moreover, the overall number of East Village restaurants is still overwhelming; Menupages shows 635 restaurants, which means (assuming that my initial sampling is representtaive) over 500 non-chain restaurants. 

Admittedly, some sectors appear to be more heavily dominated by chains, such as pharmacies.  But even so, a Google Maps search revealed half a dozen pharmacies in the East Village (and about that many in Jupiter). 

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