Plight of the family-owned store
Philip Langdon’s Common\Edge article, The Precarious State of the Mom-and-Pop Store, highlights the beauty of, and challenges facing, an American tradition. “Mom and pop” stores have been under economic pressure for many decades due to suburbanization and the proliferation of national chains. The Internet added economic headwinds in the last decade, and Covid is a hurricane-force storm.
When this pandemic is over, we are not sure how many of these stores will survive and how many will be history.
A husband-and-wife photography team, James T. and Karla L. Murray, has been documenting the colorful storefronts of family-owned shops since the 1990s in New York City. Many of these storefronts have already changed hands or disappeared. They are unique, and the very definition of local character and culture.
The Murrays “fell in love with the way these stores looked” and began shooting for personal reasons. The photographs were eventually published in two books, Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York (2009) and Store Front II: A History Preserved (2015),and recently the Municipal Art Society of New York featured the Murrays’ work.
Langdon argues that we should be doing more to save family-owned stores. “Many mom-and-pops have shut down. Given both the modest environmental footprint of small shops, many of which are within walking distance of their customers, and their nurturing of social well-being, we ought to be searching for ways to bolster such businesses’ prospects.”