Thursday, May 24, 2007
Just Say No to Drugstores
It has come to my notice that the big drugstore boom of the 1990s has again reared its ugly head here in Lakewood town. Maybe you recall that during the late '90s the large drugstore chains decided that every single corner lot in every single town in America needed one of their large drugpusheries. So we now have the Rite Aids and the Walgreens and the CVSs and the various other chain drugstores taking up all the prime real estate in the United States.
I suppose they are entitled to put their stores wherever the market will bear, but the problem is that in doing so they got rid of much of the character of the neighborhoods they moved into. For example, one of the best restaurants on the west side was Georgio's on Detroit Avenue near West 117th Street. That place had some seriously competent chefs. I mean these guys and/or gals were so good that I even ate their escargot. The atmosphere was very Mediterranean, with murals on the walls, cheerful zither music in the background (that might be a false memory), an extensive wine list, zealous, friendly waiters and waitresses (with clean fingernails), plenty of light coming in through the windows. Imagine the white-hot rage that welled up inside me when I heard that the whole block that included Georgio's was going to be torn down and replaced by a Walgreen's. Meanwhile, a block away, and across the street from an existing drugstore, they closed Slamjam's, which was a decent grill and bar, and was before that the venerable Blue Fox restaurant. In it's place they put a CVS drugstore, for those who are so desperate for Vioxx or Plavixxx or Vicks Vaporub that they just couldn't make it all the way to Walgreen's.
That was the kind of thing that went on all over the place during the 90s. I think that in Lakewood alone, there were seven of these overpriced drug emporia built. And I frankly don't know how any of them stayed in business. The CVS nearest me was established directly across the street from the long standing Discount Drug Mart, and in the ten or so years since it has been there, I think I have seen a total of four customers inside.
After the new drugstores had been around for awhile, some of them began to close up due to oversaturation of the market. My joy at the demise of some of these behemoths was tempered by the fact that the damage had already been done to the character of the neighborhoods into which they had lodged themselves. But I could at least take solace from the fact that the drugstore boom was over at last.
Or so I thought. This past year another Walgreens started construction about two blocks from the new CVS and the Drug Mart. They chose a corner that housed a paint store, and a scuba diving supply store and a much-loved tavern and tore it all down for their great big cookie cutter drugstore. I don't think it will hurt CVS' business though, because if they can survive on four customers, they can certainly survive on two.
But the problem is that between the two drugstores there is over an eighth of a mile of nonpharmacized territory. There are four unutilized corners that cry out for a big ugly drugstore. I wonder if maybe the city can demolish the houses in between the drugstores and build some kind of monorail system connecting them. In fact, why not have this monorail connect all of Lakewood's drugstores, and indeed, all the big drugstores in the county? That way, one can always be moving toward the blessed relief provided by overpriced Chapstick lip balm and overpriced Odor Eaters, and overpriced pretzel rods and overpriced greeting cards, and especially, overprescribed medication.
I'm going to write a letter to the mayor of Lakewood and suggest this to him. I'll need a pen though. CVS, here I come.