Chain Stores Boom on East Side

| 03 Mar 2015 | 08:47

While the influx of chain storeshas slowed citywide, they're gaining on the Upper East Side

Are chain stores tacky eyesores, or affordable conveniences? Do they hurt local businesses, or help local residents?

While some locals have fought against the encrouchment of stores like 7-Eleven on the turf of what used to be mom-and-pop shops, they continue to sprout up, and attract business. In some areas of the city, like downtown Manhattan, opponents are winning those battles, at least slightly, as the percentage of chain stores has decreased. But on the Upper East Side, unlike similar neighborhoods in Manhattan, there has been an increase in the number of chains.

According to the Center for an Urban Future's report entitled "State of the Chains, 2013", the number of national retailers in New York City grew for a sixth year in a row, since the New York City-based think thank began keeping track of the data in 2008. From 2012 to 2013, there was a 0.5 percent increase in chain stores in New York City, with Dunkin Donuts' 515 stores (and 39 new storefronts since 2012, an 8 percent jump) leading the charge.

As far as growth goes, this was the slowest year-over-year increase in chain stores in the six years of tracking. From Blockbuster to Burritoville, flagging operations got pulled from the city with some of the highest rent in the United States. And even as the city as a whole saw 7-Elevens and Subways sprouting up like weeds, the borough of Manhattan saw a decrease in total chain stores by 0.7%.

And yet, despite the shrinkage on the island as a whole, the East Side of Manhattan continues to expand. From 2012 to 2013, the Upper East Side (defined as zip codes 10021, 10028, 10029, 10065, 10075, and 10128) saw roughly 3.1 percent growth of chain outlets, bumping up from 293 to 302 storefronts.

East Siders see the growth as both a blessing and a curse.

"It's too bad that they're putting people out of business," Elizabeth Perez, 45, says. "But it's convenient to get what you want from inside your neighborhood."

Melissa Antaki, a 26-year-old nurse who lives a remote distance from any subway stops, is glad she can do shopping without hopping onto trains.

"I like this neighborhood, because it's like a bubble? and I like to be able to go to Banana Republic without having to go to midtown," citing the comparative costliness of the boutique retail stores that otherwise grace the neighborhood. That said, Antaki is less interested in chain restaurants, and prefers "mom-and-pop coffee shops."

Manhattan, as a whole, remains something of a chain-store mecca for New York in general. At 117 chains per square mile, it easily outpaces the other boroughs (Brooklyn ? with 34 per mile ? is a distant second). The king of the chain stores zip codes this year is 10001 in Midtown/Koreatown ? home of the Manhattan Mall ? with 184 chain stores. Last year's chain-iest zip code (10314, on Staten Island) follows close behind, with 183 storefronts.