Out of Business

First, going out of business is very sad. Even if you’re ready and prepared—you put a lot into starting and growing a business, often everything you have. It’s sad if it fails immediately and it’s sad when it comes to an end later.

Second, you wouldn’t believe all the empty store fronts in my immediate neighborhood. I don’t understand how it’s better for the landlords to charge rents no one can afford and then have the buildings sit empty, often for years. Writing it off is better?

I always hope when a new business finally does rent one of these shops it will be something I can afford or is something useful (a deli or a diner) or something just plain fun (a shop that sells musical instruments). I’m almost always disappointed.

That store below that I indicate was recently something else? As far as I can tell they sell one style glass candle holder, nothing else. Just the one thing in different colors. I must be wrong. I’ll look closer tomorrow.


These places have been empty for at least a decade, I believe.


Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

6 thoughts on “Out of Business

  1. That is truly sad. Have no idea why the owners would prefer to have the buildings empty, instead of reducing rent to attract interesting small businesses. We have a few in our town, but the “strip sections” on the outskirts of town are growing, mostly fast food joints (bad chain kind). I’d be happy just to see a Whole Foods grocery anywhere nearby; finding vegetarian products is virtually impossible here.

    Are you getting any snow? The near-blizzard conditions in D.C. and north look scary!

  2. No. We got totally gypped.

    I just saw your tweet about your dogs. I swear if Buddy’s cancer wasn’t cleaning out my bank account that tweet would have made me get a dog. Actually, at this point I’d wait. Too much stress for Buddy who is going through chemotherapy, etc. But still. A very evocative tweet!

  3. We got about 24″ of heavy snow in MD. Some places got much more. Can we send some to you?

    I let Squint out to play in the snow yesterday (under supervision) but then he went into the barn where I have a door open for birds and other wildlife to get out of the storm, so I gathered him up before he caught anything. He’s also a copperhead snake bite survivor! (with some expensive help from vets and the emergency cat hospital – and the new land speed record I set on the way…)

    Can’t you think of about a hundred good uses for those empty places? Especially a corner location. What a waste.

    Squint is sitting on my lap, purring. How’s Buddy today?

  4. I think we got about 21″ here in Northern VA. Java tried to weasel out the door twice. *That* would have been interesting.!

  5. I saw this on a much smaller scale (obviously in comparison to New York) when I was living on the east side of Milwaukee (near the lakefront), before moving to Chicago twenty years ago. And the vacant spaces tend to be owned by the same few unscrupulous landlords.

    The pattern seems to be that these storefronts are in prime rent neighborhood locations, where there would be a demand because there is a strong community (neighborhood) connection to the local merchants. If not for these landlords, these spaces would be very desired by merchants because of location and that sense of community.

    These landlords tend to own a lot of properties both commercial and residential (and tend to be slumlords or have questionable or exploitative renting practices with their residential tenants).

    For some reason, they tend to create very restrictive leases that almost seemed designed for the merchant to fail; in one case in Milwaukee, the landlord would not allow the merchant to have a sign that would extend out from the building so that one could see it from a distance (or from the street). The sign had to be flush with the exterior. Of course, most of these businesses eventually failed and the storefronts sat vacant for years. And even though the storefronts were vacant, the landlords would jack the rates up exorbitantly (and prohibitively) as if they were trying to discourage new tenants.

    Again, I think that not only is there some sort of tax write-off advantage for them to lie dormant, but chances are these landlords have several other residential rental properties that are yielding a huge return from overpriced apartment leases to offset those losses for the short-term.

  6. Bastards. I was thinking of taking a walk and taking a picture of every empty store front in like a three block radius, just to show how many there are. It’s insane.

    Cara, Rick, Melissa, you are SO LUCKY with all the snow!

    And I want a barn.

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