Chain Reactions

Struggle For Space

Browning is quick to credit her landlord, Leland Garrison, as one reason Dodds has survived. Garrison is a resident of the area, has his own business across the street from the bookstore and is a big fan of Dodds.

Not all landlords are as supportive. The fight for retail space can be as intense a competition as the struggle for customers. Parker, 43, learned that the hard way with her children's clothing store, Cherubs.

The store had been open for four years when Parker bought it in 1987, and she ran it for another 11. It did well because it was one of only a handful of children's clothing stores in the city, and the only one on Second Street, Parker says.

Her landlord, who lives outside the area, warned her last year that when her lease came up for renewal, he might not renew it, bringing in a chain restaurant instead. Parker doesn't blame him for the decision. "If I were a landlord and could bring in a tenant that was as stable as what was there before and could offer $20,000 more per year in rent, I'd take it," Parker says.

Cherubs' closing came as several other small businesses were being pushed out or bought out by chains. Gone was Egyptian Pharmacy, the oldest business on Second Street, replaced by Rite Aid. Gone was Howie's Market, a local grocer, replaced by diner chain Johnny Rockets. At press time, Koo Koo Roo was headed to the street, and another five restaurant openings were planned.

The rash of closings brought together three groups notorious for not working well together: residents, the Belmont Shore Business Association and a group of local property owners. All three groups knew that keeping the flavor of Second Street would require not only their cooperation but the city's help as well.

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This article was originally published in the October 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Chain Reactions.

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