Take a stroll down Ridgewood Avenue. What do you notice? Between brand name clothing lines, mom and pop storefronts, and delectable spots for a bite to eat, downtown Ridgewood is teaming with energy almost every night of the week. With the opening of Jersey Mike’s, the popular sandwich chain, it’s become clear to me that there are a variety of opinions on chain stores inhabiting downtown Ridgewood. Traveling to the Jersey Shore almost every weekend in the summer, Jersey Mike’s has a place in my childhood and I was thrilled to hear of it opening so close to home. Yet, I was met with complaints by some people at school and even adults who thought of the chain as “fast food.”
Local businesses such as the Daily Treat Restaurant or Ridgewood Coffee Company have been up and running for as long as I can remember. Daily Treat is filled with middle school and high school students regularly and has become the symbol in my family of being allowed to go to town alone with friends (a big deal for most middle schoolers). Without these community-oriented businesses, the atmosphere of downtown Ridgewood could potentially be modified. But is that a bad thing? Let’s take a look at Starbucks; beginning in Seattle, this company has opened storefronts worldwide. The Starbucks in Ridgewood is a central place to meet and grab a quick cup of coffee before heading to lunch or just walking around. Personally, I would be devastated if Starbucks closed in Ridgewood. But that isn’t to say I want a McDonald’s opening up across the street.
Over the years I am sure more franchises and mall stores will be added to the Ridgewood scene. Will that negatively affect our town and its environment? It’s truly hard to say, but as of what we can predict now, I would assume the answer is no. As of now, the majority of residents are content with the opening of Jersey Mike’s, and that it could lead to an influx of chain stores. I have talked to people who have a theory that with more chain stores opening that have the ability to pay the high rent, the storefronts will overwhelmingly become brand name companies. We have all seen mom and pop stores close after years of business simply because of the insanely expensive rent. This is the reasoning for such a high percentage of banks that stand in Ridgewood alone– they’re the only establishments that can pay that kind of rent.
I have been asking family and friends what they preferred in Ridgewood. Many of them agreed that they were satisfied with the chain stores that now stand in Ridgewood and do not want only local businesses. Yet, I’ve realized our parental generation agrees more with the idea of establishing local stores that stand solely in Ridgewood. Kids desire a donut from Dunkin or an ice cream cone from Ben and Jerry’s. Our generation has grown up with these chain stores; these stores create a sense of community we have become fond of, even if they are larger chain stores. Children and teenagers and Ridgewood would feel as if something was taken away from them. The downtown area has still preserved a sense of community; these chain stores, in my opinion, do not take this away.
Graphics: Anika Tsapatsarsis