Boycott Duane Reade!—Corporate Creep Comes to Williamsburg

2010 April 5
by Ando Arike

Despite all the recent changes, one thing keeping Williamsburg real is our present freedom from the corporate blight that has reduced so many New York City blocks to cookie-cutter replicas of suburban strip malls. But as chain-store giants now begin to target us for penetration, citizens concerned with maintaining the neighborhood’s diversity and friendly scale need to resist the seductions of the corporate hive-mind, and to protect, wherever possible, the homegrown, the peculiar, the idiosyncratic, and the locally unique. We need to prevent “corporate creep” before its foothold grows too deep.

Last fall, Duane Reade opened one of its mega-mart drugstores on Kent Avenue, in the ground floor of the new Northside Piers. This spring, in the coming weeks, another Duane Reade store is slated to open on Bedford Avenue between North 3rd and 4th Streets, only five blocks from the first store and directly across from King’s Pharmacy, a locally-owned business that has been at this address for most of the last decade. This aggressive and menacing behavior suggests that a virulent infection may be taking hold—in fact, we hear rumors that Starbucks is also now eyeing Bedford Avenue, already home to a Subway outlet. Will McDonald’s and Burger King be next?

To ward off this growing threat to the neighborhood’s health, the Williamsburg Observer urges a complete boycott of all Duane Reade and Walgreen’s stores (the latter now owns DR). With the members of two Facebook groups listed below, we call on all shoppers to “Walk On By” when it comes to Duane Reade and Walgreen’s. Join us in defending King’s Pharmacy and Williamsburg from attack by these corporate invaders.

What is “corporate creep” and what are the symptoms?

"Fight the Corporate Bully": Notice on King's Pharmacy Door

Like parasitic organisms, corporations thrust exploratory feelers into vibrant neighborhoods to search out fresh sources of profit. For a time, local immune systems can withstand the assault, but growing corporate presence progressively weakens the host communities, leading to cultural decay, lifeless homogeneity, and social anomie. Large tracts of the United States now suffer from this debilitating disease.

How does corporate creep undermine communities?

Studies show that healthy neighborhoods gain their vitality through a diversity of small locally-owned businesses in which proprietors have a personal stake in the community. Most giant corporations, however, are ruled by the imperative of maximizing short-term profits for their principal shareholders—leading to corporate behavior that many observers have rightly called “sociopathic.” In fact, larger parasites like Wal-Mart can completely destroy a community, sucking vital nutrients into the corporate digestive system from which they never return.

How can corporate creep be stopped?

Despite behavior that is often sociopathic, corporations become highly sensitive to public opinion whenever profits are threatened by negative media exposure. Duane Reade’s aggressive and hostile tactics on Bedford Avenue—i.e. its bullying challenge to King’s Pharmacy—can be made to backfire if boycotts, pickets, and other action brings wider media attention to citizen opposition. Resist the Corporate Hive-Mind—say “No!” to this invasive takeover attempt. Help us keep Williamsburg free of corporate creep.

Below are links to two Facebook groups started to fight Duane Reade’s incursion into the neighborhood:

[This is Part I of an ongoing series on corporate parasitism, inspired by the recent Supreme Court decision granting First Amendment rights to “corporate persons,” i.e. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which opens the way to unlimited corporate spending in elections.]

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