Boycott Duane Reade!/Stop Corporate Creep, Part 2: Questions for the Spin Doctors

2010 April 14
by Ando Arike

In my last post about the upcoming opening of a second Duane Reade store in Williamsburg, I described the dangers of “corporate creep,” an insidious infection that has turned many American neighborhoods into decaying, nondescript clones of suburban strip malls—i.e., Anywhere, USA. It is an infection rooted in the parasitism of limited-liability corporations, which continually search out new pockets of cultural vitality as fresh sources of profit, and like many parasite-host relationships, when corporate chains invade a community it often leads to a spreading, zombie-like necrosis.

The problem is the utter mismatch in scale between invaders and the indigenous businesses. This makes the situation in Williamsburg particularly worrisome—with Walgreen’s recent takeover of Duane Reade, it has become the nation’s largest drugstore chain, adding Duane Reade’s 250 New York City stores to the more than 7,100 Walgreen’s stores across the United States. Against such a “giant vampire squid”—to borrow Matt Taibbi’s famous term for Goldman Sachs—what chance do local businesses possibly have?

To get a response to the questions raised by corporate incursions into the neighborhood—especially the store opening directly across the street from King’s Pharmacy—I contacted Samantha Cohen of the international public relations and financial management firm Financial Dynamics, or simply “FD,” which is responsible for Duane Reade’s media relations. I will report back to you, dear readers, as soon as I receive a reply to the email below.

To: Samantha Cohen/Duane Reade Media Relations
Financial Dynamics
32nd Floor
Wall Street Plaza
88 Pine Street
New York, NY 10005
(212) 850-5600

From: Ando Arike, Editor
The Williamsburg Observer

re: Questions for Duane Reade/ Walgreen’s

Dear Samantha Cohen:
I am sorry my hectic schedule prevented our speaking directly today. Until we do, I’ve listed below the main questions and concerns Williamsburg residents have regarding Duane Reade’s new store openings in our neighborhood. Causing particular concern—and anger—are what many consider the company’s aggressive and hostile tactics against King’s Pharmacy, a long-time fixture of the community. Indeed, there is growing momentum for a mass boycott of Duane Reade. Questions:

1. Last year, Duane Reade opened a store on Kent Avenue in the new Northside Piers towers. This spring, Duane Reade is opening another store on Bedford Avenue, directly across the street from King’s Pharmacy, a locally-owned business which has been at this location for most of the last decade. What’s your answer to people who call these business practices aggressive and hostile?

2. Won’t Duane Reade’s goal be to lure customers away from King’s Pharmacy and ultimately drive the store out of the neighborhood and/or out of business? Doesn’t Duane Reade/Walgreen’s huge size give it an unfair advantage in competition? Isn’t the company’s goal a monopoly on Bedford Avenue and in Williamsburg?

3. Why shouldn’t Williamsburg residents and small business owners see Duane Reade’s muscling-in tactics as yet another example of corporate disregard for community integrity and health?

4. Is Duane Reade taking steps to insure that its new store complements the architectural character of the neighborhood? Or should we expect the implantation of one of Duane Reade’s generic storefronts, the same as one might find in midtown Manhattan or Bayside, Queens?

5. Studies of urban land-use show that once chain-stores begin to transform the character of a neighborhood, what soon follows is growing litter in the streets and sidewalks, increasing vandalism and “quality-of-life” infractions like public urination, and a general decline in residents’ sense of community pride and belonging. What do you say to people’s fears of imminent “strip-mall-ization” —an invasion of chain-stores and fast-food outlets that will eventually destroy Williamsburg’s convivial character?

Thank you in advance for your thoughtful and frank answers. Our readers are looking forward to hearing your response to these questions.

Ando Arike, Editor, The Williamsburg Observer

One Response leave one →
  1. 2010 April 24
    tallkimi permalink

    I am planning on starting a campaign against this DR. Designing stencils which can be sprayed on the sidewalk and on the boards in front of the building. Stickers and flyers. Whatever we can do to inform the public that supporting the local busnisses that are already in our neighborhood is a much better option than giving in to the corparations that want to invade and change the neighborhood that we love. The FB sites people started to boycott DR are great, but I would like to physically do something to help. If anyone else would like to join me, let me know. -Thank you

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