The inimitable Marc Fisher wrote a heartfelt piece the other day about the plight of Carol Joynt, her Nathan’s Restaurant, and the overall non-generic nature of Georgetown. Mr. Fisher writes:
All around Georgetown and other retail areas, struggling merchants scramble for relief, landlords sniff around for tenants with deeper pockets, and banks are holding back on loans — making it even tougher for small, locally owned businesses to survive and accelerating the trend toward the malling of America, the takeover of retail space by national chains.
GM is a huge fan of Nathan’s and eats brunch there at least twice a month. It would be heartbreaking to see the southeast corner of Wisconsin and M be occupied by anything but Nathan’s. Furthermore, there has been an increase in national chains in Georgetown, and there is a risk that our commercial district will slip ever more into an outdoor mall.
It’s important to understand what assets Georgetown still has with regards to independent shops. GM conducted an painstaking survey of every shop along the entireties of M and Wisconsin (and a handful of shops just off these thoroughfares). The results are somewhat surprising.
Georgetown is still overwhelmingly populated by non-chain stores.
There are 348 stores in the survey area. 244 of those stores are independent shops. An additional 11 can be categorized as “local chains” (e.g. Five Guys). Only 93 stores are chains.
That means that 70% of all stores in Georgetown are independent. Broken down by geography: 77% of the stores along Wisconsin are independent; however, only 60% of the stores along M are independent.
The most telling statistic: Within one block of M and Wisconsin, only 45% of stores are independents. That’s where Nathan’s is, and that’s what Marc Fisher senses. At the central core, Georgetown’s business district has become increasingly “chained”. While chains can anchor a business district, they can also overwhelm them. But it’s important to have an accurate picture of the Georgetown business district. In that picture, the vast majority of stores are still independent. Let’s work to make that remain true.
And let’s save Nathan’s.
(Certainly if square footage were considered, chains would have higher numbers across the board, but for the purposes of this survey, one Barnes and Noble equals one Bridge Street Books. GM will be further slicing and dicing this survey in the near future).