My colleague Emily Witt has an astute analysis of what should, like Walmart, be another lefty bogeyman in New York: Duane Reade. The ubiquitous claimer of street corners has grown aggressively in recent years under the direction of parent Walgreens.
But, like a lot of things in this town, the growth also has a lot to do with real estate.
I recall a conversation I once had with one of the city’s top retail leasing brokers. It was during the condo boom of the last decade (speaking of being all over the place). It went something like this:
Me: Why are there bank branches and Duane Reades everywhere?
Broker: Because the ideal retail tenant for a lot of these new condo developments is a transient brand-name.
Me: I don’t get it.
Broker: The ideal ground-floor block for a developer of a new condo would run something like this—a bank branch on one corner, a gym or a niche vendor like a Blackberry store in the middle, and a Duane Reade on the other corner.
Broker [slightly exasperated]: Because retail tenants like banks and Duane Reade can be counted on to pay their rent; to be cleaner than, say, a restaurant; to be quieter than a club or a bar; to attract heavy foot traffic all the time; and to leave in a pinch in a few years if the landlord wants to raise the rent.
Me: So Duane Reades are essentially placeholders in a lot of spots around town?
And now you know. It’s not necessarily that New Yorkers need Twizzlers or paper towels at 2 a.m. (or sushi on demand), or that Walgreens is insatiably capitalistic (though that may, indeed, prove the case). It’s also that landlords need a rent check. Now.
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