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Thread: Chained and Unchained Cities

  1. #1
    Cyburbian drucee's avatar
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    Chained and Unchained Cities

    On a recent visit to Seattle, I had the chance to visit many of the city's neighborhoods. Coming from a place much less Pacific-Northwestern, what struck me the most, aside from the maritime-influenced Boston-meets-Minnesota-meets-Northern-California architecture, was the relative lack of chain stores in the commercial districts (with the exception of native son Starbucks) and dearth of big-boxes in close-in areas.

    Seattle--green, friendly, vibrant--is the kind of city in which many of us certainly wouldn't mind living. It seems to me that there is a correlation between city sustainability, livability (and I mean the kind of livability we planners like--community, public space, transit--and not the bullplop of soccer-mom and retiree magazines that award bonus points for golf courses and shopping malls), and thriving independent business. In this list of places I have visited, notice how the places that encourage local commerce seem to be the ones which we ourselves most enjoy.

    Over-chained cities:
    Phoenix, AZ (the worst of the worst. Phoenix has no real neighborhoods.)
    Memphis, TN (The power centers begin two miles from downtown, and much of the eastern two-thirds of the city's commercial areas feel like overgrown Interstate service roads.)
    San Diego, CA (it's a shame considering the weather.)
    Arlington, VA (the infrastructure is there for a modern re-imagination of the streetcar suburb, but Barnes & Noble, Crate & Barrel, and Whole Foods have infiltrated)

    Cities with a mix of chains and independents:
    Tucson, AZ (The outer neighborhoods are, sadly, beginning to look like Scottsdale, but areas near the University, like 4th Ave, still have a bit of weird to them.)
    Chicago, IL (A wide variety, from the ubiquitous Walgreens and McDonald's and the big-boxes on North Avenue to boutique-y Wicker Park and Andersonville, a neighborhood almost entirely free of chains and fighting hard to stay that way. Plus, as we've seen from the Marshall Field's controversy and the fight to save Harper Court, we Chicagoans are fiercely loyal to our local businesses.)
    New York, NY (Hipster boutiques, independent hardware stores, and businesses catering to every immigrant group on the planet line some streets in the outer boroughs. But back in Manhattan, SoHo has become a shopping mall for Eurotrash, Union Square is a vertical power center, and a Whole Foods Market now holds court in Columbus Circle.)
    Minneapolis, MN (Target and Best Buy are a big presence, don't get me wrong, but they largely stay out of the urban neighborhoods. In addition, Minneapolitans almost universally shop at locally-owned supermarkets (none of the major grocery chains has a presence here) and the independent record stores are some of the best in the country.)
    Syracuse, NY (Sprawl without growth, but the inner-city neighborhoods, like Westcott, are still pretty unchained)
    Washington, DC (On the one hand, Dupont Circle and Adams-Morgan. On the other hand, Georgetown. Need I say more?)
    Los Angeles, CA (Stereotypes notwithstanding, inner LA is a mixed bag, from the Grove and the Beverly Center to the midcentury-modern storefronts of Ventura Boulevard in Studio City and North Hollywood, and the neighborhood shops of Los Feliz)
    Toronto, ON (You can't escape the Pizza Pizza and Tim Hortons signs, but most Toronto neighborhoods are still predominated by local shops.)


    Relatively "unchained" cities:
    Seattle, WA (see above)
    San Francisco, CA (Shopping local is a way of life here. Many neighborhoods have chain-store ordinances. Fast-food restaurant openings are often accompanied by visible protest. All the big-boxes are relegated to former industrial areas in SoMa.)
    Madison, WI (again, big-boxes are shunted away from neighborhoods while inner-city commercial districts thrive. Another city where local players have a vast majority of the grocery market. Go Badgers.)
    Montreal, QC (Fun fact: this is the only city in North America where a higher percentage of purchases are made in independents than in chains. The language difference helps--a lot. Chains don't want to be here because they don't want to operate in two languages; this is the only market where Starbucks--almost invisible--has had to rename itself "Café Starbucks Coffee.")
    Vancouver, BC (Robson is the typical commercial main drag, but, like in Québec, we see predominantly locals in the neighborhoods.)

    How about your city? Chained, unchained, or somewhere in the middle?

  2. #2

    Toronto's case.

    I would agree with your placement of Toronto; the downtown and inner-ring is still holding onto its independent businesses, but it isn't perfect, and can't match that of Montreal. Tim Horton's is indeed the most seen chain, but it is the quintessential Canadian-brand (even though it is now owned by Wendys Inc.), and even from the most left-wing of my friends and acquaintances, I've never heard complaints about oversaturation and concentration, or 'evilness' of the Tim's chain. Sometimes a chain becomes big because the product is just good and the market demands it be big.

    I think Toronto has been helped by the complete restriction on drive-thru's in the core, and the general walkability of many of the neighbourhoods, which serve to keep the customers for these independent stores in tact.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by drucee View post
    Montreal, QC (Fun fact: this is the only city in North America where a higher percentage of purchases are made in independents than in chains. The language difference helps--a lot. Chains don't want to be here because they don't want to operate in two languages; this is the only market where Starbucks--almost invisible--has had to rename itself "Café Starbucks Coffee.")
    Not even the French-Canadians can stand up to the might of the big orange tool box. When working for said company, I had to do a good bit of internationalization of software used by employees. I know that we got some of the translations wrong so there are probably some quite amused employees reading the Babelfished forms on their screens. Later, when I was a short timer, I took up the task of trying to correct the store locations in the MapQuest powered store finder. Since I don't speak French, if I couldn't figure out the correct location of the store, MapQuest just made a guess (I don't speak Spanish either so the stores in Puerto Rico are likewise misplaced on the map). It amazes me that a company can be so big that they don't even know where their stores are located. I kind of doubt you'd ever have that problem with a indie shop.
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

  4. #4
    Cyburbian drucee's avatar
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    I think there are several reasons for the near-universal admiration of Tim's in Canada:

    1: As Yorke790 said, Tim Hortons is "the quintessential Canadian brand." It's only a little more than 40 years old, but it has become a piece of Canadiana. The vast majority of Canadians surely have a memory, somewhere, tied to Tim Hortons: Dad bringing the Timbits to a peewee hockey game; stopping for donuts on the way up to the cottage; saying "Rrrroll up the rim to win!" to a border guard as you cross from Niagara Falls, NY to Niagara Falls, ON. The advertising campaigns--showing Canadians abroad talking about how much they miss Tim Hortons--reinforce this. It's a strong cultural association that buffers Canada from the homogenizing forces of its neighbor to the south.

    2. Tim Hortons is a real "third place." Unlike Starbucks, Panera Bread, Corner Bakery, and all the other café chains, Tim's almost always stays open 24/7. You can sit as long as you like at the tables, and newspapers are thankfully provided free of charge. This idea of "third-placeness" is one of Tim Hortons' greatest assets, and it also explains the admiration of New Jerseyans for their diners (despite lousy food), Midwesterners for Steak & Shake (despite cookie-cutter design), and Southerners for Waffle House (despite greasy-spoon appearance). I've seen a Tim Hortons used as a meeting room for various informal civic associations, as a teenage late-night hangout*, and (most commonly) as an early-morning gathering spot for local seniors.

    3. Tim Hortons carries none of the stigma that American fast-food chains have regarding obesity and poor quality. They emphasize "third-placeness" and freshness (hence their slogan, "Always Fresh," 40 years before Subway's adoption of "Eat Fresh") rather than speed. Many Tim Hortons in Canada lack drive-thru windows, and even at those locations where drive-thru is available, lines are always longer at the inside counter. The coffee is served in ceramic mugs. In addition, Tim Hortons' non-donut food menu--simple sandwiches, soup, and bread--is substantially more healthful than that of American café chains, who see it necessary to ladle mayo over everything and plop whipped cream on top of all of their drinks.

    Thus, you can see how Tim Hortons coexists happily with Canadians of all types. Indeed, the chain loses something in its trip Stateside--on my visit to a Tim's in Toledo, I found too few people at the tables inside and too many in their cars at the drive-thru.

    *I noticed that when I saw groups of Canadian teenagers hanging out at a Tim's in Grimsby, Ontario, they hang out inside, rather than in the parking lot (the usual loitering spot for American teenagers). Am I right in assuming that car culture is significantly less important to Canadian teenagers, principally due to the fact that many cannot drive unaccompanied by law until 18 or 19, depending on the province?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    Well 100% of liquor stores in NY state are independent. Some belong to buyers groups and may advertise together but apprently there is a law that must state that one can only own one liquor store (and liquor can only be sold in a liquor store). I'm not sure what the purpose of the law is but at least it protects one segment of businesses from being dominated by chains.

    As for Buffalo I'd say were on the low end for chain store saturation. But large portions of the city are significantly under retailed. There is little retail to speak of downtown. Elmwood Ave. which is probably the city's number one retail strip is primarily fairly upscale "yuppie" boutiques. Store sizes are fairly small and there is a strong sentiment against chains in this progressive neighborhood. Still a few exist. Hertel Ave. in North Buffalo is not quite as upscale and still is mostly local businesses. Large number of restaurants here as well as other food businesses. Street seems to be becoming slightly more upscale. Home to Buffalo's only pre-war movie theatre the "North Park". Nearby there are several large strip plazas in North Buffalo containing mostly national chains...Target, Kmart, Home Depot, Tops, Regal Cinemas, etc. Given the demographics of the area some how I'm guessing these stores are more likely to be visited by area residents.

    While these concentrations of boutiques have there purpose I would like to see more businesses that serve everyday needs. However I think the density of these areas may not be conducive to higher volume retail. Elmwood and Hertel are both linear strips both several miles long. Many storefronts were once homes and some are just small rooms tacked onto the front of houses. Neither were ever meant to be major retail locations, rather simply neighborhood business districts.

    When I was an exchange student in England there was a business district quite near where I lived. In contrast to the U.S. this seemed to contain mostly shops that served are residents daily needs. Several produce markets, butchers, and bakeries as well as a large national chain grocery. Lots of charity shops (what we'd call thrift stores, although these were much smaller but cleaner and better organized and more selective in there merchandise) as well as a few clothing stores, a book store, restaurants and take-aways, drug stores, two post offices, a library, and so on. Sure there were plently of chains but on the other hand how often do you see independent green grocers and butchers these days? I guess where I'm trying to go with this is that this neighborhood had sufficent density to support these businesses in addtion to the fact that the area was conducive to walking. (there was a parking garage nearby) and the high street had been converted into a brick paved pedestrian mall.

  6. #6

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    Santa Clara, San Jose, and the Bay area in general....

    ..... chain central! A lot of the restaurants that my husband and I (just moved here recently) thought were nice and local - CHAINS! Quite unbelievable... but the suburb-y folks here love chains. Really.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    My local Tim's is loaded with folks using wifi, studying for school, or just talking with friends. But then again, many folks here have canadian roots, or go to Canada several times a year.

    Detroit is definitely getting more chain dominated; local chains such as K-mart, Hudsons are disappearing as larger regional or national chains replace them (Target, Meijers).

    Other grocers are largely associated with Kroger or A&P.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  8. #8
    Quote Originally posted by AubieTurtle View post
    Not even the French-Canadians can stand up to the might of the big orange tool box. When working for said company, I had to do a good bit of internationalization of software used by employees. I know that we got some of the translations wrong so there are probably some quite amused employees reading the Babelfished forms on their screens. Later, when I was a short timer, I took up the task of trying to correct the store locations in the MapQuest powered store finder. Since I don't speak French, if I couldn't figure out the correct location of the store, MapQuest just made a guess (I don't speak Spanish either so the stores in Puerto Rico are likewise misplaced on the map). It amazes me that a company can be so big that they don't even know where their stores are located. I kind of doubt you'd ever have that problem with a indie shop.
    Don't believe for a minute that Montreal doesn't have chain stores. It just happens that because of the language barrier the chains don't set up shop in Quebec before some rip-off chain has been founded. There may be few Starbuckses in Montreal but there are tons of Cafe Depots. There may be few Home Depot but there are lots of Ronas and Reno-Depots.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian drucee's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws View post
    Don't believe for a minute that Montreal doesn't have chain stores. It just happens that because of the language barrier the chains don't set up shop in Quebec before some rip-off chain has been founded. There may be few Starbuckses in Montreal but there are tons of Cafe Depots. There may be few Home Depot but there are lots of Ronas and Reno-Depots.
    The difference between the megachains of America and Rona, Brault & Martineau, Archambault, Jean-Coutu, etc. is that most of these Montréal chains are Québec natives, rather than interlopers from Toronto or Atlanta. As I can judge by the current retail landscape of Montréal and Québec City, Québécois seem to be extremely likely to keep their money in the province. It's similar to the grocery situation in Minneapolis-St. Paul; the main players, Lunds/Byerly's, Kowalski's Market, and Rainbow Foods, are locally owned and do not operate outside the Twin Cities area, although they have several locations within the Metro. They understand the market much better than the national players; visiting a grocery store in Minneapolis is an experience unlike grocery-shopping anywhere else in the country.

  10. #10
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jsk1983 View post
    As for Buffalo I'd say were on the low end for chain store saturation. But large portions of the city are significantly under retailed.
    I've posted about the "Everywhere But Buffalo" phenomenon in retail, where medium and large-sized chains will open stores in just about every similarly sized market in the country or region, but bypass Buffalo. According to site selection specialists I've spoken with, the "Chains don't come to Buffalo because its residents are loyal to indies" meme is largely a myth; it's demographics. Retailers and restaurant chains can get a larger return on investment by opening stores elsewhere; if they come to Buffalo, it's only when they've tapped out all other higher-yielding locations in the US.

    In many other cites, high-end chains are common in areas where there are a large amount of office workers, and a high income within a certain radius. Even Buffalo's most affluent suburbs don't meet the siting criteria of high-end chains; either the population density is low (Orchard Park, Aurora, East Aurora, Elma), or there's there's still a large middle class population inside otherwise well-off suburbs, skewing median incomes in a market radius downward (Amherst, Williamsville, Clarence). The Buffalo area doesn't have suburbs or regions that are solidly upper-middle-class or wealthier like what Rochester, Detroit or Cleveland metros have.

    Even among the middle-class, Buffalonians still proudly exhibit blue-collar tastes. Check out restaurants reviews by Janice Okun of the Buffalo News; they're heavily oriented towards old-school meat-and-three-type restaurants, and you'll seldom see anyplace that could be considered "trendy" among them. Even if the income was there, the residents are the antithesis of what chains like Whole Foods, Wild Oats and Trader Joe's seek.

    One area where the "Buffalonians are loyal to locals" meme is true: pizza. There's very few sit-down chains; Pizzeria Uno is doing okay, Pizza Hut struggles, and others like California Pizza Kitchen are nonexistent. Carry-out/delivery chain stores are limited to just a few Domino's outlets. Buffalonians enjoy a unique regional style of pizza -- a thick, sweet pie that natives drool over -- that the chains can't duplicate.





    Buffalo does have some local chains, but they really don't fill gaps left by the void of national chains. There's no local equivalent of H&M or Restoration Hardware; local chains like Valu Home Centers, Anderson's, Louie's, John and Mary's, Ted's Hot Dogs and Mighty Taco tend to lean towards the lower-middle end of the market, and cater directly to Buffalo's blue-collar tastes. There's one Buffalo-area chain that has gone regional (and more upscale) in recent years: Delta Sonic, a "big box" gas station.






    Quote Originally posted by jsk1983 View post
    Many storefronts were once homes and some are just small rooms tacked onto the front of houses. Neither were ever meant to be major retail locations, rather simply neighborhood business districts.
    Converted houses in Elmwood Village.







    There are some retail areas that consist almost entirely of converted houses, like Clinton Street in Kaisertown.










  11. #11
    Cyburbian drucee's avatar
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    I think Buffalonians are also more inclined than residents of other border metros to tap the resources of Canada. The Niagara Region of Ontario, which borders Buffalo, has the warmest summers of anywhere in Canada and quaint little wealthy towns like Niagara-on-the-Lake. I'd say, then, that in addition to the blue-collar tastes of Buffalonians and the lack of a large, continuous swath of Suburban Upscale (à la Orange County, Silicon Valley, Morris and Somerset Counties in New Jersey, or Scottsdale), what has kept the nouveau-riche chains out of Buffalo is the closeness of Canada. If Buffalonians want upscale, they'll head to Toronto, rather than to a Restoration Hardware in the 'burbs. A similar phenomenon has kept Trader Joes, California Pizza Kitchen, White House/Black Market, etc. out of Milwaukee until very, very recently (like the last 4 months). Residents of Milwaukee and environs can often be found shopping at the "upscale" stores on the North Shore of Chicago, only one hour away by car.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by drucee View post
    The difference between the megachains of America and Rona, Brault & Martineau, Archambault, Jean-Coutu, etc. is that most of these Montréal chains are Québec natives, rather than interlopers from Toronto or Atlanta. As I can judge by the current retail landscape of Montréal and Québec City, Québécois seem to be extremely likely to keep their money in the province. It's similar to the grocery situation in Minneapolis-St. Paul; the main players, Lunds/Byerly's, Kowalski's Market, and Rainbow Foods, are locally owned and do not operate outside the Twin Cities area, although they have several locations within the Metro. They understand the market much better than the national players; visiting a grocery store in Minneapolis is an experience unlike grocery-shopping anywhere else in the country.
    Actually, I found grocery shopping in MSP to be quite frustrating. Byerly's had some nice specialty stuff, but their stores were relatively small and I never found more than about half of what I was looking for. Rainbow Foods was on the other end of the scale -- I would have preferred them to be a little more upscale, most of their stuff was pretty basic. Even things like pop/soda/soft drinks -- the selection of diet drinks at these stores was so basic I actually stocked up on a variety of drinks when I'd pass through stores in Duluth or Lacrosse!

    More often than not, I shopped at Cub Foods, a store that resembles Costco more than anything. They were the most middle of the road, best stocked, and had the most variety. Still, I didn't find the same variety I can find at Ralph's/Kroger, Vons/Safeway, Albertson's, or other stores that are more common in California.

    Widman's, a supermarket in Wisconsin, was great, however. They were a small chain primarily in Wisconsin with huge stores and an incredible selection. Their prices and service were good, while I found many things I could not find anywhere else.

    Hy-Vee in the Midwest is another place I really liked -- a lot of stuff made in-store for quick meals, and a great bakery. Large, bright stores with good selection -- I actually would head down to Rochester, Mankato, or Faribault to go to these stores, since there were none in the Twin Cities.

    I have always enjoyed Superstore in Canada -- although I am sure there are those who do not like them -- but again, the variety is great.

    Of all the places I've lived, the only one I found myself continually frustrated by the lack of finding the groceries I needed was the Twin Cities. Not only that, I couldn't find good quality meat and bakery -- I just ended up eating out a lot! I really don't think the grocery stores there do that great of a job overall, although I wouldn't mind a Byerly's out here as a complimentary store for some specialty items.

  13. #13
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Blue View post
    Hy-Vee in the Midwest is another place I really liked -- a lot of stuff made in-store for quick meals, and a great bakery. Large, bright stores with good selection -- I actually would head down to Rochester, Mankato, or Faribault to go to these stores, since there were none in the Twin Cities.
    Off-topic:
    When I lived in Kansas City, I avoided Hy-Vee like the plague. The stores all seemed dated, and I felt like I was entering a time portal to 1974 whenever I walked through the doors of one. I usually did my grocery shopping at Hen House.

    In Cleveland, I'm going to miss Tops when they're finally sold off to Dave's and Giant Eagle. Cleveland-area Tops are much smaller than those in Buffalo, but you can still find Buffalo-style foods and condiments that aren't available at other area supermarkets. Giant Eagle is pretty good. I actually prefer Heinen's, a mid-end local grocery store chain, but their hours of operation are quite limited; they close at 8:30 PM on weekdays, and 6:00 on Sunday. Marc's is ... well, scivats as the Italians say. Cheap, but the stores are dirty, the selection limited, and only cash is accepted. There's a locally-owned grocery store nearby called Catalano's, but like the Hy-Vees of Kansas City, it's a relic of the mid 1970s.

    Despite the otherwise dismal retail offerings, Buffalo has some fantastic grocery stores. There's BIG Tops and Wegmans stores, many well over 100,000 square feet, and almost all of which are open 24 hours.













    I miss Buffalo's grocery stores.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian
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    Dan, those Buffalo grocery stores are incredible -- grocery shopping looks more like an experience than a chore at a place like that. What store is that? (edit: okay, just saw it says Wegmans all over the first picture... I should have looked closer!)

    I know exactly what you mean of the old, 1970s-style Hy-Vees -- those are pretty unimpressive. The ones I shopped at in Minnesota, and travels through Iowa and Nebraska, were very modern. A few of them deemed themselves "21st-century Hy-Vees", and they were large, clean, very bright, and had a lot of unique items such as take and bake dinners, great bakeries, etc.

    The old Hy-Vees which you came across in Kansas City, I agree with you completely! There were a few like that in Omaha, but most of them were renovated, replaced, or rebuilt to my knowledge.

    Dan, I find it interesting you mention the lack of retail variety in Buffalo. I was always under the impression Buffalo would have a lot of retail variety because of the amount of population just across the border. In Bellingham, WA, there is a significant amount of shopping that would not otherwise be in the city because of the proximity to Vancouver -- the reasoning being, different products and stores are available in Canada than in the United States and people will do cross-border shopping. The inverse is true too -- there are a lot of products, stores, restaurants in Canada that do not exist in the U.S. -- just to name a few -- Eat More, Coffee Crisp, Wine Gums, Aero Bars, Kelsey's, Boston Pizza (starting to move south as Boston's), Canadian Tire, and so on.

    I know Buffalo has some influence of Canadian restaurants like Kelsey's and Jack Aster's (love the name)... are there any Canadian stores that have set up in the Buffalo area as well?
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 16 Nov 2006 at 2:11 PM. Reason: double reply

  15. #15
    Cyburbian drucee's avatar
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    If there were a grocery store in Valhalla, it would look something like Wegmans in Pittsford (outside Rochester). It's a shame Wegmans doesn't operate in any states where grocery stores can sell wine and liquor, because the selection would probably be amazing.

    Nearly all grocery stores in the Twin Cities are open 24/7, even smaller urban stores like the Uptown Kowalski's. All the adjunct stores in a typical Byerly's (example: a postal outlet, a pharmacy, a Caribou Coffee, a Bachman's Florist, a US Bank, a Big Bowl, a full-service restaurant, a liquor store, a cooking-supply store, and a gift-basket service) are definitely an asset in the coldest of American metros.

  16. #16
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Blue View post
    I know Buffalo has some influence of Canadian restaurants like Kelsey's and Jack Aster's (love the name)... are there any Canadian stores that have set up in the Buffalo area as well?
    Harry Rosen had a location in the Walden Galleria for a while, but it closed several years ago. Many years ago, there were rumors that Eatons would expand to the US, with their first store being in the Galleria.

    Canadian stores advertise extensively on Buffalo television stations, but there's none that I know of in the area now. Watching Channel 29, though, one would think Buffalo was saturated with locations of Leon's, Canadian Tire, The Brick and Future Shop.

    Canadian restaurant chains in Buffalo: Tim Horton's (everywhere!), Montana's Cookhouse, Swiss Chalet, Jack Astor's, Kelsey's, 2-4-1 Pizza. (Selling Canadian pizza in Buffalo is like having Coors Light on tap during Oktoberfest in Munich. ) The ubiquitous Canadian chains like Mr. Sub, Pizza Pizza, Harvey's, Coffee Time, and The Keg are absent.

    Buffalo restaurant chains in Toronto: Duff's.

    As far as Canadian products: except in the eastern suburbs, where the blue collar crowd loves their Genesee, Canadian beer is the default in Buffalo. Go into a grocery store, and the Big Three beers will be Molson, Labatts and OV, not Budweiser, Miller and Coors. Canadian cigarettes are available at many convenience stores. Canadian candy is less common, but not too hard to find.

    Trivia question: There's too many restaurant chains that are "everywhere but Buffalo" to count. There's one very large US restaurant chain, though, that is "everywhere but Cleveland" - there are even several locations in Buffalo of all places, but just one location in the Cleveland metro area. What chain is it?

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    Since they seemed to be slower to expand in the Midwest than in some areas... I'll go with Chili's.

    If that's wrong... Bennigans?

    Curiously, there are only three Bennigan's in all of Southern California, and that includes the one in San Diego.

  18. #18
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Blue View post
    Since they seemed to be slower to expand in the Midwest than in some areas... I'll go with Chili's.
    'Tis correct. They're not hard to find in the relatively chain-light Buffalo area, but there's only one in the much larger Cleveland/Akron metro area. As a consolation, though, we've got Fatburger in Cleveland now!

    Anyhow, Sonic is finally expanding into colder areas. Except Buffalo, of course. From their site:

    "Some of the markets available include: California, Florida (Miami), Georgia (Atlanta), Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky (Eastern), Maryland, Michigan (Detroit and Lansing), New Jersey, New York (New York City area and Binghamton), Ohio, Oregon (Excluding Medford, Klamath Falls and Eugene), Pennsylvania (Excluding Harrisburg/ York/ Lancaster), Washington (Excluding Spokane), Washington DC, West Virginia, Wisconsin (La Crosse and Milwaukee)."

  19. #19
    I've tended to notice that suburban Long Island has alot less chains and alot more local businesses than other dense suburban areas I've encountered. I think it has to do with the fact that it's an old suburb that was build dense by todays standards and there isn't alot of room for big box style development.

    Almost all of the retail is exclusively in strip malls but it's an older kind of strip mall with less parking out front and an average of 3-7 stores in each setback. A different model than the large scale 15-20 store stripmalls that you see now usually accompanied by two anchor stores and a detached chain restaurant closer to roadside.

    Also I think alot of chains traditionally avoided Long Island due to he fact that it's a Dead End as far as shipping is concerned...(aka no bridge to CT makes it seperate from normal shipping corridors)

    Unfortunatley the trends are reversing as new developments in Suffolk county follow a much more recognizeable trend: Chains stores move in Small businness gets pushed out.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian
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    While we're on the topic of chain restaurants, here's some oddities in SoCal -- a region of roughly 20 million people:

    -- Ruby Tuesday has no locations at all in Southern California.
    -- There is one Sonic in all of SoCal, last time I checked anyway.
    -- Benningan's has just three locations
    -- Lone Star has just four
    -- Fazoli's is out here, but very few and far between (again, three or four I believe)
    -- Wendy's exists, but in far smaller numbers than in much of the country. Carl's Jr. and In-N-Out are the powers in the fast food market.

    It seems odd that a chain would open a small number of locations in a market such as this. Obviously, the high cost of advertising in a mega-media market is prohibitive as far as advertising goes, and it seems a lot of these places struggle as a result.

    On the other hand, Kohl's opened all their SoCal locations (except San Diego) on one day in early 2003 -- 19 I believe -- and opened the 5 San Diego locations on one day later in the same year. They did a major advertising blitz and have been immensely successful in SoCal.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian drucee's avatar
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    The Chicago 'burbs are also light on some of the nationals that Blue mentioned. However, this is a region that loves its local minichains, making the retail sprawlscape in Naperville or Schaumburg look quite different from that of anywhere else.

    Some peculiarities of the Chicago retail market:
    *McDonald's (based out of west suburban Oak Brook) outnumbers the other big two fast-food chains by a ratio of about three to one. Wendy's is a distant second place. Burger King ranks somewhere behind White Castle and Popeyes, and has done very poorly in the city itself, with many locations being replaced by Brown's Chicken or other independents.
    *Staples had no presence here until very recently, while OfficeMax, which is based locally, does very well here despite having to pull out of a lot of other major markets.
    *Domino's, CiCi's, Pizza Hut are rare. The local pizza chains, such as Giordano's, Gino's East, and Lou Malnati's dominate the market. Similarly, the large, brightly-colored buildings of Portillo's Hotdogs are a familiar sight across Chicagoland.
    *The East Coast lost most of its appliance/electronics local big-boxes years ago (Brick Church, Trader Horn, Nobody Beats the Wiz...) but they still survive here in Chicago--Grants and Plass are two of the big names.
    *Locally-owned furniture stores are huge here. Harlem Furniture, Wickes, and Bay are among the major players, and everyone knows their TV jingles.
    *Best Buy has been here a lot longer than in most of the rest of the US, so most of its locations are in older 1980s-era strip malls, rather than newer power centers.
    *Wal-Mart has a tiny presence here (as in most blue-state urban areas) but, until this year, has had no Supercenters. Similarly for SuperTarget in all but the most outlying exurbs. Meijer (a regional player) has been the predominant superstore chain since the 80s.

  22. #22
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Blue View post
    Obviously, the high cost of advertising in a mega-media market is prohibitive as far as advertising goes, and it seems a lot of these places struggle as a result.
    There's national advertising that would reach the area, though. I frequently hear about Buffalonians frustrated by ads for Sonic and the many other EBB chains that air on national and cable television.

    In any case, Buffalo is much like Chicago with its chain quirks.

    * McDonalds and Burger King have about an equal share of the market. The reason is historic; a local chain called Carrols was around long before McDonalds, and in the 1970s the owner converted them to Burger King outlets. Wendy's locations are rare, and other fast food hamburger joints are nonexistent - no Hardee's, Carl's Jr, Rally's, or anyplace like that.

    * No Staples stores. EBB.

    * Like I wrote before, national pizza chains are very rare, even the upscale chains with no local equivalent like California Pizza Kitchen.

    * Local appliance stores: Orvilles (local chain), Rosa's (local chain), and a ton of independents. Best Buy arrived in Buffalo a couple of yaars ago, long after it was firmly established in the rest of the country.

    * No large national furniture stores. Ashley and Value City is about as big as it gets. Otherwise, it's mostly local chains (Raymore-Flanigan) and independents.

    * There's only one Borders store and two Barnes and Noble stores are in the area. Both of the B&N locations are in one suburb: Amherst. There's no large local bookstore that is an equivalent. Apparently, Buffalonians are illiterate. (Here in Cleveland, I can get to four large bookstores -- two Borders locations, a B&N, and a Joseph-Beth) in five minutes.

    * No SuperTargets. One Super Wal-Mart. No Meijer stores. No Sears Grand. Kmart is almost completely out of the market.

    * Buffalo's local chains often have outlets in far-flung locations - Ted's Hot Dogs in Tempe, Arizona; Santora's Pizza in Florida, the remnants of Carrols (really a Syracuse chain) in Finland, and my personal favorite - Tops Supermarket in Thailand.





    Yes, it's the Buffalo Tops. Royal Ahold took the concept, name and logo, and exported it to Thailand.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian drucee's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Blue View post
    On the other hand, Kohl's opened all their SoCal locations (except San Diego) on one day in early 2003 -- 19 I believe -- and opened the 5 San Diego locations on one day later in the same year. They did a major advertising blitz and have been immensely successful in SoCal.
    Target did the same thing in the New York area in 1997-1998, starting with an advertising blitz (their bullseye logo was plastered all over buses, billboards, TV commercials, etc.) and opening about 15 stores one after another throughout the area. Target only came to Chicago about five years before that, but it seems like it's a much more established presence here. There are only five stores in the entirety of New York City, while Chicago has eleven, with a couple more on the way. Target uses a two-level store design in three of its Chicago stores (South Loop, Addison, and Peterson) with underground or covered parking. At South Loop and Peterson, the store even comes all the way out to the curb, making it a better neighbor than your average big-box.

  24. #24
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Bar Harbor luckily doesn't have the year round demographic to hold a chain anything so everything is locally owned -

    what's nice about it is it's part of the draw for the tourists becasue it's not "Anywhere, USA"

    but I am thinking of doing something in the comp plan about it, because people are concerned that as a our shoulder seasons continue to grow, that the ripple effect might be that we could hold onto a Starbucks or something

    we also do not allow drive-thru's unless you are a bank so that also keeps those nameless chains over the bridge

    when I worked in Massachusetts, the joke was that your downtown "arrived" when a Starbuck's showed up and a Dunkin' meant you only had the trips per day and peak trip #'s to warrant it

    the problem with Home Depot was their modus operandi was to follow HQ and blow them out and they did, so then you had an empty HQ building, but now Leow's follows Home Depot and they both stay and then everything else follows

    edited to say: I grew up in Syracuse, Syacuse may not have all the chains but the burbies sure do - but yeah, I miss Wegman's, great stuff! and Tops, yeah, a nice "family" business, LOL...
    Last edited by luckless pedestrian; 18 Nov 2006 at 3:34 PM. Reason: forgot to mention Syracuse

  25. #25
    Dan,

    These buildings were not converted houses. These were buit as retail with residential above, a type that was very common on the east side. Notice that they are buit right up to the street. THat is the giva away that they were always meant to have retail.







    To others:

    These things have to be experienced. If you have not had aBuffalo pizza you have not had pizza and if you have not been in a Buffalo super market then you have never been in a super market.




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