What’s This? A Decline in Chain Stores on the Upper West Side?


Workers dismantled a Starbucks sign at 67th and Columbus in 2016 after the chain closed that location.

The steady climb of retail rents and encroachment of online retail hasn’t just hurt small businesses. It’s even making it harder for some chains to stay open. That’s one takeaway from the 10th annual “State of the Chains” report from the Center for an Urban Future.

On the Upper West Side, the total number of chains declined from 237 in 2016 to 232 in 2017. The 10023 zip code went from 89 to 85 chain locations; 10024 went from 67 to 62; but 10025 saw an increase, from 81 to 85. Panda Express, anyone?

Dunkin Donuts remains the chain king in NYC, but other chains, including shoe stores, have reduced their footprint, the report says. The fro-yo boom also may be over. It peaked in 2014 with 57 locations, but had fallen to 46 by last year. Ice cream chains like Baskin Robbins have also declined from 376 in 2008 to 311 last year.

“In a year in which the challenges facing brick-and-mortar retail have burst into view, this report finds that New York’s national chains are not immune to the pressure. Although food establishments continue to show strong growth, retailers that compete most directly with online outlets—such as shoe and electronics stores—have experienced significant contractions. Overall, a fifth of all national retailers in the city closed stores in the past year, and only one-in-seven retailers on our list increased their footprint—the smallest share since we began keeping track a decade ago.

NEWS | 31 comments | permalink
    1. Scott says:

      Unfortunately, we have some pretty bad chains here. And the Riese Organization is not known as a great operator.

    2. ursus arctos says:

      An interesting report with lots of actual data.

      I understand why a report focused on “retail” would exclude banks, but it would be helpful to have equivalent data for a sector that takes up a significant portion of our local retail space.

    3. West 60th neighbor says:

      What does Monica Blum from the Lincoln Center BID have to say about all the empty stores in her BID district? Does she keep track of all the empty store fronts?

    4. Javier says:

      That’s great that there are less chains but does the report state whether those chains that closed, is there a tenant in the location now or is it vacant?

    5. Markie D. Sodd says:

      Okay, the 10023 zip code has fewer chains…but what about the whips?

    6. Native New Yorker says:

      That space was Dimitris. They used to have a great veal Piccata.

      Anyone remember the crepe place that was in the little broadway triangle at 66th street?

    7. Bob Lamm says:

      This is great news because it’ll make room for more banks in our neighborhood. Even on side streets. No resident of the Upper West Side should have to walk more than 100 yards to their favorite bank branch. 🙂

    8. Jake Brown says:

      The decline of retail has a direct correlation to the huge rent increases brought on my the every increasing annual real estate tax increase the city imposes on building owners large and small.

      These annual tax increases force up prices for goods and services every year way beyond the inflation index. People do not mention this enough how harmful the imposing of annual commercial real estate taxes are to retail tenants.

      • Your neighbor says:

        As a small landlord I can attest to the outrageous increases in real estate taxes. I would like everyone to make a living I can’t afford empty stores.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        commercial real estate taxes are add-ons to leases and are passed on to tenants. the greedy rent increases from landlords have nothing to do with this.

        • UWS_lifer says:

          WHAT?!?! Bruce, come on …you can’t just make stuff up now. Has our level of discourse sunk so low??

          You are better than that. And obviously you have never owned a business a day in your life. No offense. It’s not for everyone but stop with the false info.

          • Bruce Bernstein says:

            in response to UWS_Lifer, who said:

            “WHAT?!?! Bruce, come on …you can’t just make stuff up now…. And obviously you have never owned a business a day in your life. No offense. It’s not for everyone but stop with the false info.”

            Actually, i owned a business that rented commercial space in Manhattan, and also was Exec Director of a medium sized not for profit that rented commercial space, all of this for about 12 years. That was how i knew about the real estate tax pass-through clauses.

            I wasn’t specific enough, but i was right that it is common practice in Manhattan. Real estate tax escalations during the life of a lease are passed-through to commercial tenants in most Manhattan commercial leases. the pass-through is based on the percentage of the building that the tenant occupies. thus if a tenant occupies 5% of the building, the pass-through to that tenant will be 5% of the increase.

            there are plenty of reference to this on the Web, simply search under “NY Commercial Leases escalation clauses” or “NY real estate tax escalation clause.”

            here is one link:

            http://www.pepperlaw.com/publications/considerations-for-new-york-city-commercial-leases-2017-10-02/

            i never leased retain space, so i suppose it could be a different model. but i doubt it.

            so once again: the idea that property tax increases are the cause of these exorbitant rent increases is somewhere between an exaggeration and completely false.

            • Bruce Bernstein says:

              typo: I meant to say “I never leased RETAIL space.”

              I doubt that the standard lease clauses are different for retail, but have not checked.

    9. Christine E says:

      Wow, what is the footprint of UWS — 60th to 120th? So 46 fro-yos in 60 blocks? 1 per 1.3 bkocks??? Or am I missing something. I would say that is excessuve, but ironically my comment is making me hungry for fro-yo!

    10. UWS Craig says:

      It is basic supply and demand. We don’t need stores now that we have the internet. A potential solution would be the legalization of marijuana – they will need stores to sell it because you can’t buy it online.

      • Peter says:

        In CA you can buy weed online and with apps and have it delivered to your home without visiting a store. So marijuana is not the answer.

      • Sarah says:

        “you can’t buy it online”

        I’m going to blow your mind, my friend…

    11. UWSsurfer says:

      The male clerks at Dunkin Donuts on W. 72nd St are the sweetest guys ever. They made my holidays with their kindness.

      Their coffee is very good.

      I wish Baskin Robbins ice cream shop w/31 flavors would come back here (not just cakes via online pre-order).

    12. Upperwestsider says:

      I am so upset that in the same WSR issue The Loft is set to close this month. Such a shame. A great place to shop for bargains and stylish clothes at moderate prices. I’m sure the space will remain empty like so many others in the area. I hope that this trend of empty store spaces can be reversed. But landlords are really to greedy and don’t have any community responsibility or sensibility.

      • Sherman says:

        I guess competition from online shopping had absolutely nothing to do with these stores closing.

        It’s all 100% the fault of “greedy landlords”.

        • Bruce Bernstein says:

          apparently you don’t believe in free market “supply and demand” economics, Sherman.

          if online shopping creates less demand for retail space, the result should be a decrease in price for commercial space. instead, we see store after store and restaurant after restaurant after restaurant go out of business because landlords ask for large increases in commercial rent, despite the high vacancy rate.

          also, if online shopping was the main cause, then we should see stores going out of business in the middle of leases, not just when leases end. yes, there is some of that, but it is very common for the store to be driven out “because of lease renewals”.

          And finally, if it was because of online shopping: how come we don’t see the same retail crisis in Queens and elsewhere in the city?

          not all of us pray at the temple of the real estate barons, Sherman.

    13. Eric says:

      It’s so much easier to blame greedy property owners than the ever increasing burden of taxes and regulations that force them to raise rents to cover expenses. Pols encourage this perception for obvious reasons.

      • UWS_lifer says:

        Yes, yes and yes!

        This is it, ladies and gentlemen. We have a winner.:)

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        i would like to know which new “regulations” are causing the greedy landlords to raise rents exorbitantly.

        and if this was true — then why don’t we see the same vacancy crisis in Queens, Staten Island, etc?