Monday, August 07, 2006

Another Henrietta Big Box Is Closing, Does Anyone Care?

If a tree falls in the woods, and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? I've always found that riddle to be a completely meaningless question without reason to ponder. There is no absolute logical answer so why not just leave it up to the philosophy majors? This morning though, it occurred to me that this is just a metaphor for the ubiquitous but often unnoticed closure of big box stores in suburban America. Somewhere in the World Wide Web, I read that CompUSA will be closing all of its Upstate locations, including its large store on Jefferson Road in Henrietta.

Years back, CompUSA opened that location immediately across the street from Computer City's Southtown Plaza location presumably for the sake of competition. Not long after, Computer City was bought out by CompUSA, and the Southtown store was shuttered. I'm sure if you spoke with Henrietta's immortal Supervisor Jim Breese at the time, he would have told you that while it's unfortunate the store is closing, its location is highly valuable and will be snapped up in no time. Of course, that's probably the same thing he said when Hechinger and Marshalls vacated their plaza, when Dick's moved to Marketplace after buying Galyan's, or when Media Play went out of business. What else could he say that would justify the Town's continued obsession with approving more and more big box development?

Some parts of Henrietta are looking less and less like a booming retail mecca and more like a retail graveyard. Southtown Plaza has the vacant Computer City and Media Play spaces, Kohl's has not attracted new tenants to the former Hechinger Plaza as was originally "expected", Dick's remains empty, Chase-Pitkin is gone, and now CompUSA will leave another enormous hole to fill in Henrietta's increasingly toothless smile. But that doesn't stop the Town from approving more and more big box development such as Benderson's new plaza next to Home Depot that will include Marshalls, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Christmas Tree Shops. There's also a Carrabba's Italian Grill being built on West Henrietta Road, because one thing this town needs more of is bad Italian food. And don't forget RIT's faux "College Town" soon to break ground just down the road from CompUSA.

So, to adapt that age-old riddle to fit modern times, when a big box store closes in the suburbs, and there are no shoppers around to see it, does anyone give a damn? Obviously not.