Active Rain July 11, 2011

How Many Big Box Drug Stores Does Ossining Need?

All that remains of Big Top and other storesWith the closure and razing of the old building that housed Big Top and several other small businesses and their imminent replacement by Walgreen’s, the village of Ossining will have yet another “big box” drug store. Nearby Chilmark shopping center on the border in Briarcliff also has a proposal on the table for the arrival of the area’s second CVS, which will be at the cost of Prescriptions Plus. 

Those of us old enough to remember Arcadian Garden Center before the arrival of CVS might recall that there was a time when Ossining was well served by small, neighborhood pharmacies, and the populace got by just fine. I hate to sound like a curmudgeon, but other than occupying vacant retail space that the market appears to not otherwise fill, I am skeptical of the value brought by another retail giant.

The argument that they bring jobs is doesn’t resonate with me. The various stores in Big Top’s building employed dozens, just as Walgreen’s will, but there will be 4-5 fewer proprietors in our midst. Their accountability and civic presence is not something that can be measured in a spreadsheet. 

I remember as a child on Linden Avenue walking down Clinton to Big Top or Burd’s stationary for candy or toys. The storekeepers at places like Strictly Ice Cream (remember them?) knew your name. They were neighbors. This was especially important with how the now disappearing small pharmacies filled prescriptions, which isn’t always a smooth process at a larger outlet (and after 4 pregnancies in our family, that is no small issue). 

The utility for consumers will remain constant, although I am dubious as to how our quality of life improves with so many choices of where to get a gallon of milk, a greeting card, or shampoo. In a diverse vibrant village with so much charm and history, can’t we attract a more independent and varied type of business? Is local ownership dead? I hate to stand in the way of “progress,” as relative as the term is in this case, but can’t we do better?