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Center vacancies got you down? Here's what you can do

The following column, titled "The Cost of Doing Business," was originally published Aug. 2, 2016, on a blog written by Margy Rydzynski, founder of Arlington Entrepreneurs. It is republished with the author's permission.

I live in Arlington Center. Like many of you, I’ve seen business after business close down, especially in the last year or so. I’ve watched in dismay and then horror as shops I’ve frequented for years shuttered their doors and moved away.

These days, all I see are empty storefronts and For Lease signs where those small businesses used to be. I miss those folks and their services.

I had my hair done at Heads Up for over a decade. I shopped at Derby Farm and got to know and respect owner Barbara Popolow.

At one point she expanded the shop, a move which no doubt cost a great deal of money. Now it’s in East Arlington (fortunately still around!) and the former shop stands abandoned in the Center.

I often treated myself to breakfast or lunch at the Madrona Tree (thank you, Tanya!) and am heart-broken at their forced exit.

The same goes for the little frozen yogurt shop, the CVS and all the rest. Thank goodness The Artful Heart (here’s to you, Carla!) was able to relocate to another location a block away, but the move cost some serious money, which the store now has to recoup.

There are other businesses who are wondering if they’ll be next. And I wonder, will we be able to have dinner at Tango anymore? Will people driving through Arlington Center take one look and just keep going?

I run a small-business community and, as such, I have a personal stake in all of this. Landlords can charge what they want, of course, but small businesses may not be able to keep up with the cost. I’d rather have an independent business in those shops than a corporate chain that has deeper pockets but no commitment to the community.

We’ve heard the statistics – local businesses keep the money here, corporate chains take it out. That leaves us all poorer, in more ways than one.

A number of media outlets, including The Boston Globe and YourArlington, have written about this. It’s distressing, and there doesn’t seem to be anything anyone can do about it.

Maybe it’s the activist in me (yes, I’ve been on a picket line), but I refuse to believe that we’re all doomed to go down with the ship. I have a feeling other Arlingtonians feel the same way.

So, what can we do? First, join the Support Arlington Center Facebook group. This group wants to make sure Arlington Center remains vibrant and full of small, local businesses. Check out its website, too.

 

Second, The Madrona Tree has a GoFundMe page. The restaurant may be gone, but it looks like their page is still up and running. Make a contribution. With enough resources, maybe they’ll be able to stay in Arlington, after all.

Third, go shopping and eating in the Center! Let business owners know you support them and want them to stay. A lot of people are working to make that happen. Add your voice to the chorus!

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m recovering from a recent illness that had me in a hospital for over a week. Even with that, I plan to do what I can to help restore Arlington Center – my home – to its former health and prosperity. Can you help, too?


This viewpoint was published Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016.

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