I'm not going to bury the lede.
Rite Aid on Main Street is closing.
According to an employee we spoke with last night, the pharmacy closes on May 20th and the entire store closes on June 3rd. Walgreens bought Rite Aid and now they've got too many stores...so this one will go.
Why does the closing of a chain store give me such a sinking feeling in my stomach when there are multiple pharmacy options within a mile or two?
Because those options are not within walking distance of downtown.
The presence of Rite Aid on Main Street makes a huge difference to people who live in the downtown neighborhoods, to Wesleyan students, to guests at the hotel...it's not just a store among many. It's an anchor of our walkable downtown - and a key factor in our high walkscore
, which measures how close you live to the necessities of modern life (a job, a library, a movie theater, a hospital and other conveniences.) Rite Aid is where downtowners buy a quart of milk, or printer ink, or tylenol after a long city council meeting.
I've had this sinking feeling before. It's the roller coaster of Main Street, Middletown. Back in the late '80s, downtown residents relied on the Waldbaum's Supermarket in Metro Square. When it closed, it was no longer realistic to live downtown without a car. It meant a bus ride to buy groceries (everybody should try that at least once). The loss of a downtown supermarket was one of the early dominoes that fell; and they kept falling till most of the downtown storefronts had emptied out.
Main Street rode the roller coaster back up in the late '90s - and everyone involved knows that it was only by working together (and sweating the small stuff) that we turned things around and made this renaissance happen on Main Street. The opening of this Rite Aid, just 10 years ago, was an important step. We can't afford to take its departure lightly.
We've still got It's Only Natural Market for that quart of milk...open till 8 pm. And Public Market. And a handful of small bodegas in the North End. I intend to keep supporting them.
But the losing the convenience of Rite Aid is a blow to our aspirations of being the new housing destination for urbanist millennials and empty nesters, not to mention the quality of life of all the people who already live here. Our current leadership - and those who are in the running - should be aware that maintaining the infrastructure of downtown living is just as important as announcing big new developments.
With this news - and other turnover in downtown storefronts these days - let's not ignore what we're hearing: we need to pay attention to Main Street.