Darkness on the Edge of Town: Larchmont’s Empty Storefronts

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Empty commercial space at Palmer Plaza.

Loop Editorial

The deterioration has been gradual but is starkly evident to residents who leave Larchmont for months at a time and return to see the Village with a fresh eye.

A neighbor who lives here only part of the year recently said he was shocked on his return at the emptiness of the village commercial district along Palmer Avenue between Chatsworth Ave. and the New Rochelle line.

“Last year I counted 14 empty businesses,” he told the Loop. “This year during a walk from the PDQ Mail Store to Larchmont Tavern I counted 22. That’s a lot. It’s tragic.”

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Former book store on Palmer Avenue

We took the walk with him on Friday and were startled at what’s been in plain site all along: Parking spaces are occupied, but the sidewalks are empty and we passed multiple empty storefronts, deciding to stop in on one that was still occupied.

What used to be “Wendy Gee’s”

“There’s no more downtown mentality,” said Gina Wallach the co-owner of Wallach’s Jewelry, a fixture in this fading commercial landscape. “People might come into town for a cup of coffee but they don’t shop.”

She said she hoped new apartments planned in the village might attract residents who are less married to their cars and home delivery services but isn’t overly optimistic.

“We’ve been here 22 years,” she said “We watched it go from a vibrant walking community to tumbleweeds blowing down the street. It’s dying.”

The empty former Well’s Fargo Bank across from the empty Wraps Sandwich Shops which is now next to the empty former Printing and Copy Store.

Larchmont, of course, doesn’t actually have tumbleweeds but if it did, there would be room for them to roll along Palmer Avenue.

Experts tell us retail delivery services like Amazon make opening a brick-and-mortar store less attractive every day. Larchmont residents seem to love the price and convenience of the on-line service. “Some even buy their toilet paper on line,” Wallach observed.

Larry Rumble, the rambling part-time resident who took us on the empty-store tour, said “My impression is the commercial district is languishing. I see this during my walk and I get back to my apartment building and the entrance is clogged with deliveries. Something is clearly happening and it’s not good.”

11 thoughts on “Darkness on the Edge of Town: Larchmont’s Empty Storefronts

  1. When one sees the vibrancy of the shopping ethos in Rye and Bronxville one realizes that Larchmont’s elected officials can’t fall back on the online retail order culture as the culprit for what has been going on in the Village of Larchmont. Has the mayor of Larchmont or our state assembly person tried anything to incentivize landlords to open their spaces to retail? If not, why?
    If there is no reason to shop in town, and landlords are not penalized for empty store fronts, there will be no street traffic/shopping in town. This seems like an obvious outcome. Sad, but obvious.

  2. And what’s with the goofy pop-up add when this website opens?

    “Thank you Larchmont for you support of Centro”. Huh?… Is that a joke?

    Larchmont absolutely does NOT “support” Centro. The only people who support this asinine attempt to “revitalize downtown” are the developers and the landlord looking to make out on the backs of a tough situation here in the Village. Neither of which, will ever have to walk by this ugly piece of crap on a daily basis like we will.

    • MikeLongTime:
      This ad conforms to our advertising policy. For what it’s worth, we reached out to neighbors in our community on the other side of this issue and offered them an opportunity to put their perspective forward and they declined.

  3. I just moved back to the area after a decade+ and I’m saddened really to see ALL of the empty storefronts. I think the first to go might’ve been the sports store on Palmer that was next to the Five and Dime. But it has spread like wildfire since then. I had no idea landlords are able to evade taxes simply by keeping them empty though–WOW really where is the incentive to fill them? I know buying online is some of the problem but really if there’s only one or two stores here why shop amongst the vacancies? This seems like it’s part of the problem and a detriment to those shops that are trying to still make a go of it.

  4. I’ve lived here for over 20 years and it’s true that the retail area has really gone downhill. No question allowing landlords to avoid taxes by keeping stores empty must be changed. Otherwise there’s no incentive to keep them occupied. Parking is a problem too, as we all know….

  5. Can empty storefronts be attributed largely to difficulty of obtaining permits from Village which lacks any competent engineer on staff?

  6. Online shopping is having a major effect on all businesses, with the exception of food and service businesses. Each retailer needs to figure out how to keep their store in the forefront of consumers’ minds, and offer incentives to keep local customers shopping locally.

    At PDQ Mail Plus, we have seen a huge uptick in the number of packages being returned to Amazon and other online retailers – and the vast majority of these are free return shipments. As an authorized retailer for UPS, FedEx, DHL and US Postal Service, we accept all these returns for free (unless the customer needs a label printed out), and get a (very) small amount from the carriers for handling them. But it’s all good. We have signed up for a new service that is expected to be in operation early in 2020, to minimize the hodgepodge of carrier partner locations (CVS and others for UPS, Walgreens and others for FedEx, as two examples). PDQ’s new program will allow consumers to bring all their package to one place – and even avoid the concerns about porch pirates raiding packages they receive in the first place, by having the packages held at our location for easy pickup. Look for PackageHub Business Centers starting in 2020 – PDQ will be a part of it for the Larchmont community.

  7. You mentioned a mini mart which opened a year or two ago near the corner of Chatsworth and Palmer. It began as a health food store but soon carried staple items and more. I tried to patronize it but any time I went in, it was virtually empty. They even opened longer hours to serve the commuters and it was still always empty. Once they closed and sold off everything at a 75% discount, the store was finally busy. It was really sad. Yes, delivery services are part of the problem but other nearby towns have a lively business atmosphere such as Rye and even Mamaroneck. I’ve lived here a long time and find it really distressing.

  8. I just moved to the area. I’d love to see more businesses open later and on Sundays. I’d also like to see more businesses that address practical needs (e.g., a mini mart nearer the train station). I hate that when returning from work, I can’t have practical needs met by walking downtown and need to go all the way to CVS or further for a quart of milk.

    I suspect, too, that it’s sometimes cheaper for building owners to keep spaces vacant (tax deductions). Maybe if the city creates a tax or penalty for spaces left vacant more than 6 (?) months, the owners would work to keep tenants/fill vacancies….

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