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.”

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

  1. The Larchmont we knew is never coming back.

    Unless something is too expensive to ship (concrete), requires ones presence (a tailored suit), as is an emergent item (a tourniquet) we are going to buy it online.

    If I need thumbtacks I am not going to drive into town and buzz around looking for parking. Even if I am willing to do that I will not get the pricing, choices, and reviews that I can get online. With Amazon Prime I can have that item next day.

    I recently had an iPhone hand delivered by Apple for a nominal fee. Much better than spending a day home waiting for a “signature required” delivery.

    Wait till the drones show up and they deliver items to you kitchen counter via the chimney!

    In short: If you want me to come to town offer me something I really can’t get elsewhere.

    Incidentally – do you know that Sal’s ships pizza, pizza for God’s sake, all over the country?

    Another factor is the increasing number of executive/professional woman in the community. They simply don’t have the time to drop into town to see what’s available. They buy online during their commute or while at work.

    The world is obviously a rapidly changing place and the relationship between retail sites and the communities they serve is inevitably going to change too.

    We need to dispense with the romantic notion that somehow we can make Larchmont like it was “back in the day” and begin to grapple with how to make the most of Larchmont’s “real world” potential.

    BTW – I grew up here and have very fond memories of wandering “town” in the early fifties-sixties.

    I’d love to see Larchmont regain that vibrance but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

  2. We are not a commuter town, we are a community. I’ve lived here for 28 years, raised 3 children here and am distressed at the empty storefronts. I used to buy all of my children’s clothing at the eclectic array of stores that once existed. I bought many a gift at Wendy Gees, I bought my children shoes on Palmer Ave, we walked to the movies, and dinner all the time. The charm of Larchmont is not just the lovely homes and trees and proximity to the Sound, and NYC, it’s about being a neighborhood. A neighborhood includes shops. Support your neighborhood- if you’re trying to save money on Amazon then you can’t afford to live here!

  3. It’s so interesting to read all these comments. We saw the empty stores last year, when deciding which of the towns along the New Haven line to settle in. New Rochelle’s downtown seemed more alive, with more useful shops, and that really appealed to us. We wanted to live in a place where every we needed was within walking or biking distance: groceries, picture framer, dry cleaner, wine store, flower shop, library, pharmacy, a couple of interesting non-chain restaurants. It’s so nice to have found a place like that in Westcherster, of all places, where everyone told us we’d need a car to survive! But… I’m very worried about all those empty storefronts in New Rochelle. Are the landlords holding out for big corporate tenants? How can so many stores be sitting empty in a place that is so densely populated and where there is so much new construction? Is that’s what’s happened in Larchmont?

  4. Truth is Larchmont is a commuter town and NYC is always going to have more shopping choices where our residents are every day – plus Amazon et al. We can’t compete w the City by becoming more urban or we will lose what we love about Larchmont. We don’t need more stores – they are empty for a reason.

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