Abandonment of Albany’s South End neighborhoods by major corporations continues with the early November closing of a Stewarts’ store on Morton Avenue, not long since Rite Aid pulled out from its franchise on South Pearl. Augmenting the two losses is the shifting of the state DMV offices on South Pearl, which are moving to Central Avenue; a scheduled move of the Board of Elections to the DMV spot was cancelled when Albany County Republicans objected to the projected move stating that the community was “dangerous.”
Stewarts officials said the Morton Avenue shop wasn’t doing enough business to remain open given increasing wages, health care costs and regulatory burdens and lacked the equipment or space to expand their food-to-go offerings, which Stewart’s says its where it is seeing the most growth.
Stewart’s Shops president Gary Dake told the Times Union that the company evaluates its shops and makes adjustments based on many factors, including customer use, market factors, economic trends and competitor actions, adding that the Morton Avenue store faced low volume and too much competition from other nearby convenience stores. Rite Aid closed its store in the summer despite protests from the community and Albany officials, moving its elderly patrons’ records to a Walgreens that’s uphill from South Pearl Street on Holland Avenue.
Members of the South End Community Collaborative, a consortium of the neighborhoods’ community organizations, non-profits and concerned citizens, has pinpointed the development of a new grocery store, new pharmacy and medical center, and the bolstering of continuing neighborhood bodegas and “mom and pop” businesses over the coming year. Similarly, several new projects are looking to increase the number of middle income renta;l units, owner-occupied homes, and street improvement projects in the area over the coming years.