It’s an “open and shut” case. Home Depot opens, other businesses shut. According to a recent story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, a new, 134,000 s.f. suburban prototype Home Depot has opened on Castor Avenue in Port Richmond near the Delaware River. While some residents viewed the Home Depot as bringing in 190 jobs, others focused on the negative side of the equation. “Unfortunately, someone will suffer,” said the president of the Port Richmond Business Association,” — our small businesses who have the same products. The small-business people have been the threads that have kept the neighborhoods together for over 100 years. A big company will come in, put on a nice show, but as soon as the numbers don’t work, they are out of here.” In the Inquirer article, two local merchants admit that big box home improvement stores have forced them to close their doors. Witczak’s Harware, a 100 year old family-run business, closed shop six months ago. “As a small family-run business,” said Mike Witczak, “it became increasingly difficult to remain competitive and surive in today’s world of discount stores and large retail chains.” A second hardware store, Z-Best, is up for sale, and the owners told the Inquirer “Now that they (Home Depot) are going to be directly around the corner, it’s going to kill us.” There are already two other Home Depot stores nearby, part of the company’s saturation strategy. Just around the corner from the new Home Depot is an empty Rickel’s building supply store — a regional chain that went out of business several years ago. Finally, the area’s U.S. Congressman, Robert Borski, pointed out the negatives of the Home Depot opening. “There obviously is a downside, however. A lot of small business people will get hurt.”
Home Depot and Lowe’s have worked like a chainsaw cutting through the Mom and Pop hardware stores and even the regional chains. For another look at the devastating impact these companies have had on the market, see the DIY story below. Despite the clearly negative impacts superstores have on local communities, the mythology that they “create jobs” continues to blind local officials to the ultimate effect on their communities. New Home Depot jobs must be offset by the old Rickel’s jobs lost, the Witczak’s jobs lost, etc. “The reality is something like this is good for the community at large,” claims Congressman Borski. Is that the reality? If Port Richmond had required Home Depot to pay for an independent economic impact report, the results might not have pleased the Congressman or city officials. It’s an open and shut case.