Monday, July 6, 2009

So what would you put in the required display windows at a new Rite Aid, anyway?

Here in Rochester, yet another Rite-Aid rises on a key corner, despite noble attempts of the citizenry to thwart it. Yet another chain pharmacy in a city with a declining population, and another in a region with no overall population growth. More chain pharmacies for the same or fewer number of people. Economic development at its highest and best.

This one’s different, though: it’s only about half as ugly as most other Rite-Aids, thanks to some insistence by the City of Rochester that the development adhere to some of its codes and design standards. It is built to the sidewalk, is multi-story (although I hear the second floor is nothing more than a facade), and has display windows at the street level, along the sidewalks. (Check out renderings of this Rochester Rite Aid here)

So I have to admit it’s a slightly better design than most chain pharmacies, many of which look like drive-through mausoleums. But while some might consider the better design a victory for good land use/development planning and design, the Monroe Avenue-Goodman Street Rite Aid in Rochester illuminates another big problem for American communities– the sad decline and devolution of retail, and shopping in this country.

It wasn’t that long ago when cities like Rochester had downtown and neighborhood streets lined with independent businesses, housed in handsome buildings with awnings, and with well-made, locally-made goods and products (The Radio Flyer? The wool sweaters? The work boots? The hot-out-of-oven pies?) displayed proudly in the windows.

So the City of Rochester makes Rite Aid build in display windows. But what on earth would a Rite-Aid PUT in such a window that would make us feel good about shopping there, shopping in general, or walking by the store? Um, let’s see:

New CankerCover Cankersore Patches

A cornucopia of lozenges

Cheap, smelly, out-of-round vinyl toy balls made by cents-per-day laborers in Bangladesh

Pyramid of Rite Aid-brand prune products: pitted fruit and juice (I’m not making this up)

The several large-format malt liquors in stock

You know, the kinds of things that Rite Aid sells. The kinds of things I’m sure would appeal to you, the window shopper, as you stroll down Monroe Avenue in Rochester.

Posted by Evan Lowenstein, coordinator of RochesterCityLiving at the Landmark Society. Evan is also the founder/Director of Green Village Consulting in Rochester ( This blog post originally appeared on the Green Village site.



Newburgh Restoration said...

I agree that the windows of rite aid are ugly. I've noticed that for a while now. They are some of the most uninviting store fronts I've seen. I hope at least they will sort of blend it with your town.

Anonymous said...

Quite an appropriate rant. Brilliant in fact.

So, is the solution to see that when a Rite Aid, or a this or a that, or God forbid, a Walmart goes up, that it is required to utilized creative reuse of a space? Build in the character of what's already there?

What are some solutions?