Consider the local hardware store.
More specifically, consider Chelsea Convenience Hardware, on Ninth Avenue in Manhattan.
But give it your earliest attention because it’s closing tomorrow, going out of business.
Is Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia University being hyperbolic when he writes in The New York Times that Chelsea Convenience and its longtime owner, Naum Feygin, represent a microcosm of what’s wrong with capitalism The Life and Death of the Local Hardware Store ? :
“So Chelsea Convenience is scheduled to shut down on Nov. 30, not because of a recession or poor business decisions, but because of what amounts to a fundamental change in American capitalism … The fate of Chelsea Convenience shows, in a small way, that business and capitalism can be at odds – that the drive for immense capital gains can drain the life out of human-scale business…”
Mr. Feygin represents the epitome of the American immigrant-cum-hard-work-success-story. In his case, however, his story does not have a happy ending. Having arrived from Russia in 1991, he took entry-level jobs for years until, with accumulated savings, he and his wife bought Chelsea Convenience in 1997 and has run it successfully ever since. Now, with a near doubling in rent, the Feygins’ story as entrepreneurs ends abruptly.
Of course, it’s not a new story. Small (and not so small) retailers across the country have been put out of business with the growing success of internet e-commerce via behemoths such as Amazon and E-Commerce – as well as a host of macro economic forces now in confluence. Professor Wu’s analysis:
“Competition from Amazon and a rent increase might like seem like distinct phenomena, but they are two sides of the same coin. Both reflect the transformative consolidation and centralization of the American economy since the 1990s … Amazon represents the increasing monopolization of retail; the high rents are a symptom of the enormous concentration of wealth in a handful of coastal cities…”
You know: a derivative of “creative destruction.”
But maybe as capitalism continues to evolve — now under new dimensions of duress — it can develop a little more of the “creative”, a little less “destruction.”
Professor Wu’s windup:
“As for Mr. Feygin himself, he isn’t sure what he will do next. ‘It is hard’, he says, ‘very hard’. He had hoped that his son, Willem, would want to take over the store. But Willem is ‘not so stupid’, Mr. Feygin says. ‘He works for a hedge fund.'”