By Rod Lopez-Fabrega
NORWALK, Conn. – In recent days, I had an indirect lesson about the unintended effects of big box stores to small retailers here in Norwalk. In the market for floor tiles to redo a bathroom in my home, I visited a retailer of flooring materials that has been in Norwalk since the year one. Not so long ago, this establishment had to downsize from a well-located and spacious site on Main Street to a less than desirable store front with no parking.
I had to ask the owner about the effects of having to downsize to such an inconspicuous location. He explained that his urgent requests to City Hall to provide him with three parking spaces in front of his modest store front had become a nightmare of bureaucratic double-talk. Ultimately, he was informed that such parking would cost him $10,000 for each of three spaces. Then, he was informed there were no available in front of his store. When he asked where they would be located, he was told that, in any case, there were not spaces available anywhere anyway. His next question was to clarify if he then was being asked to pay $30,000 for three parking spaces that did not even exist. No answer is recorded. Mr. Store Owner and I could only conclude those humongous parking lots in front of Total Wine, Lowes, CVS and so many other big boxes in Norwalk left no parking real estate for the little guys.
I suggested to Mr. Store Owner that he consider voting for Harry Rilling during the coming elections. Harry has come out forcefully, pointing out the effect these monsters have on the mom and pop merchants in this town, their Norwalk-based employees and the trust they have built up in the community after decades of the services they have provided to all of us. Months ago Harry Rilling had this to say on the subject, “I’ve talked to many Norwalkers who ask themselves these same questions, and the answer is simple: neighboring communities are pursuing better development for their communities while Norwalk keeps approving the big box stores under our welcoming zoning regulations. And all-the-while our local mom and pop businesses are wondering if they’ll be the next one forced to close under pressure from these multi-national corporations.”