Signs of Things
I started to work on this post a couple of days ago when I needed to drop Mrs. Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk off at the local Cosi, where she'd arranged to meet someone. We remembered it being next to a Chipotle, but as we passed the Chipotle in question, we didn't see it and assumed that we'd missed it. So we went around the block and parked in front of Chipotle, right next to an empty storefront with brown paper in the window. I'd walked past this block a week earlier, and although I wasn't intentionally looking to see the Cosi, I seemed to remember that it had been there. Now it was gone without a trace.
A little later, I looked around on the Net for some sort of hint as to what might have happened. I found a post on the I Hate Clark Street! blog that had a picture of the Cosi sign that said was intending to close last Tuesday. So I was right, it had been there when I walked past it a week ago.
As it turns out, Cosi, Inc., isn't doing great, but it is doing OK. There's not a massive shut down, ala Bennigans. But it did start me thinking about how the economic downturn seems to be hitting home more and more. There's a list now of businesses that have filed for bankruptcy: Linens 'n' Things, Sharper Image, Mervyn's, Bombay Company. Starbucks is famously pulling back on a number of its outlets. But it's not just regional and national companies that are having trouble. Local businesses are running into problems, as well. I heard the other day about a cafe closing not too far away. The owners felt that they needed to stay a step ahead of their landlord and emptied their place out overnight before filing for bankruptcy. Their customers just weren't coming in as often as they had been over the last few months, and the owners couldn't keep their heads above water.
It's easy to notice the stores and restaurants that are no longer at their locations, but how many others are barely holding on? Which are the ones where business is drying up? Who's going to disappear into the night next? I'm afraid that we'll discover more retailers are closer to the edge than we realize. Of course, we'll only find out after they take whatever final actions are necessary.