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1998-12-14
Toledo, OH. Rite Aid Piranhas.

The Mayor of Toledo, Carty Finkbeiner, has compared Rite Aid and its competitor's to piranha fish, gobbling up inappropriate locations for their "convenience" stores. "They have given up on mid-street locations," the Mayor told the Toledo Blade, "and absolutely like piranhas are going after corner locations for their drug stores." They Mayor has vowed to fight this trend "on every street corner in Toledo" -- and it looks like he'll have to. Rite Aid has been closing down its existing locations, and going after corner lots for increasing stand along visibility, and to clone their 11,000 s.f. prototype store, regardless of the neighborhood surrounding it. For example, after only 4 years at the corner of Door and Junction, Rite Aid closed down, allegedly without even telling the building's owner. "They left like undercover," said the building owner, Bobby Howard. "They haven't written a letter, made a phone call, or told me anything." Yet Rite Aid has been sending a powerful message to Toledo neighborhoods -- and the citizens don't like what they're hearing. Rite Aid closed another store at Bancroft and Upton soon after it opened up a larger store about one mile away. Another Rite Aid at the Swayne Field shopping center closed, and another at the River East Shopping center is vacant. Rite Aid has become an open and shut case in Toledo. The Blade says that neighborhood critics of this corporate leapfrog mentality feel that Rite Aid's policy weakens the look and feel of older neighborhoods, because they tear down older buildings, and leave empty stores behind. The biggest controversy in Toledo over Rite Aid took place recently at the corner of Broadway and South. The City Council voted to OK a plan allowing Rite Aid to bulldoze seven older buildings at the corner, so that Rite Aid could build an 11,000 s.f. store across the street from an existing CVS pharmacy. The Mayor was reportedly furious that Rite Aid was planning to close its downtown store on Madison Avenue.The head of the City Council said: "It just sort of fits the pattern of their making decisions and the community finds out about it at the last minute." Residents said it was absurd for Rite Aid to shut down a store it just moved into a few years ago, to build the new store one block away. The newspaper editorial called City Council's support of the Rite Aid move "an unconscionable sellout to selfish corporate interests." The Blade called Rite Aid's open and shut maneuvering "a common ailment in Toledo these days...in the so-called drug store wars: tear down buildings of value and character, and replace them with bland, concrete block emporiums that look just like the one down the street." The Mayor protested that if the City Council voted to allow the Rite Aid move, he would veto it and wait for "development that was more people-friendly". When the Council approved the plan 10-2 in early December, including a plan to sell city land to Rite Aid for their parking lot, the Mayor said: "The big money of Rite Aid bought this vote, and that is shameful." On December 5, the Mayor used his veto power to turn aside the City Council vote. But on December 9, the Council voted again to override the Mayor's veto, and pave the way for building demolition. One City Councilor, who voted against Rite Aid replied: "I fear that when this drugstore war is over, we are going to be left with a number of these huge, box-style buildings...Rite Aid does not have a feel for the neighborhoods. Their bottom line is the only thing they're concerned with...". Most recently, the Mayor tried to get the City Council to support a 60 day moratorium on the issuance of any demolition permits. "It is shortsighted to tear down buildings for these box-like structures," the Mayor protested. A writer for the Toledo Blade concluded: "Why to Toledoans confuse new construction with progress? Why do we find satisfaction in an overly franchised landscape that looks like anywhere else?" In Toledo, it looks like the piranhas are too busy chewing up neighborhoods to notice the opposition.

What you can do: We have documented at least half a dozen or more locations recently where Rite Aid proposed the demolition of older, sometimes historic buildings, in order to build their prototype 11,000 s.f. box, complete with drive thru. A Rite Aid official told people in Toledo why this was happening: "You have the advent of managed care," explained Billtitelman, a Rite Aid VP, "which overlays the whole picture here, which forces down profit margins at pharmacies, requiring a larger front end to make the thing profitable." In other words, the profit margin on drugs is not great enough for Rite Aid, so they have to build bigger stores with more non-drug "front end' products. This is being done for the convenience of the company, not for the customer. It's all profit-driven, not need driven.










 
 
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