Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sewell's Hardware on N. Dixie Hwy. set to close...

Word on the street is that a long-standing business on Dixie Hwy. is closing - apparently a letter regarding the same was circulated around other businesses in the area this week.  I've asked for a scanned copy and will share it with you once I receive it.

There is a range of reasons for this local hardware store closing.  One is the rise of importance in big box hardware outlets that cater to large groups of people through big advertising budgets and large parking lots in suburban areas.  It is also reflective of the changing nature of the near-by neighborhoods - more renters, less code enforcement, less maintenance, lower incomes.  Another is due to the highest commercial electricity rates in the state of Florida - why keep a store open in Lake Worth if your utility costs are three to four times higher than other locations?  Personally, I have used this store infrequently, going there to get keys duplicated or other such small purchases.  It has been my impression that Sewell's served many local contractors, whose business is also off during these challenging economic times.

Look at what else is happening right outside the Lake Worth city limits.  There is a proposal for a Wal-Mart Marketplace - a smaller store specializing in grocery items - right across the C-51 canal at the south end of West Palm Beach.  That's the big vacant property next to the Winn-Dixie.  Forget about potential competition with the new Publix in downtown - think of what that store will do to Sedano's who has to pay higher rates for electricity just like every other business in Lake Worth.  I have it on good authority that they will not be renewing their lease just for that reason.  And this was before news of this mini Wal-Mart came to the fore.  Likewise, there is a Wal-Mart just being completed on 10th Avenue North - just west of the city limits of Lake Worth.  I am not sure if that store will be serviced by Lake Worth utilities or not.

The point is, by having these new stores being built just outside the city limits of Lake Worth, we as a community have no "say" in how or what is built and we don't benefit from the increase in commercial property values that would help offset our record decreases in taxable property values throughout the city.  We also end up spending more of our incomes outside of the city limits and don't benefit from a more central location that would not require getting in the car to get there.  That would put more pressure on smaller stores, like Sewell's, and other smaller proprietors in keeping their doors open within Lake Worth. There are exceptions to that; it would be easy for me to walk to the mini Wal-Mart from my house.  But it still would be a trip that would not spend money inside of our city.

Perhaps these locations outside of Lake Worth were chosen due to the ambiguous nature of our zoning code (LDRs) and its relationship to our amended Comprehensive Plan.  Maybe height was an issue?  Or, perhaps it was just the availability of land at the right price - or a combination of all these.  Do you think that Wal-Mart knew that our local rabble-rousers would protest the building of a Wal-Mart within the borders of Lake Worth?  Do you think they wanted that added hassle?

So, instead, we get all the negative impacts of these new stores without having a say in the matter or the benefit of revenue from them.  We get the dirty end of the stick.