Article Image
Columbia Spectator Staff

A walk up Broadway in recent months has provided consumers with an increasingly limited number of options for their drug store needs--the Duane Reade, Rite Aid, and CVS chains have opened new outlets on nearly every block, replacing many community and family owned businesses. On Broadway between West 102nd and 103rd Streets, residents are now taking a stand against what they consider "corporate greed."

As the Associated Supermarket on that block has closed its doors and will soon be replaced by a new CVS store, the West 102nd and 103rd Street Block Association has organized a protest, claiming that the takeover is "putting profits over the wants and needs of the people who live in this neighborhood." Without the Associated Store, the neighborhood, which has many elderly residents, lacks a supermarket in close proximity, while three drug stores currently reside between West 102nd and 104th Streets.

A representative for the block association said that nearly 2,000 signatures were collected during protests held over the past two weeks. The block association is calling for a boycott of the new store when it opens, as well as all of the chain drug stores, including Duane Reade on upper Broadway. In addition, it is also encouraging residents to patronize the family-owned Suba pharmacy at 104th Street instead.

"We can't stop them from coming in, but they can't force us to shop there," Jack Davenport, a member of the block association and protest organizer, said.

The protesters have passed out flyers, attended meetings up and down Broadway, and sent e-mails to garner support for their cause. There are now only two supermarkets between West 97th and109th streets. Although the CVS deal has already been signed, Davenport said his goal is to get the chain to "See the petitions on the wall in this neighborhood," and ultimately force CVS to buy out their contract so a different type of business, preferably a supermarket, can move in.

"Our issue is a no-brainer; our supermarket is gone and another damn drugstore is coming in," he said.

The Suba Pharmacy and Surgicals drug store at the corner of West 104th and Broadway has been at that location for over 20 years, and they hope that the new competition will not have a great effect on their business, according to store manager Shah Naqui.

"Price-wise we're competitive and we are thinking about cutting down our profit even further just to be here," Naqui said.

Naqui said that when the Rite Aid at 103rd St. moved in, business even improved because the chain charged more than Suba for many items, especially prescription medications, and Suba filled prescriptions faster.

Suba is grateful for the neighborhood's support in the battle against the chains.

"We are really thankful to the neighborhood. They are supporting us tremendously and don't want us out of business," Naqui said.

Davenport said the Associated Market reportedly was forced to leave the Broadway location when its lease expired and the landlord nearly doubled what the company had paid in rent when they signed the contract. Management at Associated Supermarkets in Queens was not available for confirmation or comment.

At press time, CVS corporate headquarters had not returned calls for comment on when the new store would open.