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home : opinion : opinion November 24, 2017

10/29/2017 9:18:00 PM
21st Century Business--Sometimes Produces Eyesores
The old Eckerd/Rite-Aid store at the intersection of East Main Street and North Flint Street sits empty--as it has for years--an eyesore not likely to be used for a new business.  The property owner is still collecting rent.(Lincoln Herald Staff Photo)
The old Eckerd/Rite-Aid store at the
intersection of East Main Street and
North Flint Street sits empty--as it has
for years--an eyesore not likely to be
used for a new business.  The property
owner is still collecting rent.

(Lincoln Herald Staff Photo)

Wayne Howard
Staff Writer

Over the next week, the Lincolnton City Council and Lincoln County Commissioners will be asked to consider approving plans for expansion of businesses in our area.  

Surely by now, you are familiar with the multiple Dollar General locations that are already under construction or planned pending approval. There's the one that drew such controversy because of traffic concerns which will soon be open on Highway 73 at Amity Church Road. 

The Commissioners and Planning Board will hold a public hearing next Monday on a proposal for another Dollar General at the intersection of Lee Lawing Road and Highway 150 at Pumpkin Center.  The same company, Terramore Development, also plans to build another Dollar General at the intersection of Highway 27 West and the Cherryville Highway.

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Someone remarked at the community meeting for the Pumpkin Center proposal, "they're putting a Dollar General on every corner." This reporter, who worked for twenty years for Eckerd (later Rite-Aid) found that amusing. I recall an editorial cartoon in the Charlotte Observer years ago that showed three cities...Paris with the Eiffel Tower, London with Big Ben, and Charlotte with Eckerd stores on opposing corners of an intersection.

I find it amusing that a good number of Eckerd/Rite-Aid stores that went out of business are now being used as Dollar General stores. There's one on Cox Road in Gastonia.

The City Council will also be asked to approve a new Chick-fil-A restaurant on East Main Street next to Peoples Bank.

In the earlier 20th Century, companies that were looking to expand looked for good business locations. They bought the property, built a store...and if it didn't make it, they still owned a valuable piece of property that someone else might want to use for another kind of store.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Eckerd got itself into trouble by expanding too quickly. Instead of following that earlier method of expansion, the company began finding supposedly suitable locations, then having someone else build a store. They then signed a long-term (usually 20 years) lease. If the location failed, the property owner still collected rent--which means that the property owner was in no hurry to have someone else take over the location for a new business. That's why many of those old Eckerd stores--the one in Lincolnton across from the Police Department and the one in Stanley--sat empty for years. The Lincolnton location is still empty with no prospects in sight; the one in Stanley is finally a Dollar Tree store.

Several years ago, it was banks that seemed to be springing up on every corner. There are still some new ones being opened almost every year--but there are also now many former bank locations that are empty buildings, gathering dust and rent payments thanks to long term leases. Bank of America (formerly NationsBank) once had five locations in Lincolnton; now they have one. They closed their former Denver location (the one near Stacy's) but it was taken over by First Federal--which left their former location further down Highway 16 empty. The Dallas location was closed. Two other banks closed their former locations in Stanley, one of them a relatively new building.

I have no doubt that the Chick-fil-A, which will be built by Concord Properties, will do very, very well. It's also quite likely that in the short-term, the new Dollar General locations will do OK. But if they don't make it, there's no real incentive on the part of the property owner to find a new tenant--they'll have a twenty year lease from Dollar General.

These chain store locations aren't the only properties that have been affected by this business model. There are other locations where long-term leases are still supplying income to property owners who have no reason to lower their asking price to attract a new tenant--as they surely would if they didn't have that long-term agreement.

So the old Eckerd/Rite-Aid in Lincolnton sits empty--and ugly--and is likely to continue that way for the forseeable future.

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