A Connecticut Retail Headache

There is an old saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Apparently, part of that infamous road runs through a Connecticut village called Stratfield.

Back in 2006, an independently-owned supermarket in the heart of Stratfield went out of business. Shortly after its closure, the Walgreens chain showed up and signed a lease to occupy the space. This provoked the Stratfield Village Association to raise a hue and cry against Walgreens. It was nothing personal against company, but the association was appalled that a national retail chain would set up shop in their quaint little corner of New England.

The problem dragged on for years, with the Stratfield Village Association organizing a high-profile campaign that resulted in the local zoning commission barring it from taking up occupancy in the property it leased. The state Supreme Court also ruled against Walgreens and the village changed its zoning regulations to prevent any large retail network from doing business within Stratfield. The big loser, it seemed, was Walgreens because it was stuck with a lease that expired in 2026.

But the real losers, it turned out, were those that went out of their way to rally against Walgreens. While this retail melodrama was playing out, there were bigger problems afoot – namely, the 2008 crash and the non-recovery that followed. Many smaller and independent retail operations struggled during this time, and the vacant property in Stratfield remained empty for years. There was grand talk of subdividing it into small stores or converting it into a seasonal farmer’s market, but nothing came of it.

In 2013, it seemed that the empty location finally got a tenant when something called the Child World Academy expressed interest in the property. The Stratfield Village Association and the zoning board were ecstatic, and even Walgreens was happy to create a sublease for this new entity.

And then, that fabulous bitch known as karma struck. An inspection of the property found the presence of asbestos and PCBs throughout the former supermarket. Child World Academy publicly stated that the property’s owners would not pay for the removal of the hazardous materials, leaving it with no alternative but to withdraw from the deal. As a result, the property is approaching its ninth anniversary as an empty shell that is creating significant problems for the village.

As for those that thought they were doing the right thing in going out of their way to keep Walgreens from opening in their village, it seems that their newly found 20/20 hindsight village is creating blinding headaches.

“It is an eyesore to the neighborhood in its blighted condition and is seriously affecting property values,” complained Bob Stone, a local Realtor, in a letter to a community newspaper. “While at one time there good intentions by the neighbors (me included) to restrict its use and thwart Walgreens from opening, we should admit defeat at this point and move on. The zoning should be changed back to what it was originally and let Walgreens build their store (if they still want to), or at least give them an opportunity to sublease the space without all the restrictions being placed on the property which limits the type of tenants that they could lease to. At this point, almost anything would be better than an empty, deteriorating building, which is doing a lot more harm than good to the Stratfield neighborhood.”

The moral of this real estate story is simple: if a new business is not going to take food out of your refrigerator or money out of your wallet or disrupt the security of your home, don’t go out of your way to prevent it from operating. If anything, a good lesson to live by can be found in the wise words of writer and behavioral science expert Dr. Steve Maraboli: “How do I have productive days with minimum drama? Simple: I mind my own business.”

About The Author