After 70 years in business on Farmington Avenue, the Kingswood Market is closing down, according to a story in today’s Hartford Courant. The owner can’t afford the rent hike sought by his landlord.
While the market is only vaguely familiar to me — I’ve run in a few times over the years — this strikes me as yet another indication that West Hartford’s economic success could wind up turning the town into another oasis of upscale chain stores and high-priced eateries, devoid of any particular local flavor. It’s a problem most communities would be only too happy to face, but it’s nonetheless troubling.
What, after all, make West Hartford different than other well-off little cities? We’re sort of like a college town, with better housing and no tailgating. We have the shops, the restaurants, even the bookstores (a rarity in America today). But if someone a decade from now looks around arrives from another state and looks around, will they see anything at all that couldn’t be in Ithaca, Madison, Northampton, Charlottesville or Iowa City? I’m not sure.
As rents rise, it becomes ever harder for strictly local businesses to make a go of it. The overhead gets so high that it becomes risky to sign a lease. The long-term prospects for our familiar bookstores, hardware store, sports shops and more are increasingly shaky despite a stunning prosperity everywhere you look.
So I’m sad to see the market shut down. It hurts its neighborhood, of course, but it’s also perhaps the canary in the coal mine.