With Marc Jacobs and Ralph Lauren replacing the mom-and-pop stores from his youth, Davidson, an economist, wonders how the few locally owned stalwarts have managed to survive. What Davidson found surprised him: it wasn't those that re-made themselves to keep up with the changing tastes of the neighborhood that remained, it was those that did not.
"Perhaps these small business survivors weren't the smartest or fittest. They were run by unusually risk-averse businesspeople who sold a product whose value just happened to grow in lock step with the neighborhood."
"Michael Stewart, who co-owns Tavern on Jane, put it more bluntly. He's surviving, he said, because he's not an especially ambitious businessman. Stewart's sales have risen over the past few years, but he takes home less money than he used to. He pays three times as much in rent as he did on his first lease, in 1995. Food costs more, too. 'If I just cared about the money,' he said, 'I'd have closed a long time ago.' Instead, he'll remain open 'as long as the place is covering the costs.'"