Op-Ed: In planning main streets, the mix is crucial

thinking about CC
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
by Chuck Napoli

Mix it up in the hamlets so that they provide a retail recipe composed of chain stores and what we call mom-and-pops. Chain stores have met our convenience and consistency needs—they have the style and, according to my wife, “the-size-8-fits-me-just-right”—while Barry and Rick’s Britches-type mom-and-pop shops offer highly specialized products, along with service and experiences that provide that friendly, personal touch that suits you specially and where everybody knows your name.

The Chappaqua hamlet is rich with personal, authentic relationships and highly specialized products and services found, for example, at Micolay, Quaker Hill, Local, Nicolaysen and Docs Lipari & Mangiameli, DDS (literally a mom-and-pop), Britches, a pop-and-pop, and George’s men shop a father-son-son-daughter-and-daughter team included. In addition to property owners Britches, Nicolaysen Agency and Docs Lipari & Mangiameli, there is Petticoat Lane, Sherry B, Donna Hair, Marmalade, Chappaqua Restaurant, Healthy Choice Apothecary and Alec Perlson, OD—all property owners as well as merchants. The father-son purveyors at Chappaqua Village Market and another father son-team at Mario’s and the mother-daughter duo at Dance Emotions further bolster our buying options.

There’s every reason to love the mom-and-pops— and “[p]people pay extra in order to have that experience,” says Architect and City Planner Jeff Speck, author of Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time.

But Speck found too that “the most successful Main Streets in the U.S. are about half mom-and-pops, and half chains. No one wants to go where it’s only chains,”— the strip malls that are home to the massive “big- box category killers” and discounters, ad infinitum. Naturally,  Speck notes that the big-box business model “presupposes cheap, road-based transportation of both goods and people, and that if we didn’t so subsidize that [model] in our country they wouldn’t be so successful in our country.”

Sprawl, made possible by cars and trucks, pursuing more “stuff” jammed into the “boxes” than anyone would ever need in a lifetime has harmed town centers. “Finally, finally, and finally, maybe this industry will get rid of a lot of excess and bring some sane equilibrium back to supply and demand,” says Robin Lewis with over forty years of strategic operating and consulting experience in the retail and related consumer products industries in his report The Great Retail Demassification—The Death and Diminishment of Malls and Other Big Footprints, adding that “we are now on the edge of witnessing a massive elimination, downsizing, or repurposing of brick-and-mortar stores, and the malls and shopping centers that house them.”

The first AKRF study commissioned by the New Castle Town Board analyzing the competitive effects of retail at Chappaqua Crossing on retail in the hamlets points out that the top ten retail chains in the U.S.—such as Tiffany, Lululemon, Coach, Michael Kors, Select Comfort, True Religion, Vera Bradley and Birks & Mayors—are trending toward smaller footprints averaging 3,000 square feet. (Number one of the ten,—Apple—is the exception, at 8,453 square feet average). “Smaller, more intimate and interesting environments trump massive, overwhelming spaces and choice,” says Lewis.  And it’s not just the luxury nameplates who are pursuing a smaller footprints. “This new retail option,” Lewis says in Part 2 of his “Demassification” piece, “provides quicker and easier physical access for time-pressed consumers; enable the store to better localize and narrow its assortments; and facilitate omnichannel shopping — ordering online and picking up in a more human-scaled, accessible store,” and, much like mom-and-pops, “provide greater personalized experiences and easier access for targeted niche consumer needs,”.and “ ‘Special-just-for-me,’ highly personalized brands beat out publicly displayed badges of luxury.”

So the thinking is that easy, neighborhood shopping can be achieved by inviting chain-type shops—who are downsizing their store count, pursuing a smaller footprint, and opening free-standing stores in local neighborhoods—to our hamlets’ existing inventory of mom-and-pops.  This is the forumla that will draw more people to a critical mass and mix of quality stores and provide a shopping experience where quality chains satisfy certain of our needs while specialty, boutiques and mom-and-pops satisfy others. The combined shopping experiences will more than shore-up our sagging economic problem as we grow an authentic town center serving our cultural, residential and commercial needs while meeting our economic and vitality goals.

Even the spaces that are super-famous are actually intimately scaled.  As Speck notes, “It is often surprising to measure some of America’s favorite and most successful public spaces — New York’s Rockefeller Center, San Antonio’s River Walk, San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square — and discover how small they actually are. Few are much broader than sixty yards across.”  That’s 180 feet—a little more than the 50-yard line.

And where should this healthy mix take place?  In existing town centers, as Westchester County’s Planning Board has explained in its “Westchester 2015” report.

We forget that Westchester County itself has provided sound planning advice for the future. The County Planning Board’s charter states that the county “shall . . . formulate and recommend major development policies . . . with the objective of achieving a physical development of the county that will be orderly, harmonious, economically sound and of attractive appearance….”

Again from Westchester 2025:  “The future of development in Westchester will be found in redevelopment of residential, commercial and industrial space with most new construction located in the county’s downtowns in the largest cities and village centers, especially those with access to a rail station.”

There are fifteen (15) planning polices developed for “Westchester 2025” which include: assuring open space, preserving natural resources, and enhancing transportation corridors.  Heading the county’s list is “Channel Development to Centers,” because, as the report notes, “a healthy balance between economic growth and a sound development depends on directing growth to centers where infrastructure can support growth, where public transportation can be provided efficiently and where redevelopment can enhance economic vitality.”

A logical, sound and defensible planning strategy for New Castle, then, is to focus development in the hamlets of New Castle to serve both the 3000+ households (of the 6,000 total) within a single mile from these hamlet centers as well as to make them destinations for the broader retail catchment area.  This will make the village centers successful public places of enhanced economic vitality for everyone.

As Robin Lewis has noted, “less is more, and quality of lifestyle is desired over big quantities of everything. Smaller, intimate, and interesting environments trump massive, overwhelming space and choice”. Think small!  Think hamlets!


The Great Retail Demassification—The Death and Diminishment of Malls and Other Big Footprints, Part 1, by Robin Lewis, Forbes, 3/24/14

The Great Retail Demassification—The Death and Diminishment of Malls and Other Big Footprints, Part 2, by Robin Lewis, Forbes, 3/25/14



We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

Chuck – it took you 2 years but you have finally come out and admitted that your plan for downtown Chappaqua includes chain stores.
In case some readers don’t know or have forgotten, Chuck Napoli is an architect and developer. He has submitted plans and applications to the town of New Castle. The Napoli plan includes the construction of 20-25thousand sq ft of new retail space. The description of that space has evolved from ” bigger” to ” large format” national and regional in nature. In this letter he has finally called them what they always were – Chain stores.
In order to accommodate the expected shoppers, Napoli plans to build a 400 car garage next to Bell School and place an elevated turf field above it. His plan also includes a 5 story theater.
Traffic in and around downtown is already a mess especially around school drop off pick up and especially bad when commuter trains pull in and out. Chuck wants to add chain stores and parking in the midst of this. The character of downtown will be ruined , traffic unmanageable , and Bell students will be dodging in and out of traffic.
Dead on arrival.

By We knew it all along on 09/17/2014 at 6:47 am

Chain stores for downtown Chapp is a horrible idea. We already have RiteAide and Wallgreen, Starbucks and Dunkin Doughnuts. What next Subway, 7-11, and Quiznos ?
Napoli is correct – many chain stores are now in smaller more intimate space. He praises our mom & pop merchants. Wonder how Mikolay will feel should a small Tiffany’s or Kay Jewelers moves in. How would Barry and Rick at Family Britches feel if a small Brooks Brothers boutique comes to downtown Chapp.  Restoration Hardware has small format stores – that good for Greeley Hardware?
Chain store deliveries are made in large trucks as they drop off inventory to multiple stores on the route. Do we really want 18 wheeler trucks barreling through town to delivery merchandise to The Gap, Coach , Victorias Secret or J Crew.
If I want chain stores I’ll go to The Westchester Mall. Chapp is no place for them.

By Resident on 09/17/2014 at 7:06 am

This town will have to decide whether they want to keep downtown Chappaqua a nail salon center and a play-town for their middle schoolers or make it a town that residents want to come to not just for the few chain stores that would be part of the mix he talks about, but for the additional stores and restaurants that would be drawn by the increased foot traffic that those few chains cause.

Knew it all along and Resident clearly want the first type – a pretend town for their kids to play in on Friday afternoons and a glut of personal services for the moms picking them up. 

And as far as 18 wheelers?  Our main st is a state road. We’ve got the 18 wheelers going back and forth anyway.  They already cut through here constantly.

By Really? on 09/17/2014 at 9:23 am

I’d say the consensus is that the town is pretty bad.  I’d like it to become a real town.  The mix Mr. Napoli describes sounds like what successful towns are.  I like his concept.

By Make it real on 09/17/2014 at 9:41 am

Mr Napoli ignores the reality and current state of retailing. My 30 plus year career has been entirely in various aspects of commercial real estate. I have worked for large and small developers, had my own business, and now work for the real estate division of a large consulting firm. We advise private equity , endowments and hedge funds with their real estate investments.
On line commerce is killing mom n pop and larger retailers. Many chain stores operate stores as loss leaders and advertisements for their brands. They welcome foot traffic but are just as happy when they sell online. Main St USA commerce is dying as staple merchants like the local Travel agent, Book store, Music Store, and photo shop have disappeared. People “showroom” – looking for items at the store then go online to find it cheaper. The new Amazon phone allows a shopper to take a picture of an item in a store and then it searches Amazon for a better price. Click “buy” and free shipping next day.
The only retail hubs that are improving and fighting off this trend are those that we call “lifestyle centers” – ones that include “alternative anchors”.
These are retail centers that offer goods and services not obtained online. Gyms like Planet Fitness and Equinox , super markets like Whole Foods – Trader Joes are at the center of this trend. Spinning, Yoga and Pilates centers are included in the category. You cant do this stuff in front of a computer. Innovators have included medical facilities, theaters and government buildings.
I am not advocating for retail at CC but Whole Foods a gym – town hall, condos and Mt Kisco medical have a far better chance of success at CC than chain stores do for downtown.

By Real estate professional on 09/17/2014 at 10:33 am

Naysayers, downtown is teetering on death.  Your solutions are what exactly?

By Anon on 09/17/2014 at 10:39 am

Another veiled commercial for Mr Napoli’s development for downtown.
Chuck – if you are going to write such a letter advocating for chain stores for our quaint downtown than the honest thing would be to also state that you are a developer and have a for profit development in the works with application submitted.  You might also shed some light on how you envision parking traffic and safety of middle school students. I take the train to NYC. I arrive home around 6:30 pm and getting out of the parking lot can take 10 minutes. When youth sports are taking place at Bell the traffic is worse. Now you want to add chain stores? Really?

By Ronnie on 09/17/2014 at 11:29 am

To develop the Chappaqua hamlet, move town hall, build a parking structure at the train station, and, not least, Sell Bell and fully utilize the other middle school.

By bob on 09/17/2014 at 11:56 am

ATTENTION Town Board members. ATTENTION master plan participants.
Please read the comment above posted by Real Estate Professional. When you finish read it again. It is accurate and spot on.

By JR on 09/17/2014 at 5:06 pm

Ronnie, it’s no secret that Chuck Napoli is an architect with a concept, maybe even a plan.  So what? You sound as though he’s somehow been dishonest or secretive. Separate your dislike of his plan from the features of his plan. Those features are pretty interesting. Parking at ground level with a field as its roof would be an improvement, safety-wise, over what’s there now – that open parking lot with anyone on foot able to cross it anywhere anytime as cars circulate. I guess I’d advise Mr. Napoli to say how many chain stores, since Ronnie is pretty freaked out by the chain idea.

By Pedestrians aren’t safe NOW on 09/18/2014 at 12:48 am

I happen to think Napoli’s plan is brilliant. Our town is in critical condition. I believe he knows how to resuscitate it.

By Make the downtown real on 09/18/2014 at 1:05 am

Chuck – you are correct -” the mix is crucial”. But you neglect to include in your ” mix” the stores, merchants and services that will get people to get in their car and go shop.  Real Estae Professional is correct.  I shop for groceries, I drive to yoga, I drive to the dry cleaners, and I drive to have a meal in a restaurant. Once I have arrived at my destination ( most often the supermarket / gym for yoga) I stay in the area to shop for other things. I admit that much of my shopping is now online so no shoe store or book store or apparel store is likely to draw me. This is especially true around the holidays when shopping for gifts used to consume time, money and gas. Why fight traffic and parking – why fight the cold icy weather- why spend more $ when I can shop for friends and family online and save money. And free shipping and free returns-exchanges. I don’t even go to the bank anymore – direct deposit and auto bill pay. But I still go the the supermarket , I still go to yoga , still get hair and nails done and still go to dry cleaner.
I’m pretty sure if we brought half a dozen chains stores to downtown to improve the mix my shopping habits would change very little. Bring a shoe store or athletic apparel store and I’ll find it cheaper online.
Bring us Whole Foods and that’s where I’ll shop. Near- next to Whole Foods add a gym with yoga and spinning.  Throw in a few other stores and restaurants and you will have a draw.

By Shopper on 09/18/2014 at 6:53 am

A Whining Wall is a definite need for some of our citizens; oh yeah, they have NCN.
But if we had a whining wall, should it be four, three or two stories high?
Most likely we would need a zoning change, architecture review and the always popular traffic study; forget about where to put it, actually it would serve a need in a “lifestyle center” and turn a profit too where one could whine and dine.
The probable process would create a whittled down thing made of some maintenance free material about 4 feet high. Perfect for mental midgets!

By Enough already on 09/18/2014 at 7:20 am


By Another resident on 09/18/2014 at 9:27 am

Christine – I submitted a comment yesterday. The comment as began Attention Town Board and Master Planning…. I pointed out my agreement with comment by Real Estate Pro. I was polite and civil.  You did not print my comment- why.
I can only conclude that my support for the comment was interpreted by you as an endorsement for CC which I know you are a nimby.
Shame on you!

Editor’s Note: There is no comment such as you describe.  Try again.

By Dear Editir on 09/18/2014 at 9:43 am

@ Shopper,

I NEVER buy shoes online and love to look at small shops offerings and never shop at any Whole Foods.  I hate whole Foods because they are a sham store and more and more people in other towns are realizing the same.

By another shopper on 09/18/2014 at 9:59 am

You are in the minority of the population. Knock yourself out driving to stores that do not have what you want, which is your absolute prerogative. Zappos is great. I order 4 pairs at a time, sending back all or some at no cost to me. I ALWAYS get my size.

By dear another shopper on 09/19/2014 at 10:18 am

I have written repeatedly about the creation of a Business Improvement District, which takes the infighting away from the silly, agenda driven ‘steering’ and ‘advisory’ committees. A BID does not solve all the problems, but it creates a discrete taxing authority, at no cost to residents, with a board of directors comprised of property owners (and some residents) to make the decisions that best benefit themselves. AND…they tax themselves on commercial property only.

Everyone, please read my two 9/18/14 postings to Rob Greenstein’s “master Plan” comment article in this NCN issue which explains what a BID is all about and how it can shed light on the hidden agendas of some and hypocrisy of others.

I nominate Chuck Napoli to be chairman of the BID board, without compensation, to enable him to tax and spend the downtown property owners’ and merchants’ tax dollars.

By dear anon on 09/19/2014 at 10:31 am

Mr Napoli – your silence is deafening. Several excellent points have been made in regards to chain stores for downtown as well as the larger trends in retailing. Yet you say nothing.
If I recall correctly your last letter to the editor ( one of many that not so subtlety is meant to promote Napolville) raised warning signs about RT 117 as a truck route should retail come to CC. So tell us Chuck- what happens to all these trucks that must deliver to your new downtown chain stores? Won’t RT 120 turn into the same truck rt you worried about at CC? And what of the middle school kids that will now have trucks and parking garages and traffic?  At least at Greeley the campus is set back and isolated – not like Bell.
It would be appropriate to respond.

By What say you Chuck on 09/19/2014 at 12:24 pm

What chain stores does Mr Napoli suggest come to our quaint downtown? We are surrounded by shopping. Do we need or want a GAP, Old Navy, Foot Locker, Coach, Michael Koors- no. If chain restaraunts come in it will hurt our already existing eateries.
Besides , there is no evidence that these chain stores are even interested in downtown Chapp.
It certainly seems that this letter is an attempt to promote The Napoli Plan for the revitalization of downtown. I wouldn’t invest in his dvelopment and I certainly won’t shop at his chain stores.

By Very bad idea on 09/19/2014 at 3:29 pm

Let me say this, “Very bad idea”:You will not have the restaurants and general busy-ness or liveliness evenings (the town is now utterly dead after 5:30—even after 5:00) that most of us want to see with only so-so small stores that close early. If we want even minimal night life, some—A FEW—larger stores (or chains) are necessary. Cripes – we’re not talking about a Walmart’s chain.

By Town is dead now after 5 on 09/19/2014 at 6:59 pm

Aren’t walgreens, dunkin donuts, rite aide, starbucks. citibank, and wells fargo enough chain stores for our ‘quaint’ downtown?

By we have enuf on 09/19/2014 at 9:49 pm

Miriam Webster defines a chain store as “a store that has the same name and basic appearance as other stores that sell the same kind of goods and are owned by the same company.”  That includes Breeze, Petticoat Lane, and Squire’s.  Having successful shops that have found a formula that works and provides what customers want doesn’t sound bad to me.

By Chain Link on 09/19/2014 at 10:46 pm

To The Town is Dead….your theory that if we bring a few chain stores to downtown it will result in “liveliness” after 5pm is incorrect. The GAP or Banana Republic isn’t going to bring nightlife to Chapp. We have several quality restaurants and they attract patrons during evening hours. During the spring summer and fall youth sports and men’s softball attract people to town. We don’t need or want “shopping”in the evening.
Pleasantville has Jacob Burn Theater and yet they still have empty storefronts and struggling merchants.

By Resident on 09/20/2014 at 6:21 am

The restaurant choices in Mt. Kisco …with easy parking…makes patronizing downtown a non-starter. The ‘uphill’ verbal battles between civilians (i.e non commercial property owners or our naïve ‘experts’ whose expertise is knowing how to shop and eat a meal) are a harmful waste of time.

By the way Mr. Napoli, what private entity would be willing to spend its own money on developing your plan?  Or can it be that its essence is “O P M” (other people’s money)? Certainly taxpayer money should NOT be used.

By Mt Kisco Works! on 09/20/2014 at 8:12 am

@Town is Dead now After 5 – so you think a “few” chain stores downtown will provide some minimal nightlife. A few bars/ restaraunts maybe with live music might stimulate a bit more nightlife but I seriously doubt that a few stores like Victoria Secrect – J Crew – Williams Sonoma or Pottery Barn will energize downtown. That’s not why people moved here – it’s not what most of us want.
I shop online most of the time for holidays and clothes. When I feel the need to see and feel the things I am interested in acquiring I go to The Westchester Mall or Greenwich or even a day of shopping in NYC.  I don’t want my hometown to be a shopping destination.
Having said that I always go out to shop for food produce meats and fish. I drive to Mt Kisco A & P. Once there I use the dry cleaner and other small businesses.  I assure you if we bring a Whole Foods to CC I will spend more time in my town.

By Longtime resident on 09/20/2014 at 11:55 am

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