The Glover Report: WESTSIDE BUSINESS CORRIDOR: Techno-Age Corporate Decisions for Profitability Dictate Adjustments in the ‘Hood
West Baltimore Business Climate Changing: Bank of America closes Pennsylvania Avenue branch; Mondawmin loses lone record store
By Doni M. Glover, www.bmorenews.com
(BALTIMORE – June 19, 2012) – I know. I know. Life is full of changes. It is obviously more apparent than we realize. The measuring stick of a business, typically, is its profitability – its bottomline. If it’s making a profit – income minus expenses – it is good. If a business is increasingly losing money, ties have to be cut. At minimum, changes must be made. That’s just basic business out of the Business 101 playbook.
The Pennsylvania Avenue branch of the Bank of America chain is now closed. Mondawmin Mall loses its ‘last’ record store; today, the mall is without music. James Rouse, who first built Mondawmin Center is 1956, must be rolling over in his grave – or grabbing an Ipod. In a nutshell, there are changes in the business climate in West Baltimore – changes which also speak to a changing economy altered by advances in digital and online technology.
The record store at Mondawmin, one of the the first enclosed malls in the country, has been replaced with a video game store. Clearly, a changing music technology has changed the way music is sold. Because of digital technology and consumers now having the ability to purchase music online, apparently the need for physical distribution points has lessened.
Having frequented the mall since childhood (I’m nearly 47), this is the first time I recall there ever not being a record store at this mall located in Northwest Baltimore.
Again, Mondawmin has always had a “record” store. Today, record stores have clearly been replaced by digital technology – specifically the download-ability of the Internet. Look around! Everybody and their mama have earpieces and are using their Ipods or some other techno-gadget. Clearly, the “Walkman” has been replaced by the Ipod.
Bottomline: the margin of profit in operating record stores has been drastically reduced by the changes in technology. Where back in the day, a record store was the only distribution point - consumers today now have multiple options - many of which are online.
As for the Bank of America closing – well, that’s rather telling, too. The unconfirmed ‘word’ on the street is that M&T Bank has the business of some 75% of the merchants on ‘the Avenue.’
From a profitability standpoint, I guess Bank of America has conceded ‘the Avenue’ banking business to M&T because it was no longer making good business sense.
Bank of America customers’ nearest option to Pennsylvania Avenue is Mondawmin Mall – the mall with no music store - as far as we can tell, thus far - for the first time ever.
Maybe Paul Taylor, Director of the Small Business Resource Center of Baltimore said it best. He told BMORENEWS.com, “You have to look at business decisions made by business institutions.” He added, “If they don’t have the demographics to meet their business needs, then they make a decision to close up shop. Apparently, they no longer feel they have the demographics – the wealth – the economic initiative to sustain a bank there. The question becomes, ‘What is that calculus?’ Is it that they don’t have the prerequisite income any longer? Technology is playing a role in this in both of these industries. People no longer buy records. They can download on the go. As for banking, many people rarely even go into a bank. Much is done online.”
Foot Locker sporting apparel store on Pennsylvania Avenue also closed. It’s been nearly three months. Is it the economy? According to Taylor, a troubled economy may be partially responsible for businesses leaving low-income areas. However, he also reminds that minority communities were in trouble before the recession hit. “The economy in the minority community was already troubled,” he said. “Add-in suburban flight where people who now are making the money to buy better homes in less crime-ridden neighborhoods with better schools … We have the result of that today.” He did say, “The economy ‘is’ certainly the kicker! People who used to have some money now have no money. Overall, though, there are numerous impacting factors as to why businesses make the decisions they do.”
Taylor did raise the question of economic disparity in minority communities as it relates to these corporate decisions.
“The question has become whether or not technology gas disproportionately affected business activities in minority communities,” he stated. He added, “I think it’s happening in white communities, too. However, the black community is much more sensitive. We have limited resources as it is.”