Of all the bad news that broke in our small community last week, the story that seemed to generate the most reaction from our readers was that of a new Popeyes chicken restaurant being proposed.
This didn’t surprise me very much because I learned long ago that Yorktown residents care deeply about their storefronts and what’s in them. What did surprise me, however, was that so many of the 100-plus comments on our Facebook page were of the negative variety.
As I scanned the Planning Board agenda around noon last Friday, the word “Popeyes” jumped out at me. I immediately reached out to the town to find out more about this application and then I reported what I knew.
“Finally,” I said to my co-workers. “A new business our readers will be excited about. After all, it’s not a bank, nail salon or pizza place. Yorktown is about to become one of the few locations in the Hudson Valley with a Popeyes. Talk about variety!”
What I failed to enter into the equation, of course, was that Popeyes was “Not Trader Joe’s,” which might as well become the official store name for all other new businesses in Yorktown.
In 2012, I wrote a story for my former employer, the Daily Voice, about what should fill the Food Emporium. I polled the readers and the most popular answer—duh—was Trader Joe’s. Although I’ve lived in Yorktown my entire life, I considered that my initiation.
Three years later, the Yorktown Chamber of Commerce got our collective hopes up when they announced that Trader Joe’s was scouting a few locations in town. That obviously did not come to fruition, and there hasn’t been a whisper of interest ever since.
I get why it means so much to so many people. Trader Joe’s is very selective about its locations and we want to get into the exclusive club. But, unless something drastically changes about our town in the next few years, I don’t think it’s happening. Whatever they’re looking for, we don’t have it.
There’s a lot of relationship advice that applies to this situation. Our love for Trader Joe’s is unhealthy. It’s a one-way street. Let’s not waste our energy chasing after the businesses that don’t want us while trashing the ones that do.
The anger regarding new businesses is often misplaced. The Town Board, for example, takes a lot of criticism in situations like this, but most of the time they don’t get to choose. If a business complies with zoning code requirements, there’s very little the town can do to stand in its way.
Being spurned feels bad. But, we’ll hit the gym, get in shape, and maybe down the line Trader Joe’s will say to itself, “Wow, Yorktown’s looking pretty good.”
That is the task of our town officials and town staff to develop Yorktown into a place that top-of-the-line businesses eventually want to call home. It’s not an overnight process, to be sure, but they have the power to develop and implement a plan to make our town more walkable, more aesthetically pleasing, more desirable. It’s fair to hold their feet to the fire on that.
In the meantime, let’s not make Popeyes our enemy. They want to be here. They chose Yorktown. I’m a vegetarian, so chances are I won’t ever eat there. Clearly, many of you won’t, either. It wasn’t what you wanted, and I understand that, but not every new business is going to cater to your personal wants and needs.
I, for one, am happy to welcome “Not Trader Joe’s” to our community.