When Ariel Zaurov first opened his pharmacy in downtown Jersey City’s Paulus Hook neighborhood, in 2005, he was one of just a few businesses in the area. It was a tough start — there weren’t a lot of people who lived in the neighborhood, and the store, called Downtown Pharmacy, didn’t get much foot traffic — but Zaurov dug in, joining the board of the neighborhood association, donating to school groups, and working with local vendors.
Now, 12 years later, Zaurov has opened a second location that’s one stop away on the light rail, and he employs 20 people full-time at both locations. The Paulus Hook neighborhood is thriving, too, with a growing population, increased development, and new businesses, many of which are independent. “Most places are run by the people who own them,” says Zaurov.
As the neighborhood has grown, chain stores have also become more interested in it. In early 2017, CVS signed a lease for a 20,000-square-foot location two blocks up the street from Zaurov’s pharmacy.
It’s a familiar story, one that plays out in cities across the U.S.: Independent business owners sink roots into a place, meet community needs, and foster neighborhood growth, and then, as the area becomes vibrant, chain stores sweep in to open their own locations.
What’s different about the story in Jersey City is that there, the city has taken proactive steps to check this common cycle, and instead, build a model that allows for more opportunity for local entrepreneurs. Continue reading