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Home Guru: Tell Me, Do You Have a Starbucks, and is Costco Nearby?

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Elevation of the proposed Costco in Yorktown Heights.
Elevation of the proposed Costco in Yorktown Heights.

Life is full of coincidences and synchronicity that never cease to amaze me. Sometimes I laugh to myself when I find that something I learned or questioned a lifetime ago returns to serve me when I need it.

For instance, when I first started to dabble in real estate, first as an investor and eventually as a realtor to better integrate into my hometown community away from Madison Avenue, I remember so clearly the questions my first buyer-client asked about my town: “Does it have a Starbucks? And how close is it to a Costco?”

At that time, we didn’t have a Starbucks or a Costco, and my prospect eventually decided against moving to my area of specialization in upper Westchester. While she never disclosed her reason, I did wonder whether it was the lack of a Starbucks and a Costco. As it happens she bought in Connecticut close to, you guessed it, Costco.

Now here’s the coincidence along with a disclosure: Almost 10 years later, I was contacted by the local developer for Costco asking if my PR firm could set up an information program for the company as it wends its way through the approval process to set up shop in my hometown, Yorktown. Because I am a firm believer in intelligent and responsible commercial development, which I know Costco represents, I agreed.

With that disclosure out of the way, I can say that I have worked with many towns in the region where I sell real estate, hanging around town halls and following community news online, and each seems to have a personality built on the way the town chooses to develop its commercial areas.

In the region served by The Examiner, we have both exclusive communities with quaint downtown areas for shopping (Chappaqua, Pleasantville and Katonah for instance) but more often than not, we have bedroom communities that offer shopping at malls, as in Yorktown.

This may sound like an unlikely claim, but in my first year as a public relations practitioner, I had the opportunity to represent the man credited with inventing the shopping mall. He was Raymond Loewy, the first great American commercial and industrial designer, who also gave us the concept for modular housing, a lot of which I sell today.

In Yorktown, there had not been a single major commercial project in almost 30 years, while Cortlandt, just to the west of us, has been thriving with commercial opportunities that my town turned down.

At the same time, to the east is another community, Somers, where many of the people I know there say that they feel “isolated” when it comes to their shopping needs. Perhaps some prefer it that way, but it seems that most do not.

New research shows that options for shopping may be more a determinant for community choice than even schools. A survey conducted recently by Coldwell Banker shows that the first three features home buyers consider are the condition of the home, followed by opportunities for good shopping nearby, and coming in third, schools.

I was surprised by that. Maybe it’s because I’m not the shopper in my family. It’s my wife who loves shopping, and while I have rarely been inside a big box store, I do love it when she finds a special brand of baked goods at BJ’s Wholesale Club.

Shoppers and shopping are fascinating studies. At a public hearing devoted to the Costco development last week, a citizen expressed concern about what would happen to BJ’s if Costco is built diagonally across the road. Interestingly, studies have shown that when a Costco revitalizes a commercial area, all the other businesses do better. And in fact, the owner of the BJ’s shopping center has gone on record as welcoming Costco to Yorktown. Our local appliance store owner, Rich Leahy of Atlantic Appliance, supports the development saying that he’s not concerned with competition, and what retailers should worry about today is competing with online shopping.

In that vein, it’s interesting to think about online shopping as a revival of the shop-at-home concept developed at the turn of the last century by Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogues. Are you old enough to remember?

Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® associated with Coldwell Banker and a lifestyles columnist who writes regularly as The Home Guru. For those seeking advice on home maintenance or who want to buy or sell a home, visit his website,, or call him directly at 914-522-2076.

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