Photo by Joe Anuta
By Joe Anuta

Chain stores in Queens grew at half the rate of last year, a report released Monday showed, though their effect on the borough is not always positive, according to business experts.

“State of the Chains 2012” is an annual report published by the Center for an Urban Future, a Manhattan-based nonprofit, and showed that the city as a whole added 2.4 percent more chain stores this year, while the stores in Queens grew at a slower rate of 2.1 percent.

Seth Bornstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation, said chains can add a value to the business landscape of the borough, but having too many of them can create a drag on the economy.

“As in many things in life, a good balance is key as there are pros and cons to chain stores,” he said.

Queens boasts the second-highest number of chain stores in the city — Dunkin’ Donuts has set up more franchises in the borough than in any other — but this year ranked behind the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn in its growth rate. State Island actually lost chain stores over the last year.

The growth rate in Queens is about half of what it was in 2010 and 2011, when the borough saw a 5.4 percent increase in chains.

Heading into 2012, Queens had 1,624 of the businesses, with Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway leading the way. By the end of the year, 34 more stores had opened up shop.

But they did not do so in every neighborhood.

A ZIP code in the Elmhurst and Corona areas had the largest concentration of chain stores in the borough, 144, according to the report.

Several ZIP codes, including Breezy Point and Jamaica, had the fewest number of chain stores in the borough, ranging from zero to two. Kew Gardens had one chain store.

Subway, a sandwich shop, led the pack this year, with a net gain of 11 stores in the borough. But the borough lost some business as well.

CVS, a national pharmacy chain, closed three stores in Queens, while Mandee, a clothing store, and McDonald’s, a fast food chain, both closed two stores, the report said.

Carvel, an ice cream shop, also closed one of its shops in 2012.

An abundance of chain stores can bring jobs and low prices, but also attract consumers to an area, according to Bornstein. And that can bolster some of the borough’s small businesses, he said.

“This happened on Farmers Boulevard in Hollis a few years ago, when a Walgreens opened in an abandoned strip,” said Bornstein. “Almost immediately, the nearby vacant storefronts got tenants which are still there today.”

But too many can have the opposite effect.

“An overabundance of chain stores can attack an area’s retail fabric, usually by causing rent increases that make it impossible for small, independent businesses to thrive. This can lead to fewer unique services and products and really change a neighborhood’s character,” he said.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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