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Is any corner safe from a drugstore?

There is a growing drug problem in the suburbs.

More precisely, there is a growing drugstore problem in the suburbs.

What other conclusion can be drawn after a drive through the Town of Tonawanda?

There are two Walgreens in the works on Delaware Avenue -- pharmacological bookends at Kenmore Avenue and Sheridan Drive. Meanwhile, a CVS is being built in a plaza on Sheridan kitty-corner from one of the planned Walgreens and across the street from a Tops that has a pharmacy.

That CVS store will be less than a mile from an existing Rite Aid on the corner of Colvin Boulevard and Sheridan. And that store is about a mile from a Walgreens at Parker Boulevard and Sheridan. Head back up Parker to Kenmore and you get another CVS and another Rite Aid before you get to the other planned Walgreens.

If you can't get drugs in the Town of Tonawanda, you're just not trying.

But it's not just there. At the intersection of Harlem Road and Wehrle Drive and Kensington Avenue in Amherst near the Cheektowaga line, a Rite Aid and a CVS are under construction across from an existing Walgreens.

In Elma, developers want to build a 14,000-square-foot Rite Aid, meaning that the closest thing to a big-box development in that still mostly rural town will be a drugstore.

Western New York is an aging region, so it stands to reason that retailers who sell pharmaceutical and health care products would find this to be an attractive market.

But this attractive?

Tonawanda Town Supervisor Ronald Moline said that there has been "keen competition" among the drug retail giants to build in his community and that he is all for that. "Their decision-making process and where they're going to build their facilities is a decision made on market conditions," he said. "And if they meet the zoning requirements and satisfy whatever reviews take place -- ours would include review by the Planning Board and review by the Building Department -- they can build."

The question of whether the town needs them is not part of the process.

"I don't think that's an appropriate question for an elected official," he said, adding: "It would be like saying [to a developer], 'Do you really think it's appropriate to build more single-family homes? We already have 30,000.' "

The growth spurt is reminiscent of the movie theater boom of a few years ago, when it seemed that a cineplex was going up in every town. It was reasonable to conclude that all the screens would not survive, and they didn't.

So will some of these drugstores meet the same fate as the Holiday 6 and the University 8?

Audrey Guskey, a marketing professor at Duquesne University, said that what's happening here is part of a national trend. And research of that trend shows that the end game might not be one store canceling out another.

"It seems like it wouldn't make sense. But one drugstore enters the market, and then they find that they're getting a good customer base, and they do some research, and a lot of the other ones literally follow," she said.

A better analogy than the movie theaters is gas stations, she said. Just because there's a Mobil on one corner doesn't mean a new Sunoco across the street will put it out of business.

"You wonder how can they survive, but . . . there's more traffic and more people with more options, and they figure they'll get quite a few more customers as a result of clustering them all together," Guskey said.

The days of the corner drugstore may be gone, but as a drive through Tonawanda proves, the days of three drugstores on the corner may have arrived.


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