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Editorial: Running on empty

Have you felt lighter lately? Perhaps like a weight has been lifted? Most of us really should, but not because of time spent at the gym. It’s really because there’s less heft in our wallets to lug around.

You may have noticed prices at the pump climbing in recent weeks. Prices have spiked up towards $4 per gallon all over the Capital District. There is talk in the media (some of it even backed up by facts, rare as that may be) of the average gallon of gasoline hitting $5 over the summer.

That’s bad news for just about everyone, especially since there’s not a blessed thing any of us can truly do about the price at the pump.

Faiza Warsi knows that pretty well. She and her husband, Amir Salman, have run the Delmar Getty for well over a decade. Now, their refusal to put up Getty’s high gas prices will probably spell the end for their business.

Warsi told us Getty insisted on setting prices much higher than those of her competitors across the street—it should be noted the company is in bankruptcy and in debt. For Warsi and Salman, this practice strangled business and soured customers to the point that having no gas was better than having an overpriced product.

If not for the bankruptcy proceedings, the store would probably be vacant already. Some would point out this consequence is the cost of doing business under Getty’s model, and they’d be right. But Warsi’s story is illustrative of a lot more than that.

You can read a lot about the decline of the small business in America these days. In an era when money is scarcer and prices are higher, only the strong (and this can often be read as “big”) survive.

Bethlehem is far from a blighted town, and is fortunate to have businesses setting up shop here. A ShopRite grocery is setting up across the street from a Price Chopper. It seems few months go by that a proposal for a shop or restaurant on Glenmont’s Route 9W doesn’t come to the Planning Board. And even in the more residential parts of the community, hamlet developments are brining commercial options.

There’s money in this community. Retailers want it. And competition is ultimately good for the consumer.

But there are always consequences to growth beyond unlimited shopping opportunities. Having more choices more often than not means somebody eventually has to go. And every time a business is shuttered, there’s a real person and a real face behind it. Sometimes they didn’t want anything more than something to call their own.

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