JIM and Karla Murray have compiled their pictures of New York shopfront in The Disappearing Face of New York. They write:
…the influx of big box retailers and chain stores pose a serious threat to these humble institutions, and neighborhood modernization and the anonymity it brings are replacing the unique appearance and character of what were once incredibly colourful streets.
Everyone of these shops was someone’s life’s work and dream. They filled the shelves with things the owners wanted to sell. Sure, these shopkeepers wanted to make money, but that wasn’t everything. The shop reflected a view of the world. It was open to anyone who cared to step inside and discover what you were offering.
They represented a kind of freedom that corporate chains do not.