No matter where we drive here in Bethel, Connecticut, they're there.
Scores of them. A custom framing shop. An electronics store. A coffee shop. Several restaurants.
All for rent or for lease or for sale or, simply, closed up and dark, shuttered remnants of a more prosperous time.
And even though there is absolutely no love lost between me and Bennigan's (good riddance to an awful restaurant, I say), seeing these empty store fronts, their vast parking lots bare save for some small piles of dirty snow, I can't help but feel bad for the people who used to patronize these shops, these restaurants.
Because it means that whoever these places' former customers were, they've likely hit on harder times than the corporate conglomerates they used to frequent.
Living in Turkey for the past two and a half years, I have seen minor consequences of the global economic crisis firsthand. A few of my very close friends lost their jobs (but were, thankfully, able to find others). Other friends had a much harder time finding freelance work for a while. We all started counting our pennies a little bit more "just in case".
My vet in Istanbul lamented for several months that business was slow, as people tend not to bring Fluffy in for a grooming or a shot when they're busy figuring out how to pay the electric bill that month. Handymen and carpenters and electricians have been telling me for months now that business is slow as people put off general repairs around the house.
But the impact of the economic crisis, of course, didn't impact Turkey the way that it did the US, I am seeing now. Sure, shops and cafes in Istanbul come and go in a matter of days, but a lot of that is simply Istanbul being the city that it is, not a result of the financial meltdown. (And, yes, I do realize that it's not really fair to compare Istanbul to Bethel, Connecticut, seeing as how, oh Istanbul is some 18 times bigger.)
But after reading in the New York Times for a long time now that jobs are scarce, people are scared, everything is closing -- seeing it in person is just much more jarring.