African American small business owner

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Some Ex-Urbanites Settling Into Small-Town Life

February 1, 2021

There’s a fresh sign that former urban dwellers who have fled to small towns during the pandemic are treating the move as permanent: opening shops and other small businesses, such as rental offices, in their new locations. “These transplants ... are eager to recreate their old businesses or try new ones,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

Some real estate professionals say they’re seeing quicker sales for commercial properties and office space. “We have people with much higher incomes that are moving up here,” Raj Kumar of Select Sotheby’s International Realty in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., told the Journal. Commercial real estate sales in Columbia, Greene, and Dutchess counties are more than four times higher than they were a year ago, Kumar says.

Andrea Westerlind, who once owned a home and apparel store in the Big Apple, has moved to Millerton, N.Y., and reopened her shop there after acquiring a two-story retail building. “There’s amazing energy up here, and there are so many young people,” she told the Journal. “In six months, I will have done more retail sales than I would normally do in a whole year in two locations in the city.”

Westerlind isn't alone; some of those who fled New York during the pandemic have decided to stay in their smaller destinations and are reopening their businesses there or starting new ones. “Most of them have bought houses and now are looking, going ‘OK, if I can work here and put my children into school here—what else?’” Elyse Harney Morris of Elyse Harney Real Estate, which covers Litchfield County and other areas in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, told the Journal. “With more people up here full-time, we need more amenities, more office space.”

New Yorkers Who Fled to Hudson Valley are Buying Local Businesses,” The Wall Street Journal (Jan. 30, 2021) [Log-in required.]