It was disheartening – but not surprising – to see a real estate “for sale” sign in front of Fred’s this past week.

The loss of the pharmacy may not have been fatal, but it was crippling for the venerable downtown business.

From what I have been told, the main reason our Fred’s has remained as long as it has is because this is an unusual case where the company owns the building rather than leasing it, reducing expenses somewhat.

If Fred’s does close it won’t be the first time we have lost a valuable business because of poor corporate decisions or just bad luck.

But Fred’s fills a niche downtown that no other business does and its loss would leave both a commercial and literal void in the downtown area.

Local officials are aware of the situation and attempting to address it but the Fred’s building is simply too large for many purposes.

Another dollar-type store might work there but there are already others not all that far away. They are not in convenient walking distance downtown, however.

Is New Albany ready for something like a Dirt Cheap or Big Lots? Maybe, but I wouldn’t be confident enough to bet money on it.

The downtown area has had other vacant buildings for the past couple of years but lately most have been filled fairly quickly when a previous business left. Other than some long-time vacant buildings, downtown appears to be prospering.

Certainly it would survive the loss of Fred’s if it comes to that, but as New Albany expands farther and father away from the historic downtown area businesses there have to work harder to remain relevant and prosperous.

And even for those who rarely shop downtown, the loss of this historic area would be the loss of the core of New Albany’s history and heritage. That’s what gives us the character that visitors love so much, not the fast-food places and discount stores.

I hope a solution to the Fred’s issue can be found.

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