06/11/2012 12:21 pm ET

Can Mom-and-Pop Shops Survive Extreme Gentrification?

When I was about 6, my dad and I were sitting near Wall Street when I asked him why so many men were wearing suits and ties. It was the 1970s, and we lived in Greenwich Village, a place where you could see men wearing almost anything except a suit and tie. My dad, a theater actor, told me that the people on Wall Street cared about money, and as a result, they had to dress formally. I even remember feeling bad for these poor chumps.

Since the 1970s, though, the financial industry has grown faster than nearly any other in size and as a proportion of the overall economy. In 1970, it was about 4 percent of the G.D.P. Last year, it was twice that. The impact is felt everywhere in the United States, but it may be most evident in the Village. The artists, weirdos and blue-collar families that I grew up with (save the lucky rent controllers) are long gone. They’ve been replaced, in large part, by guys in suits.

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