End of an Era

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The only K-Mart in this area is closing down on December 7.

I suppose I shouldn’t care very much about this.  After all, neither my wife nor I am much for shopping.  We get ‘er done and get out as quickly as possible.  Yet there is something vaguely disconcerting about a local institution passing into history.

The store itself is nothing to write home about.  It is more or less your typical box store, with a garden center at one end.  But this K-Mart has at least two strikes against it.  For one, the store hasn’t been updated in some time.  It reminds me for all the world of the S.S. Kresge/K-Mart in the old Garden State Plaza (before it was enclosed back in the 1970s) in Paramus, New Jersey.  For another, its location on a back street several blocks off the main drag doesn’t attract the kind of business that an establishment of that size requires to survive.  Sears seems to be closing a lot of K-Mart stores all over the country in an attempt to remain profitable in an economy that has changed considerably since the days of the mid-20th century in which I grew up.

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My wife likes to browse the K-Mart racks for discount clothes.  You never know what gems may show up at any given time.  When we took a walk through the store on a recent weekend, there were “30% off” and “store closing” signs everywhere and many of the displays were just about empty.

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Still, the store was crowded with bargain hunters.  My wife and I each managed to score several shirts in our respective sizes.

Once K-Mart closes, I am certain that the storefront will remain empty for years.  The less than ideal location is unlikely to attract another box store.  Perhaps someday it will be cut up into small retail spaces that will house more schlocky dollar stores, Chinese restaurants, taquerias, rent-to-own shops and payday loan operations.

Until then, it will remain a beached whale decaying in the sun, an eyesore serving as a painful reminder of California’s glorious economic past.

Meanwhile, we still have Wal-Mart, and very few alternatives to challenge its dominance.

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