Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mode-A-Day Mowed Away

They tore down the shopping center. It's a lamentable thing to drive by the place that was the center of so much of our activities as a family.

But the days of shopping centers and malls, it appears, are over. Now everything's online -- no more bricks and mortar -- they're tearing it all down. Maybe the bad economy has something to do with it too. Construction has come to a halt. 1) Because there's nothing to build; 2) Even if they wanted to there's no money; 3) Customers are busy shopping online.

That's not the way it was 50 years ago, which is about the time, I think, when they built the shopping center. Back then we didn't buy everything online. A good brick and mortar store was what we preferred. People who worked there greeted us. We walked in, looked over their wares, maybe ate a pickle if it was a place that sold them, and bought what we wanted.

The shopping center was like a godsend. Finally we could go to one place and stay inside. No more traipsing around downtown into a warm store, then out into the cold weather. It was about 10 years later the stores started closing downtown. But we had the shopping center. Then they got rid of the parking meters downtown and we were torn about where to shop. But since the stores were closed anyway there wasn't any point to the free parking.

I personally preferred the shopping center. Grandma liked it. It sounds weird to say it these days -- when bricks and mortar stores have entirely gone out of favor, and online shopping is all the rage -- but we were even proud of the shopping center. I was. We had cousins come to town from Denver and we took them there and hung out. It was a cool place. A bowling alley that smelled like stale beer. A nice dime store. A restaurant that had you actually phone your order back to the kitchen. And the Mode-A-Day store, a place for women that Grandma got some nice dresses at. She never liked sack dresses, I might add.

I don't know precisely what happened to devastate the shopping center. Of course, I suppose online shopping had something to do with it. Plus the fact that bricks and mortar stores are generally out of favor. I'm thinking it just got old. We weren't overly proud of it, say, after 40 years had passed. By then we took it for granted, thinking it was just always going to be there.

Then, slowly but surely, shops started closing. Pretty soon the customers were home with their computers. Fewer crowds meant more stores closing. That meant less revenues and more dilapidation. A local gang painted some graffiti on the wall. And that did it. The place closed up. The bulldozers came in.

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