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« Comments Problems Update | Main | Performance and Art »

May 25, 2006

Stores Gone Missing: What Were They?

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I just got home [I wrote and cached this a couple weeks ago] after my regular Saturday run up to the Seattle area. (Well, it's a regular run when I'm not on one of my runs to San Jose and points south.)

About every other trip I cross Lake Washington and visit the posh Bellevue Square mall and its environs. Went there today.

What was interesting was how many stores were vacant. Back in 2002 when Boeing was on the skids due to the 9/11 attack and resulting big drop in air travel, I would have chalked this up to a sour economy. But things are booming around here, so the mall must have raised its rents or perhaps a clump of leases came up for renewal and the store operators decided to bail out for other reasons.

And what was really interesting was the fact that I had no idea what stores had left.

I've been noticing this inability to remember for a long time. It seems that, unless I shopped in a store a time or two, I almost never notice that such-and-such had closed.

Twenty years ago, most malls had uniformly aligned storefronts. Aside from the store's sign, there was almost no individuality presented if you cast your eye down one of the mall's axes. Nowadays, many malls allow stores to have distinctive facades that can project a foot or two into the mall pedestrian space. One might think that this would make stores more memorable. But no: despite the various touches including one ex-store's use of polished granite around its display windows, I still had no clue as to what went missing.

What does this mean? Is there some sort of societal force in play? Have I been having "senior moments" for the last 30 years? Beats me.

So let me offer the spin that I'm a simple, practical guy who doesn't stuff his head with unnecessary information; if I never buy Mrs. Fields' cookies, why should I pay any attention to where the shop is/was located?



posted by Donald at May 25, 2006


You don't buy Mrs. Field's cookies AND you don't like dogs? are a Bad Man. Yeah, you try to hide it with your cutesy pink tie and wedding cake, but you are a Very, Very Bad Man.

(That flakey explanation for the word "peripheral" is starting to seem more suspicious, too. It was really a signal to your alien spaceship or something, right?)

Posted by: annette on May 25, 2006 11:32 AM

I've had similar experiences when visiting the local mall - "What used to be there?" As for the reason, my guess is that many mall stores are more or less interchangeable even with different fronts and decoration. Especially those selling young women's clothing, which seem to comprise a healthy percentage of the stores in any mall.

Posted by: Peter on May 25, 2006 12:38 PM

Two explanatory phrases: Big Box Stores and Internet Shopping.

I used to love the Bellevue Square Mall as an anonymous place out of the weather. Contradictorily, I loved the Lloyd Center in Portland as long as it was open air. The former became a refuge for poor people (there was one three-generation family of Vietnamese I used to watch) and kids roving around. The latter was a victim of shop-lifting and threatened race-riots (the black part of town got closer all the time) or so they said, as they barricaded and patrolled more and more. All this drove shoppers away, esp. women.

Incidentally, one of my mother's former students was a security guard there, a hefty black man, and my mother used to love to sneak up and hug him for the sake of the expressions on the faces of those watching. But we persuaded her that it was a dangerous practice as paranoia and hyper-alertness increased.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on May 25, 2006 1:07 PM

I visited a neighborhood where I'd once lived recently. I'd lived there for 12 or so years. But I recognized almost nothing. It's been heavily built up, for one thing -- gas stations have been replaced by high-rises. And all the stores have changed. So, aside from the specific building where I lived (which itself has been upscaled), and a few buildings directly across the street from it, I recognized nothing. An odd sensation, like having Alzheimer's enforced on me, but from the outside.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 25, 2006 1:21 PM

If I were you I would be more worried if I DID remember what stores used to occupy those spaces.

Posted by: grandcosmo on May 27, 2006 5:25 PM

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