The first Sears store I was aware of, sometime in the 1940s, was east of 69th Street, near Millbourne. I only went there once. It had the reputation of carrying cheap work clothes, which I did not wear. It seems like it was there forever, meaning before I was born.

But once married and living just east of Wilmington, Delaware, I went to a local Sears frequently. I changed the oil in my car myself (still do) and I bought the oil there in bulk. I would bring my own can, and they would dole out however much I asked for from a spigot.

Their catalog was one of my favorite books. I could look up almost anything and get a price, if only for comparison. (About how much does a refrigerator cost?) Ordering was done from a counter, staffed by the wife of a coworker. I would then go back to the same counter a couple of weeks later and pick up the item.

I bought a lot of Kenmore appliances at Sears. Consumer Reports usually ranked them as not the best, but up near the top and far cheaper than the best. A good buy, I felt.

Later, we were living on the north side of Wilmington, where I still am. Sears was the anchor store at one end of the nearby Concord Mall. Once my sons left home to be on their own, there were only me and my wife. On most Friday nights, I would drive a mile or two to the Concord Mall and the Sears store there. It was, and is, a beautiful mall, gleaming marble floors, blue-lighted skylights, warm in winter and cool in summer.

Malls, then, were a community meeting place, and I would almost always meet someone I knew. I rarely bought anything. I often sat and watched the people. I would see families of what looked like newly-arrived South American natives, tiny, bewildered people with long faces, looking like Montezuma himself. I never saw them anywhere else and assumed they worked in the Kennett Square mushroom houses.

The mall was also a popular hang-out for high school students who would squeal and hug each other with exaggerated drama when they met. The mall was always crowded on a Friday night, but in the past year, there were more store clerks than customers even then. Many smaller stores had left and were not replaced. Sears departments had large empty spaces as if they were already preparing to move. The entire atmosphere was depressing, and I stopped going. The writing was on the wall for Sears as it is for the Concord Mall itself.

About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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