The February lecture at my local historical society was about Eaton’s – which needs no introduction on the Canadian side of the border. At one time this home-grown chain claimed to be the largest store in the entire British Empire. Generations of Canadians shopped at Eaton’s, and knew and loved Eaton’s mail order catalog, just as Americans once relished the Sears catalog.
Eaton’s closed in 1999, right when my family arrived in Canada. So I never really knew it. True story: while scouting Ottawa prior to moving here I was utterly mystified by the large number of “Canadian Tire” stores. Why did Canadians need so many tires?! (A little exploration after we arrived revealed that the chain sold more than automotive supplies.)
We’ve all seen the development of “big box” stores, the rise of on-line buying and selling. Retail is a busy sector buffeted by many factors. There’s no resting on one’s laurels. Still, it’s a bit shocking to read announcements like this Ottawa Citizen article that Sears Canada is closing several downtown stores in major cities like Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver. Especially since I’d just read that the main Sears store in Honolulu was also slated for closure in 2013.
The pioneer Sears store in Honolulu was a real landmark in a number of ways, including introducing island residents to their first two-way escalator in 1947. Later on, Sears was an essential and popular anchor tenant at Ala Moana, which was for a brief time on opening in 1959, the largest shopping center in America. (It’s still the largest open-air shopping center.) No Sears at Ala Moana? That seems like a permanent fixture is about to go missing, leading many to wax nostalgic. The Star Advertiser reports some Honolulu shoppers cried on hearing news.
I grew up on a different island. The first store on Maui I can remember was a Ben Franklin. But my parents grew up on Oahu. They remember the original Sears building very well. (Maui eventually got its own Sears store too.)
I hasten to add that Sears US and Sears Canada still exist! Some individual stores are being closed to better concentrate on others. But it does seem like you just never know what’s coming. On the other hand, new stores turn up too. There’s some degree of excitement among Ontario shoppers that the Target chain plans to open stores in this region in 2013, including a store in Smiths Falls. That community is largely glad to see signs of economic revival after losing major employers like the Hersey’s plant and a care facility.
And what’s my point, exactly? I’m not sure I have one. It’s just odd, sort of bitter-sweet, to see stores that have long been part of the landscape fade away.
I miss Horiuchi Market, in my childhood home town of Paia. I was really excited to discover a remnant of Iida’s on my last visit to Honolulu. The main store closed in 2005, but there’s a small warehouse stash where we bought a few more dishes and bowls imported from Japan, to carefully bring back. I still enjoy Derrick and Diane, the kind and charismatic couple who run the Kars General Store in that small Ontario village.
What mom & pop store, or even a retail chain was (or is) near and dear to your heart?