I may live in one of the top 40 metropolitan area in the country, but as a girl with a few crisp 20s burning a hole in her pocket, I’d rank my environs somewhere near compost level.
I recently received some bonus spending money as a graduation gift from my parents, and I’d love to spend a nice afternoon comparison shopping, ducking in trendy boutiques, and snagging a few great bargains. In my wildest dreams, I’d even pause to regroup with a fresh brew from a local beanery, but Regular Readers already know why that’s a pipe dream.
Simply put, we have no stores. Perhaps “no” is a bit harsh—we currently have an under stocked and overpriced Macy’s, inconveniently located in the nucleus of a ring of construction. We have a Target, but I’m sad to report that it has been reduced to a ghost town in recent weeks as the store braces for a move. In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit to having a Wal Mart, but I haven’t voluntarily entered the not-so-super center in the past decade.
What we do have is a relatively new and reasonably well-maintained JC Penny. I have lots of things from JC Penny. You could, quite possibly, go through my wardrobe and see the history of the JC Penny catalog unfold, not unlike the rings on a felled tree. Capris from the summer ’07 collection. Jeans from winter ’08. Tops from late spring. And so on.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate JC Penny; rather the contrary, actually. They have frequent sales, some of which come in the form of a complete surprise when the total at the register comes up shy of the anticipated damage. And they’re good about sending a steady stream of coupons. So I’m not complaining when I say that I’d like a little variety. After all, it’s not reasonable to expect one store to meet my every fashion whim, let alone some of my non-clothing needs, such as specialty art supplies, which can’t be procured in this town, either, ever since the sudden shuttering of our one lone arts and crafts store.
Now, I don’t doubt for a moment that our plummeting economy has a lot to do with the sad state of commerce in our city. I also don’t doubt the influence of some poor urban development in the mix, either. I trace the trouble back to the razing of our mall back in ’06. I’m the first to admit that the archaic structure needed a complete do-over, however , the implementation of the project mirrors another great Virginia scandal, aka Jim Gilmore’s late-nineties elimination of the car tax. Again, a good idea mismanaged beyond recognition. Turns out you can’t take millions of dollars out of a state’s operating budget without some consequences—it just would have been nice if the consequences had been anticipated. Instead, institutions across the state turned up suddenly poor: museums operated on slim and erratic schedules, libraries were hobbled, and free moonlight canoe rides at our favorite state park now came with a cost-prohibitive price tag of $40.00 for our family of four.
Well, it also turns out you can’t level a city’s primary shopping center without fostering a general since of disillusionment, particularly when near-completion of the new Really Big Deal Shopping Center approaches without much to show. The past months have seen some notable developments—the rubble around the Macy’s has been largely contained, the Barnes and Noble returned…and now (drum roll) Target has moved 500 yards across the road, and a full six days ahead of the grand opening date stamped on a recent circular.
All this may sound like progress. until you rewind 3 years and realize that back then we had a (less than 5 year old) Barnes and Nobel. And a Target. And a JC Penny. And an under stocked and overpriced Macy’s, sans rubble. Not to mention a couple dozen other stores as well. And you start to wonder, what new ground has really been covered? And what’s going to happen to the former Target, anyway? And—of most pressing concern—when am I going to find the time to travel to our neighboring town to shop? Because I’m pretty sure I don’t think I want to spend a dime of this particular spending money at JC Penny or Target. At least until I read over the stack of coupons JC Penny sent this week.