I occasionally find myself strolling down memory lane to when life was sweeter and easier than it's been in 2020.
As possibly silly as it may sound, I loved to shop. I was happy shopping for groceries, clothes, housewares, plants, gifts and cards. I loved the Christmas bazaars, which, at one time were plentiful and boasted beautifully made crafts. Summers were spent at open-air markets, art shows and antique shops, many along Detroit Road in Avon.
I met girlfriends at Beachwood Place and Legacy Village. You can only imagine my delight when Crocker Park opened. It was a shopper's paradise and not bad for foodies either. Avon Commons opened soon thereafter, bringing Costco to my neighborhood. Pure joy.
Those shopping trips were always better when they included lunch or dinner with friends or family.
Online shopping put many brick and mortar retailers at risk, especially those that did not pivot along with their shoppers to the virtual world. Then COVID-19 struck. Closures began and included Lord & Taylor, America's oldest department store chain. I loved shopping there when I visited my sister in Philadelphia. Some of those high-end pieces are still in my closet.
Now it's being totally liquidated. Others filing for bankruptcy include J. Crew; Sur la Table, closing 56 of 112 stores; Ascena Retail Group, which includes Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant and Catherines, closing 1,100 of 2,800 stores; GNC, with 5,200 stores across the U.S.; and Brio restaurant. All of these retailers had stores at Crocker Park. While some might survive for now, this environment is like walking on quicksand.
Stein Mart, with a store in Westlake, is liquidating. Chuck E. Cheese in North Olmsted is gone. Tailored Brands, parent company of Men's Wearhouse, JoS. A. Bank, K&G and Moore's, is shutting 500 of its 1,275 stores. There's a Men's Wearhouse at Avon Commons. Pier One, at Avon Commons and Great Northern, will be gone soon. After a crazy building spree, even Dunkin’, formerly Dunkin’ Donuts, is closing 800 of its 9,000 locations.
I hope that surviving retailers and restaurants will re-imagine how they operate. I noticed Home Depot plans to chuck Black Friday for a 60-day shopping experience leading up to the holidays. Two owners of shopping malls have bid to purchase the assets of J.C Penney in an effort to keep the department store afloat. Penney has stores in North Olmsted and Avon. If successful, the effort will save 70,000 jobs. That’s miraculous, considering the thousands of retail jobs that have been permanently lost.
I'm also heartened when I think about the more recent history of the old Westgate Mall in Fairview Park.
Westgate was a favorite after-school haunt when I attended Magnificat more than 50 years ago. I remember hiking up my uniform skirt, and replacing white socks and saddle shoes with knee socks and penny loafers before making the short hike up one of the side streets running from Hilliard Boulevard, where Mags is, to Center Ridge Road, where Westgate once stood. Between the anchor stores, Halle Brothers and Higbee's, we could browse Casual Corner, several shoe stores, stop and smell the flowers at Wilhelmy and more.
Retail changed. Westgate got a roof, a food court and many new retailers, some in something new at the time called kiosks. Halle's became Horne's and perhaps something else before it closed. Higbee's became Dillard's. Do you remember the home store?
Eventually, the old mall came down and new stores of interest to new generations of shoppers proliferated. Granted, some stores will not make it, such as Earth Fare. But others seem to carry on. I'm glad for that because once a safe vaccine is available, I will head to the stores for some much-needed shopping therapy with more than one credit card. Bring. It. On!
Contact freelance writer Michele Murphy at email@example.com.