It seems since the ringing in of 2017 that Retail Armageddon has taken on a stronger hold of our economy than we may have ever expected in such a short time frame. Entire collections of brick and mortars that we saw as pillars in the retail world are shutting down over night. Since January we have kissed The Limited, Wet Seal, and Kenneth Cole goodbye. We have watched Ralph Lauren, Sears, Macy’s, and Banana Republic continue to trim a significant amount of the fat. Just this weekend, here in Shop Girl world we have been so wound up from the shuttering frenzy that we questioned a mostly empty NY & Co earlier this week. But even with our guards up we can still be caught by surprise with the stores we seem to take for granted.
This afternoon as I have spent my time this month temporarily displaced in Texas, my Grandmother asked me what I would like to do while I am in Houston. I have expressed before in this blog the partial feelings I have had for the manager of our local Stride Rite in Sugar Land, TX. For 27 years she has put the shoes on my brothers, my cousins, and now my children. She is a shoe wizard, when she hands us the shoes they fit comfortably for months to a year, while other childrens’ shoe associates it seems are outgrown in a matter of weeks. She recognizes us, knows us by name, even after we relocated to Alabama. She is a part of our childhood and over the years has become an extension to our family.
When I first pulled up I noticed some upbeat sales posters, red and lined in bursts of polka dots. I smiled, thinking it would be a sale on their winter collection then I read the actual words: 60% off of Everything. Suddenly my excitement turned to a moment of hesitation before I moved on, like a child playing peek a boo, if I refuse to see it, it isn’t there. After a moment the the sinking feeling was growing so I read on anyway, and there it was the final tell tale line, all sales final. “I think they are shutting down,” I told my grandmother.
“No,” she stated, “it’s just winter stock.”
We piled into the store that was no longer selectively merchandised with beauty in mind, but now piled with overstock of the same few shoe styles. Along the walls near the ceiling was a series of The Printout: those ugly charts that break down the discount math for customers who don’t have the reductions ingrained in their brains from years of working a register. This confirmed it; they were definitely closing. “Is Stride Rite shutting down,” I asked and the manager who has been like a distant aunt to me ignored my question; the girl who was assisting her offered a sideways glance in order to avoid eye contact.
“I have not seen you in so long,” she stated clasping at her mouth, “We are closing so I may not have anything in your size!”
“You are closing?” She nodded. “Nationwide?”
Instead of acknowledging my question she made a quick swift motion and measured the girls feet. She grabbed the only two shoes left in their size, “This is it.” Incidentally the shoes for Baby K were exactly the ones I had regretted not buying last trip so I was pleased with the results. The ones for Lil A were nothing to write home about, but pickers can’t be choosers I suppose.
Baby K raced around the store trying on shoes and Lil A played with the various toys located at the base of the fixtures scattered about the store while we checked out. I was going to miss this place, this was a safe space and I wanted to cry. “Is it only this location?”
Finally the girl I didn’t know looked both ways with caution, “In just a few months there will be only two Stride Rites left in all of Texas: Cypress and San Marcus, both outlet locations.”
“Will Stride Rite still be at Dillard’s?”
“Yes, just go online and look up your zip code. Any location that isn’t a Stride Rite owned location will definitely be available to you.” I began to think of Ralph Lauren and their need to close their stores unable to keep up competition with their own products being sold in other locations.
I was sad to leave, our trip was so short to make up for 27 years of tradition. There was no formality, no hugs, not anything, just an exchange of cash, a quick pic of the kids and their last Stride Rite purchase, then we were out the door. I stopped for a moment in my stride down the sidewalk to the car and I turned back. I gave the amazing shopgirl I had loved since the nineties a smile through the store window that was meant to say, “I will miss you dear distant auntie.” Her sad smile in return said “I know.”
Shopgirl Wants to Know:
- Have you lost any stores you took for granted in this time of extreme store closures?
- Do you have any shops you grew up going to, where you felt like family?
- What kind of ‘out of the ordinary’ traditions are in your family?
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