Picking the Bones

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It was a beautiful Sunday morning and the time of year when all these little greenhouses pop up in various parking lots adding to the number of places where you can buy flowers.  We spent most of our weekends in May planting flowers and this place is right down the road from our morning franchise coffee stop so we stopped in today to buy more flowers.  My wife thought the place opened at 10 but it was really 10:30 and we were about 15 minutes early.

This little greenhouse had set up shop in the parking lot of a grocery chain that has fallen on hard times and this particular location was closing for good.  The signs in the windows told the sad story “last seven days” and “Everything 30-50% off”.  So, with time to kill, we went in to see what was left.

I’m guessing this particular chain is similar to ones in other cities.  Started by a family back in the 30’s with a single store, it eventually grew into a regional chain with multiple locations in our state and a few in one of the neighboring ones.  But, it couldn’t face the competition from a certain large national chain that offers low prices and the proliferation of more high end stores that specialized in organic produce and other fancy things.  At one point, they tried to position themselves as “your hometown grocer” in a last ditch attempt to create an emotional tie and lure people away from the outsiders.  Didn’t work and the family eventually sold to some nameless capital firm outside that likes to buy failing companies and see if they can fix them up and resell them.  Kind of like flipping for businesses I guess.  They started out by closing several locations including this one but have now declared bankruptcy which means the whole chain is in a death spiral.  Kind of sad that the dreams of one family end this way but that is life in the world of changing demographics and consumer trends.

I give credit to the people who were still working.  I don’t know where they’ll end up and I was curious but it seemed rude to ask.  But they were all pleasant and made it seem like just another day even though the shelves were mostly empty and they were selling store fixtures.  Could have bought a large, yellow plastic peanut M&M guy for $100 but that seemed excessive.

In the end, what’s left will be categorized.  The perishable stuff gets tossed.  I’m assuming anything with a long shelf life gets bundled and sold to a distributor and will eventually work its way down the retail chain to the dollar stores and who knows after that.  Then, the building will be empty a brick and mortar tomb to the changing way people shop.  Perhaps another scalp for Amazon to claim.  At some point, I suppose the name comes off the building and the last bit of the dream of the founding family dies.  Then, it either just sits there until people forget what it used to be or it gets rebuilt into something else or torn down completely.  With the demise of retail, it does make you wonder what happens to all the land and building that have been abandoned.  If the trends are right, you won’t need that many stores so what takes their place.  They typically knock down forests or rip up fields to build these things.  Maybe, they should let nature reclaim those areas.  I’m sure it will never happen since the various city governments dream of property tax revenue and forests and fields don’t provide enough income.  But what goes in there place is still an open question.

There were several people filling carts in the store picking over what was left.  I suppose this wasn’t like hyenas taking down a wounded animal.  This was more like vultures picking at something that was already dead.  Yes, it was still open and there were still people there, but it was still a corpse just waiting for someone to pull the sheet over it.

The saddest areas were the deli and bakery sections which were essentially empty and the floral department which still had arrangements that no one was likely to buy.  Since it was Mother’s Day, I couldn’t help but think of how many fathers had brought kids in the there to buy flowers for Mom.  Then, I started to think about how many people came in to buy food for picnics or for holiday dinners or so one.  Lots of ghosts in that place.  Not sure when this one was built but it served a lot of people in its time and now it was to be discarded because it no longer fit what people needed?  Or what they think they need?

I’m not going to be too sad over this because it wasn’t a store we frequented.  Our shopping is done at other chains and has been since we moved to this town.  So I feel no real connection to this place.  Still, it was nice to leave the tomb and get back into the sun.  We loaded our discount purchases into the car and drove back to get flowers.  Life moves on.  Some things are discarded and left behind in the name of progress.  It is just how it is.

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