Moore: What’s in store | John Moore

Shopping malls were the beginning of the end. Although in the 1970s when Texarkana hosted its mall, those of us who lived in the area were all too busy being excited about having a mall to see that by doing our shopping there, we were hurting our neighbors.

“What could be better?” we thought. All the shops you could want under one air-conditioned roof, vendors selling trinkets, overpriced jewelry and a food court with manhole cover-sized pretzels.

Maybe the adults could see the impact the malls would have on American cities, but the teenagers didn’t care. We had a mall now.

A mall was not just a place where we could buy clothes, stereo equipment, records and tapes, it was a place where we could all meet and spend the day. It was all about us.

It wasn’t just the kids, though. Adults also shopped at the mall.

Everywhere, town centers have begun to evaporate.

As we took our dollars to the mall, we took them from the family shops that were the financial backbone of our cities and towns.

Few said anything. Even if they had, we probably wouldn’t have listened.

As the stores grew, they specialized in what they sold. Mr Welch operated his namesake for decades at Ashdown. Almost every man in town wore at least one Welch’s tie, and often his only good suit came from there.

Mr. Phillip owned the Rexall Drug Store. He knew what medicine everyone in town needed and he made sure he had it on hand. It even opened on Sundays if someone was sick. The Rexall soda fountain was where teenagers would pamper themselves over a malt, and grandparents would take their kids for a sundae.

Mr. Bryant owned the hardware store. Ashdown Hardware sold everything from dime nails to wedding gifts, such as toasters, irons and lamps. If you couldn’t pay for an item all at once, it would hand it over to you and let you pay for it.

Mr. Harless owned the repair shop. He mainly repaired radios and televisions, but was pretty good at fixing a lot of things. This was when people appreciated what they had and fixed it instead of throwing it away and getting another one.

Western Auto and OTASCO stores sold auto parts and tools, among other things. It was the Russells from OTASCO who were the first to sell me something on credit. The trust they placed in me allowed me to start building my credit history.

Piggly Wiggly and Surway were our grocery stores. Small neighborhood stores, such as Withem’s and Puckett’s, were great places to stop for something quick, like a pack of cigarettes, an ice cold Dr Pepper, a pound of baloney, and a chat.

And all of these stores were owned and operated by our neighbors. Our friends. Those with whom we went to church and whose children were scouts with us.

The same merchants who donated to our little league teams so we could have uniforms with our names on them. Those who bought ads in our school newspaper and high school annual so that journalism students could learn and every class could have a memory book.

We took our dollars from them and gave them to the mall, Walmart, and other corporate outlets whose only interest to us was our wallets.

And now the malls are in trouble. Many have closed. Even Walmart isn’t the powerhouse it was just a few years ago.

The internet has made it even easier for us to send our money even further from home – to a handful of billionaires who want to tell us how to live our lives.

Where I live now is a city the size of Ashdown. The hardware store here is owned by the locals. The same goes for the carpet store, some restaurants, the grocery store; and the nearby Farmer’s Market is full of locals selling some of the tastiest tomatoes and cantaloupes you’ll ever eat.

And new boutiques and specialty stores are opening. Young and old dream of owning a business and having the chance to build something that can be part of their families and our cities and towns for many years to come.

They will be fine if we support them. So let’s buy local. Let’s give our money to people who will also invest it in our community.

I bet we’ll like what’s in store.

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