American Heart Assoc.

What’s in store?

by | Jul 15, 2022 | Opinion

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

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

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

A mall wasn’t just a place where we could shop for clothes, stereo equipment, and records and tapes, it was a location where we could all meet and spend the day. It was all about us.

It wasn’t just the kids, though, the adults shopped at the mall too.

Downtowns everywhere began to evaporate.

By taking our dollars to the mall, we were taking them away from the mom-and-pop shops that were the financial backbone of our towns and cities.

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

Growing up, stores specialized in what they sold. Mr. Welch operated his namesake for decades in Ashdown. Almost every man in town sported at least a tie from Welch’s, and often his one good suit came from there.

Mr. Phillip’s owned the Rexall Drug Store. He knew what medication every person in town needed, and he made sure he had it on hand. He’d even open up on a Sunday if someone was sick. The Rexall soda fountain was where teens had made eyes at each other over a malt, and grandparents took their kids for a sundae.

Mr. Bryant owned the hardware store. Ashdown Hardware sold everything from ten penny nails to wedding gifts, such as toasters, irons, and lamps. If you couldn’t pay for an item all at one time, he’d put it back for you and let you pay it out.

Mr. Harless owned the fix-it shop. He mainly repaired radios and TVs, but was pretty handy at fixing a lot of things. This was when people valued what they had and fixed it instead of throwing it away and getting another one.

The Western Auto and OTASCO stores sold car parts and tools, among other things. It was the Russells at 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. The smaller 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 some conversation.

And all of these stores were owned and operated by our neighbors. Our friends. The ones with whom we attended church and whose kids were in Scouts with us.

The same storekeepers who donated to our little league teams so that we could have uniforms with our names on them. The ones who bought ads in our school newspaper and high school annual so that journalism students could learn, and each graduating class could have a book of memories.

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

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

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

Where I live now is a town about the size of Ashdown. The hardware store here is locally owned. So is the carpet store, some of the restaurants, the grocery store; and the farmer’s market nearby is full of local folks who sell some of the tastiest tomatoes and cantaloupes you’ll ever eat.

And new specialty shops and stores are opening. Young and old folks alike have the dream of owning a business, and a chance to build something that can be part of their family and our cities and towns for many years to come.

They’ll do well if we’ll support them. So, let’s shop 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.

By John Moore

American Heart Assoc.

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