Field Notes on Commerce: Everything Must Go

When it opened 20-some years ago, this was a Jamesway in the shopping plaza on the west side of town. Our high school band came out and played for the opening, draped in plaid blankets and wearing fake-fur busbies in the hot sunshine. This would have been 1985 or 1986. A new discount department store was a big thing for the town. At the other end of the plaza was the Acme supermarket where we did our weekly grocery shopping.

Then came a second shopping plaza, with a bigger grocery store and a Kmart and a movie theater, easier to get to from Route 22. It went in over the sand pits where we used to shoot off model rockets, leveling the eroding, grass-topped sand hills, which had looked like slumbering mammoths from the school-bus window. The Acme got shabbier and less well stocked. Jamesway went into bankruptcy.

And then in due time there was a third shopping plaza, across from the second, with a still bigger grocery store and a Target beside it. But progress was pulling up its tail behind it: one and a half plazas was about all the business the west side could handle. The movie theater in the second plaza started showing dollar movies, then went under. As for the first plaza–

There’s plenty of parking, if you want to shop the remainders in the old Jamesway building, or the used furniture in the old Acme building. Someone has kept the paving in decent shape; someone even went to the trouble of knocking down the Fotomat shack. It leaves the space feeling even more barren. The forbidding, dark storefront tavern is still there, as it ever was. Now there are three storefront churches to go with it: Bread of Life Church, New Beginnings Church of God, and The Church of Pentecost. You can rent a space if you want to.