Sears, where America used to shop

The sad, but unsurprising, news that the Sears at Colonie Center in Albany County, NY would be closing in September 2017 made me sadder than I would have thought, given the fact that I can’t remember the last time I entered the building. Certainly, it was before Sears leased out part of its footprint to the Whole Foods chain in 2011 because I’ve never been to Whole Foods.

After I graduated from college in 1977, I had difficulty paying back my student loans, some low-paying jobs and a stretch of unemployment facilitating that. As a result, I didn’t get my first charge card until 1982. And that first card was from Sears.

I bought EVERYTHING from Sears. The first item I got was a clock-radio; it cost $12, I think. Somehow, it suffered some external damage- something melted the case – but it still worked. When I got married in 1999, my spouse insisted we toss it out, and I did, but it later gave me an odd case of melancholy, that first representation of fiscal adulthood.

Still, there were plenty other items that ended up in my various apartments: a television set that I had for over 20 years; a microwave or two; my first VCR; at least two bicycles; Craftman tools, of course; and countless other necessities, big and small. Most of my clothes came from there. I could find anything in that place better than most salespeople.

In fact, I even got a Christmas tree, on December 24, 1991, which I hauled home on a CDTA bus. I didn’t ask, and the driver said nothing.

Sidebar: Final JEOPARDY! November 10, 1998: Native New Englander seen here, modeling for his company’s catalog sometime before WWI. Two people said, Sears. I knew that was not possible; Sears was founded in Chicago, as I well knew. (The correct response was “Who was L.L. Bean?”, which I got.)

And since I was a good customer, Sears offered me the opportunity to get one of the first charge cards from this new entity that was going to try to compete with MasterCard and VISA. It was called Discover, and back in 1986, it wasn’t accepted in too many places besides Sears, though FantaCo, the comic book/mail order store I worked at was an early acceptor.

But eventually, that Sears store started cutting back some categories, moving things around as though people wouldn’t notice what was missing. The last time I know for sure that I went in there was around 2003, when I bought a power lawnmower I eventually returned – a rarity for me anywhere – because it kept clogging up.

And now, Sears nationwide is in serious trouble. Some analyst I read suggested that, given the Sears catalog’s once-dominant place in the American economy and psyche, the company was in the best position to evolve into what Amazon, in fact, did become, the monster of online retail.

Now I don’t even bother to read the weekly ads Sears sends me. And the latest closures also include the store in my home county, Broome (Johnson City, NY).