I know, I know, department store updates aren’t sexy, and most people don’t understand what the big deal is, but Downtown Seattle’s new “City Target” is somewhat of a big development for those of us who live down here in the core … places like Downtown, Pike-Pine, First Hill, Belltown, etc. It will change our shopping paradigm a bit.
For years, if the walking/biking community of inner-Seattle needed to patronize a big box retail store, it typically entailed a bus ride all the way up to Northgate Mall.
In a few months, however, we will simply need to walk no further than 2nd and Pike.
Frankly, I’m a little excited about this development while being simultaneously conflicted.
You see, whenever possible, I always try to patronize local businesses, with a special emphasis on small businesses. I’m not a fan of the Walmartizaton of America, and as a longtime resident of the inner-city, it’s something that I’ve generally avoided being associated with.
This doesn’t mean that my philosophies have always served me well in return.
Back in 2010, my bedroom doorknob broke, and I needed to buy a couple of screws to repair it. Uncertain as to what size screws I needed, I took a picture of the broken knob with my cellphone, and I proceeded up to the small, independent hardware store on Capitol Hill.
When I got there, I approached the first clerk I could find, and asked if him if he could help me. I showed him a picture of my doorknob, told him that I needed screws to fit the empty holes, and asked what screws I needed.
“Oh, I couldn’t tell you, there are 40 sizes of those things”, he replied.
“I don’t mind buying a couple of sizes and seeing which ones fit, are you able to at least take a guess?”, I asked.
“Nah, I couldn’t even guess, you have to bring the knob in, and test it to see what fits”, he replied.
The clerk wasn’t super-rude, but he was kind of indifferent, and I did feel as though I was bothering him.
I thanked him for his time then proceeded back home with the intent of taking the entire knob apart so that I could bring it back to the hardware store.
“Why don’t we try Home Depot?”, asked my wife on our way back.
Of course, I balked. I explained to her that I didn’t want to patronize a big box store which was headquartered out-of-state while there was a perfectly good hardware store on The Hill.
I really, really, didn’t want to disassemble the entire knob, though, so I finally agreed to give Home Depot a shot, but I assumed that I would get the same brushoff.
When I walked into the store, however, and I showed the Depot clerk my cellphone photograph, he said “oh, you need a 16 or 18.” At this point, he walked me over to the screw aisle, picked out a few of each for me, and was really quite friendly and helpful.
When I returned home, sure enough, one set of screws worked. I was pleased.
I also realized the irony in what had transpired. I had gone to two stores, one a small indie shop, the other a faceless corporate behemoth, and I had received better service at the latter.
It was a harsh realm. Perhaps even a learnable moment. Maybe what your mother says is true after all. Maybe size really doesn’t matter.
Of course, despite my screw experience, I’ll always have a strong local and small bias. It’s the only thing that will keep competition alive in this country, and the small businessmen of Seattle need our support now more than ever.
There really aren’t a ton of indie Target competitors Downtown, however, and this being the case … I suppose I can justify spending a few bucks in the local big box. After all, the folks who work in the stores are locals, and they spend their paychecks in Washington State, so some of my money is still going back to my own home.
Since they’ve decided to call the store a “City Target”, I can even do so without feeling like a suburban tourist.
“No, I didn’t buy this from Target. Pfffft, I never shop at Target. That’s far too proletariat for me. I only shop at City Target, why, don’t you?”
I mean, if the Target Corporation is going to go that far out of their way to preserve my superiority complex by catering to my urban elitism, it would be patently ungrateful of me not to throw a few bucks their way.
This being the case, allow me to be the first to welcome our evil big box overlords to the neighborhood.
Update: The City Target store is scheduled to open on July 29, 2012.