Monday, December 22, 2014

Suburbification


Photo courtesy Flickr user milantram
In 1978, a friend who had lived in many countries mentioned that her current situation was in a very old city that had no shopping malls or grocery stores. The place was full of tiny shops that sold only one item-thread was the example she cited. Alice was conditioned to assume that a mall with an anchor store and generous parking was the model for convenience and good value. She was accustomed to shopping for third-world American cuisine in a big car with a picnic cooler and three rambunctious children in the back.

I have had little reason to practice that kind of procurement, although I do know my way around the Great Big Discount Warehouse. It was a surprise to learn that a friend who is raising her family in a Parisian suburb shops once a week in the local version of the mall safari. She patronizes a monster one-stop that wears her out and confuses her with its layout and choice. I know the feeling. That’s why I shop on foot at small, long-established Seattle venues that never rearrange their stock.

Bussing downtown, I can find first-rate chow at the Pike Place Market. I know it’s a tourist venue now but I like being able to whip through the stalls with a shopping list and small roll of cash, check favorite kitchen and clothing boutiques, and stop in at the department stores for a fast pass through the racks. I can get home on one of several busses in less time than it used to take to wrangle the car out of the garage and fight traffic to a one-stop that never had the quality that is the best value.

Even though the peaches may cost more per pound, the cost of acquisition is far smaller when I shop in the central city. Talking to my Parisian buddy, I was flabbergasted to realize that old and new world shopping venues have flipped. 

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