I Bid You Farewell, Sweet K-Mart

 It feels far less bizarre than it should to say that news of the K-Mart closing has managed to polarize a number of people in Corvallis, though I suspect the numbers are far less than those belonging to a demographic that just doesn’t care. In fact, I wasn’t planning on writing on this topic until a certain someone on staff – let’s call him Meeve Multz – pressed upon it. So here we are. Not my fault.

First off, let me say that I dug on K-Mart and typically went there for goods that could only really be found elsewhere at Fred Meyer. And by that, I mean vinyl Nintendo figurines, because I’m not great at fabric softener and that kind of adult business. It was obvious at the time that K-Mart was going down, simply because the store was often empty and the Bullet Bills were plentiful. If we’re being honest, the thought that suddenly the impact from online sales has cut straight to the heart of our corporate big box love affair, well, no. This has been going on for years, K-Mart certainly not being the first to fall. If you’re a historian or economist or something of the sort and can correct me, please do so, but it seems to me that the grand exodus of sales to a big-box-crushing online platform isn’t too different from the rise of the mom-and-pop-crushing big box store.

My reach into the community only goes so far, but I can’t help notice that a large part of the chorus here is coming from folks who are usually singing the same tune over local businesses having a hard time. I’m not criticizing pro-K-Marters in this scenario in general, but there is definitely a cross-section of vocal Corvallisites that seem to be lending themselves to K-Mart’s defense in lieu of their usual defense of local business. Is this driven by nostalgia? Is it tier based? I can understand and even support a number of different angles here, but I’m not sure if we’re all on the level, so to speak.

To put things into perspective, where was everyone when Einstein’s closed? Sure, they’re not going out of business, but that was some damn good coffee. Their cold brew killed next-door-neighbor Starbucks’ without effort, and if we’re going to do the honesty bit, I don’t feel like many frequent Starbucks fliers I know actually even like their coffee. One of my favorite things on earth is when I occasionally get the chance to roll up on CEI Artworks with some great coffee and work alongside some of the truly incredible artists operating out of there. Now what am I supposed to do, make it at home? Drive an extra couple of minutes to get it from one of the incredible local coffee houses we still have? Oh yeah.

Something I think everyone can agree on is the fact that whatever businesses our local dollars are going to, we’d like to see as much put back into the local economy as possible. Spending much of my youth in Lebanon, I’ve seen what the Walmart has done to that town, and unless you can whip out Ben Shapiro and an army of straw man fallacies, this seems pretty indisputable. Fact is, online sales are almost universally the worst option here because there are literally no local employees involved sans the delivery person, but like the Juggernaut, this is an unstoppable force. This is especially true in a world where the poor continue to get poorer – a sadly true cliché – and the online platform is consistently able to offer the lowest prices.

What to do? I’ve got no idea; I’m just a person who does stuff and feels ways about things. I suspect most people fit that description on some level. Corvallis is a lot better off than most places, but maybe this change we’re experiencing will present some opportunities for some good to come of it. I don’t really believe it will, but I hope so.

By Johnny Beaver