So yesterday I finally did make up my hot little mind to journey easterly and northerly to the Costco at Paradise Valley Mall. As predicted, after Thursday afternoon’s endless journey to the Mayo Clinic — followed by having to go to two pharmacies to get the recommended very ordinary OTC drugs — I was too tired to take on a Costco junket, too.
So I figured that Friday I’d go to the much more conveniently located slum Costco, which occupies a moribund shopping center called Chris-Town.
LOL! When the City and the owners tried to do a half-baked revival, they rechristened it “Spectrum Mall.” The resulting nick-name, “Spectral Mall,” must have been more than its tenants could take: after a few years of that, they brought back the historic name.
Chris-Town was once a lovely mall: the second built in the Valley. It was pretty upscale, because it catered to the uspscale North Central district. It had a Bullock’s, a Diamond’s (which became Dillard’s), a Penney’s (the only downscale store at the site), several decent restaurants, and two nice theaters. Over time, though, the districts to the south and the west deteriorated — one of my friends was murdered in an apartment complex directly to the south. The mall changed hands as the middle-class stores moved out, and the new owners turned it into a discount shopping center. Hence the Walmart and the Costco and a bunch of other lower-end palaces. Really: the Costco is the most upscale store in that shopping center now.
Let us bear in mind that the City, while relieving us of extra tax moneys to fund their white elephant, assured us that the wonderful light rail would jack up property values and bring fine new upscale development all along the line.
That has proven true in areas of the city already populated by young urbanites, who live close enough to work to make commuting on a trolley practical. The exact opposite has happened in further-flung stretches of the line: anyplace north of Camelback and west of Central Avenue, what the light rail does is import drug-addicted transients, making every shopping area and every residential area exponentially less pleasant and more dangerous for the rest of us.
So it has been with Chris-Town. And hence my remark, the other day, about the impulse to pack heat while strolling between the car and the store entrance… The shopping center has been down-at-the-heels for decades, and now it’s at the center of about the highest crime activity in the city. If you follow the route of the lightrail on either of the linked maps, you see that crime rates — especially violent crime rates, which would include mugging and fist-fights — are high all along the thing, from downtown up to Chris-Town and now up to my neighborhood.
Yesterday, though, I had to go to a Costco to pick up something for today’s potluck, plus I needed a bunch of other things. But having set my sights on the Paradise Valley Costco last Thursday, I decided I couldn’t stomach a visit to Chez Pits and made up my mind to drive way to heck and gone up to Tatum and Cactus.
Only my laziness makes that feel like a long way. In reality, the drive took about 20 minutes. Drove into the parking lot and immediately joined the line to top off the gas tank: price was only $2.25, two cents a gallon less than I’d paid at the Chris-Town store.
Inside? Well, let me say: shopping in the Chris-Town store vs. shopping in the Paradise Valley store is as the night the day.
On a fundamental level, the two outlets carry the same basic goods. But…they don’t. The stores in the more upscale parts of town carry the basic goods, all right: and a lot more.
LOL! For example, I came across a seller hawking $1300 bicycles. Yes: that is thirteen hundred dollars (!!!).
Our Costco has two of those wooden bin stands for showing off the store’s proudest selections of wines. The PV Costco has a half dozen!
The meat counter at the PV Costco offers only prime beef steaks. You have to search for the more affordable choice cuts in another cooler, a long way from the meat counter.
The central feature of my daily uniform — Gloria Vanderbilt jeans — is severely limited at the Chris-Town Costco. At Paradise Mall, they come in gay abandon: two counters full of them, in all colors AND in sizes for normal people. At Chris-Town you’ll find lots of weird sizes but hardly any 10s or 12s. When you find Glorias in white, they’re size 18. I ask you: who in her right mind would wear SIZE 18 JEANS in WHITE???????
So naturally I had to buy a pair of these really kewl sort of blue-teal-blue jeans. And how could I turn down a nifty pull-over to go with them?
And naturally I ended up grabbing a lot more stuff — a LOT more — than just the potluck cake. Suddenly everything I looked at was something I needed. Right.
Interestingly, it seems that a more pleasant environment, one in which you do not feel at risk when entering the store and in which the culture is such that people don’t run into you, cut you off in the aisle and then stop, invade your personal space, and steal your cart when your back is turned, predisposes you to impulse buying.
Except for the jeans and the shirt, I can’t say I bought anything that I didn’t need. Well. Except for the lifetime supply of espresso beans. But I was tempted. Ohhhhh the magical electronic doorbell with camera and wireless connection! Ahhhhh the collection of six adorable puck lights with different colored lenses! How can anyone live without these objects?
So there I am, checking out, and I happen to mention to the check-out clerk that her store is SOOO much better than the one near my house.
“Which store is it?” says she.
“The one on Montebello.”
“Oh, yeah! There is a big difference, isn’t there? You know, we’ve been told Costco is not going to renew its lease at Chris-Town.”
Holy shit. “Hm. I’m not surprised. It’s not a very pleasant shopping center.”
“I used to work there. It’s so much better here.”
“It does feel safer in the parking lot.”
“Oh, let me tell you. NEVER go to that store after dark!”
So there you go: how to kill a Costco? Crush the shopping center with trainloads of vagrant drug addicts. While you’re at it, make sure mental health care is as difficult to acquire as possible for the indigent…as mentally ill folks are apt to be. Make shopping at the Costco a chore instead of a recreational event.
Drive out the middle class , and you drive out the middle-class commercial tax base. Drive out the middle-class residential and commercial tax base, and you trash the schools, insuring that the younger generation of middle-class workers will never move back into the area.
Do cities do this on purpose? It’s hard to escape it. The only other explanation would be that city leaders, here and across the nation, are by and large blithering idiots.
I don’t think that’s the case at all.
I think it’s a purposeful strategy to push modestly affluent people into the suburbs, so that the parties who own the city leaders — mostly developers and real estate speculators — can make more money packing the refugees into ticky-tacky houses placed elbow-to-elbow on postage-stamp lots. Car dealers sell more cars that way. Oil companies sell more gas. Tire manufacturers sell more tires. Insurance companies get higher rates. And developers get rich.
Who remains in the city? Only the middling wealthy (the ones who can afford the $2400/month rental rates in the new track-side housing here, or who can afford 3,000 square feet on half an acre within ten minutes of the law offices and hospitals where they work) and the very poor.
And so it goes.