We got a new Target in our neighborhood five years ago. People were excited about it, in a general way. Instead of driving 10.3 miles in one direction or 5.7 miles in the other, we would have our own personal neighborhood superstore. Then we found out that the developers were tearing down the batting cages and razing a mess of wild “forest” along the highway to make room for the store. The batting cages had been there for at least twenty-five years. And there was also a driving range, which was paved over for the parking lot.
Then came a snafu with the structural engineering of the site. The contractors had already dug an underpass to connect the parking lot to the highway behind the store. Someone decided this was a bad idea, because carjackers could swipe BMWs from the Target parking lot and jump right onto the interstate, never to be seen or heard from until a few days later when they came back, having left the stolen vehicle in Dover, DE.
The contractors filled up the underpass with dirt and planted some grass, leaving a strange gully where kids can throw candy wrappers.
When the new Target opened, the employees popped some pretty good popcorn and rolled some decent hot dogs, too. Everything was great. Impulse buying flourished in our town. Cheap lamps, party supplies, Hanes for men, women, girls and boys, board games, picnic ware, holiday specialty items. Straw hats, diaper genies, alarm clocks, camping equipment, bathmats, electronics in chains.
Gradually the store started to look a little worn-out, rundown. I saw two undercover policemen chase a shoplifter right out through the glass doors. They pinned the poor guy down in the parking lot. He was wearing a red shirt. I saw a different shoplifter chased down a few months later.
The run-down feeling is subtle. The store feels dirty, but subtly dirty. It’s not that the cleaning crew isn’t doing its job. The red’s not as red anymore. It just doesn’t pop.