Sears, I’m going to miss you when you’re gone

     Better hurry. Sears is closing at King of Prussia Mall. (Susan Perloff/for NewsWorks)

    Better hurry. Sears is closing at King of Prussia Mall. (Susan Perloff/for NewsWorks)

    “I’m serious!”

    “Well, I’m Roebuck. Who’s minding the store.”

    That old joke may cease to exist in the too-near future, as Sears begins to bite the dust.

    “I’m serious!”

    “Well, I’m Roebuck. Who’s minding the store.”

    That old joke may cease to exist in the too-near future, as Sears begins to bite the dust. Last May, CNN reported that “Sears has been on a downward spiral almost since the day it merged with Kmart in 2005.” A New York Times article recently declared that the CEO has “run Sears into the ground.”

    I never paid attention to Kmart, but I will miss Sears when it’s gone.

    When I was growing up as the daughter of a cheapskate mom, I wore plenty of Sears clothing. In those days, happily, brand names appeared only inside collars and waistbands, not on the chest, so no one else knew. Those clothes wore well, actually, and the Roebuck tag never embarrassed me.

    Later we ice-skated on a nearby pond belonging, we believed, to a member of the extended family of Julius Rosenwald, once a partner in Sears, Roebuck & Co. The ice was smooth, as was the shopping.

    Rosenwald vowed that the company’s primary responsibility was to customers. He established the “satisfaction guaranteed or your money back” pledge. He said: “Sell honest merchandise for less money, and more people will buy.” People did. I did.

    For decades, I visited friends living in Northeast Philadelphia, a long drive up Roosevelt Boulevard. For the first dozen times I drove there, I followed written directions, including “Pass Sears.” That store is gone forever.

    I have often been a customer of the softer side of Sears, most notably when my sons were in elementary school. We went every August to the store at 69th Street in Upper Darby. I bought a handful of sturdy denim pants for each boy. Joel wore the “slim guys” styles and David the “husky,” though today they have essentially switched positions.

    Each December I patched the knees. Each June I cut off the legs, and the same Sears jeans became shorts that survived the summer. My plan, and Sears’ quality, assured that David never needed to wear hand-me-down slacks. That store, and its successor at 63rd Street, are also dead.

    Once, before the commanding officer sent my ex to Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, for three weeks of Army training, I splurged at Sears on some extra outfits for the boys and me. Our small car couldn’t handle all the suitcases, so we tied two bags to the roof. On the last night of the drive, as we dined on catfish in beautiful, downtown Waxahachie, Texas, thieves made off with those valises.

    No problem. I replaced everything at Sears as soon as we landed.

    Sears has been my go-to source for the large, white appliances that fill a modern home. The Kenmore brand has chilled our food and cleaned our clothes. When we moved into our Center City apartment, one salesman in King of Prussia sold us a dishwasher, washing machine and dryer in one day. He was so enormous, occupying the same amount of space as an upright freezer, that I was amazed to find him still hobbling about a year later. That’s when we redid the kitchen and replaced the fridge, stove and microwave.

    Windshield wipers, floor mats and washer fluid usually came from Sears. Within the last few years, the Diehard battery died twice, and both times we were incredibly close to Sears — once in Granite Run Mall in MEdia, Pennsylvania, and once in Burlington, New Jersey. As technicians installed replacements, using Craftsman tools that match mine, we shopped in the store.

    I’m going to miss Sears. Not a lot, but some. It’s like losing a nice, old, boring uncle. But at least this uncle didn’t grab my tush and say “You’re getting big!” and “Here’s a dime.”

    Gotta go. Sears in King of Prussia is closing, and everything is half off. Who’s minding the store, indeed?

     

     

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