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Examiner
  • Jeff Fox: Nostaglia on sale, but shop quickly

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  • Don’s World of Beef.
    Yes, the kidney bean salad at Don’s World of Beef. It’s funny where one sometimes finds nostalgia.
    This little deli had, what, three or four locations around the area? I forget. There was one in downtown Kansas City, across from where the library no longer is. And there was one at the Blue Ridge Mall, which no longer is either.
    Wal-Mart is coming, again. Just as the Blue Ridge Mall had its day – I can remember when it was an open-air mall, and I can remember its heyday in the ’70s – it inevitably declined, badly. Now it’s a Wal-Mart and a Lowe’s, doing far more business than the old mall did in its last couple of decades. Can anyone argue with that swap?
    Now it’s time for Gaslight Square, which for a brief moment was a hip and happening place at 35th and Noland. It was probably just good marketing, but it had a certain cachet.
    Remember the honest-to-goodness mom-and-pop bakery? The Herald House book and gift store? The small grocery store? Guess what. The world flipped the business models for every single one of those – it happens more quickly than you think – and soon enough Gaslight Square was scrambling and then pretty much empty.
    Enter Wal-Mart, with what it calls a Neighborhood Market. In other words, a decent sized grocery store in an area of town that lacks one. Wal-Mart has lots of fans and lots of critics, but give them this much: They’re like McDonald’s. There’s a formula, it works, and they don’t tend to go out of business. Can anyone argue that this won’t be a step up?
    This is the part where I’m supposed to be either weepy and nostalgic about lost things or surly and dismissive about “progress.” I’ll take a shot at the first and try to skip the second.
    Also on the basement level of the old Blue Ridge Mall was Anderson’s, which sold books and office supplies in the days before generic, big-box retailing. It was great. You found things, discovered things. The biggest rule of the bland big boxes is no surprises, no variation, no deviation from the plan.
    Maybe it’s just that there was a time when I sort of knew where everything was at that mall – where to shop for Mom’s birthday, where to buy a decent shirt – and it was at what seemed like a reasonable scale. Today’s big boxes are a little intimidating. Plus that mall had a post office and a bowling alley, things that by today’s standards are funky.
    That’s what we’ve lost. I like Panera and Chipotle, and they’re probably better than Don’s World of Beef – sorry, Don – but the landscape against which they sit seems more generic. But things change. And things change again. Perhaps funkiness will again reign one day.
    Page 2 of 2 - What I really miss is Shakey’s Pizza, and, admit it, you do too if you’re old enough. But the Shakey’s empire has been in decline for years and years, and now few are found outside California. You can follow them on Twitter, for random blasts of nostalgia.
    Somehow it’s not the same.
    Follow Jeff Fox on Twitter @Fox_EJC.
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