CEDAR RAPIDS— Westdale Mall in Cedar Rapids is closing at the end of March. The 72 acres will be re-purposed, retaining two of the anchor stores, J.C. Penney and Younkers (which remain open), and replacing the mall with housing, and recreational and commercial endeavors. Many of us believed malls were a bad idea when this one was built. We had a longer view of social progress than others, yet there is no feeling of vindication as stores and jobs go away.
The stores I visited at Westdale were the picture framer, J. C. Penney, Montgomery Wards, and one or two of the jewelers. Probably others, but memory is a fickle master. Shopping has never been important to me, and the similarities between retail establishments outweighed the differences. There are other places to shop.
After taking this photo, I stopped at the nearby hardware store. That is, a hardware store equivalent. During the post-Walmart era every large box store has groceries, sundries and some amount of plumbing, heating and home maintenance goods. Menards is a hardware store because they sell lumber and a greater inventory of home improvement items. Too, contractors frequent Menards, and it is a home base for many small businesses. They may sell red Solo cups here, and run advertisements featuring American made goods, but their inventory comes from all over the world.
It was the first trip to Menards in a long time, a harbinger of spring work. I spent $124.73. There was a globe to replace the one knocked loose when the roofer’s hammering made one fall and break; a tank lever to fix a toilet; a bag of charcoal to remove a tree stump; two bags of grass seed to re-plant the ditch where the drought burned off last year’s planting; new gloves for the garage in deerskin, goatskin, PVC and cloth; two new seedling trays; two bags of seed starting soil; some two-cycle oil for a chainsaw project; a bag of zip ties; and a packet of organic beefsteak tomato seeds. All representing spring projects. I put up the light globe and fixed the toilet yesterday.
Visiting a hardware store is not necessarily a guy thing, as I know plenty of women who frequent what are now called home improvement centers. Yet, as a guy, there is nothing quite like returning home and emptying the vehicle of tangible evidence of the work to be done to sustain our lives on the Iowa prairie. It is a kind of hope yesterday’s spring snowfall could not hold back.