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Old 05-07-2014, 08:32 AM
 
Location: Shawnee-on-Delaware, PA
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The race riots of the 1960's played a big part in the demise of Main Street. The mall craze of the 70's was a direct response to the riots.

When I was a lad I used to accompany my grandmother on the bus for shopping trips to Newark, NJ. But she stopped taking those trips after the riots of 1967 and opted instead for East Orange which is a smaller city that was closer to us. By and by she stopped going there as well, until by the time the suburban malls were built neither we nor most other suburbanites shopped "downtown".
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Old 05-07-2014, 08:43 AM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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I think the OP meant to focus on smaller towns, not big cities.
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Old 05-07-2014, 08:45 AM
Status: "Summer!" (set 17 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
86,992 posts, read 102,568,112 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
Over the weekend, I had some family business and I headed to my dad's hometown. With this visit I had a new lens. As kids, we never went to "downtown." Knowing how segregated my dad's town still is, I am sure it is a habit based on history more than anything. My dad's town has about 3000 residents. On this visit, I was driving through main street I noticed all the great historic buildings and an old art deco theater. It was like picture perfect Americana (with a bit of decay).

Here is the one cute block: https://www.google.com/maps/@33.4511...O7tkNCDoig!2e0

Not this place is so small, the downtown is only a few blocks. And this is a city with no industry and no wealth, so it isn't super well kept, it has a population of roughly 3000 that is in decline. But on the flip side. The nearest "city," the county seat, is about 30 miles away and has a whopping 10000 people. But there you can find the Walmart. And then tack on another 20 miles to get to a megaplex.

So main street is the game in town for miles. The next nearest town, I think it has a stop sign, but I could be wrong, has about 600 people. The other direction is the county seat, with 10k people.

Downtown Andrews has great bones, and pretty nice architecture. And I started to think, what on earth happened? Almost every small town in America had a main street that was similar. It felt unique, had character and served a variety of needs. And somehow, now, all of our shopping centers and strip malls could be anywhere USA. And smaller towns expect they'll need to travel in order to get to the daily necessities. We decided that the mall and the office park were the only place for commercial interests.

And it only took about 2 generations for it to happen.
First of all, the bold is untrue. Many small towns had no downtown really. There was perhaps one thriving, "full service" downtown and a lot of little towns with not much other than a grocery store and maybe a hardware store in an area. Even where I grew up in the 50s/60s, in the Beaver Valley of Pennsylvania, with towns all along the river from Beaver Falls to Beaver, then up the Ohio to Pittsburgh. (Yes, that's right, the Ohio flows north from Pittsburgh to Beaver), there were two good downtown shopping areas, my hometown, Beaver Falls, and another in Ambridge, about 15 miles away on the Ohio. My town had several department stores: a couple of indies, a Montgomery Wards, maybe a Penney's, and a Sears catalog store; a men's store, a children's store, several women's dress shops, several shoe shops; two 5 and 10c stores, several drug stores, a few little restaurants, a couple music stores, furniture stores, two movie theaters and much more. My family rarely went anywhere else for clothing and housewares, though some people made an annual or biannual trip to Pittsburgh to shop. The big department store chains did not have satellite stores in the burbs back then. Ambridge had similar. The other towns along the rivers had grocery stores, an occasional hardware store, pharmacies, and a few other stores. What happened in the Pittsburgh area with the steel crash is not the story of the rest of the country, so I can't analyze it. This is part of it now: https://www.google.com/maps/@40.7554...CymeMIZjkw!2e0

See map, follow the river down to Beaver, then up the Ohio to Pittsburgh.

When I lived in Illinois agriculture country, the little farm towns had a grocery store, a hardware store, a bank, a grain elevator, a coffee shop or two. Everyone did their real shopping "in town", e.g. Champaign/Urbana.

I lived here https://www.google.com/maps/@40.1117...VA!2e0!6m1!1e1 in the late 70s, when the town was a little less than half the size it is now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by annie_himself View Post
Blame Henry Ford for being innovative and Americans for being selfish.
People go shopping where it works best for them. No one is to "blame".

Quote:
Originally Posted by HandsUpThumbsDown View Post
Big retail, free abundant parking, economies of scale in retail, Main Street bypassed by a highway which was then bypassed by a freeway which was then bypassed by a beltway, cheap gas and cars.

Some towns tried to save their Main Street by bulldozing elm st or 1st avenue or whatever, for parking for people to visit Main Street. That didn't work.

In a small southern city in the Carolinas from which a portion of my family hails, the wal mart on the highway put the downtown out of business, then the walmart closed in favor of a SUPER wal mart out off the bypass highway - leaving the abandoned Walmart to rot in a now "abandoned strip mall chic" part of town.

In regards to the original place, all company towns are destined to fail, anyway. There's are some really amazing examples of ruins of sizable towns in southern wv and ohio.
Most really small towns, such as jade408 is describing, had free parking. Considering the bold, it's not just free parking that people want. Sears, Roebuck was accused of destroying small downtowns as well, oh 100 years ago or so. By the time Walmart came to Lafayette, CO, the downtown was far gone. There was very little shopping left there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ciceropolo View Post
Haha, you made me think of this series

Market forces, change in values / habits, and the requisite change in built environment killed main streets.

The market being: new more efficient means of transportation (auto/ access via roadways), technology that enabled longer times between necessary purchases for formerly perishable items (refrigerators, better storage, preservatives et al) rapid efficiency gains in standardized industrial applications across trades / industries eliminating many former small business type establishments which dotted many of these main streets (photography shop, pharmacy, dress and tailor shop, single theater etc...) with economies of scale via competitive advantage (Walmart/Megaplex etc..).

Values: to the degree, in that, America of the "Main Street" as prominent aspect of life (Norman Rockwell idealized) still had youth with desires to succeed, the opportunities of urban centers have always driven youth to seek greater opportunity, fame , fortune et al. in the big city. And as the old saying goes it's hard to keep them on the farm once they've seen the lights of the big city.

Basically, as the consumer market programming overtook the 'populace' psyche', the acceleration in life's 'pace' makes the quaintness of much of a "main street" shopping experience difficult to enjoy. Rush out, stock up, and get back to plugging yourself into the mass media programming /entertainment of choice. The loyalty of a consumer to a local market (Main Street) disappears when globalized labor arbitrage enables slave labor to produce many everyday items to be sold in one large establishment ('China-mart').
"Life after people", eh? You should move to Boulder. Of course, the good denizens of Boulder exclude themselves from these scenarios.

I remember the pundits complaining about people "Going to the mall" in the 1990s. That was the wrong way to spend one's time as well. I hardly rush home so I can plug in; maybe your friends and acquaintances live that way, mine don't. What is the "proper" way to spend one's time? I remember my parents complaining about stuff "made in Japan" when I was a little kid (50s/60s).
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Old 05-07-2014, 08:49 AM
 
Location: I live wherever I am.
1,935 posts, read 3,738,259 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
Over the weekend, I had some family business and I headed to my dad's hometown. With this visit I had a new lens. As kids, we never went to "downtown." Knowing how segregated my dad's town still is, I am sure it is a habit based on history more than anything. My dad's town has about 3000 residents. On this visit, I was driving through main street I noticed all the great historic buildings and an old art deco theater. It was like picture perfect Americana (with a bit of decay).

Here is the one cute block: https://www.google.com/maps/@33.4511...O7tkNCDoig!2e0

Not this place is so small, the downtown is only a few blocks. And this is a city with no industry and no wealth, so it isn't super well kept, it has a population of roughly 3000 that is in decline. But on the flip side. The nearest "city," the county seat, is about 30 miles away and has a whopping 10000 people. But there you can find the Walmart. And then tack on another 20 miles to get to a megaplex.

So main street is the game in town for miles. The next nearest town, I think it has a stop sign, but I could be wrong, has about 600 people. The other direction is the county seat, with 10k people.

Downtown Andrews has great bones, and pretty nice architecture. And I started to think, what on earth happened? Almost every small town in America had a main street that was similar. It felt unique, had character and served a variety of needs. And somehow, now, all of our shopping centers and strip malls could be anywhere USA. And smaller towns expect they'll need to travel in order to get to the daily necessities. We decided that the mall and the office park were the only place for commercial interests.

And it only took about 2 generations for it to happen.
Blame it on greed and stupidity. Plainly and simply, that's the answer.

Corporate greed led to mega-stores that import cheap garbage from third-world slave labor countries so it can be sold to the American public for a low price. Personal greed and stupidity led to people looking only at price, and not at the local impact that purchasing those crappy imported items from those mega-stores would have, when making purchasing decisions.

You can still find, in most small towns, a semblance of what Main Street USA used to be like. Let's face it... every person, everywhere, at every time, need to be fed. Thus, in many small towns there is still the small-town supermarket. When you go in there, if you've lived in the area for even a year or two, people know who you are. Heck, when I lived in a city of 130,000 people, and I went to the local IGA food market which somehow stayed afloat despite FIVE mega-stores offering comprehensive grocery sections being within a 5-mile drive, they got to knowing who I was. I was the "cherry Juicy Juice guy". They didn't know my name because I didn't tell them (I'm not the most social guy out there) but they knew what I liked and what I bought in large quantities. Go into any small-town grocery store (excluding chains like Dollar General, though sometimes you find this at a small-town Dollar General as well), and you will find that the employees and customers talk to each other like friends. If there's something you want or need, they're on it and they'll get it. (Hence why I was "the cherry Juicy Juice guy" at IGA. You think Wal-Mart would have been so attentive to my individual desires?)

But it's going to be a bit more expensive at places like that, compared to Wal-Mart. This is because Wal-Mart is ruthless with how it gets merchandise from suppliers... since it has gotten so big, everyone wants their stuff to be sold at Wal-Mart so price cutting is all over the place. (And, amusingly enough, Wal-Mart got as big as it did because Sam Walton believed in the power of the American worker. It wasn't until after Walton's death that it became a retail oligarch of gargantuan proportions through becoming close bedfellows with Chinese manufacturers. I've been able to witness this transformation to an extent.)

However, we've voted with our wallets, to sacrifice Main Street on the Wal-tar of the almighty dollar.
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Old 05-07-2014, 09:06 AM
Status: "Summer!" (set 17 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
86,992 posts, read 102,568,112 times
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^^Yes, let's all blame Walmart! Talk about barking up the wrong tree!
http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j...66111022,d.aWw
"He proceeded, therefore, to locate his big-city stores in outlying areas at the junctures of well-travelled thoroughfares where land costs were far cheaper than downtown and ample parking could be provided. In the beginning, such stores were often isolated, with the result that the Sears stores soon became the nuclei of new outlying shopping centers. Sears store location policy had a major impact on the structure of American cities."
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Old 05-07-2014, 09:24 AM
 
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People don't want to walk and they want air conditioning. Developers cashed in on those two wishes and built malls. But, what goes around comes around. Now the malls are failing because people don't like having to walk across large parking lots and then walk a mile from store to store inside the mall. They want to park right in front of their store.

"Convenience" is our middle name.
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Old 05-07-2014, 10:31 AM
 
35,324 posts, read 25,158,624 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rzzz View Post
In many places (like the town I grew up in) this was done to prevent semi trucks from ruining the local roads.

Sure, I get that, still a bad decision.
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Old 05-07-2014, 11:04 AM
Status: "Summer!" (set 17 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
86,992 posts, read 102,568,112 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by timberline742 View Post
Sure, I get that, still a bad decision.
I disagree. Big semis used to roll down the main street (7th Avenue if you care to look at the map) of my home town, yet I doubt any of the truck drivers ever stopped to shop, and probably not often even for a meal. I certainly don't remember seeing any of them parked along the street (the only parking then). The notion that routing a major highway through town brings business is not played out in reality. My parents once lived in a town that Route 30 runs through. U.S. Route 30 in Pennsylvania - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Again, one saw the trucks lumbering along, but rarely stopped to "smell the roses". A casual traveler might stop for a meal, but not as often as you'd think.
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Old 05-07-2014, 11:26 AM
 
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U S Route 30 goes through Pennsylvania? I live on Route 30 in Missouri but maybe ours is state. I'll have to check. I do know it goes through a lot of small towns, a lovely ride. A restaurant in one of those towns has the best-ever home cooking.

Our Route 30 has quite a history. I'll have to check this out.
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Old 05-07-2014, 11:32 AM
 
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The reason the Mayberry life is gone is because today people have more options. Sure the life seems slower but to the youth that life is booooring. As for the boomers if you look at the economy and government they or we screwed that up with greed and the what's in it for me mindset.
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