It was 1978, and like a lot of 11-year-olds at the time, I was collecting Star Wars action figures. Kenner was being chintzy in doling them out, and one of the last prizes was the Jawa — the hooded desert creatures that brought droids to Uncle Owen and Luke Skywalker. I finally found it — at Sears.
Hanging up the phone with the toy department of the Virginia Beach, Va., store, I begged my dad to take me down there to snap one up before they were bought out by other Star Wars freaks like me. He didn't want to — much like I have resisted my kids' retail therapy pleas in recent years — but to shut me up, I think, he did.
He took me to Sears.
It wasn't the first or the last time I went to the great American department store.
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When I made my Christmas list, I turned to the Sears Wish Book catalog, a centerpiece of our den.
When I started collecting music, I went to Sears.
When I needed some decent clothes for work, I went to Sears.
When I needed paint for our first house, we went to Sears.
When we were new to Lexington and needed tires for one of our cars, we went to Sears.
When my wife really wanted a video camera for her birthday, I finally found the right one at Sears.
That's why I felt sad Monday night, when I saw the news that the Sears at Fayette Mall will close.
Of course, there is the empathetic reaction that 161 people are losing their jobs. Then there is the practical question: How will we get through Fayette Mall without Sears in the middle? It's the only passage from Macy's to Dillard's — or, as my teenagers might think, from Forever 21 to American Eagle.
Retail shoppers, it seems, are literally passing Sears by.
Just Sunday morning, when leafing through the Sunday newspaper's circulars, I no more than glanced at the Sears ad.
But now, after reading the headline, I feel a sense of loss.
Sears, even if I don't have a recent receipt from it, is the great American department store. Heck, it always made sense to me that the tallest building in the United States was named for it.
Until it wasn't.
The renamed Willis Tower in Chicago seems emblematic of another great American institution falling under the wheels of progress.
Now we will be a city without a Sears.
At least when I go to visit my mom, the one that's 2 miles from her house will be there.