Basically, you have three types of people in Flagstaff:
1. People who would rather die than shop at a Wal-Mart; or at least would rather spend $43 on a pair of socks at an outfitter store instead of getting the six-pack of socks for $15 at Target. These are the same people who are buying organic dental floss and polar-fleece jockey shorts.
2. People who believe Flagstaff won’t be in the big-leagues until we have a Wal-Mart Supercenter, a Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and a Circuit City. These are the same people who make the 360-mile round-trip drive to Phoenix to shop at these places and then gush about the money they saved.
3. The rest of us, who would be happy to shop at locally-owned stores, but always wind up at Target because a) at least we know when it’s open; and b) we figure there’s no locally-produced toothpaste, anyway.
I tend to think both arguments are predicated on the assumption that the big box companies would actually want to locate stores in Flagstaff, which might be a little, um, optimistic. I mean, this is a town that, in the last six years, has seen this disappearance of a Taco Bell, a Baskin Robbins, two Dunkin’ Donuts, a Denny’s, a Circle K, and four movie theaters. It seems like the city might want to get its little box thing together first before it moves on to bigger boxes. (Of course, we’ve also lost a K-Mart and a Price Chopper, so big boxes are already a question mark.)
But while Flagstaff may lag in hanging onto national chains, we’re way ahead in reusing the former chain buildings for bizarrely inappropriate purposes. The latest addition to this category is the former Denny’s on historic Route 66. It sat empty for approximately 3 years with a “for lease” sign on it, looking for all the world like, well, an empty Denny’s. Just recently, though, it’s gotten new life as the home of Sammy’s Auto Parts. Now it looks, for all the world, like… an old Denny’s stacked to the rafters with boxes of oil filters.
Just down the road from Sammy’s is a flooring store – probably the only flooring store with a marquee, residing as it does in one of the city’s former movie theaters. The former Baskin Robbins (on, yes, Route 66) is now a check cashing place. And there’s an expired Toys R Us that’s now a motorsports shop – though they didn’t bother changing the color scheme, meaning it’s probably the happiest snowmobile place in town.
(Granted, the mom-and-pop stores aren’t immune – shoppers who go looking for horse tack at a local saddle shop will probably see people corralled in a different way when they find it’s now a place that deals in bail bonds.)
Me, I can deal with large boxes or small boxes. As long as they’re holding donuts.