Hard to believe: our town without Sears

Sears at Fayette Mall, on a gloomy day in 2011. (c) Herald-Leader file photo by Rich Copley.

Sears at Fayette Mall, on a gloomy day in 2011. On July 1, 2013, Sears Holdings announced the Lexington store will close. (c) Herald-Leader file photo by Charles Bertram.

Really, I don’t want the first memory to be me being obnoxious, but there it is.

It was 1978, and like a lot of 11 year olds, I was collecting Star Wars action figures. Kenner was being a bit chintzy doling them out, and one of the last prizes was the Jawa — the hooded desert creatures that brought droids to people like Uncle Owen and Luke Skywalker.

And I finally found it, at Sears. Hanging up the phone with the toy department, I begged my dad to take me down there to snap one up before other Star Wars freaks like me did. 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.

The Sears Wishbook was a centerpiece of our den and essential for making Christmas lists.

When I started collecting records — remember, I was 11 in ’78, 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 were were still fairly 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.

And that’s why I felt a bit sad Monday night when I saw the news — oh, boy — that Sears here 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, with Sears being at the middle of it? It’s the only passage from Macy’s to Dillard’s, or, as my teenagers may think, from Forever 21 to American Eagle. Retail, it seems, is passing Sears by.

Really, just Sunday morning, I had not stopped leafing through the Sunday circulars in the paper to do more than glance at the Sears ad.

But now, reading the headline, I feel this 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 fact of Chicago’s now-Willis Tower seems somewhat emblematic of another great American institution falling under the wheels of progress. And now we will be a city without a Sears.

At least, when I go home, the one two miles from my mom’s house will be there.

For now.

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