So, Target’s closing….
I’m not so good at the video. Yet.
But I did one where I talked about my thoughts about the recent announcement that Hutchinson’s Target store was closing. If you want to watch it, it’s right here.
But there’s more, I think, to be said about this.
First, let’s consider some thoughts about what might have contributed to Target’s closing.
In recent years, there really haven’t been many games in town when it came to shopping. Target and Walmart dominated, with supporting roles played by stores like Sears, Dillard’s and JCPenny, et al.
But we had a mall owner that was horrific. Some outfit based in Boston, I think, who couldn’t even be bothered to replace a tattered sign. It was clear that this company was simply sucking all the money it could out of Hutchinson – just as they were in every community in which they owned a mall. The stores that left the mall, largely, left because of a combination of the changing nature of retail and a building owner who would not invest in the property.
That has nothing to do with Hutchinson as a community.
Despite the struggles in retail, a new group purchased the mall and has made some investment. They’ve added stores – Ulta Beauty, Dunham Sports, Dollar Tree, and Harbor Frieght are a few of them. These are stores we didn’t’ have before.
A few years ago, the community said it wanted a Kohl’s, and now we have one.
There’s a good chance, I think, that amid falling sales in stores like Target, some of this growth and new local retail likely hurt Target even further – after having the market pretty much wrapped up for a number of years. There’s a good chance that people who used to buy cosmetics at Target started shopping at Ulta. Or who started buying clothing at Kohls, and so on and so forth.
When the bowling alley closed, another group of investors built not just a bowling alley, but a place with an arcade, a restaurant, and laser tag. Laser Tag!
We have a new miniature golf course.
We have several new, and several well established restaurants downtown. And we’re about to have a local brewery.
We have more car shows throughout the year than I can count.
We have a handful of local coffee shops, a killer local bookstore, and a Starbucks – which I had always been told was the tell-tale sign that you’ve arrived.
We have several active and ongoing live theaters, including Family Children’s Theater and Stage 9. And there’s the Fox, too, which has a season full of shows.
We have a symphony.
And a really nice art center.
We have a Dillon’s Marketplace. And a newly remodeled and expanded Aldi.
We have a dog park, and a good animal shelter. (And anyone who’s been around awhile will remember the deplorable thing we used to call an animal shelter).
We’re making investments in trails and parks, and that’s leading to more robust events throughout the year for a broader range of people. We have several neighborhood initiatives that are working to create a sense of place, identity and community.
There’s more, but you get the point.
Is Hutch perfect? No, not at all. Not by a long shot. And I’m not the sort of person who will cheer-lead just so I can ignore the real problems that exist. That doesn’t solve a thing.
We have too many people who can’t make ends meet, who can’t find the jobs that pay enough to support their families. We have unaddressed issues with drug abuse and mental illness. We have severe income disparity, poverty, and urban flight. It’s in our best interests to not ignore those realities. Because some of those problems have eroded our community’s tax base, and that has resulted in too much pressure on too few taxpayers to support efforts to make this a strong community into the future.
If there’s one overarching problem that I see in Hutchinson, it’s that we spend far too much energy looking backward instead of forward. We seem to have some tendency towards self-loathing, and when something like the Target announcement hits, it’s the proof we needed to believe every negative thing we’ve said to ourselves.
Our future is not our past. We won’t ever again have a Cessna that employs 1,500 people. And a lot of factors are chipping away at the once-held idea that we’d be a regional shopping hub. That’s compromised when online retail is disrupting traditional retail, and when a new generation of shoppers has largely rejected the mass-produced materials of the past.
No matter what, we will have a future. And that will largely be determined by the people of this community and how we decide to move into that future. I think if we constantly beg for the crumbs that we can get, and accept that we’re a dying Midwestern town, that’s the future we will have. However, if we allow ourselves to dream a little, to imagine what might be, and work towards that, we can craft a future much closer to what we want. I want a future guided by the people who live here – and those who more here and want to live here.
This place that seems so much better than Hutchinson is likely only better because of the people there who have created the things that seemingly make it better. These really cool and hip cities that you wish Hutch could be didn’t just spring out of thin air. All those things exist because people put their energy and effort into making them happen, so they’d have a dynamic community. And with that dynamic community came people who wanted to live there, and employers who wanted to hire them.
There is no reason that can’t be done here. In fact, it’s happening right now. There are people spending all their free time practicing for the upcoming production of Almost, Maine at Stage 9 – so that for two weekends there’s something fun and interesting to do. Down the street, the same thing is happening at the Flag Theater, for the upcoming production of Away in the Basement. Hutchinson High School and Hutchinson Community College also put on a variety of music and theater productions that any one of us can see.
The other night, I watched the HCC Jazz combo pack the house at Metropolitan Coffee – and I can see something similar on just about any given weekend.
Next weekend, there’s so much going on, I’ll likely have to decide what to miss.
I don’t want to sound all Pollyanna-ish. I get it, I really do. It’s tough , and we’re all working like mad to keep our heads above water. And then, one of the things we really like – say Target – decides to leave and it feels like a punch in the gut. Like “What am I supposed to do now? I’m working this job, not making enough money, and now my favorite store that makes life a little more tolerable isn’t even going to be around.”
But life can be drab, discouraging and awful anywhere you chose to live. I promise you, there are people right now living in Kansas City, Denver, New York City, who wish they were anywhere else. It can also be beautiful anywhere you live. The only constant is how we each chose to see our community, how we chose to talk about it and what we decide to do to make it better, or worse.
We have challenges, that is certain. The world is changing. Employment is changing. Everything seems more expensive, and it’s harder and harder for the average family to get ahead. We have to try to do something to change that. But I’m pretty sure whatever “that” is, it isn’t shrugging our shoulders and saying that our community is a terrible place to be and we shouldn’t really care anyway. And I’m pretty sure it’s not resigning ourselves to simply accepting the whims and financial spreadsheets of giant companies that are seldom invested in the communities in which they profit.
I don’t know the answer, but I’m willing to try something different in an effort to find it.
Because there’s a lot I love about Hutchinson.
I love the way the sunset lights up the courthouse, the water tower, First National Bank and the Wiley building.
I love walking Downtown early in the morning before shops open up.
I love how most of the time, I can go anywhere and run into a friend.
I love riding my bike on the trails and around town.
I love that we have art popping up all over – and even if it’s not my particular flavor, I love that we have it.
I love that we have places where bands can play in front of crowds.
I love that there are places that give us a chance to see – and perform in – live theater.
I love that people set up offices in coffee shops.
I love the way the gazebo lights up at night in George Pyle Park.
I love that we still have brick streets in some places.
And I love that there are a lot of people who put their heart and soul into doing something good, even when they’re discouraged, meet with limited success, or have to ignore a chorus of negative feedback.
And I bet, if you stop to think about it, you’ll realize there’s a lot you love, too.