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.

 

11 Comments

  • Posted November 11, 2017

    Joyce

    this was a moving tribute to a lovely city with many wonderful features and many of us love living in this beautiful, friendly comunity

  • Posted November 12, 2017

    CB

    Many of us were not born to, but CHOSE this community. We are willing and able to roll up our sleeves, work to polish off or embrace the rough spots. This is our home, and in the word “Home” comes all that shelters and comforts us. We will volunteer, support our Community, accept the small-town atmosphere while showing love to all the diversity.

  • Posted November 12, 2017

    mike mitchell

    10% tax, lets see no jobs for the youth coming up, Meth exploding in that segment of the population, idle hands no doubt. but hey dog parks and bike trails and a touchy feely liberal downtown art district. You are lost sir. I did not hear of one thing you are doing for the economy????? the Target thing is deeper than your comment sir. Target was taxed to death in Hutch sir. That same Target in Salina, taxed out property wise at a million dollars less than in hutch. Twice the yearly tax dollars, also known as profit if you are wondering, which would lead to them making a decision to stay. So yes in a far off town a decision was made that Hutch cares more about dog parks and trails and a robust art market than actual jobs . Hey our police drive the best suv’s money can buy though. We just cant afford them ourselves.

    • Posted November 13, 2017

      tim howard

      nice job Mike, theres the true story, this story writer lives in fantasy Hutch,no interstate, hutch is doomed, we seen it years ago..Overtaxed retirement town. with very poor infastructure

  • Posted November 12, 2017

    Betty Stevens

    I don’t live in Hutchinson but I love it because some good friends live there.

  • Posted November 12, 2017

    Sad ness

    I heard all my years growing up here, that they wanted it to be a retirement town. Well all you have mentioned is what makes me believe they have accomplished that. There is no fouces on good paying jobs, insensitives (help) offered for the lower income to improve their property. Just build more low income housing so everyone gros up with, no yard, no place to actually do family things outside. Not everyone can drive to a park. After school nothing for kids to do that can’t afford sports, movies, golf, bowling ECT… How many old empty BUSINESS are there, but we continue to use land to build new. The streets suck, but we have “taxes”for that Ha, ha. It only builds new bot take care of or rebuild old. The people that have to work and make money pretty much commute to Wichita or McPherson. All the new business you speak of mostly only pay minimum wage. So after bills what’s left to spend.

  • Posted November 12, 2017

    Vickie Hoefer

    You said everything just perfectly! Kudos!!
    I have lived in Hutchinson all my life and do not plan to move anywhere else. This town has so much to offer to families. So what if Target is closing. Something else will take its place. Honestly I think if people would put it out there what types of stores they would love to see here it would help. I would love to see a toy store so I could get things for my grand kids. So let’s all contact our favorite stores and put Hutchinson out there!

  • Posted November 12, 2017

    Pam Lyle

    I love Hutch also and I really like your optimism and realism… my frustration comes from those that don’t contribute or participate! I here for the duration. (Did I write that ok teach????) lol!

  • Posted November 12, 2017

    Johnnie Nelson

    Hey Jason, Last time we talked you said you had big shoes to fill. Congratulations on your new big feet! I think there are a lot of people in our town who have some good ideas for small businesses that have been discouraged by the negativity of which you speak. Your post today inspired me. I have 2 or 3 ideas myself. What kind of forum do we have here where people can go to experience the Delphi effect? Where can we get together to group-think? Could we start be promoting this idea?

  • Posted November 13, 2017

    Lori Givens

    Jason you hit the nail on the head !! I love our town too and yes we have so much to do here and there is so much out there if we would just look!! Thank you for posting this so much better response that what the Editor of the news wrote in the paper does he even like Hutchinson or its people?? We can be upset about Target leaving and losing so many more but its life and we will survive!!!

  • Posted November 25, 2017

    Janean Lanier

    PrairieStar Healthcare Clinic is a huge improvement from the Community Healthcare Clinic on West 2nd St. And it keeps getting bigger and better at providing more healthcare services as time goes by.

Leave a Reply