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More Reporting on the Land of the Weird April 6, 2006

Posted by Administrator in Cultural Pessimism.

OK. We just got back from four days at my in-laws. They live in a section of suburban Seattle that is very close (but not in) to the two richest communities in Washington State.

There is a mall, Bellevue Square, that targets these two uber-swank communities, as well as the more prosaic, middle class neighborhoods as well. It contains 158 stores.

I tend to go to malls for one of three reasons:

  1. To shop for clothes (and that as quickly as possible)
  2. To browse books
  3. To people watch (this last only when I'm waiting for my wife to get done with her portion of #1).

Far and away, when I go to malls, the primary purpose is #2. Perhaps there are others out there that share this odd tendency with me.

Of the 158 stores that Bellevue Square has to offer, it has exactly ZERO bookstores.

That's right, not one.

Five years ago, the mall sported three bookstores; B. Dalton, Waldenbooks and Borders. Borders proved to be so superior in selection that they drove the other two chains out.

But then, Borders' lease came up about two years ago, and BellSquare wanted to jack their rates. Enormously. And Borders said, quite rightly, I think: "Jam it. We'll simply leave." And leave they did. Leaving Bellsquare devoid of booksellers. As they have been now for over two years. Near as I can tell, BellSquare has done nothing to bring in new book merchants. And the space the Borders once occupied has been vacant ever since they left. You better believe that BellSquare would have been better off with Borders still in that space, even at the lower rent level, than having 3 vacant floors for years on end.

What does it say about a culture, when you visit the the bazaar that serves a region's toniest community, and you see that this bizarre bazaar has merchants committed to one of the three following things:

  1. Food
  2. Clothing/body attention (bath stores, make-up, jewelry and so on)
  3. and tchotchke stores (tchotchke being a word of Yiddish origin [I believe] that stands for "stuff."). Places committed to the gathering of junk that might be used once in the next decade.

NOTHING that serves the mind. (the video store and a music store have to stretch to meet that requirement). Nothing that teaches. Nothing that requires the mind to actively engage itself.

How can one have such an upscale mall as this that has no bookstore of any kind? How can such a mall/bazaar be so careless about the learning of the community?

Because the Mall, like its customers, cares nothing for learning, or bettering oneself. All they care about is the acquisition of STUFF, and making oneself look good. Even if the inside is rotten. BellSquare, and its customers, are culturally bankrupt. They know nothing for themselves; they only consume what the greater world, through TV and newspapers, tells them to consume. And as the rich continue to coddle themselves, so the rest of culture will also fall.

How much farther is this culture going to decay?



1. The Village Idiot - April 7, 2006

On my eigth grade trip to DC, we were given ample time to shop. My partner and I were not interested in buying that much stuff and we wound up looking at the old ships at South Street Seaport in NY while everyone else ate and bought. The most striking memory, however, was at some three or five story mall in DC, where, upon being released to shop, I wound my way to the B.Dalton or Waldenbooks, after being told by my teacher, who was too preoccupied to make it to the bookstore, where it was and what book to look for for her, and the selection wasn’t even that great. No need for anything besides Anne Rice and Dan Brown there! So sad, so so sad.

2. hoody - April 8, 2006


3. Scott - March 7, 2007

It’s really pitiful that a greedy landlord would run out a tenant like Borders over rent, especially when it leaves them with a gaping wound in their storefront.

One addition to your story, though: Waldenbooks is owned by Borders, so they weren’t run out; Borders didn’t need two stores in the same mall.

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