Follow awfulagent on Twitter

About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My Three Sons

To celebrate St. Patrick's Day, I visited Borders #40 in Bohemia, Long Island.

Well, no, that would be crazy. Really, I celebrated St. Patrick's Day by travelling out to Long Island for the Grand Opening of the Whole Foods Market in Lake Grove, NY. Not as crazy, right! And the Borders was on the way. Like, go to a totally different line on the Long Island Rail Road and have a two-mile walk to the Borders but then the Suffolk County bus goes from directly in front of the Borders pretty much right to the Whole Foods along the way, not crazy at all.

I took this picture as I approached the Borders because you're looking at a little piece of American corporate history that I don't think you can see too many other places right now. In fact, this may be just about the only place in the country where you can see it.

For in the early 1990s, K-Mart decided that the future was in diversification. It acquired Sports Authority, it acquired Office Max, it acquired Borders to pair with the Waldenbooks chain it had owned since 1984. And then almost immediately thereafter, the decision was made that the future was in focusing on the K-Mart stores, and it spun off all three chains. But for a period of two or three years in the early 1990s, K-Mart owned Borders, it owned Office Max, it owned Sports Authority, and it did real estate deals that combined K-Mart stores with an Office Max, a Borders, a Sports Authority, in various combinations. And here we have K-Mart and its three sons, thus the title of this blog post, all lined up in a neat little row, in a plaza built in the early 1990s (my first visit to this Borders was circa 1993), all still in business.

And you just don't see that very often. K-Mart went bankrupt, closed lots of stores. OfficeMax closed lots of stores in the early 2000s. Sports Authority closed stores. Borders has probably closed the fewest stores of all of these chains, let's hope it doesn't catch up in a hurry, but it occurred to me that of the dozens or scores of real estate deals K-Mart did for itself and its progeny, there are only so many of them that included all four brands, and of those the odds are pretty good that one or more of the stores is something else by now, 15 or 18 years later.

Where else but here are you going to get an illustrated piece of corporate Americana like this.

As I enjoyed my ride on the Suffolk bus out the back way into this little slice of Americana, it looked as if they might have patched up some of the potholes. Maybe next time Peter Brett can enjoy the sightseeing a little bit more.

The Whole Foods in Lake Grove was doing the brisk opening day business one might expect, and is the 102nd that I've been to. It has a pickle bar, which is something I haven't seen before, I don't think. Their Indian bar had a squash puree that I hadn't seen at other Whole Foods, though the sign that says their Indian food is from Zaika is a little bit deceptive because Zaika turns out to be part of the same Cafe Spice outfit that provides Indian food to most of the Whole Foods in the region. They had a good gelato brand.

This Whole Foods is pretty much across the street from Borders #79 in Stony Brook, which was also a K-Mart real estate deal. My three sons are all still there, but the K-Mart is now a Lowe's. I also popped over to the relatively new B&N in Stony Brook, which was added around two years ago when the Smith Haven Mall added a "lifestyle center" outdoor extension, the Borders in Commack, and the B&N in Commack. Most of the stores had around 70 non-Charlaine Harris JABberwocky titles. The Borders in Commack has always been an underperformer and had only 50. So why is the Borders in Commack the only Borders on LI that still opens at 9AM? Do they have some super-brisk business at the Seattle's Best? This was my first visit to this B&N in Commack. They had a store catercorner that closed. This newer store is part of the Huntington Square mall where it looks like they pretty much demolished all of what was a small, old, decaying little mall, save for the Sears, and rebuilt it with the B&N taking up most of the space. I don't think the B&N does much better for sf/fantasy than the Borders does. The best current barometer is to see if a B&N has the Deathstalker books by Simon Green and/or the Blood books and some others from Tanya Huff, since those are titles that are found at the better stores in genre but not at the lesser locations.

I used to celebrate my birthday by visiting all of these various bookstores, Bohemia then bus to Stony Brook then bus to Commack then maybe on toward Huntington and maybe down to Farmingdale. It's gotten harder in recent years to take the time off for this, so I was glad the Whole Foods opening gave me an excuse to visit some of these old haunts.


David F. Weisman said...

Hope you enjoyed your visit to Long Island. We've actually had some beach weather, although more for walking on the boardwalk than wearing a bathing suit.

Unknown said...

I grew up haunting the books aisle at K-Mart every Saturday while my parents shopped. Then Wal-Mart invaded and K-Mart exited Texas. Very few Wal-Marts have a good books aisle.