Today I was driving to Taco Hell for lunch (they're cheap, and the Fresca option's pretty good) and I noticed that the hardware store behind the Bell was closing.
It's been there for many a year, certainly longer than I've been in Chicago and possibly longer than I've been alive - a True Value hardware store. You know (or maybe you don't) - the kind of store about three times as big as a 7-11 and packed to the gills with everything from key-cut machines to flowerbed materials, fishing lures and lines to barbecue grills and light fixtures, all arranged heaven-knows-how so you have to ask someone (invariably an older gentleman named Earl) who will instantly know what you're talking about, no matter how obscure.
That kind of store.
And it's closing.
The store that lasted through wars and recessions couldn't handle this one.
I liked that hardware store - was the only place that made keys that worked the first time (ever send your parents keys to your place, so they could use it when you're gone, and NOT have the keys work? I have - thanks a lot, Home frickin' Depot!).
When I needed some little plugs to hold up my stereo table... they had 'em. Monofilament fishing line? Had that, too.
Sadly, I guess I only went in when I needed something pretty obscure or pretty cheap or both. Kind of hard to make a living off of people like me, I suppose.
I noticed, yesterday, that the Cardsmart store in downtown Des Plaines closed. Something like overnight - I stopped in just a little while ago (when you have 14 nieces and nephews and four brothers and sisters you're constantly buying cards for birthdays, anniversaries, first communions, etc) and it's right across the street from where I occasionally go to lunch, so I was a bit surprised.
And today, I noticed that Kaffecino, a coffeeshop downtown across from the train station, was gone, too. As in, vanished, cleaned out, gone kaput... and I had just stopped off there in February and March! It had always been there, ever since I moved here... had great sandwiches, good coffee...
Add in the local Boston Market store, the steakhouse I never went to, the Max and Erma's restaurant that I did and always, always regretted visiting, the furniture store and the Circuit City store just down the street...
That's quite a few places, all standing empty. And the only things that have opened in the past few years are a Goodwill Store and the Salvation Army store.
Not the best of times, I know.
It surprises me, I guess, how many places were living hand to mouth, month by month. If things are moving along, hey, fine, but the minute things go south... wham!
Some, like that Max and Erma's, should have closed long ago. But others, like Kaffecino, the furniture store where I got my kitchen table and chairs, and even the Cardsmart... what the heck? Are things that bad that they couldn't hang on a few more months?
Yes they are.
I'm going to miss that old hardware store. I'm going to miss it whenever I have to go into the Home Depot or Menard's and find some piddly-ass little thing in those monster stores (well, Menard's just closed their store too, and built a new one several miles out. Thanks a lot, Menard's!), or try to. You know, where you have to go over 14 aisles for a door latch or something.
I know, I know... it's progress. The way of the world.
But I don't have to like it.