How Do You Feel About The Big Box Chains?

Target, Home Depot, Best Buy and all the rest...

I'm just curious.

How do you feel about the big box chains in Evanston?

Personally, I curl my lip when I pass them on the street. And yet, when I'm in the market for something like, oh, I don't know...

...a television or

...a reasonably priced 12-pack of toilet paper or

...a thumb drive for my computer or

...paper yard bags or

...a combo platter of a furnace filter and a pair of socks and a bottle of cheap (but great smelling) shampoo and some fabric softener sheets and a 25th wedding anniversary card and a pair of soccer cleats...

...that's when I'm relieved we have choices available.

I think about all the newly arrived Northwestern students tending to their dorm rooms and apartments.

"Woops...I thought the other girl was bringing a toaster oven."

"Guess we need a printer with wi-fi."

"What? The bathroom window has no curtains?"

Whenever I head toward Big Box Alley (a.k.a. the space between Oakton and Howard between Asbury and McCormick), I brace myself for the inevitable over-spend, which contributes to my love-hate relationship with all the stores:

"I went into Home Depot for a rake and came out with a 24-pack of AA batteries, a magazine showing me how to reorganize my small kitchen and the best damn hot dog my thighs didn't ask for. God I hate this place..."


"All I needed was a package of litter for the rabbit's cage, but now I'm holding a new collar, a customized name tag, and a chew toy for the dog."


"An Epson 41EE7 printer cartridge was the only thing I needed from OfficeMax, so why am I also putting a white eraseboard and a retriever-themed mouse pad in my trunk?"

Target emphasizes how it gives back to the community...just check out the contributions it claims to make to local schools in the attached photo.

Do we all feel "taken" by the big box companies, or should we thank them for keeping our town afloat?

Candace Hill September 19, 2011 at 01:41 PM
Oh course, you realize, that those "big box" stores provide huge sales tax and property tax income to the City of Evanston and School Districts 65 and 202 that would be very, very difficult to replace. Those stores also serve residents of Rogers Park, Lincolnwood, and Skokie. I've read articles that maintain that the suburbs of Chicago are underserved by retail, that is, we often have to go way out of our way in order to get the selection and prices that small cities take for granted from stores like Home Depot and Target. For instance, if you lived on the south side of Evanston, and wanted to make a quick errand, where would you go to get a hundred photocopies made? Other than Office Depot? Frankly, I don't know one person who turns up their nose at having shopping opportunities especially those who remember what it was like to walk into the local hardware store before Home Depot made them step up, straighten up, and freshen up. I could tell you stories . . .
Christine Wolf September 20, 2011 at 01:50 PM
Candace...do tell! I'm sure there are many people just like me who'd appreciate hearing those stories.
Candace Hill September 20, 2011 at 02:18 PM
I'll give you just one example. When I had babies there was an established (ancient) hardware store on Main Street. Small, dirty, dusty, the glassware displayed in the window was never cleaned, and was never changed for years. The aisles were too narrow for a stroller, so you couldn't just look over the light bulb display. But the worst was the owner/cashier who was a chain smoker. This hardware store was no great loss when Home Depot moved in. The other part of that story is that Builder's Square also opened an Evanston Store on Main Street, but refused to pay much more than minimum wage. It didn't last for long. The better part of the story is that a well-stocked hardware store, with helpful folk who know Evanston can do quite well in the big box environment. Lemoi Hardware on Davis has only got bigger and better. When I worked in downtown Evanston I sent Northwestern families to that store often for small appliances. If you live in one of those big condo buildings, Lemoi has all the cleaning and storage products you need. Central Street in Evanston and Linden Ave. in Wilmette also have terrific neighborhood hardware stores that are clearly beloved. But, when it comes to replacing that one light bulb in the kitchen, Home Depot is the only place in town where I can find them.
Christine Wolf September 20, 2011 at 03:19 PM
Perfectly said.


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