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Ghosts of Chain Stores Past
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"The paper towels were on sale," I told Mary when I got in from the grocery. We'd been getting low on paper towels and we don't like the usual grocery store price so this was some cause for celebration.

"It just like Caldor. Remember, whatever we wanted was always on sale."

She was right. The Caldor department store had been good to us. No matter what I showed up at the door to buy, be it a vacuum sweeper or a can opener, it turned out to be on special. Like magic.

I should've checked their ad in the Sunday paper to see what household item was going to break during the week.

"I wonder if Caldor's still around?" Mary asked, as she admired the bargain towels.

That particular store had closed, but that was a long time ago in another place. I didn't know the answer so I asked Google. It directed me to Retailers from Woolworth to Wal-Mart .

Caldor failed to answer the Christmas bells after 1999.

Checking the list of departed chains I noticed that it's predecessor at the same location, Hills, was also gone. I never cared for Hills. It felt dingy. The lighting was dim. Up front they did feature give-away snacks, though. Fifteen cent hot dogs and ten cent sodas, or round about those prices. You could have a meal, of sorts, for less than a half dollar.

A lot of other places I'd shopped in are gone. Service Merchandise, Hechinger, Ames, Woolworths, Zayre, Lechmere, Gold Circle. I'd guessed they were gone but couldn't be sure. Considering how little I spent over the years, I suppose I contributed to their demise.

A name I hadn't thought about for years caught my attention. Arlens.

Few chain stores have inspired me as much as Arlens, and I only happened to stop there once. At least I think it was Arlens. It was in a shopping center I could never find again, already run-down in the late sixties. As I always did back then I went straight to the bargain record bin. Among the dollar closeout albums were half a dozen by a band I'd never listened to -- the Kinks.

I've listened to a lot of Kinks music over the years. It's beginning to look like my all-time favorite rock band is as dead as the store I discovered them in but the music remains. In fact, I still have the albums themselves stored someplace.

Vinyl. Needless to say.

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