Swan Song for Yet Another Old Retailer

Thinking back to my college days, I fondly recall late nights spent at Tower Records, scouting new music, movies or comics, trips to Blockbuster to rent movies and games for marathon lost weekends, trips to Borders to get deals on books, read magazines and drink coffee, and epic browsing sessions at Circuit City, ogling gear and software I couldn’t afford.

It’s a bit sobering to realize that all those retailers are either gone entirely or shells of their former selves. Borders is the latest to go.

Obviously, we have the intertubes to thank (or blame) for this.

I’m not mad, just a bit choked up, like hearing songs from my youth on the classic rock or (gasp) oldies station.

One interesting side effect to the disappearance of these once mega-sized chain retailers is the resurgence of boutique and Mom and Pop corner stores that have filled the void. There are still lots of people out there who want the brick and mortar shopping experience, and these small businesses have gladly stepped up to meet that demand.

Case in point, Hollywood Video and Blockbuster folded their stores nearby, so when I want to watch a movie that’s in release jail (i.e. the 28-day after release window Blockbuster negotiated with certain studios to bolster them against Redbox and Netflix), I have to go to the neighborhood video store. I used to shop there years ago and worried that they’d be gone any day. Ironically, their large competitors folded, and their business is as robust as ever.


So, feeling nostalgic as we watch these retail giants roll over and die?




  1. I’ve ranted elsewhere about big boxes wiping out mom’n’pop stores (stepdad and mom had a few toy stores, I was fortunate to not take one when offered), only to be wiped out in turn by the intertubes.  This is not creative destruction, and it is not a good thing.  It is allowing mass production economics to make value judgments about the worth of craftsmanship.  And that points directly towards software craftsmanship.

    I do have a collection including pirate vinyl, and am nostalgic about record stores, but I see them also still struggling and closing, along with independent bookstores.

    I have seen a couple of places open up, but they don’t look stable for the long term to me, more the usual hopey thing with no idea what a business plan is.

  2. I hope there will always be a place for the small business. It’s a bit tough to see how they’ll continue to survive though as the internets advances.

    Not sure what you mean by “that points directly towards software craftsmanship” so care to elaborate?

  3. That’s already happening and has been for a long time now. Software can be successfully farmed out as components, but the artist will always remain valuable. I like to think of rockstar developers are artists vs. crafts-people.

  4. I don’t think it’s sad at all. These big corporations don’t inspire loyalty. One closes, you might say, “dang”, but you move on quickly. A local business, on the other hand, inspires a community response when in trouble. I think we’re seeing a natural awakening in consumers who are realizing that local shops are better, on just about every level.

  5. I guess the sadness is personal, not bc I care about big retailers (I don’t), but bc it’s a nostalgia thing. I agree with your statements about local businesses; it’s a pendulum swing.

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