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Letter from March 29, 2008
Economic development: Not another big box store
Hearing the announcement of yet another big box retailer planned for Silverdale, Lowes, which already has a megastore just a few miles down the road on Wheaton Way, I am reminded of a routine by comedian Lewis Black. He says he realized he had come to the end of the universe, when leaving a Starbucks one day, he sees directly across the street on the very next corner, another Starbucks. In a sane universe, this of course makes not a lick of sense, and leads him to his conclusion.
Im all for economic development. Who isnt? But big box saturation is not economic development. The sales generated by a new Lowes in Silverdale will be money that would have been spent at the Wheaton Way Lowes, or the Silverdale Home Depot or any number of other smaller hardware stores. It is not new money.
Supporters cite convenience and more choices as justification for this overkill. Unless one is confined to a wheelchair or has a tricycle as their only means of transportation, driving a few minutes down the highway in one of the large SUVs or pickup trucks that dominate Kitsaps roadways is not an inconvenience.
More choices? The square footage of retail space per person in the country has risen exponentially since 1960, and I dont recall anyone back then complaining about not enough places to shop. If I need new faucets for the kitchen or bathroom, do I really need 200 different styles to choose from? And when I grocery shop, do I need 20 different kinds of mustard to choose from to put on a hot dog? Give me a choice between yellow and grey Poupon and Im a happy camper.
Even Wal-Mart and Starbucks have scaled back their growth plans, coming to their senses and understanding that infinite growth in a finite world simply isnt going to work.
With two Home Depots less than 10 minutes from my doorstep, the mind reels at the absurdity of it, and like Lewis Black, I too feel I have surely reached the end of the universe.