I have a suggestion for all those who are lamenting the closing of Lord’s Department Store in Medfield and are looking for ways to honor the store and its owners, its tradition and its memory: Stop shopping at the big box stores.
Make no mistake about it: of the many factors that I'm sure went into Tom's and Nancy's decision to close, there can be little doubt that competition from chain stores at the malls and especially the huge-volume players like Walmart may have been the biggest.
But if you ever find yourself complaining about the way those stores make you feel as a customer - about being forgotten and left on hold when calling for information, about store personnel who know nothing about the items they're selling, and who are blatantly bored if not rude, about the traffic and parking issues at busy times of the year, and finally about the crushing sameness, the anonymity and faceless nature of these stores - then the question to be asked is, is the savings that those stores present worth the price we pay in terms of the quality of our lives?
It is true that everyone likes to save money, and we all admire frugality; but as we watch the fabric of American culture change, and the way of life we grew up with melt away and disappear, I'd venture to say that we need a new definition of frugality that includes the fact that our quality of life takes a hit whenever we drive into that big parking lot to save a few dollars.
So the next time we’re thinking of swinging by Staples or Target or Walmart (and I love the stuff these stores sell, don’t get me wrong), I'd suggest we hold the savings we would enjoy up against the light of the rest of our lifestyle: the car we drive, the vacations we take, the amount we spend on private school and college tuition, and then decide if we can't really afford to buy locally instead (no, not everyone can).
Maybe Wills doesn’t carry all the stock that Home Depot does, but you can bet that Randy or Ken or Gabby will do all they can to see if they can order it for you.
This won't bring Lord’s back - it's too late for that - but it may save the next independent business from a similar fate, before we destroy the entirety of American small town culture day by day and purchase by purchase, so that all that’s left are faceless institutions that know us only by our spending patterns and how they can be molded to their own desires.