YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :

Its business since the Great Recession being only “break-even,” Pearson’s Appliance will close its doors in mid-August.

Pearson’s Appliance has been a solid fixture at Second and Main Streets in Woodland, for decades, leaving behind a very large, vacant downtown storefront smack in the middle of this City, again illustrating a continually reoccurring syndrome of a chronically gap-toothed Main Street.

So, what happened?  It’s easy to understand; it’s the same thing that happened to downtown Cranston’s Hardware fifteen years ago. Don and Patty Manhart, then operating Cranston’s, plainly said that because Orchard Supply and Hardware and Home Depot had opened on East Main Street, Cranston’s would soon have to close, because the wholesale margins were not competitive.

Enormous, chain-based retail corporations, Orchard Supply and Hardware and Home Depot bought hundreds, of which Cranston’s bought dozens.  Although Cranston’s provided often needed expertise and loyal (legendary) customer service, it could not match new pricing margins being commercially permitted within proliferating commercial districts, outside of the city’s downtown.

As Don and Patty Manhart clearly knew, local folk would begin coming into Cranston’s to discover what they needed — and then easily go on over to its newly approved and uncompetitive competitors — to actually make their purchases.

Don and Patty certainly didn’t want to endure such approaching commercial atrocity, after so long a good run for Woodlanders.  So, they closed Cranston’s doors.

This hard lesson has lately been learned by Pearson’s Appliance.  Its employees describe the very same scene as the Manharts predicted would reoccur on Main Street, if the city council continued to approve peripheral development projects, most often chain-based retail businesses which discount knowledge / expertise and customer service, but undercut basic commercial margins of local merchants.

“People come here with their pads and pencils, trying to discover what to do [with various appliance needs],” indicates an employee of Pearson’s; “but, after we help them understand what they need to know, they go on over to” the large. chain-based stores, “to save a hundred dollars.”

These huge chain-based stores often “don’t have people with enough actual experience with these products (of which Pearson’s inventories a great variety); they just stock a few popular products, but buy them at a margin we can’t compete with,” expresses a long-time employee.

Pearson’s is not giving up (only on Woodland); it’s soon opening a new store in Napa (where the commercial climate is better), as well as retaining its other existing store near Fairfield. Woodland is then left with another vast, downtown edifice in dire need of a purpose.

The owner of the downtown Sears store, the last remaining appliance shop on Main Street, has in the recent past said that if provided the right deal on Woodland’s periphery (like Gateway Center), he might consider a move from what would become yet another vast edifice, in dire need of a purpose.

What has happened to the pivotal and historical Cranston’s building?

It’s now become very quiet, seemingly perpetual insurance offices, obviously a severe downslide from the pedestrian traffic which Cranston’s used to provide. Downtown Main Street thrives on strong retail (and entertainment) businesses, not opaque offices, on its ground-floors.

Cranston’s had (has) a wonderful mezzanine, made to order for an ebullient Main Street; now however, it is abruptly ensconced outside of general downtown access, setting a quite awkward fashion of downtown devolution.

Of course, it is assumed that Woodland’s current Mayor, Tom Stallard (who owns this building as well as other downtown buildings) has done fiscally well to secure a long-term lease with this insurance outfit. Otherwise, as well, the downtown area may have become / remained even more gap-toothed.

Problems appear to arise, though, within the general political atmosphere of this City, for decades, involving achievement of a proper balance between Woodland’s downtown (historically) retail area and its commercial outskirts. Apparently, that’s why there is presently such an unappealing (inappropriate, service-oriented) tenancy in the historical Cranston’s building.

Woodland city planning documents are replete with terse announcements that the future of Woodland’s downtown area is destined to simply be antique / boutique shops and restaurants / entertainment venues.

Major retail is yet again being forced from Woodland’s downtown, because of decades of continuous commercial sprawl which has relentlessly undercut the City’s historical culture.

The basic question seems to be: Why did city councils over decades believe that some kind of “free market” (whatever that is) best dictates our intricate community complexion, that (historical) downtown commercial ventures based on devoted and expanded customer services (as opposed to corporate-margins) would not flourish amidst historical restaurant and entertainment options?

Of course, when the city council (~1991), based upon its “free market” type of political / civic ideology about local planning sense and entertainment uses, approved a new movie theater complex at County Fair Mall – far outside of the downtown area — the gradual slide into downtown ruin was bound to occur.

Sudden closure of Pearson’s Appliance, can now be seen the latest chapter in a long and sad saga of ongoing downtown blight, seemingly caused by the city’s inability to – weave together – local (historical) downtown commercial uses into a stable community fabric.

Some persons fault Woodland for not having a grid-like downtown (such as in Davis); it has to simply make do with a long Main Street. Well, interviews with many local folk reveal that — when there was still a thriving Main Street (until the 1980s) — they would walk up one side of downtown Main Street and then down the other, maybe making several rounds.

Vibrant Main Street atmosphere may someday rekindle such activities, but Pearson’s Appliance will be gone.

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