Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bend goes down-scale

When Trader Joe's opened in Bend two years ago, residents could say that their city had finally arrived.

But, as the Great Recession lingers on, we're seeing a new trend of retail that caters to the more desperate.

On Third Street, in the former McMahon's furniture store, another Cash & Carry is opening up. And, where Linens 'N Things once operated near Costco, we will soon see Big Lots, which sells closeout and overstocked merchandise.

Now, I personally will shop at these stores. I have nothing against them. But, it shows that Bend is more a Wal-Mart kind of town, where bargains, even if they're just by pennies, are preferred over selection, service and community support.

This counters the perception that the upscale Old Mill District tries to project for Bend. The Old Mill District has high-end retailers from Orvis to Banana Republic, where shoppers are hard to find.

Yet, retailers like Ross Dress For Less and T.J. Maxx, both selling closeout and overstocked clothing and other items, enjoy brisk business on Bend's northern end. Also, closeout food retailer Grocery Outlet does better than Trader Joe's. It sometimes has better deals on good wines and gourmet cheeses.

On the south end, at the Factory Outlet mall, virtually the entire northern half is now empty.

Yes, there are a lot of rich people in Bend, but their numbers are dwindling in the face of record defaults and foreclosures. The fantasy of a Nordstrom setting up shop in Bend, a fantasy that dates back more than 20 years, will not become real for years now, if ever.

Bend is settling back into the mode of a logging town, even though logs haven't been milled in Bend in more than 15 years. What we have is a lower middle class struggling to get by, day by day, paycheck to paycheck.

Such is the face of the Great Recession in Bend.

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