When we were growing up, there were “tiers” of department stores.
In our city, there were the pricey stores, such as Carson Pirie Scott and Marshall Field, the mid-tier stores, such as Sears and Wieboldt’s, and the everyday stores, such as Turnstyle and Woolworth.
There were also those bottom-rung stores, such as Kresge and Zayre — the stores where everything was cheap, both in price and manufacture.
Our family shopped the everyday stores, with the mid-tier store (almost always Sears) getting our business once or twice a year, typically for back to school and Christmas. We never set foot in the pricey stores (although we would look at the Christmas window displays), but, when a utility bill was too high or we had an unexpected medical bill, you could find us at Kresge.
We bring this up because online retailers have made the choice of which department store to shop at as dead as the dodo — except for the inexpensive stores — and because we had a recent discussion on whether a secondhand store would do well in Pima.
“Oh no,” we were told, “the folks in Pima don’t want that kind of store.”
We can understand that — resale shops, no matter how nice or well kept, can suggest that the people of a community may not have all the resources they need.
But then we remembered that Pima schools have a higher rate of children who qualify for free or reduced lunches in school than Safford or Thatcher, with only Fort Thomas being higher (Fort Thomas, which primarily serves students from the San Carlos Apache Reservation, is at 100 percent).
As we said, our growing up having to shop where we could afford things helped us learn quickly there is no shame in not being the wealthiest people on the block. There was a roof over our heads, food on the table and our clothes weren’t full of holes (for at least the first week or two, because those games of king of the hill had a way of creating unwanted ventilation in shirts and pants). Those were the important things, not whether the neighbors thought it a shame we had spaghetti three nights a week and our gym shoes were an off-brand.
It also reminds us that, despite having one of the state’s best employers in Freeport-McMoRan in our back yard, and some of the lowest unemployment in the state, there still remains a large gap in the “great economy” and the actual money people have to go day to day.
Virtually all of us are two to three missed paychecks from being on the street, and few of us could handle an unexpected $500 car repair bill. A booming stock market hasn’t changed the fact that, as a nation, almost 67 percent of all bankruptcies filed are the result of medical expenses.
We don’t bring this up to be a downer, rather to point out that, even in a good economy, we need to be focused on getting better.
Specifically, we want to see this nation close the wage gap, not through increased minimum wage but through encouraging the startup and growth of more businesses such as Freeport, businesses that pay good, livable wages where people can take care of their family as well as put money aside for a rainy day.