Kohl's is set to open in the Bayshore Mall this weekend. (And hello to my friend who works there.) As to be expected, there are plenty of Humboldt County denizens who are practically masturbating with their credit cards in anticipation of "brand names" and savings. I know the mall is happy to have another anchor store, too. Afterall, the gods of capitalism must be appeased, and if you let them go too long without worshipping, well they look like every other mall across the country. The Bayshore Mall is no different.
The great god Capitalism has not been kind to the Bayshore Mall. Stores are closing faster than a prudish girl's legs on prom night. Patronage has dropped, and two anchor stores bowed to the devil of Bankruptcy. Enter Kohl's and pre-Christmas madness.
Kohl's is providing Humboldt County with something like 120 jobs. Of course, the shop local acolytes don't bring that up in their mantras. On the flipside, the slaves to the almighty dollar claim Kohl's will save the mall and our local economy. The reality is a little of both and none of either. Yes, there are 120 jobs created, but that isn't nearly enough to raise the poverty levels here (and that really isn't Kohl's responsibility). The store will bring shoppers to the mall, but it won't save it or the economy. Like Target before it, Kohl's will have little overall affect on anything.
It's not that I'm being all doom and gloom and anti-capitalism just to be contrary. (At least not in this case.) It's just that the problem of economy, jobs and strife in Humboldt County is so huge that it will take more than a few big chain stores to fix it. It will take a Miracle.
Humboldt is, in many ways, just like the rest of the country, but its isolation and lack of industry combined with fairly liberal economic policies and a huge underground drug economy also makes it a bit of a special case. It's a place that is teetering on the edge of extinction, but has been there for so long that it no longer seems like a reality. Its residents, though, are happy to continue pretending that nothing is wrong, that shopping local will save our city, and that the church of Kohl's will make the mall a majestic place once again. Those on the dole will grow fewer in number, and all the other stores in the Bayshore camp will magically profit just from having Kohl's nearby. 120 jobs can't be all bad, right?
No. Of course not. But 120 jobs won't eliminate the line at Free Meal. It won't replace a few bad fishing seasons. And it definitely won't address the overwhelming amount of people in need of social services. Since we continue to embrace this cannibalistic form of capitalism, though, I think it is safe to say that the most we can really hope for is that it is a start.
If the local stores are to survive (and there's no reason to think most of them can't), the owners need to rethink their business models. If you provide better service, good prices and items you can only get on the Internet, you will not even have to worry about Kohl's. If, however, you look at Kohl's as the nail in your coffin and absolutely refuse to rethink your business plan ... well, you deserve what you get.