Not many people outside the Midwest might care, but this Christmas season will be the last one for the name Marshall Field’s, which was purchased last summer by the gimps who own Macy’s. Apparently, they think the name Macy’s translates into “fine quality merchandise” rather than “run-of-the-mill crap for sale in a bus-station atmosphere”, so the Marshall Field’s nameplates will be replaced next year.
Plenty of people have gotten all sticky sweet about it, so I won’t tell you my childhood memories of getting their catalog in the mail in the 1960s, back before all stores basically carried the same toys, and marvelling at what an absolute heaven it must have been to live in Chicago (when I was growing up in a Detroit suburb) and have access to all those marvelous playthings. Won’t waste your time. And it was a big catalog, too.
But I do think the name change is ridiculous, one more instance of the homogenization of America. Go here to read my editorial on the subject, which never found a home in the local newspapers. And if you’d like to sign the online petition on the name change, go here. It might make you feel good, but it ain’t gonna do much else.
In my neighborhood, we’re mercifully spared from most chain stores and restaurants, aside from a McDonald’s and a Starbucks, that have have turned America into one big pile of mediocrity. If I want a hot sub sandwich for lunch, I can walk to four different places, every one of which is locally owned. But I know this is the exception rather than the rule.
When we travelled through Fargo, North Dakota, this summer, we picked up a copy of the free weekly, which was having its annual Reader’s Choice awards. Yay! thinks us. All the secret ins and outs of high Fargo living in one neat package. We checked the category “Best Ice Cream”. In Fargo, the best ice cream is listed as Dairy Queen.
“Best Pizza”? Pizza Hut.
“Best Business Lunch Spot”? I kid you not: The Ground Round.
In every single category save one, the top purveyor in town was a pieceacrap chain restaurant. (The lone exception? “Best Family Dining” was at the Space Alien Café, which we could see from our hotel window and was a lot of fun. Food was even good.) No local specialty barbecue, no high-class beef restaurant downtown that old politicians frequent, not even a local coffee shop with a good piece of pie. Just the same old crap.
So don’t tell me that changing Marshall Field’s name to Macy’s is good, or smart, or inevitable. It’s just one more coat of biege paint across the national landscape. Just the same old crap.