Monday, October 10, 2005

The going-out-of-business section

Beauty of free market closes down 110-year-old fashion stalwart



When I see the Abdalla's logo, I think of Mom. Not in the mom-and-apple-pie sense, but because in my childhood she used to drag me there all the time. She still buys clothes there, I think. Also, the logo looks exactly like her handwriting, which I saw often on my signed papers in the days when she was dragging me to Abdalla's. Ah, youth.

Abdalla's has been in operation since 1895, and has always been run by the Abdalla family. The store weathered the Great Depression, both World Wars, strip malls and all eight years of Reaganomics. As recently as 1999, it had two locations in Lafayette (the other one shut down that year and is now an overrated hipster nightclub). As far as Lafayette businesses go, Abdalla's was a pillar. It's older then the University of Louisiana, for crying out loud!

What's probably most disturbing about this is that, in this decade, a plethora of longtime (or otherwise popular) Lafayette businesses have shut down: Lily's for Books, a small bookstore run by a sweet old lady; Gaidry's, an 83-year-old fashion retailer; Jourdan's Engine; D & H TV and Appliances; Raccoon Records, one of the best independent music shops in the state; Toys Alternative Music; and Furniture Centers (a decades-old shop), just to name a few. Many more countless local places have also come and gone--including most my neighborhood shopping center, which suffered the loss of a grocery store, the aforementioned furniture showplace, a crafts shop, Sonic and a major nightclub. Even Louisiana Hot Stuff closed at the mall! Hell, so did Super K-Mart.

When shutting down, most of these businesses cited the poor post-9/11 economy (their words, not mine) as a primary factor. Most of these people probably still vote Republican anyway, at least when their current employers at Mega-Lo-Mart deign to give them free time to do so.

This decline in business is an acceleration of a 20-odd-year trend toward the end of longtime local vendors in the area. These were places that, to my child's mind, were national chains given their presence in the area, thought not all of them were: Heymann's Food Center and Clothing Store; Sound Electronics; Woolworth; The Fair; Shoe Town; Old America Store; and many more. It all makes me wonder if this unfortunate screen capture from The Advertiser doesn't, in fact, have it entirely wrong:



And while franchises eventually return, locally owned places never can in quite the same way. Fortunately, numerous family places in Lafayette still thrive even as Wal-Mart threatens to suck them all into a vortex matched only by the vacuum within George W. Bush's inner skull. Best of luck to you guys, and I promise to visit you as soon as I am able to purchase goods.

I should note, however, that while small businesses in Lafayette are dying off, at least one family joint is thriving. The Family Christian Bookstore recently left our mall and set up its own huge store across the street. If that isn't an indicator of our times, then I don't know what is.

17 comments:

Nick said...

I'm sure you're aware that most of this closing down of small stores is a result of the great Wal-Mart generation. I used to never go to Wal-Mart b/c I hated the large crowds and awful checkout lines. How in the hell can you have 25 checkout registers, yet, only 6 or open? Now though, since I'm at Cherie's alot, and she lives out in Evangeline, I pretty much have to go to the Wal-Mart in Jennings. However, if I'm looking for some kind of meat, chicken, or seafood to cook, I find a local market in Iota or Jennings. I can count on one hand the number of times I shopped at a Wal-Mart in Lafayette, though. I hate that place like I hate the mall. The parking and people in my way irritate me.

Joe said...

It's the opposite of divide and conquer. American culture homogenizes and conquers. Does this make any sense?

Flamingo Jones said...

It's not just your area though...this trend is all over the place.

Around here, it seems like the only small businesses that can thrive are the ones who somehow find a niche market for themselves amongst the yuppies. If the yuppies get the feeling that they MUST shop somewhere, the business will stay solvent, and the rest of us peons are allowed in once in a while too.

Michael said...

Sorry to hear Abdalla's is closing. Years ago, they also had a store in New (S)Iberia--in fact, just down the road from Wormser's. This was good. Consider: A Jewish family and an Arab family could both do business in a little Cajun town, and no one barked or hollered about it.

Murph said...

You're also forgetting that Abdalla's also had two branches of a satellite store: Brother's, which was the place to go if you wanted to be cool when you were 12.

As for other stores you mention, I might not want to group Toy's music into the mix since it closed largely due to its owner's indictment as a result of him ripping off his customers by selling them pirated CDs and other such shenanigans.

The Super K-Mart did close, thank God, as a result of their bankruptcy, right?

I think Lafayette is a really a fad town in a lot of ways. There are mainstays like Chris' or Olde Tyme, but much of the chains' success in Lafayette is that it's new and exciting and we feel like we've got what bigger and more national cities have, even if it sucks. I guess the Chamber of Commerce needs to figure out a way to make some of the more traditional businesses fit into a fad in order for them to survive.

ccgirl said...

We never could afford to shop at the likes of Brothers or Abdallas. We could only afford to shop at K-Mart and Walmart. Somehow the kids in middle school could tell that the jeans I wore were from K-Mart, much to my humiliation. So I doubt Walmart shopping put the Abadallas out of business.

Ian McGibboney said...

Nick: I know what you mean. Wal-Mart really is a touchstone of many Acadiana small towns nowadays. People don't seem to have a problem with that. Maybe if they sold seafood, there would be some friction...

Joe: My family vacations have always revolved around Walgreen's, Eckerd and (mercifully) the occasional Stuckey's. I used to complain about how we'd travel to the French Quarter, only to stop at all the same stores we had in Lafayette. We saw other places as well, but I like culture, dammit.

Jones/Murph: You're exactly right about stores here catering to yuppies and/or fads. When we were kids, Brother's was the place for high-end preppy clothes. My first exposure to Tommy Hilfiger was because of Brother's. In recent years they've adopted an older, more yuppiesh image, which they announced with great fanfare. Not that I ever went there before, but that place is now the antithesis of Ian fashion (which itself is an oxymoron).

Michael: Yes, I remember that too. Downtown Lafayette and New Iberia both had J.A. Men's, run by an Arab who was always on TV. He went to my high school years before I did. But then, we've always had a pretty good Arab presence in Lafayette because of UL.

Murph: You're right about the ripoffs. I learned that through your buddy Ricky Prado. I shopped at Toys a couple of times when it first opened, because I lived a block away at a time when downtown Lafayette had virtually nothing. But I'm pretty sure neither thing I ever bought there was pirated.

Super K-Mart did close because of bankruptcy. But I've always preferred K-Mart to Wal-Mart, both for their selection and for the fact that they seem to treat workers at least .001 percent better.

And yes, Murph, Lafayette is definitely a fad town. Does anyone remember Cloud Nine O2 Oxygen Bar or our once-staggering array of pro-sports teams (the SwampCats, Bayou Bullfrogs, Roughnecks, IceGators, etc.)? I make sure to check out anything unusual when it comes to Lafayette, because I know it won't be long before everyone gets bored and goes back to Daiquiris Supreme.

ccgirl: I know what you mean. I never bought clothes at any high-end store on a regular basis; my mom generally went to Abdallas to buy her work clothes. Hell, I often wore Wal-Mart clothes as a kid, and that was when they weren't donated to me. Once I had a $12 pair of sneakers my parents bought me at a grocery store. For my 8th-grade prom, I wore a purple dress shirt and tie that came together from Wal-Mart. I liked it all, because I never really cared. Kids had so many other reasons to bully me anyhow.

What helps kill the small businesses in Lafayette isn't so much people like us not shopping there, but that Lafayette's wealthy also shop at cheaper chains. Ask any waiter or waitress in Lafayette or most other places: rich people are cheap.

Nick said...

Icon:

Wal-Mart does sell seafood, but it's mostly a cheap, imported quality. I don't buy fish, b/c I have too much in the freezer. However, I don't buy any seafood that isn't from Louisiana.

It's not as much about rich people being rich as it is the majority of our society being too damn lazy. Why go to Winn-Dixie, Best Buy and Academy Sports (which are pretty big stores themselves) when you can just go to Wal-Mart? As for fresh meat, chicken, and seafood, Earl's is my personal Lafayette favorite.

ccgirl said...

Nick,

I don't know if laziness is the problem. Those of us who are wage slaves are very hard pressed for time. When I leave home at 7:00 am and get home after 5:30 pm to children who have been missing me for the last 10 hours, I am not going to shop at 3 different stores if I can get 95% of what I ned at one.

C

The Manning Report said...

Dont forget Lafayette Outfitters, they closed a couple years ago. As long as Judice Inn or Old Time Poyboys doesn't close I think we will all be fine.

Ian McGibboney said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ian McGibboney said...

Oh yeah! I forgot the Bicycle of Company of Lafayette. They're one of the few places who sold me bike parts that weren't complete crap. Lafayette/Jumbo Sports too. Remind me never to use the name "Lafayette" if ever I start a business!

[Edited because I forgot to delete Manning's commetn from mine]

ccgirl said...

When my mom was a child Duson had a movie theater and Scott had a high school.

Ian McGibboney said...

Scott still has a high school--Acadiana High. They can certainly take credit for it if they choose.

ccgirl said...

FYI.

Most of the kids in attendance come from Lafayette. In 1987, kids from Broadmoor subdivision went to Acadiana.

The Scott Middle School is what used to be Scott High School.

Ethan said...

Thought yall might like this. I posted an old Abdalla's commercial that I found on an old VHS tape:

http://www.bigmucho.com/?p=79

Anonymous said...

wouldnt it just be easier to blame bush?