Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Why I want Walmart
Dorchester lacks two things: a Walmart and a comic book store. It lacks some other things too but I notice these two most often and for opposite reasons.
Walmart would mop up the competition in Dorchester the way it has killed innumerable small downtowns across the country. Whatever snob appeal not having a Walmart lends to Dot, and there aren't a lot of snobs to appeal to, the combination of low prices and exhaustive selection would satisfy a need that is only partially met by local, vest pocket storefront merchants. Make is a Super Walmart with the supermarket/department store combo including organic produce...Dorchester doesn't have enough empty land for the parking lot to serve this big box. That's probably part of what keeps America's biggest retailer away.
Say what you will about supporting Chinese industry, selling ticky-tacky crap that falls apart ,and undercutting small business people; the latter are doing the former two things but without economies of scale. I'm know I wouldn't mind cutting out my trip time and/or gas expense to buy a shirt and tie in one box for $10.
The lack of a Walmart is a mystery. The lack of a comic book store is a relief.
The nearest real comic shop is at Coolidge Corner as the crow flies, the kind of shop that has old issues for a dollar in boxes and offers last month's comics at half price, the kind of shop that sells nothing but comics, the kind of shop where the conversations are about whether Batman could beat Spiderman. Dorchester doesn't have that kind of shop because Dorchester doesn't have a critical mass of fanboys with disposable income and nothing better to do than hang around the comics store speculating what the touch of a woman may be like.
There are college students in Dorchester and there are arrested adolescents, there are plenty of dreamers and there are plenty of readers. What there aren't is many people who live odd niche hobbies that are supposedly cool. There aren't a lot of people with too much time to fritter away. There is room for fun and games in Dorchester and there is room for frivolity, but most of it is of the home grown sort, the communal sort: porch front conversations, stickball in the street, street wide snow shoveling parties, barbecues. I don't want to paint it to Norman Rockwell, but it is family friendly.
Coolidge Corner has a comic shop. Harvard Square has two. Allston Village has one. Kenmore Square has one. Newbury Comics is a different kind of store. No real fanboy goes there for comics except as last resort, though it is good for collectibles. Dorchester isn't like those places. It's demographic skews older and harder working.
If Walmart did decide to locate a store in Dorchester I would welcome it with the caveat that a comic store would open next door to mix the good with the bad, and I'm not hinting which I think is which. I plead neutrality to gentrification in whatever form it takes. That said, I can't imagine a photo like the one above being taken outside the McDonald's in Codman Square. That's pure Walmart and pure comic book fan convention. I can imagine it being taken in front of the Corita Gas Tank, however.