I was driving to our South store today, which is located in a typical small-town-turned-suburb area of Denver called Englewood. Englewood crops up on the Southern stretch of Broadway, a once-bustling thoroughfare. The street is typical two-lane urban highway, spotted with late-40s hotels and car dealerships. This is the street every city had in the 40s and 50s. Before interstates but in the heyday of the big automobile.
On my commute this morning I saw no fewer than four boarded-up or closing businesses that were recent enough casualties of the recession for me to be surprised to see them gone. And then I started paying attention.
I noticed a handful more, and then began to assess which businesses were doing well. The SMART dealership seems to be prospering. The Dollar Store was opening to a full parking lot. Starbucks had a line around the building for the drive-through.
I was listening to the radio and they said that Wal-Mart employees had noticed a sharp increase in baby formula sales around the first, last and middle of the month. This means that people are waiting for their paychecks to feed their children. America, it would seem, is living paycheck to paycheck.
I heard that canned goods sales are up, and that SPAM is seeing renewed popularity.
It seems that the saddest part of this is the story behind it all. We all did so well under Clinton- we had the things we needed, and we got used to it. Then America got greedy and wanted more. And even when people weren't doing as well, they didn't scale back. Everyone wanted the bigger house, the bigger SUV. America supersized it and was proud of it. And now there's this reckoning. America is slowly realizing we can't have our war and our SUVs, too.
I think we need to redefine what it means to live like an American.