Editorial: The glory that was Sears

  • From left, store manager John Maloney, Miss Illinois Anita Joyce Pankratz, company executive Culver Kennedy and Schaumburg Mayor Bob Atcher celebrate the opening of the Sears store at Woodfield Mall in 1971.

    From left, store manager John Maloney, Miss Illinois Anita Joyce Pankratz, company executive Culver Kennedy and Schaumburg Mayor Bob Atcher celebrate the opening of the Sears store at Woodfield Mall in 1971. Daily Herald file, 1971

 
Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted9/18/2021 12:00 PM

Much has been said and written about the missed opportunities and management errors that led to the decline of Sears, Roebuck and Co., once one of the most powerful brands in America.

Less has been said about how interwoven the iconic retailer had been with most of our lives.

 

Yes, there were devotees of rival Montgomery Ward instead, but for the most part, Sears was universal -- linking the unknown with the famous.

""I was 12," affable Singing Cowboy Gene Autry once recounted, "when I ordered my first guitar out of the worn and discolored pages of the Sears and Roebuck catalog."

Coincidentally the other day, we stumbled across profile information on Chicago actress Sherri Shepherd, onetime staple on "The View," and what would we find her recalling from her pre-celebrity days?

"I worked at Sears in the Woodfield Mall as a gift wrapper," Shepherd said. "I'm actually a great gift wrapper, and the customers were so nice to me. I was only 16, and eventually, Sears put me in customer service because I was so friendly."

Sears was a part of almost all of us older than 40. And still is an integral part of our past lives, the little things that add up to make us who we are.

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A show of hands please: When you heard that Woodfield's Sears department store, the last in Illinois, will be closing, did your first thought take you back to childhood, scouring through the toy section of the Sears catalog prior to the holidays?

We called that catalog "The Wish Book" long before Sears ever adopted the name.

The headline our editors put on Friday's story of the closing reminisced, "What once was magic."

And Sears was indeed magic then. It was more than Amazon before Amazon existed. It was a warehouse for innocent dreams.

Our homes were harvest gold or avocado green with Kenmore appliances. Our fathers wielded weighty Craftsman Tools.

It changed the way America shopped, provided access to affordable merchandise by Blacks otherwise blocked by Jim Crow store segregation, capitalized on the advent of the automobile.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Somehow, many of us have not stepped into the iconic store at Woodfield for years. A big part of the problem obviously.

But we still today are overwhelmed with nostalgia. We still will miss the memories.

Time marches on. If we grieve Sears, that is part of what we grieve.

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