The Meadowlands of Ancaster, the epitome of sprawl, are helping usher in the end of suburbia.
By Trey Shaughnessy
Published April 14, 2005
This is the epitome of sprawl. The only good thing about it is that it can't get any worse than this. The Meadowlands are ushering in the end-times of suburbia. The most bizarre aspect is that this type of retailing is marketed to citizens as "convenient," when it couldn't be further from the truth.
The real truth is this type of retailing is most appealing to the businesses, not to the customers. These buildings are nothing more than cheap cinderblock, flat roof boxes with a Disneyesque façade carrying the store's "brand," built for a 25-year lifespan.
If one retailer doesn't renew the lease, then another façade is stapled up or retrofitted for the new retailer like the ridiculous Staples store at Kingfisher and Upper Wentworth that still resembles the former Chapters branded façade - except it now bears the Staples sign.
The parking lots are designed to cram the most cars as possible, and they sit mostly empty except for a few weekends in December. When you exit your car, it is like playing real-life "Frogger." When you finally reach the entrance, you dodge one more obstacle: the idling cars, blocking the entrance to you and everyone else.
Once inside you are greeted with latest fashion in anonymous merchandising: windowless cinderblock walls, sometimes covered with schlock banners announcing the latest sale; a cavernous ceiling exposing the dusty duct work, sprinklers and rafters, revealing itself to you like the frog you dissected in grade eight science class; a "greeter" who treats everyone like a shoplifter while they place a piece of tape on your bags; a zillion lights, each with a million-watt halogen light bulb that shocks everyone senseless; point-of-purchase stands, end-of-aisle displays, discount bins, and - my favourite - the shipping pallet wheeled out in the middle of the aisle with the top layer of shrink-wrap peeled back.
When did we prefer this type of retail? Better question is, how many people have shopped on LoSo, Concession, King East, King West, James North, James South, Waterdown, Dundas or Ottawa Street and wished they were shopping in The Meadowlands?
Once upon a time, goods were made in a factory, stored in a warehouse and then distributed to a neighbourhood retail store where customers could buy them. Now, the big box store - a glorified warehouse - has cut the neighbourhood store out of the distribution system. The big box forces customers assume the responsibility for distributing goods from the warehouse in their personal vehicles.
Once cheap oil runs out, how long will customers be willing to go on subsidizing distribution costs for these glorified warehouses?
Names have been blurred to protect the guilty
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