Should we Save the Mall?

As we passed the boarded-up entrance that once led a multitude of happy shoppers into one of the three department stores anchoring the mall back in the 80’s, my sister and I chatted as we walked the halls with a dozen or so other mall walkers taking advantage of the warmth on this winter morning. We reminisced about this well-worn shopping center that forty years ago, held the distinction of being the first two-level indoor mall built in Michigan outside of Metro Detroit. Today, this same mall has very little to shout about, where two anchor-store locations are currently empty and too many storefronts sit dark.

If you haven’t been to the mall in a while, you’re in good company. The Crossroads now houses a disproportionate amount of non-retail businesses meant for filling spaces waiting for the next Ann Taylor and GAP. A driving school, a massage business, and creatively placed vending machines currently take up spaces once occupied by popular apparel stores. Ironically (Or perhaps, not), Spenser’s still stands after 40+ years. The question begs, do they still sell blacklight posters?

In its heyday, The Crossroads boasted four department stores (Remember Marshall Field’s?), two floors jammed with upscale clothing stores and gift shops, and a food court offering everything from New York style pizza to monster cookies. That same food court now offers one single dining option while still providing enough seating to accommodate busloads of shoppers. Except there are no busses. If you happen to work at the mall and craving lunch, I hope you like Chinese.

We all know that the premise of the demise of the indoor shopping mall isn’t exaggerated, and perhaps it is a natural progression in the shopping experience. And one that might come full-circle, taking us back to the Downtown Shopping District. It wasn’t that long ago when Kalamazoo presented shoppers with the first outdoor pedestrian shopping mall in the United States. Downtown Kalamazoo still provides us with an eclectic array of shopping and dining experiences, locally owned and important to our economy.

Yet, it’s still sad to see our city’s only indoor mall on life support. I was encouraged the other day, when my sister and I changed up our morning routine and walked instead during the afternoon. Even with the limited mall hours due to the Pandemic, it was refreshing to see a healthy amount of young people hanging out and doing their civic duty of keeping our economy alive. It tells me that there is a market for ample retail. Hopefully, someone is listening.

As we continued walking, we noticed yet another store displaying minimal products. Talking to the owner, we learned that she is sad to be closing her shop and is bitter towards a company she perceives as being interested only in maximizing profits, with no regard to their tenants. Previously owned by Brookfield Properties Retail Group, the mall was just recently purchased by Kohan Retail Investment Group. Kohan is known for buying troubled shopping malls, and their Wikipedia page shows an excessive amount of controversial legal issues. Only time will tell whether the new owners will provide the city of Portage once again with a thriving indoor shopping mall.

In a state where temperatures often dip to freezing during the winter months, and where I have fond memories of my children visiting with Santa while I held their coats and sippy cups, I am hopeful that the next generation will be free to roam the halls of Crossroads. In the meantime, thanks for the memories.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crossroads_(Portage,_Michigan)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalamazoo_Mall

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kohan_Retail_Investment_Group

https://www.kohanretail.com/locations

WHEN THE STARS GO DARK –When Nonfiction takes a creative turn

Some of the best stories are found within the pages of real-life events. Categorized as Historical Fiction, many authors have found a fascinating niche of delving into true stories from the perspective of a secondary character or using a true story to inspire a fictional tale. It’s an intriguing twist and makes for an exceptional story. One example of Historical Fiction is AMERICAN WIFE, a novel by Curtis Sittenfeld, and loosely based on the life of Laura Bush. Packed with intrigue and familiar characters, AMERICAN WIFE reveals the fascinating backstory on our former first lady’s life, and well worth the read  

Another novel that borrowed from a real-life event and news headlines, is WHEN THE STARS GO DARK, From Paula McLain, the author of THE PARIS WIFE (Yet another intriguing historical fiction novel, based on the first wife of Ernest Hemmingway). WHEN THE STARS GO DARK focuses on Anna, a homicide detective working on several cases involving missing girls. While this literary thriller is fiction, it includes a side-story borrowed from a real-life tragic event, in the kidnapping of Polly Klaas, a girl held at knifepoint and kidnapped in 1993.

WHEN THE STARS GO DARK is a true page-turner and a thought-provoking who-done-it that fires on all cylinders.

Heidi McCrary is a writer and author of Chasing North Star. Keep up with her at https://heidimccrary.net/ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HeidiMcCraryAuthor

All my Life Skills, I Learned at McDonalds

“Seriously?” I said, looking at the disheveled pickles and condiments sliding off the cold hamburger hiding beneath the smashed bun. I envisioned the creator looking out the drive-thru window under the golden arches, saying to herself, Oh, it’s her. I hate her. Wait ‘til she gets this! It wasn’t the first time I received a less-than-stellar product from a fast-food establishment, but it was the first time, this seemed… deliberate.

Like many teenagers from an era before dating apps and TikTok, my fist job was at the local McDonald’s—a job that thankfully got me through the teenage years and college. While my career took me down a path that drifted away from building Big Macs and deep-sea breaded fillets, if I lined up all the jobs I have held in life, the one that taught me all necessary life skills was…

McDonald’s.

Here are the top 5 life skills I learned, working at a fast-food restaurant…

5)           Respect your boss – Just as you’re taught to respect your elders, the same goes for the person who hired or manages you. Truth is, if you’re not clicking with your boss, it’s time to find a new job. And it’s OK to know when it’s not working. We spend too much time at our jobs to not like the people we work with.

4)           Don’t be an a**hole­­­­ – While this sounds simple, it’s probably the hardest rule to follow on a daily basis, and easy to forget when faced with someone who is testing our nerves. Take the highroad, even when that someone is being a jerk. We don’t know what kind of day they’ve had or what they’re dealing with in their own lives. Acting like an a**hole is the one thing we don’t need to pay forward. Just, don’t.

3)           Enjoy the Big Mac special sauce – Life is what we make it. While we have no control with what is thrown at us, we can control our reaction and attitude. Have you ever encountered that cashier who genuinely seems to love her job? Her job and boss may be spectacular, but it’s more likely that she simply approaches her job with a smile and a fresh attitude each day. There is good in every job, we just need to see it and embrace it.

2)           Show up. This should go without saying, but you’ll be ten miles ahead of the other guy if you just show up for everything in life­­—physically and mentally. That includes returning messages in a timely manner and staying off your damn phone when you should be working. Yeah, I said that.  

1)           Build better burgers – Take pride in whatever you do. It doesn’t matter if you’re creating, teaching, or providing a service. If you take pride in what you do in the workplace, it tends to carry over in everything else in life. And will benefit you in endless ways.

And to the person who served me that flat deranged hamburger, I can only say that I hope your day got better. I know mine did 🙂    

Heidi McCrary is a writer and a regular contributor to Moxie Magazine. Her novel, Chasing North Star is available at Kazoo Books, This is a Bookstore, and online wherever books are sold. Follow Heidi at heidimccrary.net and facebook.com/HeidiMcCraryAuthor

The Feminist Slant—What Conservatives do Right

In the avalanche of news stories coming at us ad nauseam, one article in particular stood out from the others. Not because it tackled a polarizing topic, but because it was…not the norm.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett struck a surprising blow against those seeking to defy COVID vaccine mandates on Thursday when she dismissed a challenge to a college’s mandate without comment.

Newsweek – 8/3/2021

This bit of news really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone keeping tabs on this traditional conservative appointed by former President Donald Trump to serve on the Supreme Court. And it wasn’t the first indication that she may not bend as far right as the Moral Majority would like from a lifelong conservative.  

Barrett is the fifth woman to serve on the Supreme Court and was caught in the whirlwind of controversy, panic, and outrage from many liberals when she was nominated to succeed the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a popular figurehead who embraced liberal politics and was respected by many on both sides of the political aisle. Put on the fast-track, Barrett passed the scrutiny of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and began her service on the Supreme Court in October 2020.  

While the Political Left bemoaned Barrett’s entry as the newest member of the Supreme Court, this feminist had a gut feeling that behind the curtain shielding this self-described conservative, hid a woman who wasn’t just another cookie-cutter traditionalist. Barrett is no slouch in the educational arena, where she was a Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School, and the ability to balance work, education, and parenting, has given this woman the ability to truly see and understand the world beyond her front lawn—all while climbing the right side of the political ladder.

Giving credence to the ideology of a moderate conservative, just eight months into her job, Barrett sided with her liberal associates when it came time for the Supreme Court to vote on the upholding of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. While many conservatives were disappointed in her actions, it probably should not have come as a surprise. She is not the first Supreme Court Justice to relax her conservative views once comfortably seated in a political position that offers lifelong employment without the downside of having to appease voters. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, nominated by former President George Bush, has also voted on the side of liberal politics on several occasions, and, like Barrett, also voted to uphold the Affordable Care Act.

While Barrett may have a smidgeon of liberal leanings, it would be unrealistic to believe that she will suddenly step across the political line drawn with a permanent marker by far too many politicians to join her liberal constituents on most issues, but it is refreshing to know that she is not a rubber-stamping politician who cannot entertain free thought beyond the spectrum of her political base. The world of Law deserves a balance of beliefs and people who are not afraid to express free thought and the occasional belief that is unpopular.

This feminist applauds the actions of conservatives who aren’t afraid to occasionally lean a little left. Just as those who traditionally follow liberal thought shouldn’t automatically discount the other side. Listening to the other side is good for the soul and good for our country.

Heidi McCrary is a writer and author of Chasing North Star. Keep up with her at https://heidimccrary.net/ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HeidiMcCraryAuthor