Friday, May 23, 2014

The End of an Era

On Tuesday night, after I had turned in my grades for the semester, I walked through the University Village across the street from campus.  The Village is slated for redevelopment over the next one and a half decades.  This is expected to be one of the largest--if not the largest--development projects in the Los Angeles area for much of this time.

The increasingly deserted state of the Village probably should not have come as a surprise to me.  Sometime ago, it had been announced that all but a few of the merchants were now on month-to-month leases.  Last week, I received a letter from Bank of America indicating that my branch--located in the Village--would be moved.  Yet, I had not realized that the exodus would happen so suddenly.

A year or two ago, we got a new Radio Shack in the Smart & Final shopping center across from campus on the West.  It had not occurred to me that this would not be a new "bonus" location that might have other items on sale and closeout than the one in the Village.  Now,  however, I noticed a sign announcing the impending closure of the Village location.  The sign reminded customers that things could still be bought online.

Since returning to USC in 2006, I have periodically made strategic stops at the 99 cent store in the Village.  Over the years, I have bought a number of plastic envelopes to store student in-class assignment materials.  When visiting, I would always check if they had received new ones with new colors that could  be distinguished from the ones I already had.  There were other neat things that could be bought at low prices.  I am not really very good at matching socks (or at least I am not very conscientious in tackling this burden), so it was often tempting to find eight to ten identical pairs of socks that would postpone a shortage of clean, matched socks for a while.  But the 99 cent was no more.  It had been closed without anyone asking for my opinion--let alone consent--in the matter.  I had been there just a few weeks ago with no sign of the impending implosion.  One would have hoped that the owners would at least have tried to invite regular customers to a spectacular closeout.  But no; maybe they found a new location.  Yes, there are other 99 cent stores around, but none located as conveniently.

I thought I would check out the supermarket named (not very accurately) Superior.  If you could stand the smell, you could often get very good deals there. They had a bakery, so this is where I would usually pick up cakes for celebrations.  Even in recent times, you could often get very good deals on fruit.  Back in the old days when I was a doctoral student, the place was called Notrica's and one could get truly exceptional deals on produce.  This had not been as much the case in their more recent incarnation, but I still wonder where I will now find low priced Italian prunes in the neighborhood.  Yes, I knew that Superior would eventually close, but I did not realize it would happen so soon.  And I do worry about where many locals will shop. The place used to be rather busy, and it does not seem that there are any other supermarkets nearby.  Hopefully, funds set aside by the University as part of the project to mitigate such community impacts will help bring about a reasonably priced replacement.

The nutritional supplement store had been closed for more than a year. I would occasionally shop there when I needed things like echinacea and golden seal.  The store was owned by a very philosophically inclined gentleman who was likely from the West Indies.  Such a store had probably proven difficult to sustain when many of his specialty items can today be procured online.  The Village--way back when I was a doctoral student in the 1990s--had also had a record store, but that had disappeared years ago.

I do not remember if the theater was still in business.  In all my years of USC, I had actually only been there once--when Michael Crichton's Congo had was released in film.

Ironically, the photo developing show had been around until recently.  They still offered the printing of large photos and occasional film processing, years ago, they had seen the writing on the wall and had started a sideline of computer and cell phone repair that had eventually become their main focus.

On the outer periphery, Starbucks, Denny's, and Baskin-Robbins were still up and operating, and at Starbucks, the line was long despite the fact that many of the students had left for the summer.  But overall, the Village seemed deserted.

As much as I am tempted, I know I can't fairly blame the Communists--or even the Bruins--for the current state of affairs.  This is, after all, a stage in the redevelopment efforts that will help revitalize the neighborhood.  But coming right upon the realization that I would not get to give another exam until sometime in October, the experience did make me very nostalgic.