The passing of an era—the closing of Lindgren’s store.

Some of us wish that the store had just been sold to someone who wanted to be the next proprietor there. We would have missed the congenial proprietors we knew, but we would have continued to have that shopping experience that is so hard to find now.

It was a lot like a five-and-ten; it was something like a department store; it was rather like a discount store, with lots of bargains; it was a dry goods store, for those who can remember dry goods stores; it was a variety store.

So some of us often made a stop at Lindgren’s part of most trips to Smethport. Maybe we also stopped at the Dollar General over there (which has a somewhat different selection from ours in Port), but there were certain items we could find only at Lindgren’s.

My favorite departments were the fabric and sewing-needlecraft notions, and housewares. Sister would find some clothes she liked.

I don’t know why the business didn’t just change hands, but my guess is that anything “grandfathered” would lose that status if ownership changed. Stairs?

Until a year or so ago I could still buy hairnets, the kind that works for me, at Lindgren’s. When they stopped stocking hairnets they offered to special-order them for me, if I would buy a dozen at a time. Sure enough, Lindgrens soon called me to tell me the hairnets had come in. I think I have one left. Now I suppose I’ll have to find them online.

Back in the day we had our five-and-ten and dry goods stores in Port. How many remember Kantar’s, Nina Hansen’s, Farmelo’s, Botera’s? The Hong Kong Dollar tried valiantly, but it wasn’t the same.

Farbers have offered shopping opportunities that are a lot like what many locals remembered, with newer features also appreciated. We shoppers like to keep some of the past, and we like innovations too.

I doubt that we will see a rebirth of the local shopping district we used to have. Now we do have one block that seems to thrive. Could there be at least some little patches of renewed vigor, in the south block?

We could park at Maple Commons and visit places in both blocks. In the district as a whole there’s food, there are businesses that together offer a broad spectrum of wares and services, there are banks and ATMs, there are pharmacies, and “pre-owned” clothing and more.

There are pre-owned clothing and other items in the south block too, but not much else has been happening there.

That still seems regrettable, to me, because I used to have a business there. At this time of year, as the holiday lights get turned on and things begin to look festive, I get nostalgic.

Back then the shopping season started, officially, on December 10! I don’t think Christmas Clubs paid out until December in those days.

December 10 was when we started staying open until 9 p.m. every night. Local shoppers shopped locally, and very actively. They checked here first. Then, if they couldn’t find the toy or housewares or clothing item or whatever here, they trekked to Coudersport or Olean or Bradford. A few talked about their Buffalo and Rochester shopping trips.

Malls, first in Olean and then in Bradford, began to change shopping habits. Weston’s Mills was a discount department store within reasonable range, and popular.

Family Bargain Center and Olean Wholesale impacted shopping habits too. Then came K-Mart, which was predatory enough in its heyday. It would sell a line such as Wranglers below our local retailer’s cost, and force him out of contention—then raise the price once he had thrown in the towel.

Catalog stores offered a large selection without much inventory, and were run by local franchisees. But they didn’t provide instant gratification! Then soon there were too many other ways of ordering.

Now every year brings a larger proportion of Christmas shopping being done online. Judging from the volume of catalogs still arriving in our mailboxes, we know millions still shop by catalog and then phone in orders or even mail in those order blanks.

Catalogs serve a different purpose, for many modern shoppers. People tell me they still love to look through catalogs “for ideas.” One looked through a luxury-goods catalog I had received (I don’t know why the company sent one to me!) and remarked on the princes. “But I like looking and figuring out how I could make those.”

Internet shoppers like catalogs for finding things they might get for this one or that one on their lists—then checking for the best prices online, then ordering online.

This year many dot-com sellers are offering free shipping “without the asterisk” or on orders with far lower totals than the ones we used to have to reach. Shipping costs have been that extra cost that used to send shoppers to brick-and-mortars. Now shipping delay might be a factor, but with express shipping delivery options that can be overcome.

Cyber-shopping is not local, downtown shopping, not Lindgren’s. I shop online for so many things I need in my business, and for myself. But I also like what we still have, for “downtown” shopping, and our Benton Place stores.

Where are you shopping this year? And did you go out on Black Friday and Saturday and get all your shopping done?