Thursday, December 13, 2012

Under construction

People who live in smaller towns amuse easily and some of the highest quality entertainment in Chariton this fall has been west on Court Avenue where our Hy-Vee grocery is transitioning into a much larger operation and its neighbor, old standby Pamida, has metamorphosed into Skopko Hometown.

According to the clerk I cornered at Shopko yesterday, the transition there is nearly complete and the goal is to be fully operational by Dec. 21. It's going to take a while longer at Hy-Vee, so we'll be able to experience commerce in a construction zone there through Christmas and well beyond.

My dad used to call old faithful Pamida the "poor man's Walmart," which was a little unfair since the quality and aspirations of the merchandise in the little-box vs. big-box stores were similar. It was volume and location that made the difference.

Once upon a time, practically every county seat town that didn't have a Walmart had a Pamida. As Walmart expanded, Pamidas closed. Finally, Shopko, which previously hasn't had much of a presence in southern Iowa, bought out Pamida. That proved fatal in Albia and Corydon, where the Pamidas were closed earlier this fall.

In Chariton, however, Shopko devoted most of the fall to discounting Pamida merchandise out of the building, then spruced up, rearranged and reshelved the interior and now is restocking. I'd guess about a tenth of the store is open to shoppers --- the area near the pharmacy, which remained open throughout the transition.

Ran into my friend Jane, greeting card czar for several southern Iowa retail outlets, on Monday at Hy-Vee after she'd completed her display at Shopko, so I know that if you're in the market for a birthday card, Shopko's ready for you. Shopko merchandise reportedly will be a level above that available previously at Pamida --- so that's a good thing.


The operation at Hy-Vee has been more fun because it's been interactive --- shopping has continued unabated as walls fell, merchandise was moved, windows were blocked, black plastic sheeting blossomed and aisles were scrunched. I hope when all is said and done, the corporation awards medals of valor to the staff --- working in the midst of all that (and keeping those smiles in every aisle intact) can't be easy.

The pharmacy has taken the biggest construction phase hit so far --- relocation in a large box after its previous quarters were incorporated into the eastward addition that cozys the building up to Shopko.

Other than the occasional cart collision and minor frustration of impeded traffic in the produce department, customers (or at least this one) really haven't been inconvenienced.

When all is said and done, the operation promises to look more like that in other mid-size Hy-Vees --- Indianola, for example. We'll gain a liquor department (as opposed to an alclove) as well as a floral shop and Chinese food. Produce will move west and be deployed over a much larger area, which will be good. Plans for the new layout are posted in the front window. I'm anxious to see how it will look when the complete.

Bu the choreography needed to operate a full-scale retail business in a full-scale construction zone continues to be interesting to watch. That will become more interesting when the time comes to redeploy all of that merchandise in expanded quarters. Will the store have to close for a day or two to manage that? We'll just have to wait and see.

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