LET INGA TELL YOU:
My grandchildren will never know what it was like for airline travel to be fun. And that genuinely causes me pain. But what worries me even more is that they might be the last generation to know the enormous sensual pleasures of a brick-and-mortar store.
The sensuality of shopping — the ability to touch, hold, see, and smell things before buying them — is fast disappearing. And what a loss. You just can’t get the same feeling looking at a photo of an Amazon warehouse.
I don’t sew much, but I used to love to wander into the alas-departed Jane’s Fabrique. I just wanted to bury my face in those fabrics, fondle all those racks of ribbons, design in my mind a garment that could use all those gorgeous glittery buttons. It’s really hard to buy fabrics online, although I’ve done it a few times. You can never get a true sense of color, and certainly not of the weight and feel of the material.
I genuinely love having a movie theater in downtown La Jolla again, but I deeply miss Jonathan’s Market. OK, I don’t miss Jonathan’s on the day before Christmas when the meat department special orders section looked (and felt) like the Fall of Saigon. But the rest of the time, my immune- system got a boost just from strolling through the lush bounty of their produce department, and perusing the 50-foot-long case of elegantly-displayed meats, fish and ready-to-eat entrees. It’s something you definitely don’t get from Hello Fresh or Uber Eats, although even I wouldn’t knock the incredible convenience of those services in our too-busy world.
I’m still mourning the old Jurgensen’s Gourmet Grocery, their exquisite gift baskets, and buying petit fours there every Christmas. Burns Drugs was another emporium that is such a loss to the community. It was the kind of place you walked into that just made you happy. On your way to the prescription counter, your senses drank in the wonderful scents of all those soaps and bath salts and perfumes, and the visual delight of shelf upon shelf of whimsical gifts. I’m sorry, CVS, but it’s just not the same.
Fortunately, we still have Meanley’s, the ultimate old-time general store. They’re their own mini-Amazon, stocking all the stuff you can’t find elsewhere. Every cleaning product you can imagine. The right knobs for your bathroom cabinet. Garden stuff and housewares and paint and hardware and kitchen gadgets. And uber-friendly knowledgeable employees to boot! They’re my favorite store. A pox on the OCD germ-phobic who made the popcorn machine go away.
But if we’re talking visual feasts, there is no place more magical than Bowers Jewelers. That place is an utter wonderland of antique china and jewelry and more. And at Christmas they kick it up even another notch. If Bowers went away, where will I get my watchbands and batteries? OK, I know that that stuff isn’t what’s keeping them afloat, but their lovely friendly faces and endless kindness almost make me want my watch battery to go dead, just so I have an excuse to go in there and drink up all that beauty while I wait for them to put in a new one.
Then there are all those fun baskets of dog toys at Muttropolis. The smell of leather in the European shoe store next door. Pharmaca’s intoxicating display of lavender sachets and gifts.
What would downtown La Jolla look like without any of these places? If there were no actual storefronts? I’m not sure I even want to imagine it.
Amazon, alas, has just made it too easy. I confess that I use Amazon a lot. But not before asking myself: “Is there any place I can get this locally?” Ironically, some of the things I get on Amazon are because the store I always purchased them from — for example, the wonderful Linens ‘n’ Things — have disappeared.
But here, of course, is the problem. We have all, me included, gotten used to stuff showing up on your doorstep the next day. Even on Sundays. How easy they make it to return stuff. How there is literally nothing, except health care, that they don’t sell. But who knows? Maybe soon you’ll be able to get your digital colonoscopy through Amazon. In fact, I’d bet on it.
I’ve been pondering what my great-grandchildren will say if they look at a photo of Girard Avenue from 2010 and see all the stores that were there then. Will they say, “Wow — you could go see things in person, touch them and feel them before you bought them?” Or will their attitude be, “You actually had to physically GO somewhere to buy stuff? Even food? You couldn’t just order it up and have it delivered by drone in 10 minutes? What a waste of time!”
Maybe. But then, they never got to see Bowers decorated for Christmas.
— Inga’s lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in La Jolla Light. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org