How Sears Industrialized, Suburbanized, and Fractured the American Economy

The Iconic Retail Giant Turned Thrift into Profit, But Couldn’t Keep Pace with Modern Consumer Culture

The lifetime of Sears has spanned, and embodied, the rise of modern American consumer culture. The 130-year-old mass merchandiser that was once the largest retailer in the United States is part of the fabric of American society.

From its start as a 19th-century mail-order firm, to its heyday on Main Street and in suburban malls, and from its late 20th-century reorientation toward credit and financial products to its attempted return to its original retail identity, Sears has mirrored the ups and downs of the American economy. It was a …

When the World Came to My South L.A. Door

Amazon Is Nothing New, in the 1930s and ‘40s Salesmen Delivered Everything From Fresh Doughnuts to Steel Guitars

I remember most clearly the things that aren’t here anymore, the things that I saw as a child in our neighborhood in South Los Angeles.

In 1937, when I was …

My Supermarket Doesn’t Love Me

Grocery Stores Are in My Blood, Which Is Why I Was Crushed by the Changes at My Ralphs in Sherman Oaks

I have a life-long affinity for markets. Before I was born and then when I was a small child, mom-and-pop grocery stores supported all my relatives. My paternal grandfather owned …

Why Do We Love Being Frequent Flyers, Buyers, Shoppers, and Eaters?

In Exchange for Our Data, Customer Loyalty Programs Give Us Discounts—and a Sense of Intimacy

I am having a hard time being loyal to all my loyalty programs. I have frequent flyer/buyer/rider/sleeper/eater/drinker cards with two airlines, three hotel chains, a grocery store, two booksellers, one …

Man, I Love Hippies

Counterculture Went Mainstream in My Town. The Result: Organic Arugula and Wide Bike Lanes.

I’m not a hippie. I don’t have dreadlocks. I smell just fine. I don’t smoke pot. I don’t even call anyone “man.” But man, I love hippies.

I owe the way …

I’d Like a Politician With Values and a Steakhouse With Outdoor Seating

Yelp Allows Us to Rank Restaurants and Doctors and Spas. Why Not Use it to Rank Elected Officials?

Yelp is a wildly popular web service that allows customers to offer public reviews of the companies and professionals they patronize. Diners rate restaurants, patients rate their doctors, dentists, and …