A New Shiny Object
TERRE HAUTE (That’s French for “I hope there is enough parking.”) is a town that loves something – anything, that is new. If you want to create a stir in this town just open a new store or restaurant.
“Build it and mail out coupons and they will come.”
— Paraphrase from “Field of Dreams”
Maybe it is because for many years Terre Haute was just an exit off of I-70 – a place where nothing happened. That seemed to have started changing about twenty five years ago. The local colleges began to make headlines as innovative and exciting places. New businesses began to come here and my wife, the lovely and inspiring, Dawn, moved here in the late 1980s and it was, “off to the races!”
(I showed up here about 13 years ago and that put the seal of approval on it.) OK….maybe I’m being a bit facetious there, but I still think I helped.
The town is expanding and new growth is bringing jobs and a sense of mild excitement to this old river town.
If you want to turn that mild excitement into something near to frenzy all you need to do is open a new store or place to eat.
Late last year a “Cheddars” restaurant opened up on the south side of town and you would think it was a branch office of Fatima the way the crowds mobbed the place. Nobody was getting cured and tossing away their crutches there, they were just getting some decent chow.
Last month a new “Five Guys Burgers” opened and if you drive past it yet today you would think that it was the site of a gold strike or the discovery of Jimmy Hoffa’s grave.
Yesterday was the unofficial official grand opening of a new Meijer mega-store with 195,000 square feet of retail delights. That is one honking big store. The “Official” official grand opening is in a couple of days.
I’ve watched them build it as I was on my way to the Wal-Mart that is squatted directly across the street. What a coincidence!
Can you say “Free Market Competition?” I knew you could.
Both of the stores are on the east side of Terre Haute. Up until less than ten years ago that stretch of road was farm land and an onramp to the Interstate. Now it has turned into the hottest property in the area with these two behemoth stores, a Holiday Inn and more construction going on than this town has seen in years.
(Scuttlebutt has it that one parcel of land has had a building permit issued to “Hooters.” That I find hard to believe. Cracker Barrel maybe, but Hooters? Naw.)
Some people don’t like it when these big stores open up. I have no problems with them at all. Increased competition does two main things:
- It makes existing stores improve the way they do business.
- It makes for lower prices.
New stores also bring jobs. This Meijer store means 270 new jobs according to the morning paper. There isn’t a small town anywhere that wouldn’t welcome that.
It will be a while until I go out there to investigate the new store. Right now the parking lot looks like the world’s largest used car dealership. I figure that after a month or so the glow will have worn off and the crowds will dissipate to a degree and move on to the next new shiny object. By then I’ll be in the market for something or other and I’ll give them the once over.
Until then I think I’ll go out to dinner at Cheddars. It doesn’t seem to be as crowded lately.