Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Bend, California

I feel as though there was an attempt to glamorize little old Bend, Oregon. To Hollywoodize it, Aspenize it, Malibuize it. And yet, that very notion seems antithetical to what most people moved here for in the first place. It was the down-to-earth, friendly nature of Bend that attracted people originally.

Not glitz and glam.

I can assure you that the group of store owners who colonized downtown 30 years ago, after it emptied out for the malls, weren't looking to create a 'quaint' shopping experience. They were looking to survive, with cheap rents. Oh, sure. They had dreams, but they didn't realize that as they succeeded, they also brought in the less than original, the big box and mass merchandisers...the kind of stores that could be anywhere U.S.A. and add nothing to the unique atmosphere of Bend.

And following close behind, those who simply saw the surface attraction of downtown Bend, but didn't see the hard work and inspiration. The boho's have pretty much been replaced; the very hardscrabble but creative atmosphere they created attracted people with money.

See, I truly believe that necessity is the mother of invention.

Prima Facia evidence: Star Wars movies. Great when Lucas had to be creative, sucky when he had the money to fill the screens with buzzing extras.

People who have money, don't have to figure out how to make it work with less. But I think people are attracted to that down and dirty creativity, at least subconsciously. Of course, they love the big and new -- Redmond Walmart; and they love the shiny and fresh -- the Old Mill district; they love the expensive and exclusive -- new downtown.

But they also love the creative and the invented and the humble make-do.

So what happened?

They seemed to feel a need to reinvent Bend -- like a new wife, remaking her husband. "Throw away those comics, don't need them. I know you love movies, but really, it's time for you to grow up." Worse, at some point, they forgot what Bend was in the first place, and then even worse, they simply didn't care.

So we get a whole new concept.

O.K. I'm projecting.

That's why I came back to Bend.

I admit, I was happy that we got some movie theaters and bookstores. But....well, the hits just kept coming.

I've been accused of being hypocritical: accepting all the extra business that newcomers bring while decrying all the changes.

But I have to believe there is a happy medium: as in all things. Moderation. And we've gone way past that. So far past that, that most newcomers have no idea what originally attracted people here.

They came here because others came here. Not everyone, but a hefty percentage.

Sorry, that's the way it looks to me.


RDC said...

As far as I have seen the retail growth in Bend is not inconsistent with other similar sized towns around the US. The number and mix of big box stores is pretty normal for a town of 75,000. You might have a few more folks trying the high end specialty type thing. But the inflow of big box is pretty much a level of population thing.

Duncan McGeary said...
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