Going to Sears, a family tradition

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By Gale Stoddard

A Stoddard family tradition of more than 65 years is disappearing.

I write this sad news with a heavy heart for I have read that the parent company is going to be closing 64 Sears stores this year. I keep asking myself, is the Buena Park store going to be one of them? If it is, and heaven forbid, I will be crushed, as this has been my favorite department store for more than 65 years.

For all of these years I have refused to go to large noisy department stores that look like warehouses. I find it a waste of time standing behind every “Tom, Dick and Harry,” waiting their turn with cashiers who speak more Spanish than English, while droves of customers are speaking so loud in their native tongue on their cell phones.

That is not so at my favorite store, Sears of Buena Park, where my family has been buying all of our home appliances and school clothes for my four children, now adults, who also shop at Sears. At Sears, I have always experienced courteous young and mature ladies, aptly dressed for work manning the cash registers and always happy to see me and speaking in English.

I have never encountered a problem with Sears. Returns I made were graciously taken care of and replaced.

Items we purchased were delivered on the promised date. Even the repairman who came to check on the washer in my home that was making a noise, was polite. Turns out it was socks belonging to my teenagers that got stuck inside the washer. The repairman said, “No charge,” and he was polite and courteous. That was then.

The “now” is so different. I have friends who have ordered items from other stores and were rebuffed for returning the damaged items. The guarantee other stores promised were met with no call-back when something went wrong. I have never experienced anything unsatisfactory with my local Sears.

Thank goodness my late husband and I bought from our local Sears for the past 65 years. I have done my part in keeping this store busy with our purchases. The other day, I read Sears Holding Corporation announced that at least 39 of its stores will be closing in the coming months; 2017 was the worst year for the retail industry with bankruptcies and store closings appearing in news headlines.

Another big retailer, Macy’s, is also planning on closing some of its stores. While Sears Holding Corporation, the parent company of Sears and Kmart, announced they will be closing 64 more stores. That greatly saddens me.

Most people do not know or bother to know that Sears is an American chain of department stores founded by Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Curtis Roebuck.

Sears Roebuck & Company was founded in 1886 in Chicago, where the headquarters are located. It was reincorporated by Richard Sears and his new partner Julius Rosenwald in 1906.

My Mormon relatives in Salt Lake City, the Stoddard clan, always patronized Sears too. In fact, my later father-in-law and successful businessman Ren Stoddard, told me about Sears when I first moved to America from the Philippines and admonished me to always support Sears as it was an American institution that should be cherished.

I found Sears products and clothes more to my liking than other stores where after one washing, the colors faded and the fabric shrunk to a baby size. I have traveled to 24 of the 50 states, and in each state I would go to Sears to get my needs met.

My daughter Leslie buys all of her appliances at Sears and so does my son Greggory, for they find the service and products to be of the highest quality. The price is also a dream.

After having written this article, I am going to run down to the local Sears store to peruse the new clothes line they have, purchase some gifts and maybe pick up some costume jewelry to wear to work.

My late husband, a well-known auto-body man, used to purchase all of his work uniforms at Sears. He helped build the famous Batmobile, the Green Hornet car and Elvis Presley’s pink bus, as he worked for George Barris in Hollywood. He just happened to be working in a North Hollywood auto body shop when the orders came in. My husband was very detailed and a perfectionist when it came to a work ethic, so buying at Sears was natural.

The people who have lived in my neighborhood and the general area for more than 60 years where I still reside, all reminisce about the days when Sears was the only place to go get your clothes for the summer and for school outfits for the children.

My children are now successful in their own rite, owning four bedroom homes in the Buena Park Country Club area, but they still make regular trips to Sears for their appliance needs. They tell me it is like going back to memory lane, when life was simple and people were friendlier.

Christmastime is still a magical time to buy Christmas items as we marvel at the brightly-lit Christmas trees at Sears that are decorated in sparkling and vivid colors. The prices of the decor are so temptingly reasonable and the holiday spirit abounds in the back section of the store where customers are in awe at the lovely trees in front of them.

Annually I hold four large parties in the garden area of my home, so naturally I furnished it with lavish garden furniture and of course, my first choice was Sears. My home bar has four bar stools from Sears; a picnic table with an umbrella, a six-chair dining room table and chairs under the gazebo are the highlight of the party where we display an array of tantalizing and exotic foods for all to enjoy.

Politicians have held their fundraisers, priests have been given farewell parties and fundraiser charity events for African hospitals have been held in my Sears-decorated backyard. My mother held her four big birthday parties in our garden before her passing at age 104.

In my garden oasis one can hear the cool water gently tinkling from the nearby water fountains and there is a grotto of the blessed Mother Mary and statues of little angels gracing the dozens of rose trees.

Also, garden figurines add to the homey atmosphere, while birds sing their songs, with all of the items having been purchased from Sears.

There are benches with thick cushions in the corner of the garden inviting one to bask in the serenity of the garden. Nearly everything in my home and garden have come from Sears.

Everywhere I turn, I remember each event with the children, which seems like a century ago, as they would go with me to select something to liven up our various parties.

Mayors, senators, congressmen, entertainers, recording artists and actors and actresses from Hollywood have attended my garden parties. They would entertain and enjoy the eclectic but health-conscious cuisine on a beautifully decorated table with an exotic tablecloth and napkins gracing the flower-filled table.

Everywhere I look, I see Sears products, from undergarments, watches, rings, earrings, bracelets, shoes, bedding, carpets, rugs, towels, curtains and furniture, and the list goes on. I can reminisce in depth because I have been a Buena Park resident for more than 50 years. There have been so many changes; so many stores have come and gone after a few months or even years. But the Sears sign still lingers in the Buena Park Mall. When it is time for another business to take over the building, in the minds of thousands of people like me, we will still call it the Sears building.

I will always remember Sears as the store for all Americans who revered quality and longevity. It was built with integrity, giving jobs to Americans and supported by Americans. I read somewhere, maybe in the history of our city, that the Buena Park Sears Roebuck store in the 60s and 70s had the distinction of being the highest-grossing Sears in the whole country. What does that say to our city and residents? Need I say more, living in a God-fearing city like Buena Park?

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