Small is Ugly

As we left the Safeway on Hastings this evening, we noticed that a board on an easel showing plans for the redevelopment of the lot and the store. Currently, there’s a big parking lot surrounding the store on the north and east sides. They plan to tear it all down and replace it with . . . a store with a parking lot on the west side. There are three important changes here. One: the store will be bigger. Two: there will be underground parking. And three: the entrance will have a high peaked facade above it with Safeway in huge letters.

As we stood there in awe at how much effort is being invested in something so ugly, another couple walked up behind us and started gawking too. Cindy said, “it’s so ugly!” The other fellow looked puzzled; clearly the word ugly couldn’t possibly be applied to something so… um, new I guess (after all, it hasn’t been built yet). “I really don’t like the little ones downtown, they don’t have any stuff. The ones out in the suburbs are great though”, he said1.

Apparently small is ugly and big is beautiful. I guess he never spends any time at the little Italian deli down the street with the pickled whozits stacked to the ceiling and boxed whatzits hanging from the rafters. You have to turn sideways to squeeze past anyone in the aisles, and at Christmas there are piles of panetone everywhere.

I remember reading once about wind-up radios for the townships in South Africa. People didn’t want to buy them because they were so compact, so the company produced the same mechanism in a bigger box, and they became a smash hit. For the people who bought them, they weren’t just useful for being radios, they were a piece of furniture to add to the house.

I know I wouldn’t want the new Safeway in my house. Or within sight of it for that matter.

Notes

1 Well, he said something like that. I was too shocked to really take it in.

2004-04-23