Just in time for the 100th Anniversary of what was once the tallest building in downtown St. Louis, the Railroad Exchange building, will be basically empty. Macy’s has decided to close its doors at this location this Summer and move the corporate employees out to Earth City. As a St. Louis area native, it is with mixed emotions that I see the doors shuttered.
For me, and I’m certain many other locals, Macy’s has really been closed for a long time. Maybe you can date it back to the 90’s when the St. Louis Galleria opened and stores in the St. Louis Centre started closing like mad, that the shopping aspect of downtown started steadily declining. Some would say the store really closed the moment it became a Macy’s in 2006, and what was once the flag-ship Famous Barr was just not what we remembered. Personally, it closed for me when I stopped believing in Santa Claus.
That moment in every children’s Christmas movie from the 80’s when the kid went to tell Santa what he wanted for Christmas was iconic; it was always a bigger and better display than anything you had seen before. Not for me though, because I had the Elf Village at Famous Barr, and it was an event. We would pack three kids into the van and drive an hour to Downtown St. Louis, a magical mystic land to my child eyes (I lived in a very small town with not even one stop light at this time). Excitement would build as my sister and I fought over who was touching who and crossing the line that separated her space from my space. I’m not sure how big the elf display actually was; I never saw it with adult eyes, but to my child eyes it was nearly endless. It had to be at least as big as a football field with animated elves going about their business on that puffy white sparkly fake snow fabric. Santa, to be honest, was a non-event. He just marked the end of the wonder after snaking through miles of wondrous displays. The line was the event; a truly “it’s about the journey not the destination” moment.
Fast forward 25 years and I started working downtown every day. An easy walk to Macy’s. Now I am not much of a shopper, a day at the mall (or 10 minutes) sounds not like fun to me, but horror. And as much as I would like to be able to, I just can’t buy absolutely everything online. When I first came down here to work, quite frankly I had completely forgotten that there was even still a department store downtown. Then there was the day I ran completely out of foundation with an important afternoon meeting. No problem, I’d just run to Macy’s with all the loft dwellers and young population of downtown. I was completely mystified to find that they had no MAC counter…wait, what? Young professionals wear MAC, so why is your store only stocked with brands more associated with AARP? I visited a few more times and I will say they have a fabulous selection of Cardinals merchandise. Overall though, I was disappointed on each visit. The selection just didn’t seem to fit. It was sad, like walking into a room with a person on hospice where you could feel it was the end.
Department stores are rare in downtown areas so I don’t know how much impact there will be on the re-development that is happening. However, I know I don’t like the idea of walking past more boarded up store fronts. I think I agree with the woman who was interviewed on Channel 2. How amazing would it be to have an urban Target store!?!
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