R.I.P. Sears Laurelwood

April 14th, 2016

Some buildings and places need to be saved, protected, cherished because of what they’ve meant in the past and can mean in the future – still informing, still resonating, still relevant – say Overton Park, Shelby Farms. Others need to make way for others, to renew, to accommodate changing needs just as they themselves did once – say Sears Crosstown, Sears Laurelwood.

While those distinctions may be tricky, anything that reminds you of old friends, of shared experiences and discoveries, is worth remembering and noting.

It’s the memories, and having people around you to remind you of them, that are always worth keeping.

As published in The Memphis Daily News, April 15, 2016, and in The Memphis News, April 16-22, 2016

Doug Ford


Doug Ford – two-time major winner and golf hall of famer – is 93, and coincidently that’s what I shot at Ridgeway last week. Janice was a high school girlfriend, and she liked her horse a lot more than me. Susan was a junior-high girlfriend, or whatever you are when you’re 12, and our relationship was worth peanuts. Pete was my best friend, and just about the coolest things we’d ever seen were vending machines that served hot food and Cokes in cups. My father believed in my mother, the United States Navy, and Sears – because whatever story he was telling or advice he was giving, at least one and probably all three got in the conversation.

If you’re wondering what all that has to do with anything, I’ll explain.

My first golf clubs were Doug Fords ­– bought one club at a time, hard earned, catalog ordered, and picked up one a time at the catalog counter in Sears Laurelwood. Janice’s family had a farm in Holly Springs and her father bought everything for that farm at Sears Laurelwood, including Janice’s saddles, chosen from the offering displayed across from that counter. Susan’s father was my pediatrician and she lived on East Cherry. We’d cut through the thick woods behind her house, now Christ Methodist Church, to the brand-new Sears Laurelwood and split a bag of Spanish peanuts, still warm from the roaster, from the candy counter just inside the main door. Pete and I would climb to the penthouse of Sears Laurelwood – yes, there was one set back from the building’s edge with big glass windows looking out over nascent East Memphis – and sample such exotic offerings as mac and cheese and beef stew from one vending machine while ice, syrup and carbonated water miraculously mixed in a cup from another. Dad told me I should buy all my tools and appliances from Sears, but just about everything else there “is crap.” Dad was direct. Dad told me I should never go to work for Sears, “the benefits are too good, you can never quit.” Early on, he knew I would require mobility in my career. Dad didn’t know from ADD, but he knew me.

Janice and I talked about all of that recently. She thought the closing of Sears Laurelwood would make for a good column. You can be the judge of that, but it certainly makes for good memories.

Sears Laurelwood is gone, its once futuristic funky profile soon to be history, its long covered walkway soon to disappear like the fountain at the end of it.

The experiences there remain. 

Like Sears, I’ve moved on, remembering that it’s impossible to be 12 again and almost impossible to hit one of those Doug Ford blade irons. It’s impossible to go back and impossibly useless to waste time trying.

Remember, sure, but keep moving. Cities require mobility in their careers, too.

I’m a Memphian, and it seems I remember somebody putting soap in that fountain, but that couldn’t have been me.


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