Thanks to Rick Nelson’s Jan. 12 article on restaurants and food at Macys, we weren’t able to get into one of our longtime favorite restaurants, the Oak Grill on the 12th floor of Macy’s, in downtown Minneapolis. We arrived shortly before noon, and there was a stampede for both the Grill and the Sky Room.

Sadly, the restaurants and store many of us long for has been long gone. I’ve shopped at what is now Macy’s for more than 50 years, so I know of what I speak. When I worked downtown during the 1980s and early ’90s, I could find suitable workwear, helped by knowledgeable staff. And it was no problem finding a cashier.

When Dayton Hudson bought Marshall Field’s and assumed its name, the store still had quality merchandise and knowledgeable staff. But when Macy’s purchased the store in 2005, quality, service and the physical state of the store began its noticeable decline.

Jame’s Lileks’ piece on Jan. 14 was interesting, but his hypothesis that Macy’s was selling the wrong things missed the mark. There are plenty of people who live and work downtown who would like to buy clothing, housewares and prepared foods from a purveyor that is more upscale than Target.

The problem with Macy’s was that it was terribly mismanaged. While there were salespeople on the main floor, if you ventured higher, you had to search for someone to pay. I’m sure more than one shopper was tempted to shoplift just to avoid the inconvenience of having to find a salesperson.

And the store had no local flair. It was a cookie-cutter version of Macy’s across the country. Department stores must cater to experience — those who enjoy the experience of shopping and interacting with people are still venturing into department stores. The rest are shopping online. Yet, Macy’s killed off events that attracted people into the store, such as the acclaimed fashion show Glamorama, which concluded with great acclaim and after raising almost $5.5 million for the Children’s Cancer Research Fund.

But a much bigger problem than losing a department store that used to be great is the loss’ effect on the smaller stores around it that depended on its traffic for their livelihood, and even more important, the portent for our metropolitan core. On a recent weekend trip to downtown Minneapolis, my husband, who has wanted to move there for years, remarked: “Maybe it’s a good thing we didn’t move here. There isn’t much to do.”

With the 52nd Super Bowl on the horizon Feb. 4, 2018, the city of Minneapolis doesn’t have much time to transform itself from a hovel for people who are experiencing homelessness to a world-class city that visitors are expecting — one that will be sustainable beyond the big event — and that will serve as an anchor with St. Paul for our entire metro area.

 

Lynn Ingrid Nelson lives in White Bear Lake.