I ride my bike. A lot. I always have. When I was kid I used to ride all over Beaumont, Texas, the towniest of towns. I collected comics then, and there were few places that offered the medium. I’d hit Parkdale Mall, or I’d venture out to mom and pop shops like Mike’s Coins & Books in old town. Between there, the mall bookstores and Jack’s Pak-It I fed my comics craving well enough, and years later we finally got an honest-to-goodness comics shop, Comics Kingdom. But as a kid we never conceived of the monolithic book emporiums that now litter America’s landscape. And litter in the literal sense. Some are closing. With more to follow. Big, big boxed behemoths once bustling with beaming readers, now lay in wait for the next highest and best use of the space.
It’s the 21st century, and retail sites are, well, passè. Why? Plain and simple: e-commerce. When the now closing Borders opened at the revamped Bultman Funeral Home a few years back, the real story is it was closed before it was opened. The internet has changed the way of the widget for good. It doesn’t matter if its books, CDs, clothes or (insert your favorite tangible mall item here), the retail world has been rocked. No one buys books in a book store anymore. This isn’t 1983. Waldenbooks and B Dalton abandoned all hope 10 years ago. Why did anyone think Borders would succeed? Because it sold coffee? Because it sold CDs? Puh-leeze. But no use crying over spilled latte, now that we have this big, gorgeous restored monstrosity of a space, what do we do with it?
Only insiders know for sure the future of this St Charles icon, but the buzz is maybe a Best Buy, maybe an Apple Store, maybe a Victoria’s Secret? It’s pretty amusing when one posits the cubic feet required for the few thriving retail operations nowadays. Arguably the former Borders is too small for a Best Buy, but conversely it is too large for an Apple Store. So, what do you do? In no way do I think there should be a mash-up of use in the way of a Chevron / Taco Bell or a Shell / McDonald’s. Should Apple mash-up with Victoria’s Secret? YES. Yes, they should. Yesterday. The new Angel iPad would be an instant classic. Push up bras that are wifi enabled? Genius. And earbud headphones sprouting out of some frilly bustier is very 2012, is it not?
But seriously, the Apple Store solo makes the most sense. Presently the only option is Lakeside Mall where yes, it’s nestled up nicely next to a Victoria’s Secret. But really, if you live in the city proper – or you’re a student – or you’re here shooting a movie – or if you need something Apple, you are relegated to I-10 and Metairie proper. In and of itself a trip to Metairie should not be so eventful, should it? Most major metropolitan city centers offer the convenience of an Apple Store without having to hoof it out to the burbs, right? Why should New Orleans again have to be the exception? I doubt when Ryan Reynolds was here shooting Green Lantern last year he was itching for Lakeside oogling, but then again, maybe he was.
And consider this further: if New Orleans does not have the ability to offer those visiting the experience of an Apple Store, what other dollars are we letting Jefferson Parish take that in theory we may handily recover? Housing? Restaurants? New Orleans may have a lot of feathers in its cap post-K but there’s never a time to sit back and say enough. The film industry alone has suffered losses in terms of Orleans v Jefferson Parish with the convenience of Elmwood’s Industrial Park. Thankfully Second Line Studios in the Lower Garden is now open and able to compete. All said, we may not want an Apple Store, but we need it. It’s that missing feather in our cap – or angel wings, whatever your preference.
Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and the Du Mois gallery on Freret Street and father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at UptownMessenger.com, he also writes an occasional real-estate blog at villererealty.com and shares his family’s adventures via pedicab on Facebook and Twitter.