The Store With The Friendly Spirit

Photo © Frank H. Jump

When it opened in 1911 on a 23-acre city block between Broad Street and Halsey Street in downtown Newark, the Hahne & Company department store was home to over 400,000 square feet of selling space on five floors. It contained more than two acres of plate glass windows, had a formal dining room (The Pine Room), and was arranged around a massive atrium that occupied the center of the building from the first floor through the fourth. It was dubbed “The Store With The Friendly Spirit.” Two thousand people worked there.

By the time I arrived at its employees’ entrance on a gray, snow-spitting day in February of 1988, hardly anybody worked there. Hahne’s was a vast gloomy cave that smelled powerfully of rotting carpet and draperies. To get to the advertising department, I had to walk up three deactivated wooden escalators to the fourth floor and across a vast open space littered with fallen ceiling tiles and lighting fixtures. The advertising department was located in the rear area of the fourth floor and occupied itself primarily with creating ads that ran in the Newark Star-Ledger and Bergen Record. The tagline at the foot of those ads read “Hahne’s, A New Jersey Tradition.” But it was a tradition on its last legs.
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Stop The Presses

No longer at a curbside near youThere are two monthly scheduled curbside pick-ups of recyclables in my town. On the second Tuesday morning of each month, an enormous blue toploader makes its way slowly up and down the streets, alternately roaring, wheezing and groaning at the application of accelerator, clutch and brake. It stops at every house and two men drag barrel after barrel of cans, bottles, and household plastics away from the curb toward the truck, emptying the contents of each into a rear-mounted conveyor. The conveyor fills rapidly and is then hoisted hydraulically into the air and rotated, so that its payload can rain down amid a thunderous clamor into the toploader’s interior. It’s a long, laborious and loud undertaking that virtually precludes sleeping late on that particular morning.

On the fourth Tuesday of every month, the same big blue toploader cruises the streets of our town, braking only for stop signs and foolhardy squirrels. Usually, you have to be specifically listening for it, to even recognize that it has come and gone. The same two guys who endure a back-breaking day of frantic labor on the second Tuesday of each month have it easy on the fourth Tuesday. They hardly need disembark from their truck at all. It’s newspaper/magazine recycling day in my town.

The current recession has been particularly tough on newspapers. Dailies in Denver, Seattle, San Francisco, and other cities have closed shop for good, while flagship publications like the Washington Post, LA Times, and Boston Globe are bleeding to death. Once-popular magazines like Time, Newsweek, and the New Yorker aren’t doing any better. Once it’s all over, what will be left? My guess is, the two “papers of record,” The New York Times and The Washington Post. One center-left paper, one center-right paper.
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