2020 – Iconic Hackensack, NJ, Sears to close

(ignore May 1, 2017 publish date – this was published on August 11, 2020)

 

PART 1 – AUGUST 6, 2020 (INCLUDES PHYSICAL PAIN)

Since opening on October 27, 1932, this highly-recognizable Sears building has stood at the corner of Main St and Anderson St in Hackensack – a mile from my childhood home in Teaneck (and two blocks from my home of the last 32 years in Hackensack).

With all the financial problems and store closings Sears has had over the last few years, everyone was wondering when this one would bite the dust.

The news arrived at the end of July 2020, which has not been a good year for anybody.

 

Sears had been the go-to place for Mom when we were kids. It wasn’t a popular choice (“Do we have to?” was our usual response). I could probably count on one hand how many times I’ve bought something there during these last 32 years, but don’t ask me what………………oh, wait – I DID find a $100 Sears gift certificate that nobody else wanted when cleaning out my parents’ house in 1998 and bought a really warm winter coat with it that I still wear, so…………yay, Sears.

But I DO have ONE very special memory from a LONG time ago that involved a highly-desired item and – of all people – my father (Mom actually let someone other than her buy something for one of their children at Sears? Unheard of!).

That was so uniquely special that I still remember the date!

December 10, 1959 was the day my father took me to Sears in Hackensack to buy me the only Christmas present I wanted – a Silvertone transistor radio (Sears didn’t exactly sell Marantz, you know).   😉

This was not a pocket transistor radio. It was about (I’m guessing) 10”x6”x2” and was encased in brownish-tan cowhide/leather. I can’t find a picture of it online, sooooo………

Being ahead of my time, I took an unfortunate selfie of an enraptured-acting 12-year-old hipster digging the music and snapping his fingers, while carrying the radio boombox-style (two decades before THAT was popular):

 

Then I got serious and did my homework to the beat of either WMCA or WABC (AM, of course):

On that back-wall shelf, you can see baby powder and Gerber’s baby food, so those may be big old diapers under them on the table, meaning that this little table may have also served as the changing table for my youngest sibling, who was born mid-’59. Most likely, the picture was taken in very early 1960.

 

See the Amoco station in this ‘30s or ‘40s pic? I actually worked there for a short time in somewhere around 1966.

 

 

After that, my involvement with Sears was minimal to non-existent until I moved two blocks away in 1988.

 

I was now on top of a building and had a 24/7 view of the tower. Doesn’t sound very exciting (and it isn’t), but it gave the photographer in me a small variety of things to shoot that no one else had access to, from both my living room and my roof.

 

From my site:

“from my roof, Hackensack, NJ 1994

Under the Red, White, and Blue, Sears is temporarily red, white, and blue.”

 

 

I have no idea what year I took the next 3 images, but this one reminded me of the ball falling in Times Square on New Year’s Eve:

 

This one shows the tower with fireworks going off 2 or 3 towns away:

 

I was in my car stopped at a light when I took this. I hit the “Invert” button in PhotoShop and this was the result:

 

They re-did the Sears exterior in 2011:

 

It looked kind of messy and deserved an added letter:

 

The SmEARS campaign continues:

 

I like this shot because the tower seems to be heading for the stratosphere:

BTW – the re-finished building is the first picture in this post.

 

This is a 2014 GIF I made that shows the raggedy Sears flag on April 1 and 5 (first 2 frames) being replaced and raised on April 12 by 3 people, who then vanish into the hatch, which is closed in the last two frames. The file has NOT been optimized to save space (and it looks it):

Now if only it would shut off after each run………………..

 

New flag:

 

In 2012, after a couple of weeks of negotiation with the Sears corporate lawyer in Hoffman Estates, IL, I got the OK to go up to the tower to shoot. I was as high up as you could go without climbing the the tower’s flag pole. My favorite shot that day was actually 8 shots – a photo stitch of my neighborhood that you’ll have to click twice to fully enlarge and then start scrolling (to shrink it back, click it once and then hit your back button).

Let’s start on the left with the very tall and beautiful white steeple of the First Presbyterian Church. Two buildings to its right is the shorter steeple of the Second Reformed Church. It looks like it belongs in an English castle.

In between those two towers is my H-shaped building. The yellow brick is the back of it. The closer section rises 6 stories. Part of the further section rises to a 7th story. That part is my apartment, sitting on the roof. And all the cell antennas you see on the building are now gone.

You can see 3 windows on that 7th-floor back side. The closest (and largest) window is my living room – where I’m typing this – and the other two are in my bedroom.

There is a third church (First Baptist) that’s partly visible across the street from the front of my building. The Second Reformed Church’s front roof blocks most of it from view.

Continuing to the far right, you can see Holy Trinity Catholic Church – where I was baptized – and its unique steeple. Directly across the street (and back a bit to the left), you can see the roof of the former Holy Trinity Grammar School – where I learned to read, write and cipher.

One more item of interest (at least to me): at the left end of the high-rise row on the horizon is Hackensack University Medical Center, where I get most of my medical needs taken care of.

 

When I was finished shooting and descended the straight-up-and-down interior metal tower ladder, I had to leave the roof hatch open for some reason. Someone was supposed to close it later……………but no one did. It was going to rain the next day, so I called Sears to get the hatch closed, so this is a VERY rare shot of the open Sears tower roof hatch as two men come up to do something on the newly-refurbished tower and the flag blows straight out.

It looks fake. The 80-year-old tower looks too new and the flag looks too perfect. I wish I could claim to have painted this, but I can barely draw:

(I wonder if this tower will make it to 90)

 

And now it’s official: goodbye Hackensack Sears. The signs are on the building and the ad’s in the newspaper:

 

I have no idea when the doors will actually close for the last time and I have no screaming need for any Kenmore or Silvertone products, so I thought I’d go over there to pay my respects with one last walk-through and take a few shots.

There was a TON of stuff there and it didn’t appear that thousands of people had rifled through everything and left messes all over the floor (how disappointing, photographically). Aside from all the hanging “EVERYTHING MUST GO!” signs, the place looked fairly normal – there was almost nothing worth shooting – so I guess they’ll be open for a while. Maybe I’ll go back if and when it gets a lot more chaotic. (NOTE: subsequent information reveals that the store is scheduled to close on September 12).

 

The entrance view:

 

The initial view inside:

 

The reverse view on the way back out:

 

With not much else to photograph, I decided to shoot the old familiar escalators while they were still working (click to enlarge):

The video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ll1wDmsQbkE

 

When the escalator took me to the basement, I FINALLY saw a shot worth taking (the sign in back says, “Fixtures, Furniture and Equipment for Sale”):

(No – I didn’t price anything……….do your own dirty work.)

 

 

So where’s the PAIN mentioned in the title? Actually, it happened on my way back home about 5 minutes after I took the last Sears picture (but if I hadn’t gone to Sears that day……………).

With my camera still in hand, I tripped on a rough part of road. I’m pretty good about maintaining my balance when that happens, but not this day. I was probably trying too hard to protect the camera.

I fell and landed full weight on the top of my left shoulder. I didn’t hit my head, but MAN, did that hurt! I laid there for a few seconds, stunned by the amount of pain. Did I break something? Could I even get up? Had I saved the camera?

I got up and made it home. The camera was saved and recorded the shoulder road rash, but I was very surprised to discover the blood running down my arm. The road caught me just above the left elbow, but the shoulder pain masked any additional discomfort:

I was able to move my arm somewhat and that seemed to indicate that nothing was broken, but the pain never subsided or lessened one bit.

I called my doctor to find out if he could see me, but couldn’t get through (it turned out that their power had been off for 3 days, thanks to Tropical Storm Isaias).

I decided to drive myself to the ER at Hackensack UMC. It was an adventure just to get into the parking garage (I couldn’t extend my left arm out the window to get the ticket).

 

The ER was its usual super-busy self with all patients placed lying down on gurneys and parked for long periods of time wherever space could be found.

Long story short: X-rays were taken, no broken bones, badly-bruised shoulder, given a tetanus shot and a Tramadol prescription and sent home.

I sleep on my sides, alternating as the night goes on, but not this night. Pain woke me at least 4 times that night. It’s down to 2 or 3 now, but I can’t do much with this arm. It takes major leg kicks to get up from bed or the sofa.

I’ll see my doctor in a couple of days and he’ll probably tell me to find an orthopedist. The HUMC doctor told me it might be at least a month before some semblance of normality returns to the arm.

 

THANKS, SEARS!

See if I buy any more transistor radios from YOU again!

 

Late addition (posting day – August 11, 2020): I’ve noticed that a new color has been added to my Skin Color Palette: Yellow! Not sure why that’s there, but if it can stick around for two days, I’m sure my doctor will tell me:


 

 

PART 2 – SEPTEMBER 1, 2020

The shoulder’s improving…………….slowly.

Because I heard a rumor that this Sears might be closing today (September 2), I visited the store yesterday to document the chaos…………..there was none.

The only differences in the opening shot were that featured floor merchandise on the right had changed and the jewelry cases on the left are now empty.

 

The basement escalator is now blocked and all merchandise for sale is now on the first floor.

 

I must have been mistaken about the mannequins being in the basement last time because I took almost the same picture yesterday:

 

I DID find one thing I wanted to buy because it looked a bit like a Grammy award:

Unfortunately, it had a “sold” sticker on the bottom.

 

What they appear to be doing seems sensible and rather orderly. All merchandise and transactions are now on the first floor. The second floor is all fixtures, such as metal clothing racks, etc., as you can see in these two photo stitches (Click to enlarge TWICE and scroll laterally):

 

All men’s clothing used to be against the far wall (Anderson St side) from where you enter the store. As store inventory shrinks, everything that remains is moved closer to the entrance. Here’s how that far wall looked yesterday (you can see the “MENS” sign on the pillar):

 

All clothes are now closer to the middle of the first floor – about equal to where the closed Main St side entrance is. In the below stitch, you can see (from the left) the closed Main St entrance and men’s and women’s clothing on both sides of the parking lot entrance (Click to enlarge TWICE and scroll laterally):

 

This is a 180º stitch (which is not glitch-free) that shows (looking east) clothes and escalators, (looking south) the back wall where men’s clothing used to be and (looking west) the closed Main St entrance (Click to enlarge TWICE and scroll laterally):

 

A shot of the empty jewelry cases on my way out:

 

A final exit?

 

I might do one more at or close to the end, if for no other reason than to see if the “Join the Team” sign is still on the door in the above shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Elaine August 11, 2020

    Well, hope you’re feeling better. Are they going to knock the building down ? End of an era. I will miss it since I’ve driven past it most work days since 1989. Can you tell me what is sitting on top of the old Packards now? I don’t remember. Thanks for another interesting display.

  2. Annemarie August 12, 2020

    I’m surprised the store was still there. I thought they just kept the tower as a landmark and something else was in the building. (I haven’t been down that way in years.) Hope your shoulder heals quickly!

  3. Bob Leafe August 12, 2020

    Thank you, E. I haven’t heard anything one way or the other, but it would be a shame to tear down a well-known, solid landmark like that. Target replaced Packard’s. And you’re welcome.

  4. jack August 28, 2020

    Wow, I worked in Hackensack Rite Aid back in 1999. Wasn’t a big fan of that town though, and I left for another job. I might have gotten into this Sears once.

  5. Brian OToole September 2, 2020

    Another part of our past changing. Nice shots Bob. Thanks

  6. john steele September 3, 2020

    Growing up in Hackensack we did most of our shopping at Valley Fair…Sears was “uptown” for me. When I finally went to Sears I felt like I was in another world. In 1987 I remember my dad saying how tough it was to even get a Sears credit card. When I applied and got one it felt like such an accomplishment for me. Although I didn’t go there regularly in the past 20 years I will miss the icon of my youth.

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