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Losing loved ones—family, friends, pets — is tough. Those left behind are compelled to mourn. That doesn’t require explanation or apology.

But what about the loss of a business that brought us pleasure? That made life easier, simpler, less stressful? Distress over such losses may be harder for others to comprehend. Sympathy may be in short order.

Example: Starbucks on Kavanaugh in Pulaski Heights closed on Dec. 31. So what? many might say. It’s not as if there aren’t more of them hereabouts.

But that particular Starbucks was special, a neighborhood gathering place where athletic moms rolled up with babies and toddlers in strollers to meet with their cohort. Dog-walkers tethered their animals to outside tables (under the watchful eyes of other customers enjoying the weather), walked in, made their purchase and returned to wagging tails and wet faces slurping from an always-full bowl. Retirees met for weekly opportunities to chat at long wooden tables that could accommodate eight. The tiny two-tops, a few of them wobbly, were usually occupied by millennials absorbed by screens of some sort.

Everybody knew the baristas and cashiers. It was a community hangout.

The location had high sales figures, the manager told me. But it lacked a drive-through—highly relevant to the profitability of the coffee chain—and there was no way to add one on the crowded corner it occupied in a densely built neighborhood. So it had to go.

So did the Starbucks at 9401 N. Rodney Parham Road (which, though small, did have a drive-through, although it was awkward to access), muscled out by a bigger, more glamorous location farther west at Rodney Parham and Market Street.

Our allegiance has shifted to the newly opened Starbucks at 2815 Cantrell Road, across from River-dale. It’s airy and bright, with no wobbly tables, staffed with many of the same employees that had worked at the Heights. But it’s hard to access on foot, noisy in the way so many restaurants are lately, and outside seating provides an anxiety-inducing view of traffic flying down four lanes of a major arterial thoroughfare. The intimate ambiance of the Heights is gone.

Please don’t send a volley of contemptuous emails instructing me to buy local. I like our local coffee shops and use them often. But for people who travel a lot, Starbucks has an excellent rewards program that gives out free stuff to those who earn points through purchases. I can’t get that by exclusively visiting locally owned establishments. And the locals don’t have locations in, say, New York or Washington D.C. or in airports; Starbucks does.

The point here: I miss the Heights Starbucks, and mourn its loss.

Another distressing departure is the Mini Cooper Little Rock franchise that occupied the corner of West Markham Street and Chenal Parkway. Having opened in 2014, it too closed on Dec. 31 following a dispute between the local dealership that operated it and Mini USA. There’s discussion of BMW of North America considering letting Mini dealers move operations into BMW stores, but that hasn’t happened here yet.

In the meantime, Mini owners are adrift. Who’s going to change the oil, check the fluid levels and the engine air filter, inflate the tires and inspect the wipers—all complimentary with purchasing or leasing a new Mini for up to three years or 36,000 miles (whichever comes first)?

The dealership was a fun place (not something that’s often said about car dealerships); I enjoyed taking my Mini there for service. The showroom was coolly contemporary, its white-floored service area spotless, and the waiting rooms, stocked with coffee, cookies, chocolates, couches, and flatscreen TVs, encouraged lounging.

I’ll miss the friendly, knowledgeable, and easygoing salesperson (with photos of his Siberian huskies on his desk) and the kindly, competent sales manager who guided me to my car (I’d long wanted a Mini but didn’t want to go to Memphis to get one; when this dealership opened I practically broke its door down). I’ll miss the courtesy cars cheerfully provided without having to argue to get one when my car was being serviced. And when my lease is up, I’ll miss my Mini; I can’t see getting another if there’s no dealership hereabouts.

We all have favorite retailers, restaurants, and service providers that have departed the physical world yet linger in memories. Among them are the elegant M.M. Cohn department store at University Mall, outdoorsy Take a Hike in Hillcrest, Design Center in the Heights (one of the few sellers of contemporary decor, along with Soho Modern in Riverdale), Savers thrift stores in central Arkansas, and Kaleidoscope Thrift Shop in Kavanaugh, a resale shop stuffed with designer duds at low prices that benefited an area hospice for kids.

Sure, we’ve got the Internet now—efficient, inventive, and fully stocked. But nobody has fond memories of ordering online. We’d surely miss it if it went away, but mourning? Probably not.

Karen Martin is senior editor of Perspective.

Print Headline: KAREN MARTIN: The scope of mourning


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