Friday, June 22, 2012

Factories, then outlets, then crud.

Tragic to learn via @economichardship that Reading, PA has the highest poverty rate in the U.S., with 41.3% of residents below the poverty line. This from Joy Resmovits in the Huffington Post, who says the city is laying off 170 schoolteachers and canceling pre-kindergarten.

The thing about Reading is, people used to make things there. The place was full of textile mills.

Then some of the mills became factory outlet stores. My family used to go there in the 1970s and '80 to buy things like overcoats and underwear. It was an adventure and a treat because the outlets genuinely sold manufacturers' seconds. You had to rummage through heaped tables and racks of stuff and mistrust the size labels and check for stitching defects, and you'd come out with something like a good London Fog raincoat for some absurdly small price because of a fixable problem like a badly sewn collar button.

Then the outlet spaces began to be better lit and more like regular retail stores. The things for sale in them began to be of cheaper fabrics sewn at greater distances from Redding. Still there were some good bargains if you looked. I still have a good suit, older than most of the kids in those Redding schools, that was made in Mexico and bought in Redding.

Now there are malls labeled as outlet centers in Redding as elsewhere in the U.S., and Redding has nothing big that comes uniquely from Redding, and the place is sunk.

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