Very exciting times. Every time I drive out to Sunny Isles, I pass where they're building a Home Depot store. It'll be open by fall and we couldn't be more excited.
Why is it exciting that they're building another big box store? Understand first that there aren't a lot of places to buy things you need here on St. Croix. There's two Kmarts, which I find myself in two or three times a week. Want shampoo, or paper products, or cat food or socks or vitamins? Kmart is pretty much your only choice. There are a couple of decent grocery stores, but no other choices for general "stuff."
There's an Office Max at Sunny Isles, it opened about year before we moved here. I'm told people were so excited they actually made a day of it, going out to see what the store carried. It's pretty good for a lot of the office supply stuff. But unless you're looking for very basic stuff, they never seem to have what you need. I was recently there looking at laptop computers. They have a whole display of them, a dozen or so models all set up to look at. But they don't have a single one to sell - and couldn't tell me when they're likely to! Same with cameras when I was looking for one. I'd like to look at that one Don't have it. How about that one? Not in stock. That one? Also not in stock. I finally was able to buy my fifth choice.
There are several hardware stores on island, but only one worth going to. Gallows Bay Hardware is good, but it's in a difficult place to get to. This is a small island, but depending on traffic, it can take as long as 40 minutes to drive there, which is kind of a pain in the ass. It's also one of the few stores on island with good customer service.
You want terrible customer service? Kmart is your place.
So here comes Home Depot. They had actually announced it was coming in early 2008, but then the economy went sour and their plans were delayed. During last year's gubernatorial election the challenger made a big deal about how it was never going to be built and it was the current governor's fault. Didn't help his campaign when they broke ground two weeks before the election.
So I've been watching. The grading and foundation seemed to take forever, then suddenly the walls flew up. About six weeks ago, driving by at dusk, was the first time I saw lights on inside. I can't tell you how cool that was.
Yes, Home Depot will probably be a problem for some of the existing hardware stores. The one out here on the west side will probably survive, because it's the only one out here if you need something simple and obvious. And Gallows Bay will survive, because it's much handier to people from the east side, and has a well-earned reputation for service and a loyal following. If it was easy to get to I'd go there all the time. They've also been planning for years how to survive Home Depot.
The others will be in trouble, and I can't work up a lot of sympathy. The biggest one on the island is terrible. I've never been able to find what I'm looking for there, or anyone to help me find it. You see people in the aisle with name tags and they either ignore you or run the other way.
Maybe that's the best thing about Home Depot coming. My experience with Home Depot in the states is that service is key. I like a hardware store where you know generally what you need to do and they can't wait to tell you how to do it, and what you'll need. When Home Depot opens in the fall, locals will treat it like a trip to Disneyland. I certainly will. I've already warned the kids that all Christmas presents this year will be bought at Home Depot.
But its biggest impact might be if they can bring that idea of customer service and instill it in the local employees. That'll be the gift that keeps on giving.