Sears: Looking back at retailer's High Desert history

Bend store prepres to close, ending decades of shopping

Sears: Looking back at retailer's High Desert history

BEND, Ore. - "Sears is truly what everyone thinks of first as the catalog."

The Sears and Roebuck catalog sales office opened in downtown Bend off Wall Street in 1954. You might recognize that space now as the FootZone, right next to the Tower Theater.

"We have this national popular cultural memory of the sears catalog and that really is true," said Des Chutes Historical Museum Executive Director Kelly Cannon-Miller said Wednesday.

Fourteen years later, Sears catalog store moved into a bigger space at the then "Bend Plaza" on Third and Franklin, where the Safeway is now.

"When America went to malls and suburban shopping, that was Sears' chance to come in and hit back against Montgomery Wards and Penney's and locally owned places like Wettle's," Cannon-Miller said.

After success in that spot for just a year, Sears opened its first department store and auto center in 1980 on Highway 97 (now Business Highway 97 -- still Third Street). It was called the Bend River Mall-Boyd Center. It was a 185,000-square-foot mall with 24 stores.

The grand opening brought out Winnie the Pooh, Paddington Bear and grand prize giveaways.

The catalogs stopped years ago, and are now a major resource for historians.

"Their catalogs are such a reference for what everyone had access to in those days. The catalog will forever hold a place in historical archives," Cannon-Miller said.

But in the modern world, we've replaced the department-store catalogs with the Internet.

"It's that continuing competition between the chains and buying local and buying online that is part of the national economy at large," Cannon-Miller said.

With that ever-constant tug of war between buying local and saving money at national discount chains, Sears seems to have lost its footing in Bend (and other places, too).

Though not without affirming its place in our history books, as a symbol of a bygone Main Street USA.

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