Goodbye, SBM

We heard the sad news early in March that our one, true office supply store closed. Southwest Business Machines was a fixture in town, and it was a good place to find just the right office supplies that Walmart didn’t have, or either had cheap and unsatisfactory versions of what we wanted. Husband is very fussy about his pens, and they have to have just the right ink flow and roller size. He also liked their brown, expandable folders with elastic closures. I liked the pink pencil top erasers that work much better than the cheaper red ones. I use a lot of pencils in my psychological testing. I like the blue .07 mechanical Pentel pencils they had. It was also a good place to buy computers and printers, and they installed our new printer in January. Husband could buy #3 pencils by the box.

Last summer the road in front of the store had major work with lane closures and detours, and I think that business suffered. I image that office supply stores like SBM have a hard time competing with the larger stores like Office Max. The nearest big box office supply store, aside from Walmart, is 100 miles away. I have a hard time justifying driving 100 miles for pencil top erasers. There are office supplies at our work, but the State purchases what is the cheapest and not necessarily the best. I guess we will have to stock up and be opportunistic shoppers of office supplies, just like we are with groceries.

What are you particular about? What are your favorite office supplies? What stores are you mourning?

16 thoughts on “Goodbye, SBM”

  1. I like a good pen too, especially for autographing books. I don’t like rollerball pens because the ink smears too easily and my bad penmanship seems to get magnified with rollerball ink. But I hate regular pens where the ink doesn’t flow smoothly, either. It sort of sticks and skips, causing me to rewrite letters or words. And it seems really hard to find ink refills these days! Seems like 99% of pens are now disposable. Just give me a good old Cross pen and a bunch of refills and I’m happy.

    I never thought about favorite office supplies (other than pens) so I guess I don’t have one. I do insist on a decent office chair but that hardly qualifies as a supply since I’ve only owned two in my life.

    I miss the old neighborhood precursors to convenience stores (when I was a kid back in the 60s) that had a little bit of many things and were only a few blocks away. You could buy milk, bread, candy, bubblegum cards, canned goods, health and beauty aids, toiletries, etc.

    Not a big shopper though, so I don’t mourn many stores, Maybe the old record stores where you could browse the vinyl stacks for classic jazz. Dinkytown had a great record store back in the 70s. Can’t remember that name either.

    Finally, a shout out to VerrileeSHerrilee and jennywren for coming to my book signing at Once Upon a Crime on Saturday! Thank you, ladies! VS is such a staunch supporter, and jennywren was a pleasure to meet for the first time. I hope to meet more baboons at future events. It’s really fun getting to match names with faces and chatting for a few minutes. One of the perks of the job.

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 6 people

  2. it’s a precursor to the future that the office depot mentality will mean the end of specialty stores that offer pen choices and good expandable accordion files

    my daughter uses amazon that way and would in this case order 20 different styles of pens and accordion files and try them out take notes and then know what she wants for next time
    i used to do that with shoes and pants online but my body and my needs change and the size and maker that was right last time isn’t the right one two years later
    i love going into the specialty cooking stores and the wonderful book and record stores that are more a tribute to an owners taste than a formula for chain store prototypes
    art stores/galleries are sometimes great sometimes not my cup of tea but that’s the appeal isn’t it.
    my pen choice is a hoot
    i love a good pen and buy one every now and again
    a fountain pen is my decadent favorite but they disappear only to reappear later so i end up with whatever pen is in the pen drawer and go through three to find one where the ink works
    i throw the other two out but next time i rummage through the drawer the first two pens ink don’t work again.
    amazon and online convince will kill all little shops
    it’s a shame but the reality of our world
    sad words

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    I am mourning stores where I can shop for clothes in person to determine the fit. As much as I moan and groan about my dislike of shopping, ordering clothing online is even worse.

    I also am picky about pens, but there are some good pens sold as marketing devices that we use at work. Those do the job because they do not clog up. Spire Credit Union also has good marketing pens with blue ink, which sometimes matters for signatures. And they are free, free, free! Post it notes (not the knock offs with bad glue) are also something I am particular about and I love. My life is run by Post It Notes hanging off of things. For example, if I have an appointment in the morning to remember, I put a Post It on the coffeemaker so I view it first thing.

    Other items: two and three hole punches, rubber bands that do not break, plastic covered paper clips and larger document clips.

    This afternoon I haul all my stuff back to the office in preparation to start work in person tomorrow. Yippee. After I get myself set up and organized I will have more ideas. By mid summer I want to cut back work to two days per week. I hope my intern from this year hires on with us to take up my slack.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. So nice to meet Chris and VerileeSherilee at Once Upon a Crime!. Great to put faces to names and to find out that others go thru a cozy mystery phase. And of course to pick up some books which I theoretically am saving to read during my recovery from a knee replacement in June.

    My spouse was a hoarder of office supplies so I don’t need to visit Amazon or stores-anyone want paper clips, pads, pencils, and clips of all sizes? I use the clips to close chip bags, cat treat bags etc so they are now kitchen supplies as well.

    Stores I wish were closer or still here: the cheese shop 40 years ago that was on Randolph and run by 2 French sisters and the chocolatier who was on Excelsior Blvd and 38th St. I live in downtown and we need closer hardware stores, bakeries, and drugstores with parking lots. I do admit that Amazon is sometimes the only place I can find things like decaffeinated Constant Comment tea.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. What am I particular about? Oh let me count the ways. How the kitchen, the dining room table, the garage (this could go on for a while) is arranged. How the food is cut up and prepared. How the laundry is done, how the floor is vacuumed… is it any wonder Husband doesn’t often volunteer for these tasks?

    I do favor the PaperMate yellow mechanical pencils with retractable leads, rather than the click kind that give too much lead in one click and then break off. I can find them at Target here, as I try not to use Walmart. I know I have some other favorite office supplies – thinking…

    We had a small, old fashioned Goltz Drug Store downtown until the pandemic wiped it out. Was very handy (close) and had several things I can’t find elsewhere, plus great customer service with prescriptions. Luckily, my favorite café here hasn’t gone under.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. It’s kind of a vicious circle. Where there used to be specialty stores that carried a category of products in depth, both the lowest common denominator products which probably made up most of their sales plus the products more discriminating customers preferred. The big box stores, with their buying power, stock the lowest common denominator products at a discount, taking away the base income of the specialty stores.

    If you have specific criteria for a product beyond what the BB stores offer, no matter where you live there are few alternatives, other than seeking your product on Amazon or elsewhere online, where a retailer can access a worldwide customer base. Robin frequently has to rely on Amazon to get tea she likes, or other specialty food items. Even if there is some specialty source somewhere in the city, is it worth the drive across town for just that one item?

    What is missing are the stores with expertise in the full range of their product category, stores with intelligence and individual character.

    Robin has seen quite a few local yarn shops close in the last few years and there used to be more and more varied fabric stores. I personally mourn all the used bookstores that have closed or gone exclusively online.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I just experienced this exact phenomenon on Saturday at Once Upon a Crime. If you go into a big box bookstore there’s obviously a mystery section but it’s all alphabetical by author. At Once Upon a Ctime they have many subsections of mystery and crime novels, Each subsection on its own shelving. And the Sherlock Holmes shelves were right near the cash register. All kinds of books with Sherlock Holmes as the main character, but not written by sir Arthur. It takes specialty curating to be able to do something like that. And it’s fabulous.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. Afternoon-
    There was a shoe store, great owner and he called me by name; miss him. Or the barber I talked about one day.
    There’s a place we buy mattresses, small, family owned, in fact my cousin built out mattress, and they’re still going. I don’t know how, how often can you buy a mattress?? But I’m glad they’re still around. (I know they do a lot of custom mattress for boats, RV’s, ect.).
    Good to find those places and keep using them. W

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Mourning is probably too strong a word for the emotions I have around stores or restaurants that no longer exist, but there are some that I think of wistfully.

    Morgan’s Mexican Lebanese Foods and its “cousin” Josephs Market just
    a block away, both closed years ago. Morgan’s closed first, and it was replaced a couple of years later by a Hmong Tax Service and a martial arts studio of some sort; just not the same vibe. Josephs’ building has been vacant since it closed six or seven years ago. Both were proverbial corner grocery stores that each specialized in several ethnic specialties. I shopped at both for these special items regularly, and simply because I loved the proprietors. Mrs. Morgan was a great lady, and Gene and Irene Josephs were the salt of the earth. They knew their customers and cared about them in a way that no supermarket ever will. I consider myself lucky to have known them and to have experienced the charm of their tiny stores.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. There was a Caribou Coffee a couple of blocks from my house that didn’t survive the two summers of road construction and bridge repair. I do miss it. I can walk a block farther for a Starbucks but I just can’t get over the whole Venti thing. And like Steve, I still miss Caravan Serai over in Saint Paul.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Oh my goodness, business supplies. I really can’t be left alone inside of a business supply store. I don’t know what appeals to me the most — the pens, the binder clips, the binders, the labels??. If I counted up the number of pens and pencils that I have in my house right now I am sure that it would go close to 200. I have a little pails and containers of pens and pencils all over the place. And of course when you have this many pens and pencils you can’t claim to be that particular about them. I do like roll-on ink better than ballpoint and I have a lot of those. I also really like to have lots of colors. So whenever I buy pens I almost always buy multiple packs that have different colors.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Downtown St. Paul used to have a lot of little specialty shops that I lament still. St. Paul Book & Stationery had all those fancy pens, and the ink refills for them. Three Acre Wood was the shop where I bought many of my very first record albums. Gleason’s had some lovely Scandinavian-inspired knickknacks, and bins of nuts and candied fruit. Three Sisters was a reasonably priced clothing store. Istill have a straw hat I bought there in the 70’s.

    So much has changed. Candyland still survives, though. They have the best caramel ad cheese popcorn. I like to think there will always be a Candyland in St. Paul.

    Liked by 4 people

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