Until yesterday, I hadn’t paid much attention to Bi-Mart, a regional “worker owned” drug and discount store. However, needing to rent a Rug Doctor to clean up our rental carpeting, I found myself at the west Eugene Bi-Mart, paying five dollars to join the store and gain access to its discounted wares (dairy products, lawn ornaments, shower curtains, fishing gear, floor fans, and yes, carpet cleaner). Though the store merchandise matched up with every other place I shop in Eugene, I was bewitched by its overaching, out-of-time, in-store decor (waxed concrete floors), cool numbered aisle lights and friendly, charismatic sales staff (the kind of sweet stock characters once played by Thelma Ritter or Ruth Buzzy)(one elderly saleswoman was puzzling over the cash register logistics of a 2-1 sale on dvds…. the discount being for a copy of Doctor Strangelove). Overall, I got the feeling that I was shopping in a store from my E.Washington childhood–a place predating the current trend towards overstuffed, art directed box stores. Not sure how I missed out on Bi-Mart for so long but I’ll definitely be back next week for a bag of Brachs Harvest Corn and maybe a little white particle board bookshelf for my Ellendale office.
ADDENDUM: Now that I look, I see the Bi-Mart brand everywhere: providing advertising support for a college football halftime program, as a reoccuring coupon book in my mailbox, sponsoring a local international film festival.