Requiem for a Sears

Laura Jedeed
10 min readDec 3, 2021

Not With A Whimper, But A Decades-Long Postcapitalist Scream

When I read that the last Sears store in New York City would close forever in November 2021, I could not believe it. I could not believe that someone cared enough about Sears to write an entire article about it.

The author described the Brooklyn Sears building as “historic,” which to me implies some kind of artistic merit. Beautiful. Bold. At least iconic. I forgot that sometimes history is boring as hell. Sometimes, historic architecture looks exactly like every rat-trap shopping mall in Middle America. As I walked up to the hulking, windowless slab of a store, I felt myself transported back in time to small-town Colorado, a place I would have gnawed my own legs off to escape.

Photo by Laura Jedeed / CC BY

They all look the same. Every podunk shopping mall in America. I’d never stopped to wonder why that is. Or why shopping malls exist in the first place. Or why every suburb has one. It felt as natural as the passing seasons, as the rising of the sun in the east.

It’s Sears. Sears is why. And now Sears is dead.

Before I was born, Sears was big. Amazon big. Between 1 and 2 percent of America’s entire GDP from World War II all the way through the 80s big. And now they aren’t. And the story of why they aren’t mirrors the story of America itself.

Here lies the corpse of an empire. I enter her vast sepulcher. Yellow signs tastelessly announce her impending demise. EVERYTHING MUST GO.

Whatever your political opinions, it’s hard these days to escape the feeling that restless America will soon wake screaming from her long, sweet dream. The stirrings have already begun. The ground shifts beneath our feet.

Few Americans ever dreamed a longer and sweeter dream than Sears Roebuck & Co: American fantasy made flesh. And few Americans ever woke up as rudely, catastrophically, and horrifically either.

Bootstraps and Gumption

Richard J Sears strides onto the pages of history as the embodiment of American mythos.

Sears grew up modestly wealthy, but his father lost the family fortune through speculation and died penniless. Just seventeen years old, Richard Sears went to work for the St. Louis railroad to…

Laura Jedeed

Writer, videographer, journalist with opinions. Come, let us walk into the apocalypse together. She/Hers. I’m on Twitter: @LauraJedeed