'Twas the night before bankruptcy at Harford Mall [Letter]

This was received in mid-October, shortly before Sears Holdings filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Editor.

On a recent Saturday night, in a very nostalgic mood, I went to the Sears store at Harford Mall.


Harford Mall was once home to Woolworth’s, Korvette’s, Hecht Company, Hochschild-Kohn and Montgomery Ward’s. This Sears store used to be a Montgomery Ward’s store, the exact store I used to work at as a store detective in the early 1980s.

On this Saturday evening there were neither shoppers nor shoplifters to be found; the store was empty. I always loved the holiday displays, decorations and general holiday ambiance at Ward’s.

Soon after I entered the store, I looked up and saw on a top shelf some stuffed Christmas characters. Looking down on it all, probably for the last time from this particular perch, was little Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The irony hit me hard.

It’s not widely known that Rudolph had his genesis at Montgomery Ward’s, a character created in-house for a coloring booklet to give the children. The creator, a Ward’s employee, got the idea for the bright nose cutting through the fog while watching fog roll over Lake Michigan from his Ward’s office in Chicago, while pondering how to develop his reindeer story.

The rest is history and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is an industry all to himself. He survived the retail giant that gave him birth and now stares down from a shelf in a store of a different faltering retail giant, gazing at the Christmas items that will shine for one more season…if even that.

Sadly, there is no Island of Misfit Toys to offer refuge to the items that will not make it to a warm home for Christmas. These items will be marked for clearance and liquidated. Even a shiny red nose won’t be able to navigate out of the darkness that has fallen on brick and mortar stores.

Like Montgomery Ward’s, Sears may soon be gone, another sad chapter in the demise of the golden age of retail. Fortunately, Rudolph will live on forever, even if only available online and, of course, he will always make his yearly flight on Christmas Eve.

Arthur Radford Baker

Ellicott City