Remembering the underwear-fueled debate of 1994

By on April 16, 2014
Steven Seeber, Editor

Earlier this month, the Record Express Out of the Past section revisited the local Walmart protest of 20 years ago. It was the big story of the day. Will “evil” Walmart destroy our “innocent” agricultural heritage? The opposition was strong, and they even made protest signs. That’s when you know people are serious, when they’re willing to drive to Walmart (presumably the Walmart in Lancaster in this case) for sign-making material.

I had just moved to Lititz, an outsider from a small town in Clinton County, where our biggest retail opportunity was the Woolrich General Store. I always thought it was pretty cool that I could buy enough Swedish Fish and 10 penny nails to work on my treehouse throughout the weekend, all in one convenient location!

We love convenience, when it’s convenient.

Anyway, the opposition won and Walmart retreated from the outskirts of Lititz. Who knows, the absence of such a blight may have contributed to our cool town status years later.

Walmart or no Walmart, that land had been rezoned for some kind of commercial development, so more macadam was inevitable. When the Shoppes at Kissel Village was developed, with a Giant grocery store as its anchor, a few years later there wasn’t really any opposition. And then Target joined the party. Again, it was quiet. No one drove to the Target in Reading to buy sign making materials.

So, was development the issue, or was it our disdain for Walmart?

There was some discussion on our Facebook page this week. Keep it going. Some expressed approval for the variety that’s there now, versus one big cinder block rectangle full of cheap plastic. Others said the current development is still unfortunate. I wonder if there was a similar debate 250 years ago when forests were cleared for farmland.

One funny thing that always finds its way into the Walmart discourse is the “Underwear Factor.” It seems that our proximity to affordable under garments has a direct correlation to our development preferences. If it’s between paving that corn field or driving to the city for my tighty whities, bring in the steamrollers! Had the Keystone Underwear Factory, which once flourished on West Main Street (where the Lititz Fire Co. is now located), not gone under there would be no argument. Lititz would be known for pretzels, chocolate and elastic waistbands. Oh, what could have been had our historical foundation been formed just a few years sooner.

As far as shopping plazas go, The Shoppes at Kissel Village is one of the nicer varieties. The big question now is, what restaurant will take the pad site to the east of Target? The “man on the street” has put in his votes for Red Robin, Olive Garden, Buffalo Wild Wings, Panera Bread… Considering the demand for more dining options in the Lititz area, it’s surprising this is taking so long.

And with all this talk of development, I would be remiss to not mention The League, Lititz’s original Chamber of Commerce.

The Young Men’s Business League, which continues its quiet existence at the town square, across the street from borough hall, marks its 100th anniversary on Monday. This organization was founded by some of the most powerful business and political leaders of the time. They were instrumental in attracting new industry to Lititz, they helped pave our dirt roads and light our streets, and they helped make our beloved General Sutter Inn what it is today. Who were these movers and shakers? Stay tuned to your Record Express. One of The League’s youngest members is working on a feature article full of forgotten local history.

Until then, support your local retailers. Buy your underwear in Lititz!

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