by Jen Rouse
The Short Years
I have a secret love.
I don’t often speak its name, because it is not a glamorous love. It is not hip, and neither is it urban, edgy, or cool.
This love I have, is for a store. This store’s name is Bi-Mart.
I know that suburban mothers like me are supposed to be in love with Target. After all: cute cheap clothes! Knock-off designer furniture! Wine with pretty labels! And don’t get me wrong. I also love Target. I spread my love around.
But Bi-Mart, people. Bi-Mart.
If you’re not from Oregon, you might be confused. Or perhaps, if you are from Oregon, but you’re a Portlandia, hipster, foodie kind of Oregonian, you might also be confused. Bi-Mart is a store. A locally-owned, regional to the Northwest, mini-department store chain. And it is as down-home and non-fancy as you can get.
Cement floors. Old, buzzing fluorescent lighting. Deliberately hideous shelving and product arrangements. (I mean, it must be deliberate, right? They couldn’t be attempting to make their stores look good, and coming up with that.) A loud, irritating buzzer at the front of the store that an employee has to ring so that you can be admitted into their fine retail establishment. A wide selection of guns and fishing lures.
But, if you can get past the fact that apparently someone’s redneck uncle is heavily involved in the aesthetic choices they make, Bi-Mart actually has stinking good prices on a lot of nice stuff. KitchenAid appliances. Beer from local micro-breweries. Electronics (we bought our TV there a few years ago–best price we could find after scouring every single Black Friday ad). And for camping, hiking, and outdoor stuff, they’re the best place in town (in my town, anyway) to find what you need.
Also, I kind of dig it that they’re so extremely un-hip. They are the anti-Target, if you will. There is no pressure here. I am not bombarded with heavily stylized ads and pictures of adorable families everywhere I turn. I do not walk down the aisles feeling as though my current possessions are really inadequate, and that I am pretty much a loser with no style, and that my life would be so much better if I could only, only have those adorable serving dishes. And also those boots. And a new bedspread and a pretty case for my phone.
No, Bi-Mart has a much more chill vibe. Bi-Mart says to me, “Hey, here’s some stuff. We have it just stacked up on shelves like regular people, pretty much the way you stack your stuff on shelves at your own house, and if you’d like to take some of this stuff and put in your tiny cart, that would be fine, and we’ll even stuff it in a paper sack and carry it out to your car for you now. Have a real nice day, ma’am.”
Even the weekly ad that comes in the paper for Bi-Mart is so, so un-glitzy that I just can’t help loving it. This week’s flyer featured, right on the front page, ads for:
- Snickers bars,
- insulated Carrhart workwear,
- a portable propane heater,
- an oil popcorn popper,
- and Franzia boxed wine.
If that’s not an assortment of items guaranteed to give you a good time, I don’t know what is.
And then you turn the page, and there are the clothing specials of the week.
Now, just hypothetically, say that you were a store considering selling a clothing item such as jeggings. Knowing that jeggings are difficult to pull off at their best, you might consider a really wild and crazy move like…um…hiring a professional model? Someone attractive, to imply to the consumer that *jeggings look good?*
Like this picture from… (where do you think? I’m not naming names, but I’ll just say that the brand in the picture is Mossimo, and you can fill in the rest).
Nope. Not Bi-Mart.
This is the picture in their ad this week.
Yep. These are jeggings. These are jeggings on a real person. And this is what you will look like if you wear them.
Truth in advertising! This, my friends. This is why I love Bi-Mart.