Nathaniel’s friends investigate Zellers

Nathaniel Christopher 7 Comments

My buddy Jess of cat power-brushing fame is currently in Newfoundland with her boyfriend Mike. When he told me stories of the scariest and crappiest Zellers location in Canada I did what any good editor would – I sent them on assignment! So, this morning they both walked 45 minutes to the Zellers on Stavanger Drive to document the carnage and share it with the world.

The Zellers of yesteryear, that banal limbo store between WoolCo and The Bay, is getting a makeover. The much-beloved HBC subsidiary is moving toward a store model similar to that of Target (a U.S. discount market store marketing itself as slightly more upscale than K-mart or Walmart). In an effort to mirror this, the HBC company has enrolled Zellers in Target’s likeness. In doing so, however, this transition is not been whole or complete, and some individual stores remain rudderless in terms of decor between the old model of Zellers and the ersatz model of Target.  Case in point: the Zellers on Stavanger Drive in St. John’s, NL, where my partner and I went to document this transitionary agony.

Upon entering, one notices a grotesque sign that can only be interpreted as petty apartheid for the mouth-breathing, bed-wetting crowd, which will no doubt result in a flutter of Tweets comparing Bill Gates to Pieter Botha. It is at this point that I began to dread the sights which were to come. There is a rudderless feeling to the decor, which looks like a cross between Toronto’s Honest Ed’s and a Detroit K-mart. However, in fairness to the Detroit-area K-marts, one does not go snow-blind due to the lack of excess melanin found in the store’s patrons, in which Columbia Sportswear-clad teenagers and blue-haired biddies mingle upon a white-tiled Serengeti that is as vast and expansive as Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of the Batcave, as opposed to a fully-realized store.

The bare-boned carcasses of shelves picked over by post-Boxing Day bargain-hunting vultures are merely a front to contain the existential horrors of Zellers Restaurant, patronized by people who have never encountered folic acid in their diets. “Fee and chee, some shocking good luh! Eh b’y!”

The Zellers pharmacy seems miles away, which I presume is because the manager perceives OxyContin as a loss leader.

The speculative reasons for such blatant mannequin nudity abound. One: The topless mannequins do not approve of ribbed tanktops. Two: The visual merchandising was done by someone who reads National Geographic rather than Vogue. Three: Visual merchandiser was the unholy spawn of Gloria Steinem and Amanda Marcotte.

Somewhere off in the distance is the music, video, and electronics section, with a neon sign that surely was the pride of 1987. Upon this sacred ground, the spirit of Mill Creek Entertainment, with its bargain basement DVDs of Ozzie & Harriet and Gunsmoke, did battle with the ghost of Good Times Home Video in a Highlander-eqsue ferocity for supremacy of which brand released more ghetto imprints.

This free-standing display of Comet, Mr. Clean, and other household cleansers beckons belatedly to those who were expecting guests for Christmas and Boxing Day. Alternately, they could provide a fresh-scented yet agonizing way out of having to deal with the relatives. (Note: this is not an incitement to commit self-harm.)

It’s good to see that collectors can still find merchandise from The Fly 3: Seth Brundle’s Rocky Mountain Holiday Revenge. eBay speculators take note.

The wall-mounted electric fireplace adds a touch of desperation as well as necessary elegance to the homes of typical Zellers patrons. The fact that it heats up to 400 square feet is a boon for those who reside in dilapidated single-wides.

We did not walk out of Zellers empty-handed. The treasure trove of bargain-basement DVDs called to us like sirens to Ulysses’ men. We literally spent the better part of an hour digging through direct-to-DVD classics and She-Ra: Princess of Power box sets to find these. Footnote: It would be a good idea for anal-retentive collectors who value bitrate over economy and per capita content to hasten to their nearest Zellers and pick up these disks while they still can due to Mill Creek Entertainment’s buyout of BCI.

The Stavanger Drive box-store area is actually quite an affluent area of St. John’s; the Costco is right next door, and Old Navy is across the street. However, the Zellers within its confines is perhaps a telling example of how transitions in store decor and business model are never as complete and timely as one may suspect.  Like the acculturation of the Highland Scots into Western modernity, it is often a painful and brutal process which leaves few survivors and many broken dreams. The mountains will always most assuredly lag behind the plains.

Fuck you, Zeddy.

I am a resident of Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, who has been blogging here for nearly 25 years. I enjoy sharing my thoughts and feelings on my own online platform. From 1998 until 2017, I worked as a journalist, and I have posted most of my articles in the 'News' section of this website.


  1. This is pseudo intellectual dribble. The writer comes off snobby and pretentious. You’re the kind of person other people on the bus hate to listen to.

  2. Dear Anonymous Douchebag:

    You fail at spelling and grammar. Therefore, your argument is invalid and shall be given all the consideration it deserves: none. You must be one of the aforementioned mouth-breathing bed-wetting crowd to get your knickers in such a twist. Also, you’re probably the type of person who has to sneak up on your own hand in order to masturbate.

    Thank you, come again.

  3. I found this article to be very grating to read. The jokes were extremely obvious and tiring. After reading through the review I found my self growing tired of the lame set ups and extremely obvious observations…

    The effort of trying to be clever did not work and was not forgivable because the voice of the writer came across as exrtremely unlikable…

  4. The sign in the window makes no sense, as Microsoft has no reason to issue a press release on an exclusive Sony product – and I must disagree with the indictment Mike makes on this particular Zellers store. Yes, it does seem like a Detroit-area K-Mart (I have experienced both this location and cross-border discount shopping), but that is because this Zellers store has carved out a niche for itself in the St. John’s marketplace. It would not fare well against Wal-Mart or even Dominion (Grocery store et al retailer) on their turf. This Zellers has held its own for quite some time simply as a dollar store taken to its logical conclusion.

    Out back in the electronics department – the stock and the prices are 10 years behind the times, the toy aisle has dollar store stock (including the “Super Man Hand Gun (part of Ultraman World Force)” and the clothing on offer fills the fashion void between walmart and the salvation army. It provides a viable alternative for those who want to pay near-retail prices, but do not want to buy tinned meat labeled only in czech.

    The market segment the Zellers rebrand is trying to secure across the country is occupied as Newfoundland is a different animal from the rest of the country. The Stavanger Zellers is the essence of the last remaining Bi-Way (lowest tier on the HBC ladder, now defunct), and to raise it’s level would put it into the rarefied air where it would not survive.

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