March 17, 2013 in City

Doug Clark: Losing Huppin’s costs downtown part of soul

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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The news flash stopped me cold Thursday afternoon.

Huppin’s TV, Audio, Cameras and More is closing its iconic store in the downtown business core.

Say what?

Downtown Spokane without Huppin’s?

That’s like …

Dick’s without all those tasty fries.

City Hall without a resident one-term mayor.

Randy Shaw minus the mole.

The last time I remember being so flummoxed by a local business development was back in 1992, when Spokane’s iconic Crescent ceased to be a department store.

Huppin’s may not be on the grand level of a Crescent.

But it definitely qualifies as a larger-than-life institution, so much more than a mere place to buy a flat-screen or some groovy hi-fi goodies.

The family-owned business has been part of our downtown scene since 1908 – when rough-ridin’ Teddy Roosevelt occupied the presidency.

Huppin’s played a major part in my career in the early 1970s, when I gave up pursuing a music degree and decided to take a nose dive into journalism.

I sold my trumpet and then took the money downtown, where I bought my first camera at Huppin’s.

If that doesn’t qualify a firm for landmark status, what does?

This is no eulogy for Huppin’s, of course.

While the downtown store at 421 W. Main Ave. will close, Huppin’s at 8016 N. Division St. will remain open along with the store’s online site.

So no need to worry about the fate of Huppin’s.

What I’m far more concerned about is how this exodus will affect the city’s center.

See, there are plenty of things the downtown can stand to lose.

As in: potholes, parking meters and panhandlers who don’t know that “No” means “NO!”

But every healthy city needs a vibrant center with bustling businesses and pedestrian-filled sidewalks.

Show me a city without a business core and I’ll show you, well, Spokane Valley comes to mind.

Where is that city center, anyway?

Several exploration parties have been lost trying to locate the danged thing. So far, the most likely contenders are …

A. The old University City site.

B. The Spokane Valley Mall.

C. House of Hose.

Spokane’s commercial core will survive losing Huppin’s, of course.

But this is a serious blow to the 400 block of West Main. The area is already reeling from the loss of Gary Singer, who died last month.

Singer owned Huppin’s’ next-door neighbor, Dutch’s Inc. His unexpected departure has put the future of the famed pawn shop/music store in doubt.

How weird would it be to have both of these fixtures gone?

And after Huppin’s played such a huge role in helping to rehabilitate what was once one of the more notorious sections of downtown Spokane.

Huppin’s set the tone for the neighborhood’s much-improved appearance. The store is sharp, clean and stocked with fabulous gear.

In the end, however, nobody can fault company President Murray Huppin for doing what it takes to succeed.

The Division Street store is larger, more customer-friendly and has abundant free parking, he told the newspaper.

“This makes the most sense for the future of our company. It gives us the brightest future.”

Murray’s a stand-up guy. I wish him the best.

But damn. The downtown without Huppin’s?

Say it ain’t so.

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or dougc@spokesman.com.

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