What with the news about Roth’s Keizer-location grocery store announcing its close, Were thinking a lot about that town. We believe Keizer can teach us things about how we choose to build our communities, and the folly of unwise choices.
Keizer was created in 1982, when what was north of Salem split off to formed its own city.  Because of its late start, Keizer never really had a downtown. What it did have – and what might have served to center the place, give it an identity – was the long strip development of River Road.

This “business district” consists of mostly locally owned businesses; it’s Keizer’s Main Street. It has local banks and restaurants, car washes and insurance offices, taverns and Hispanic businesses – and for a long time, locally family-owned Roth’s grocery store. A lot of good people live around there, and I am proud of the many small businesses that have survived and built up what Keizer is today.

But when an outside monkey wrench got thrown into the machinery – when the Keizer Station mall was approved – everything changed. City leaders driven by city staff (and isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?) allowed developer Chuck Sides to build a cheerless, uninspired moonscape, miles from Keizer’s center, for absentee-owned big box stores and fast food chains to squat in a pedestrian-unfriendly asphalt wasteland.

This huge retail development was plopped down on the edge of the city. The city promised, ‘oh, it will only be this limited size, and won’t have a Walmart,’ but then changed the plan to allow bigger stores.

It’s called “bait and switch” and Keizer leaders should be ashamed of themselves. They sold out their people and their businesses to the highest bidder.

The moment Keizer Station was erected its multi-national corporate stores began to compete with indigenous River Road enterprises. For the last many years it has drained creativity and resources from Keizer’s Main Street. With more greed than foresight Keizer put their own business district on a path of mediocrity. Even the city’s main annual event (the Iris Festival) has been yanked from the former main street out to the concrete wasteland.

What a way to thank local businesspeople! And now, in 2012, the specter of a giant Walmart joining the Keizer Station team has appeared again.

It’s funny how the Walmart rumor just doesn’t want to die. It seems that Walmart really values Keizer. And Keizer… well, what does Keizer value?

At this point leaders still say there is no current plan to have Walmart move in. We find their statement pretty hard to credit when you look at what they’ve done so far.

The threat of Walmart and the decision of Target to expand their grocery business has been enough to force Roth’s off of River Road. Salem Weekly wishes the best for the people and local businesses of Keizer.  And so here’s this week’s advice: Please don’t shop at any of the stores at Keizer Station.

Yes, I said that. Shop at locally owned business whenever you can, because our choices of what to buy begin to shrink with every additional big box store. And while I’m on a roll, here’s a little extra: think of Keizer Station during the next election. Think about a community that might still stand up for itself and save what is unique and special rather than caving in to be another Anywhere USA.

And if you don’t, well – maybe they should change their name to the City of Keizermart.

What do you think? Talk about it.