For two short days in July, kids and adults alike lined up inside Blackhawk Hardware for a ride down its shiny, twisty, happy new red slide.
What’s happening: The spiral slide made the rounds on Instagram and in local media (hi), but its popularity also caught the eye of the hardware store’s insurance company, which soon told owner Andy Wilkerson the slide had to go.
- “Basically our insurer changed his mind,” Wilkerson tells me, noting that he previously received the OK from a representative. (Wilkerson declined to say which insurance company.)
The big picture: A 44-year-old neighborhood staple, Blackhawk recently expanded its store by 12,000 square feet and added new features like a 15-foot T-rex dangling from the ceiling and this slide. The Park Road Shopping Center space now spans 75,000 square feet.
- The slide was about a $25,000 to $30,000 investment, Wilkerson tells me.
“Our motto is to delight our customers,” he says. Between Amazon and a slew of other online retailers, he says customers are looking for something more engaging if they’re choosing to shop in-person.
- Exhibit A: Blackhawk’s free popcorn, which isn’t going anywhere for the record.
- Exhibit B: The slide. In its short stint, the slide was in constant use. “People loved it,” Wilkerson says.
Zoom out: Retail is still working to recover after a tough pandemic year (and a half). Businesses like Blackhawk are doing what they can to drum up foot traffic.
What’s next: The slide will remain closed. Wilkerson is weighing his options and looking for a new home for it, ideally one where children can make good use of it.
“It’s extremely disappointing to me because it’s the one thing everyone is looking forward to,” he says. Wilkerson pauses and then turns hopeful: “Or maybe someone can come up with a way to save it.”
My thought bubble: After this pandemic year (and a half), can’t we just have one fun thing? Sheesh.