Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ghosts Of Retail

Courtesy of Google Images
So yesterday I mentioned the new Fountains at Farah shopping center in El Paso, Texas.  Today I met an old friend there for coffee.  After she left, Ed and I did a little more shopping - Ed bought a new pair of shoes, and then we hit Nordstrom Rack to have Ed try on suits for his million miler awards banquet in July.

When I first saw the name, Fountains at Farah, I said to myself, Farah is a Middle Eastern name.  That's unusual here in El Paso where Spanish words and names seem to be the norm.  I wonder what the significance of Farah is?

So today I did a little research.

What I found first was this 1998 obituary for William F. Farah, the descendant of the Lebanese family that settled in Texas at the turn of the century, and ran a large men's apparel business founded in 1920.  His father, Mansour, was the Farah behind the name.

The Farah family made millions on one of the most popular clothing items of the seventies, the leisure suit - I remember my father and uncles wearing leisure suits, they were the height of fashionable polyester.  By 1972, Farah became the world's largest manufacturer of men's and boy's slacks.

But that same year the company suffered an enormous blow when the plant's workers went on strike.  The strike, which was the second largest of its kind, lasted almost two years (22 months) and effectively crippled the company.  They lost millions of dollars simply by workers and their supporters spreading the word to NOT BUY Farah products.

Imagine what it would be like if people today, not just workers at companies, boycotted products in this manner?  It's one thing for workers to want fair wages, better benefits, and reasonable working conditions - no wonder Walmart doesn't want their workers to unionize - but it's another for consumers to have their voices heard by not buying something that causes others to suffer.  The power of that decision was seen in this strike - over forty years ago.

¡Viva La Huelga! (Long live the strike!)

That said, the union contract in 1974 did include pay increases and job security amount other provisions, but Farah still suffered financially and later contracts removed many of the benefits won in the strike.  Farah, Inc. had significant losses in years following, and went through some changes, but the company is still around today.

So that sort of solves the mystery of the name.  The original manufacturing plant was the subject of some
debate.  Back in 2008, the City Council said, "If taxpayers are going participate in the retail development of the old Farah site, then City Council doesn’t want just another mall or pretty shopping center with the same old stores but something special, unusual, innovative and new to El Paso."

The construction began in 2012 and was finished in late 2013.  There are still some stores that are "Coming Soon" - like West Elm (love!) - but with its fountains, live entertainment area, and outdoor space, El Paso ultimately got a beautiful new multi-level shopping center.  They even have electric car charging stations!

And now I have a reason to stop in a town we usually breeze through in the wee hours of the morning.  

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2013:  Orange Is The Devil
2012: Sixteen Hundred Miles Makes All The Difference
2011: In Need Of Some Color
2010: 122 Years And Counting
2009: Sixteen Days Old
2008: Racism Comes With A Convenient Handle
2007: Evening Tide
2006: Glittering Pasties And Swinging Tassles
2005: Sorry, no post on this day. The blog didn’t start until May 2005!

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