Clas Ohlson in Manchester by Magnus D

Three years ago when I moved to Stockholm, one of the first pieces of advice I remember getting was: “go to Clas Ohlson.” I had just landed in Stockholm with all my possessions for a one-year study abroad packed in two large rolling suitcases. I needed just about everything you could imagine; toothpaste, pots and pans, a lamp, plug converters… Clas Ohlson had me covered.

Now if you were in any major American city, the question would be: how do I get there? I don’t have a car, and it’s probably in the suburbs, right? That was the magic of Clas Ohlson. It was right downtown, not kind of downtown, but smack dab in the middle of the downtown shopping district, a 2-minute walk from T-Centralen, the convergence of Stockholm’s 7 subway lines and commuter rail system.

Easy access to Clas Ohlson, combined with nearly universal co-location of grocery stores and subway stations, allowed me to live a car-free lifestyle without compromising on access to either the daily necessities or the odds and ends of everyday life. Between ICA and Coop, the two largest grocery chains in Scandinavia, essentially every subway station had a grocery store (see links for maps). In the year that I lived in Stockholm I set foot in a car just three times. The city’s commercial and neighborhood centers were developed around transit in a way that makes cars unnecessary for everyday life, elevating a car-free lifestyle from second-class to mainstream.

Equally important as access to these stores, was their general affordability. Yes, of course everything in Sweden is expensive compared to the US, but these stores are not specialty stores. Lack of affordable shopping for everyday needs is, in my opinion, a huge impediment to a car-free lifestyle in the US. Many people simply can’t afford to meet their daily needs by shopping at boutiques or Whole Foods. Those stores serve the upper middle class, but they do not help foster midrange, affordable urban living, something we sorely need.

My experience in Stockholm is why I’m so excited for the opening of a downtown Target. With a grocery store as well as home and apparel sections, it will provide everything one needs for an affordable car-free lifestyle. Located at 2nd and Pike, just a block from University Street Station and all other downtown bus service, this store will hopefully start to help Seattleites live a convenient and affordable car-free lifestyle like the one I was able to enjoy.

62 Replies to “Shopping for Everyday Living”

  1. Thanks for posting this, Adam – I was hoping someone from the STB would comment – and yours is spot on. This is the most important event in downtown since the Link opening 3 years ago, way eclipsing The Rack’s move to Westlake Center.

      1. Yay no more rides on the 41! Now there is only three things I can’t do downtown work, hmart and my wife’s perm.

    1. I now have zero reason to ever go to Northgate again and with the Metro 5’s deletion of the Northgate tail, this only reinforces that. Sweet!

  2. I’m extremely excited about Target for this exact reason: until now, I’ve shopped at Whole Foods, largely because it was the easiest to get too. Now I have a great option for not just food, but a whole bunch of other things, too.

      1. While you could shop and eat healthily there, their selection and prices aren’t great overall. Even when I lived at 1st/Pike I used to bus it to Metro Market in Uptown to shop once a week.

      2. If you get to PPM after 5:30, you’ll get your choice of picked-over remnants while the owner is half-occupied closing down the shop. The cheese place is good, but pricey. Even in the mornings when groceries are fresh, you’ll typically be paying boutique prices for average stuff — you’d do better buying everything at the Melrose Market.

        I lived by PPM for six months and I can count on the fingers of my hands how many times I shopped for groceries there. For working adults, it’s not a substitute for a full-service grocery store open ’til at least 9 PM.

      3. I’d take PPM over Target any day for fruit and vegetables (and flowers, for that matter). But when it comes to business hours and the other 95% of what Target sells, PPM falls short.

      4. I used to regularly do my grocery shopping at Pike Place on my way home from work and found the produce, service, and prices to be excellent all the way up until they put the veggies into their sleeping boxes. Later hours would be great but when the market is open the value is unbeatable.

      5. Actually, I shop weekly just before closing time at the produce stall at the corner of Pike Place and Pike Street, and the quality is still good.

      6. I’ve never felt the produce, seafood, or meat was ‘picked over’ toward the end of the day at the Pike Place Market. I find produce prices to be quite competitive with any other store, especially when quality is factored in. Sure the meat and seafood is expensive, but you’ll pay similar or higher prices elsewhere for anything close to the same quality.

        I live near a Whole Foods and a Safeway but go out of my way to shop at the PPM at least once a week (along with a neighborhood farmer”s market).

      7. Well, there’s a difference between produce and other food. The produce is mostly conventional (i.e., not organic), so its price is like Safeway. Meat is equivalent to supermarkets’ butcher counter; i.e., higher-end than the prepackaged hamburger, so it’s priced in that range. The cheese is exclusively gourmet from what I’ve seen, no Tillimook baby loaves anywhere, so priced like Whole Foods. Tea and spices are more or less the same as other places that sell loose tea in bulk.

  3. I live two blocks from this new Target, and I’m really looking forward to the options it will create.

  4. I bet they’ll also make a ton of money off tourists who forgot to pack their toothpaste/hair brush/underwear/whatever. And they’re directly between the major hotels and Pike Place.

  5. Now if we could only get some heavy industry downtown, like a steel mill or auto assembly plant, even us blue collar guys could join in all the fun.

      1. Pulp mills are a nice touch. I used to live near one in Arkansas and it was a good indicator of the prevailing winds.

      2. the port is not downtown. The sections of the port that were immediately adjacent to downtown have been converted to mostly non-maritime uses.

      3. Our offices look out on Terminal 46 which I assure you is quite busy.

        Compared to most cities the marine terminals of our port are quite close to downtown.

    1. There is a steel mill:

      Nucor Steel Seattle is a proud member of the Nucor Bar Mill Group. Since 1904 our facility once proclaimed as “Seattle Little Pittsburgh” has continually strived to be the safest, community oriented, environmentally responsible, and profitable business we can be.

      And Filson still manufactures most of their top end stuff in Seattle.

      1. Not in downtown. But is in an industrial zone which is where such activities should occur. Unfortunately, industrial zones inside cities are endangered species.

      2. Fortunately. Industrial uses have a place near downtowns, but they just don’t have the worker density needed to justify space downtown. The reason downtowns exist and work well is that you can connect a maximum number of people together. Eat up half a building with machinery and you lose this benefit.

      3. So where can we relocate SODO that will have good transit for workers and customers? Not to Kent or Bothell or Issaquah or Auburn unless local transit in those areas is vastly improved and runs for the entire span of work shifts (i.e., night owls). It doesn’t help if you arrive at Kent Station or Auburn station and have to walk 45 minutes to your job site.

        Since that has little chance significant transit improvements in the suburbs in the next decade, the industrial areas in Seattle need to be protected, or you’re forcing more people into cars.

    2. In addition to getting a decent address to public transit into the Waterfront project, especially a working streetcar line, I really would like to see enough industry to let the place earn its living by some means other than entertainment and shopping.

      Same for the rest of Downtown. It doesn’t have to be steel mills- though the last decades have brought many of the same changes to industry as to, say, cars themselves: such as lighter, more efficient, and much better-handling.

      A harbor town is supposed to smell like roasting coffee, baking bread, and brewery yeast. But in addition, computer-assisted design and “rapid prototyping” can make it possible for customers to sit in with engineers and help design the products they want to buy- manufactured either in Seattle or anywhere else in the world.

      Nothing against great “apps” and good software. Everything above, including the revival of neighborhood beer these last 20 years or so, is the result of modern electronic controls making small batches profitable. But I really think this town will have a better feel to it when the average person starts making things again.

      And the average person will find life more rewarding for doing this.

      Mark Dublin

  6. Geoff, yes I can work downtown but I don’t. I work in Redmond after I got in a car accident we moved downtown. Everything is easier from here except my commute. We looked at apartments in downtown Redmond but we decided that for our future downtown Seattle was better.

  7. I had exactly this same experience moving to Cork City. Luckily, I only lived 8 blocks from all the High Street Retailers. I miss Topman (and Next)!!!

  8. Two questions:

    Is it new development, or a new tenant in an existing building?

    Does anyone know if the store will have off-street parking?

    Both factors influence how excited I get about the new store. I’m not particularly fond of Target (I usually shop at JCPenney and Nordstrom Rack), but it will be nice to see a new department store downtown.

    1. There is off-street parking and bicycle parking in the garage. I’m not sure if the garage parking is free for a specific time or pay (I imagine it is pay).

      1. It is a new tenant in an existing building. There is pay parking I read somewhere that If you spend over $20 you can get your first hour validated. With the exception of the rare large purchase do you really need your car for target though?

      2. @Wes: Whether or not a store provides parking says something about the clientele they’re trying to attract.

        @Andrew: Thanks for the link.

  9. Ahhh…lovely Stockholm. If you could build a perfect city from scratch, I think the end result would look something like that city. It actually makes living easy. Prices are a bit high…as are taxes, but you don’t really have to worry about anything during your lifetime. It’s a bit surreal being in a place that is blessed with a seemingly ubiquitous upper middle class.

      1. Yeah mostly… unless you want to get a glass with a mustache on it or coffee table books.

  10. I think one point was missed. In Stockholm and most of Sweden the operation and maintenance of public transit is contracted out to private companies.

    1. That is unrelated unless the point your trying to make is that the private sector was in charge of building the infrastructure and city in that way. If that is your point, it’s not correct. SL is a government agengecy that built and planned/plans the transportation system. They manage everything, but then contact out operations to private companies. MTR is the current operator of the subway. This is different then the UK model of full and unbridled privatization of public transit, which hasn’t really delivered.

    2. That’s been a point of contention, actually. There have been a couple of scandals where the private operators have fleeced the taxpayer in Stockholm for services not rendered and the last private contractor that had control over the subway was booted out because they didn’t deliver. Even now, there has been grumbling about MTR both from the public and from employees, including reports that trains are frequently cancelled and the ticket booths empty because MTR hasn’t staffed enough people.

  11. the suburban trojan horse that is Target has invaded Seattle…small business will probably suffer. It’s ironic how many people will demonize a new target going up in the burbs, but when it comes downtown and undercuts prices of specialty stores with its multi department format, it gets praise.

    1. Hold on a minute. Department stores had their genius in downtowns. It wasn’t until the first “malls” were built that stores like the Bon and Fredericks moved out to the ‘burbs. The fact that modern “multi department format” stores are seeing the cities as a viable place to do business is a sign of urban renewal. The ‘burbs are going back to “mail order”.

      1. Yeah very true..places like Tacoma and Everett had their downtowns eviscerated when the Everett Mall and Tacoma Mall opened. They would be a much different place today had the malls never opened in the first place.

    2. Sorry but I just don’t see Target as being a threat to any downtown retailers other than maybe some of the other chains. Those chains already have to compete with Target in their suburban location so it really isn’t a big deal.
      If anything the Target will draw more shoppers downtown which benefits everyone.

    3. Target has a different market than the existing downtown stores. Macy’s and Nordstrom’s are all about more expensive brand-name items. The specialty shops are mostly boutiques selling high-markup items. Target focuses on discount items. Target competes with Fred Meyer and Wal-Mart, not Macy’s. More Target customers downtown can only mean more Macy’s customers too, as people buy a discount shirt for themselves at Target and a Father’s Day tie for their dad at Macy’s.

  12. went to the new Target today. It was awesome. Three stories with access to 1st and Union from the first floor and Pike St from the second. and boy was it crowded. It is located in the first three floors of an existing apartment building build maybe 15 to 20 years ago (replacing the old JC Pennys). It orginally had a theatre in that space that was unsuccessful and then bank office space. The space was always akward and turned it back to the street. the Target works perfect and enhances the street feel. Go check it out.

  13. This is great. There is Bed Bath and Beyond, but there really are very few options when it comes to practical necessities downtown. I searched exhaustively for a booster seat downtown, to no avail.

    The only other place for practical things I would recommend is the Bartell’s on 5th and Olive. That place rocks.

  14. I’ve been going to Target on Kent East Hill for 12 years.

    It’s close enough to my apartment to walk or bike.

    There is also a DART shuttle that stops directly in front of my apartment complex and makes the rounds to Target and Top Food in that open air mall.

    But I take my car…so that if I buy anything — like the KitchenAid food processor and B&D coffee maker I bought this week — I can put it in the trunk and drive it back to my apartment.

    I am glad they have ample free parking. Most (or rather all) of us residents here are glad.

    1. There’s no such thing as free parking, unless it was built by asphalt fairies sprinkling libertarian fairy dust into the virgin woods. And what works for you in Kent doesn’t work for residents of Downtown Seattle or any other large urban area.

  15. Hope you are taking advantage of ResPlus, a great resource for finding out various surface transportation alternatives when going from one city to the next. I travelled around Sweden a couple of years ago and found it immensely helpful. Also the variety of visitor bus passes available in Stockholm.

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