I’m in the middle of a pretty busy week-plus: I was out-of-town for a volunteering effort on Saturday. I did some more volunteering earlier today and will do so again this Friday (and the Friday after that). And I’ve got an important meeting at work later this week (it’s all good, that I do know). Oh, and of course I’m trying to remain busy with work as well. But at least I have time tonight to squeeze in a real quick “random stuff” post covering a couple of news items that caught my eye this week, one from here in the Madison area and one that isn’t. I’ll talk up the local story first: One of the cool stores here in town is Mallatt’s Pharmacy, which has two locations here in Madison: Monroe Street, on the west side, is the older of the two; they’ve had a east side location on Williamson Street since 2010. (They also had a couple locations outside of Madison, and I’ll get to them in a little bit.) Mallatt’s is no national chain, that’s for sure. It was first established in 1926 on State Street downtown (it moved to Monroe Street 15 years later), and has been a nice, convenient corner pharmacy, one who’s much more intimate than those national chains whose stores are sterile, antiseptic clones of each other.
For better or worse, Mallatt’s hasn’t been known primarily for its pharmacy services. Sure, you could get a prescription filled there, and also buy a greeting card, snack, or even a bottle of wine or box of candy. But Mallatt’s is famous in Madison for keeping something else in stock: Costumes. Since the 1960s, when its then-owners wanted to expand beyond pharmacy services, Mallatt’s has been a year-round source of masquerade items, including a wide variety of costumes (for rental or purchase), hats, makeup, stage props, and, yes, wigs (including a certain wavy red style a certain crossdresser blogged about the other day *wink wink*). Needless to say, Mallatt’s gets pretty busy at this time of year, expanding its hours (including being open on Sundays in October, a day when they’re usually closed) in anticipation of creeps and freaks of all ages wanting to find the right Halloween costume.
Unfortunately, times change and competition increases. That may be part of the reason for the news that I saw this morning: Mallatt’s will discontinue its pharmacy services. Customers have until Wednesday to pick up their requested prescriptions, with prescription records being transferred to a certain cookie-cutter national chain who insists on having corner stores. The non-Madison Mallatt’s locations, one store each in the northern Dane County cities of Waunakee and Lodi, will cease operations completely, but both Madison stores will remain in existence. Yeah, they’ll have to close for a couple days later this week (for renovations), but come Saturday they will reopen as a neighborhood small retail and, yes, costume store. It’ll still be “Mallatt’s,” but it the “Pharmacy” part of “Mallatt’s Pharmacy” will be a thing of the past.
Which is a bit sad, really. There are still other mom-and-pop pharmacies and stores in Madison and elsewhere (like, say, these folks). But they are clearly struggling these days, dwarfed in size, buying power, and convenience (or whatever) by all those sterile cookie-cutter national chains, whose locations can sell anything and everything (including things Mallatt’s has no room to consider stocking) and can swing sweet deals with drug and insurance companies (i.e. get the prescriptions you need here and nowhere else). At least some businesses like Mallatt’s had the foresight to diversify beyond prescription sales. That’s why they’ll still be around, not offering prescription services but still offering other things that folks in their Madison neighborhoods, including those awesome costumes that is their now-permanent stock and trade.
The other item I wanted to highlight here is somewhat old but has some newfound relevance. The gentleman pictured at right is Mitch McCoy, who is a reporter and anchor for Little Rock, Arkansas television station KARK-TV (“We’re On Your Side…” no, wait, that’s not their slogan). Obviously, a viewer in Wisconsin such as I can’t appreciate all of what McCoy brings to his job, but one can presume that he does admirable work at KARK, enough so that his being out of the closet is only a sidelight of his professional life. Unfortunately, there was at least one anonymous viewer who couldn’t get past the fact that McCoy is out of the closet. And last spring, said viewer wrote to McCoy saying in no uncertain terms, “I can’t stand your gayness” and “society is not ready for gay men reading news.” Said viewer even dragged the children into their tirade (“you are on television every night and our children should not be watching people like you”).
Luckily for Mitch McCoy, he has enough of a thick skin to withstand unwarranted criticisms such as this one, to which he responded in a tweet, “I’ve dreamt of being a reporter since I was 9 and I won’t stop on your behalf.” [insert mic drop here] Luckily, too, that there is someone who looks past McCoy’s sexual identity, namely his boss at KARK, who clearly has McCoy’s back, telling the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette last spring that receiving viewer responses, good and bad, is “part of our profession. Mitch is a great journalist, and we’re happy to have him on our team.”
And there are other people outside of KARK who look past Mitch McCoy’s sexual identity, namely the voters who are part of the Mid-America chapter of The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. They’re the ones who vote on Emmy-worthy work done by stations and producers in a region covering Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, and portions of Illinois and Louisiana. Over the weekend, McCoy was part of a 7-person team from KARK who were honored with a Regional Emmy for coverage of a bout of severe weather that hit the Little Rock area. First of all, congratulations to Mitch and his KARK colleagues. Second of all, to the anonymous letter writer who still wanted to hold Mitch’s sexual identity against him… you may have to thank him, for his reportage during that storm may have saved your life. (Sorry for the TV news hyperbole there, but I’m trying to prove a point.)
I’ll just conclude with a thought Mitch McCoy added during his tweet response to that viewer last spring. After saying he wouldn’t stop doing his job for the sake of just one viewer, he added (and I’ll edit it for clarity here), “No matter who you are or what you believe in, dream loudly and don’t let anyone get in your way. The minute you stop is the minute you stop believing who you are. It’s not worth it.” Well said, Mitch. Congrats again.