This is called eviscerated. Empty showcases, empty shelves, the silver clothes racks have been pushed aside. “One more day” is written on the wide entrance portal of Karstadt am Nordbad, and one can assume that every employee here who holds his position as brave as it is final is in a strange mood. A customer asks whether it is possible to get parts of the furniture. Another says that she was there when the West Schwabing department store opened. It was 1968, at that time the concrete fortress still looked rather futuristic between the old buildings around the north bath, which was decorated with a portico.
It’s now closing time – forever. The Karstadt am Nordbad closes after more than half a century. With him, the Karstadt closes in the Olympia shopping center – although there is a department store of the same group in the immediate vicinity, similar to the previously rescued Kaufhof on Stachus. The Karstadt am Nordbad is far and wide the only one of its kind. Officially, this Saturday is the last day of sale. In the three-story bunker, however, there is very little that could attract customers. A garish discount campaign – the advertising banners are still hanging on the facade – has long since emptied shelves, clothes racks and freezers.
The upper floor is already locked, there is nothing left to stumble upon. Employees run around pushing furniture back and forth. In the now void it becomes clear how huge the surfaces actually are. Everything is still brightly lit and the escalators are in operation. Soon, when it is cleared out, all of this will be empty and gloomy, as a demolished house. A strange idea.
The sausage counter in the basement is still occupied, there is no more fish. There are occasional groceries on the shelves. Vinegar, wine, spices and sweets. A couple of huge Advent wreaths are waiting for the last bargain buyers. The freezers have already been cleared.
Outside on Schleissheimer Strasse, on a pane of glass, there is a protest sticker: “The Benkos expropriate”, it says. In reference to the Austrian investor to whom Karstadt and Kaufhof have belonged for some time. On the glass entrance doors there is a note of solidarity from a “sad old customer”, as the clerk himself put it. The closure is a severe blow for Schwabing.
For decades, the department store, located directly on Nordbad, was a central point of contact when there was something to be found quickly that you would otherwise have to drive to the city center for. Where you could buy a Christmas tree at the last minute on Christmas Eve. Where, when the shop opening hours were still more strictly regulated, there was still pork schnitzel when the other supermarkets were already closed.
Of course, the closure of the once so important contact point is also a symbol of the change in the consumer world. The department stores suffer like hardly anyone else from the trend to shop digitally – in the better times of the Karstadt am Nordbad it was rather frowned upon to constantly besiege your own couch and do everything from home. Although there was already a mail order business back then, but it had an even more stuffy reputation than the department stores. All of that has changed.
The Schwabinger have started a rescue attempt. A residents’ initiative collected signatures for the preservation of the district meeting point, and Ruth Waldmann (SPD) member of the state parliament initiated an online petition. And also reminded of the fate of the many Karstadt employees who are now threatened with unemployment. It was all of no use. In the farewell letter from the workforce, which is taped outside on the front door, it is now a reminder where a good place is for recruiting: here.