Saint Paul is a weird city. One of its many quirks, which may go largely undetected, is that it has a DMV located deep in the recesses of a Sears Department Store.
It’s easy to miss. First you would have to find a reason to go inside a dated looking Sears at Rice Street just north of I94. If on foot or bike this would require crossing a mammoth parking lot that I imagine could easily fit 500 cars. If you’ve ever been inside a Sears, you know that is wildly optimistic number of customers. The lot is never even close to full unless people are using it illegally for Capitol parking or, as Bill Lindeke reports, as an impromptu drag racing gathering area.
So crossing this concrete desert of the mostly deserted parking lot, you reach the entrance and stumble in and are greeted by some Kardashians (not to be confused with Cardassians). Past the giant Kardashian Collection ad, a field of clothing rack as high as July corn spreads out before you. You find the Sear checkout counter and ask incredulously if there really is a DMV in here like you’ve been led to believe? They point you up the escalators.
On the second floor you wander past the mattresses, kitchenware and bedding and finally emerging from the vertical walls of drape samples is the sad oasis of the License Bureau with its unmistakable crowd of grumpy supplicants awaiting their time of reckoning at the gates of vehicular purgatory. You take you paper number and wait your turn to conduct your motor vehicle related business.
Now, if the wait is long, and it often is, in theory you could do a little shopping in the meantime. The integration of the Sears and the DMV isn’t seamless though. The DMV doesn’t announce your name on the Sears intercom when it’s your turn so you’d have to stay close lest you get passed over. That leaves you with drapes—alas, not an exciting thing to browse.
I haven’t done any research as to how this Sear/DMV arrangement came about. It’s more fun to speculate. Perhaps an enterprising bureaucrat sought to do the city a service by increasing errand running efficiency? Maybe the city repossessed the space for back taxes? Maybe license bureau management just really likes Sears and wanted office space as close as possible to a Sears? Mission accomplished if that was the goal.
Theoretically, the Sears employees benefit too. They don’t have to make a special trip to the DMV. They can just wander over during a break, perhaps even grabbing a number ahead of time to cut down wait time. Or, they can be the first ones in line in the morning. There’s some pretty unfettered access.
I don’t know the how or the why. I just know that there is a DMV inside of the Rice Street Sears, and it’s bizarre. Not in a bad way. And what else would you expect from the city of Saint Paul?