Richway is a store that has remained strong on many peoples memories. It was a store with a very broad market, loyal customer base and a very distinctive logo and store architecture that was as cutting age as modern Target stores that bought them. I have previously posted information about Richway in other areas of the web such as when I created the first post about it on Wikipedia and contributed a photoshopped Richway logo made from old advertisements (the same logo posted here). Essentially, what I've accumulated in bits and pieces was what at the time I was able to find online, which was not much.
Richway existed 1968-1988 and was the Rich family's shot at discount retailing. When founded, it's parent company Rich's had just had its 100 year anniversary when it joined other department stores nationwide in creating a discount division. For Rich's, it was called Richway and featured a glorious looking sunrise (originally in blue tones). The logo was apparently updated in the late 70's, because I only saw this original logo on a credit card specimen. It's 20 years of existance featured rapid expansion with the store moving beyond its original base in Georgia along then newly-opened I-285 to South Carolina (three stores in Columbia), North Carolina (three stores in Charlotte), Tennessee (two stores in Chattanooga) and South Florida (three stores in West Palm Beach).
Much like its parent, Richway was wildly successful when its first units opened around Atlanta. The stores were by far the most distinct looking discount stores ever built featuring a sleek futuristic design with huge wedge-shaped skylights all over the roof that were nearly the same height as the building itself. These skylights were painted different colors with the glass also multicolored creating a surreal effect in the stores. The Richway stores themselves were much more upscale than all the other discounters in the area at the time and were also far larger than most discount stores at the time. Richway also had an orange theme throughout with orange decor, carts, uniforms and trim.
Its original stores were located in Marietta/Smyrna, College Park, Sandy Springs and Forest Park. Stores were soon added in North Druid Hills, Belvedere Park (Covington Hwy) Doraville (in an old Grant's), Riverdale, North Cobb County (Canton Rd) and Roswell (Roswell Mall, 1974). 1980 saw additional stores in Conyers, Mableton (Austell Rd) and Athens. It is also suspected the current Target in Gainesville is on the site of a demolished Richway.
Richway continued after Rich's changed hands from the family to Federated Department Stores, and the stores continued be successful. However, Federated became a troubled company in the 1980's with the Campeau scandal and the subsequent restructuring of their mainline department stores. This was unfortunately the beginning of the first major wave of consolidations as well as the decline of department store companies as a whole. Discounters were also consolidated en masse and Zayre departed Georgia the same year. Richway was first merged in 1986 with the discount division of Lazarus Department Store, Gold Circle. Both stores retained their names, but only two years later Richway and Gold Circle were liquidated and stripped down bare prior to being reopened in 1989 as Target. The plan was apparently to convert all Richway stores over to Gold Circle, and the stores located in Charlotte and Columbia became Gold Circle briefly. Target, originally the discount division of Dayton's of Minneapolis in similar fashion to Richway but older, had begun expanding nationwide and gained much in the purchase of Richway in making Target a national brand. Target's logo is unmistakably similar to Richway in that it has the same font and a similar themed logo.
According to a poster here, Richway had grand plans to absorb the southeast. Stores were planned between Atlanta and Palm Beach, and they had a firm foothold on their Carolinas stores. Mysteriously, however, Richway skipped over Birmingham despite three Rich's stores there. No matter what happened, the sale of the stores in 1988 put those plans to an end. After a long period of complete closure, the stores were renovated, rebranded and reopened as Target stores. The stores themselves basically got a fresh coat of paint, the skylights were boarded up and the ceilings dropped. Even though the logo and all over redesign was eerily similar to Richway, the stores were dumbed down to where the whole Richway ambience was gone.
Today, only one former Richways still operate as Target in Atlanta in Smyrna. The Sandy Springs location continued to operate until 2008 before moving to a new Super Target south of I-285. That store operated fully 30 years, and the Goodwill store next to it was once Richway Foods and later Big Star. All former South Carolina locations, which anchored small malls, have been closed and abandoned with only one still standing at Decker Mall, which is now a storage place. The other two were demolished: one for a new Target and the other for Wal-Mart. The Decker Mall location today retains its skylights and the mall is still oddly open.
The above photo is the Smyrna location of Richway near Cumberland Mall, which was recently renovated and actually looks better now than the photo (due for a retake). The above shows a renovation of the main entrance that dates to around 1995. Note the huge wedge skylights.