Friday, November 30, 2007

Richway Early 80's TV Ads

I've waited quite awhile for these, but looking back you have to admit that pretty much any TV from the early 80's was pretty cheesy. Hope you enjoy!

Richway Back to School ad from Fall of 1982.

Is this Lake Lanier or Lake Allatoona? Remember, Richway was headquartered in the old Rich's building the whole time even after Federated bought them, so an ad featuring a local man at a local lake was not unlikely.

Also, maybe I'm imagining it, but I swear I recall a Richway ad from the late 1980's playing the intro part of Laura Branigan's "Gloria". Since using pop songs in ads is nothing unusual today, I wonder if my memory served me right. I was a little kid then. Thanks, J, for the heads up on these!

Friday, November 23, 2007

1983 Richway flyer and more

Here is a treat for what I found to be more than a few people sentimental about Richway. A contributor who chooses to be known only as "J" sent me scans of a flyer made in 1983 for Richway. The story is that he found this in an attic of his grandparents house along with a newspaper from that era. In all, they are very well preserved. Also, he included a low resolution scan of a postcard for the Atlanta Expo Center, which I have outside pics of. The Atlanta Expo Center, located on Jonesboro Road today fills what had been the Richway in addition to the Treasure Island/Home Depot locations mentioned in the previous "Treasure Island" post.

In these pics, I am largely including ones with the logo, but will include a couple others for amusement. You have to admit that times sure have changed since these pics.

I'm guessing Richway had a better selection of hardware than snob-appeal Target that took its place did. Nevertheless, I've heard both are very similar in many ways, though obviously Target is much less fun.

How about a $400 VCR? And this is in 1983 dollars, folks. Also take your pic at Urban Cowboy overkill for $6.99 on your choice of LP or cassette so you can go and replace them all with CD's ten years later just to download them illegally another 10 years later.

One thing you've got to admit: since the 80's the men's shorts have gotten longer and women's a lot shorter. Considering the big gay rights push since the late 80's, it is definitely no coincidence. It's a reaction that mirrored the disco backlash a couple years before this ad. Can you imagine most men being caught dead in most of this stuff today unless they were running on the cross country team?

Hey buddy, you want THAT much for a boom box that doesn't come with high speed dubbing? No way, man!

Nice moehair suit, fella. Imagine the days when you could be a hairy bastard and still be considered smoking hot? I wonder if that guy later joined the other silver hair dudes in a new Vette hoping to land a girl half his age.

Also provided here was this postcard of the Atlanta Expo Center featuring our most well-preserved Richway off of Jonesboro Road. Just don't go there at night.

Here is a close-up outside shot of the Richway on Jonesboro Road taken by yours truly. I understand this was the only Richway not to make it into a Target. That says a lot about that area, unfortunately.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Treasure Island

Treasure Island was a concept ahead of its time. Begun in the late 1960's, this JCPenney owned discount chain was basically the first supercenter concept ever created. Combining a discount and grocery store, this chain featured uniquely designed stores that were found in major cities across the U.S., but were known as "The Treasury" on the west coast. However, they were only successful in two cities: Atlanta and Cincinnati.

Georgia had four locations of Treasure Island stores, all located immediately off of I-285 except the first mentioned here, which was over a mile from Atlanta's perimeter highway. They were also located on major state highways in high traffic areas. These locations were at the intersection of U.S. 41 (Cobb Parkway) and Terrell Mill Road in Marietta, Buford Highway (GA 13) in Doraville, Memorial Drive (GA 10) near Decatur and Jonesboro Road (GA 54) in Forest Park.

The former location on Jonesboro Road in Forest Park is the most well-preserved location of a Treasure Island. You can also see the original painted over Home Depot sign in the background. The Home Depots were all on the left side of the original floorspace.

Consolidation of the discount store industry became fierce in the 1970's and 1980's following the massive failure of the W.T. Grant chain. This resulted in Treasure Island with its few massive stores having trouble competing with Kmart on steroids and the plethora of other discounters nationwide. Treasure Island was liquidated in 1981, and the vacancy of these stores created an opportunity for a brand new retail chain to emerge in Atlanta...Home Depot. Indeed, Home Depots very first locations were far smaller than today, taking up only a third of the former Treasure Island store space while Zayre initially moved in to take over the rest of the former retailer's floorspace.

The former location on Buford Highway is now a flea market.

In the late 1980's, Home Depot began building bigger and better stores while Zayre went bankrupt and was bought out by Ames. At that point, the Zayre locations were closed and Home Depot, now becoming a national chain, abandoned the original smaller stores. Given their location, these stores also faced decline of the area surrounding them. The most successful of these is the location in Marietta, which still has a Value City in the former Home Depot portion. The last major retailer in the Buford Highway location was an Office Depot, and now a large flea market covers much of the old floorspace. The other two locations are no longer retail with DeKalb County running offices out of the Memorial Drive location and the Atlanta Expo Center filling out the Jonesboro Road location. The Jonesboro Road location is unique in that it is completely unchanged from when it last functioned as a Zayre/Home Depot while the other locations were renovated and modified significantly.

Today, a concept like Treasure Island would be welcomed by many to reintroduce competition to a market completely dominated by only two discount chains, but its parent company JCPenney has mostly abandoned its other largely unsuccessful retail concepts. Its last, a collection of drug store chains including Eckerd, is now under different ownership while JCPenney focuses on its original department stores.

Farewell Parisian, Welcome Back Belk

Parisian had a good run in Atlanta, but as most of us have long noticed, never really caught on. It was a store that those in Birmingham loved, but it did not really belong in Atlanta. I remember distinctly when they first arrived in a huge wave, opening in 1993 across Atlanta. Raised on Rich's and Davison's/Macy's, it was interesting but I did not quite see the point except that it brought a more upscale store than Rich's, though Nordstrom eventually stole its thunder with superior stores and staff.

Photos of the now-closed Parisian at Hamilton Place Mall in Chattanooga. This store was an original anchor to the mall when it opened in 1986 and closed due to Belk already owning two stores in the mall. The top photo is of the closing Parisian at Northlake Mall.

While a nice store, most in Atlanta just saw Parisian as overpriced store with underwhelming sales staff. While higher end than Rich's, the store hardly held the niche of Nordstrom or the chic of Neiman Marcus, and Parisian played too much on the overinflated and eventually declining middle class in the early 1990's to establish itself. It was a Birmingham store that CEO Brad Hubbert intended to take national when it was virtually unknown outside of its home state...a risky venture indeed. With that, considering Georgians often condescending attitude towards anything out of Alabama, one wonders how anybody would have thought this would work.

Here are the two most prominent Birmingham locations at Riverchase Galleria, which opened in 1986 and The Summit, which opened in 1998. The former has a very strange stretched, angular design while the latter is one of three anchors of the nation's first "lifestyle center".

Nevertheless, Parisian has enjoyed an almost 15 year run in Atlanta with its initial foray at Town Center at Cobb, Gwinnett Place, Phipps Plaza and Northlake followed by newer locations at North Point (1997), Arbor Place (1998) and Stonecrest (2001). All were new locations except for North Point's, which opened in a former Mervyn's. Northlake's store was among the most bizarre. It was a skinny, elongated store that was squeezed into a spot near the Sears where a McCrory's once was located.

The Parisian at Town Center at Cobb mall in Kennesaw was the same design as all of the initial Parisian stores that opened in Atlanta in 1993.

The sale of Parisian finished off a blitz of department store mergers in the state that began in 2003 when Rich's was merged with Macy's, effectively eliminating most of the Davison's original locations and a couple years later, the Rich's name. The new owners, Belk, had no intentions of keeping a store that was only popular within its original market when the Belk name has been a staple of the South well-known beyond its North Carolina origins. Belk has not been kind to what remains of the chain, now closing three stores in the Atlanta area (North Point, Northlake and Stonecrest) and closing the store at Hamilton Place in Chattanooga in early 2007 where Belk already dominated a large part of the mall thanks to its previous buyout of Proffitt's.

The re-emergence of Belk in Atlanta is an interesting chapter. The locations of Belk in Georgia are second only to their home state of North Carolina. Belk has always been very prominent in the small towns across Georgia, predominantly under local partnerships that resulted in Belk Rhodes in West Georgia, Belk Matthews in central Georgia, Belk Beery in Savannah, Belk Hagins in Americus and possibly others. Atlanta's was known as Belk Gallant, and these stores were all across the area though they never made it to shopping malls. It has been said they were very unpopular at the time, and they completely left the Atlanta market during the 1960's. There really was not room for what was at the time a low-end chain when competing against the national Penney's and Sears, lower-end Kessler's and higher end Rich's and Davison's.

The Belk Matthews located at Macon Mall still retained its original signage in 2005. This store will be closing with Belk relocating into the former Parisian at the same mall

However, Belk was hardly forgetting the market they lost, because their dominance in the South is dramatic and also unique in that they stay exclusively south of the Mason-Dixon line. Belk is also the largest privately owned chain of department stores in the country with the Belk family still in control of the company, now covering most if not all of the South. Compare this to the Rich family which sold off their stores in 1975 with far fewer locations in only three states.

With the market consolidated down, Belk created a test store in the Mall of Georgia when they took over the closed Lord & Taylor location. Seeing that it was a success, when Parisian went up for sale they were more than glad to buy out the Atlanta collection of stores. This allowed Belk to bring A-class stores to Atlanta and to find a place in Atlanta's coveted malls. Already, they were in strip malls all across the area but had not been able to center on the prize. I can't say that outside Birmingham, Parisian will be sorely missed, but more than likely the reintroduction of Belk in Atlanta is welcomed by many: especially those that are very disappointed in the decline and demise of Rich's and Davison's into a subpar bastardized Macy's.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Bruno's Finer Foods

Another Birmingham-related post, this one directly affects Atlanta and that is the mention of Bruno's supermarket. Bruno's was a big player in the Atlanta market in the 1980's prior to the invasion of Publix. An upscale supermarket much like Publix, they came to Atlanta in 1987 when local chain Ogletree's was purchased. A picture of a former Ogletree's/Bruno's is found in an earlier post.

While Bruno's has long since left Atlanta (they left by 1995), they are still alive and well in their home city of Birmingham where they existed long before. While no longer an independent chain, a few of these are still around including a location at The Summit (pictured above). Bruno's was also notable for two now defunct retail ventures including a drug store chain (Big "B" Drugs), which was also in Atlanta and their Atlanta partnership with Kmart for one of the first discount superstores (American Fare) in 1989. Respectively, the Big "B" stores all became CVS and the American Fare simply Super Kmart before later closing.

While I have not found many locations, I know that they exist today in Birmingham owned by the same company that also owns Bi-Lo, Foodmax and a couple other grocery chains.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Century Plaza Mall: Birmingham, AL

My first post about Birmingham retail is Century Plaza Mall, a mall that is getting a lot of attention these days for what's happening to it. Here I will have quite a bit to say about it, though it's not all that I plan to cover in the city by far. It is even now one of the most interesting retail stories of the South, especially with its adaptation of Atlanta stores combined with homegrown favorites.

The Birmingham retail scene is a fascinating one, and a friend of mine who hosts the Eastwood Mall tribute has educated me much on this town that hopes to one day rival Atlanta, but is still trying to overcome the stigma of the surrounding state as well as the fact Birmingham has as a fairly high amount of urban decay due to its industrial history, a continuing cloud of racism and sluggish growth. The unfortunate product of this is that the city became overretailed and basically everything on the west side of Red Mountain is having trouble these days.

The story of Century Plaza is pretty much the same as its deceased neighbor Eastwood Mall (different link). It was a mall that opened in an older suburb that became more blue collar in a city with better malls closer to the wealthier areas. It is still alive, but the area around it as well as the sudden exodus of three out of four anchors has this classic 1975 mall very much in jeopardy.

Century Plaza Mall from the outside is far from pretty. It is very plain and somewhat depressing 70's modern design with dark glass, red brick and simple lines that make it hardly inviting. It is a trip back in time to see it: reminding me somewhat of Cumberland Mall prior to the first renovation. While it was a perfectly normal design for the 70's and 80's, today it looks horribly dated considering that it has never had a single exterior renovation since it opened over 30 years ago. While this maintains balance with the structure, it was never an attractive enough design to make it worth it. The interior, however, was updated in the early 90's typical of most 70's malls shaking off earthtones and disco fever.

Inside, the mall is a typical two-level four-anchor super-regional center that was meant to attract large crowds, and it seemed it would have caused the death of Eastwood Mall, but Birmingham was unique in that it had an unusually high amount of department stores for a city its size. Also significant was the fact that Eastwood Mall originally had no had anchors, and Eastwood had survived more on its novelty and location with anchors coming later.

When Century Plaza opened, its four anchors were Loveman's, Rich's, JCPenney and Sears. Loveman's was a major chain in Birmingham that was also in Chattanooga, though it is not known if they were exactly the same store. When Loveman's closed at the mall, Pizitz left Eastwood forming the eastern anchor of the mall. Pizitz itself was added to Eastwood in 1969. Pizitz did not last long, though. It was then quickly replaced by the McRae's nameplate when the Pizitz family sold their 13 store chain to what was eventually Proffitt's/Saks in 1986. Other than this, the mall saw no anchor changes for almost 30 years and existed well among a city with six other malls.

Also, Century Plaza proved to be very durable considering the competition of Riverchase Galleria in Hoover. A mall of the size and offerings of Riverchase was near impossible to compete with, and Century Plaza looked small and dumpy by comparison. Nevertheless, Crestwood Boulevard (U.S. 78) remained a strong avenue for retail, and the complimentary Eastwood Mall with its Parisian and Service Merchandise (former Yeilding's) kept the area viable even when the surrounding neighborhood was showing signs of wear and tear. The problem was, Eastwood Mall could not hold up to the ever expanding glut of malls for a city hardly large enough to support them, it began emptying out in the early 00's with Parisian closing in 2005 and the few remaining stores vacating by the end of that year. Much of the blame is probably due to the opening of The Summit in 1998.

While it might seem odd to point out a competing mall's fall, Eastwood's blight hurt Century Plaza. Eastwood was not competition. Century Plaza NEEDED Eastwood to survive, because this gave an adequate shopping area to compete with the I-459 complex (Riverchase, Summit). This was painfully obvious when Rich's closed at Century Plaza in 2004. It should be noted that when Rich's (now Macy's) closed at a mall, it was typically a death knell because Rich's stores were rarely closed in their 167 year history and these were typically very popular large traffic generators at malls in both Georgia as well as their Alabama locations.

(Rich's photos of the various lower level entrances. Note these were not sealed off. Also note the angled black glass on the wall next to the side entrance that apparently made it possible to see the mall from the escalator.)

Rich's at Century Plaza was a very fascinating store. It was literally built into the mall instead of external from the mall. Two mall entrances graced each side of the store, one faced the center court and one was on the outside, meaning that three first-level entrances were on the inside, and these all took up a lot of mall space. The upper level expanded east along the mall and presented two entrances. Rich's at Century was also one of the smallest locations, and did not carry a full line of merchandise...undoubtably a factor in why it ultimately closed. Brookwood and Riverchase were full-line Rich's stores. Century was not. In terms of the bizarre layout of Rich's, I will attempt to show some of this in the photos here.

(These photos of the JCPenney mall entrance were absolute 1970's. It is the typical sinister beauty that is still today how I picture that a mall is supposed to have.)

Of the other anchors to close, Belk followed suit after Rich's. Belk came there only as a result of the buyout of the McRae's stores in 2005 and departed quickly much in the way Pizitz had previously. When they opened there at the end of 2005, they only remained a couple months before quickly closing. Their entry resulted in the east anchor being four different department stores before finally closing for good. JCPenney started vacating their store throughout mid-2006, having their final liquidation September 30, 2006. The wave of departing department stores was an absolute blitz and those mall entrances all remain open to full view with exception to the upper level of the Rich's. The lights even remained on in the Belk.

(Belk, formerly Loveman's, Pizitz and McRae's is still open to view. You can look, but you can't touch what's left.)

The mall has made no attempt to hide these stores, suggesting that quite possibly the owners see the writing on the wall and have either given up or they have other plans. Sears is the only remaining anchor and they are also rumored to split soon. It seems to have all happened so fast even the tenants haven't caught up. Despite high vacancies, at least 50% of the stores are still occupied in the mall, most surprisingly still major chain stores as well. When I visited, the mall was still moderately busy even on a Thursday afternoon. The only obvious logic behind this is that the neighborhood has become a largely minority neighborhood and less wealthy. While this would not be enough to kill a mall overnight in Atlanta, we must remember that Birmingham is no Atlanta.

(Here are exterior shots of the Sears...the sole remaining anchor. I found it rather hard on the eyes.)

The mall itself is hardly to blame for this sudden turn of sour luck. When driving on Crestwood Boulevard, businesses are closed all over the place. Office Max recently closed. Several fast food places sit empty. It seems chain stores are fleeing from Irondale, though hope resides in the construction of a new Super Wal-Mart on the footprint of the South's second oldest enclosed mall. Other malls in Century Plaza's position have managed to survive a mass exodus of anchors such as Savannah Mall, but I fear it is instead Alabama's own version of Augusta, Georgia's massive Regency Mall.

The good news is that the mall is still owned by a strong mall company, General Growth Properties, which saved Cumberland Mall from similar extinction with a radical and, at least at the moment, wildly successful redevelopment of a struggling mall. Perhaps this is no accident and maybe such a plan is in the works for the Rich's to be replaced with a big lifestyle portion and the Loveman's/Pizitz/McRae's/Belk to be demolished for a Costco...or not. Time will tell.

UPDATE May 29, 2009

Century Plaza is on total death watch now. Two days from now, Sears plans to depart the mall after hanging on as the last anchor. The store will close for good on May 31st, 2009 leaving the mall without any anchors. Worse than that, the owner of the mall General Growth Properties is bankrupt (something not expected in 2007). The prognosis for this mall is not good. The mall is emptying out and will most likely close for good before the end of the year. The property will likely also be sold as part of GGP restructuring. Unless the city assumes the property for government offices, the mall will most likely sit vacant like Regency or be demolished. The best case scenario is a Target shopping center is built on the site (to compete with Wal-Mart) similar to what happened with Clearwater Mall in Clearwater, FL.

UPDATE May 31, 2009

Century Plaza was closed permanently to the public and thus abandoned upon the completion of Sears closing its location at the mall.  After 24 years of service, Birmingham's last mall on the Crestwood Blvd corridor shuts its doors.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Lakewood Center/Crossroads Mall: Atlanta, GA

Crossroads Mall, originally known as Lakewood Center, is by far the most forgotten mall in Atlanta. It is located at the intersection of Metropolitan Parkway (formerly Stewart Avenue) and Perkerson Road next to Langford Parkway (formerly Lakewood Freeway). For me, this was quite a find. I did not previously know of this place, and popular interest led to me finding and presenting what sketchy information I have. Feel free to make any corrections.

Lakewood Center first came into existance in 1962 as Southside Atlanta's first full shopping mall. An open-air center with covered walkways, the mall featured many of the popular mall tenants of the day, notably a Lerner's, Jacob's Pharmacy, Woolworth and the usual shoe stores. I also understand that a two-level Penney's was at the mall, though information on where the Penney's was or if it was actually two levels is sketchy. I was told the mall was two levels, so either it had a basement or the Penney's was a two-story store. My theory on the Penney's is that it was on the north end of the mall and was later closed and demolished after the location at Greenbriar Mall opened a couple years later.

Southside Atlanta has suffered from tremendous decline since the day that Lakewood Center opened. When it opened, the area was a working class neighborhood whose economy largely consisted of the GM Lakewood plant and the Ford plant down the street in Hapeville. White flight in the area began with desegregation in the late 1960's and the area around the center began to decline. Nevertheless, in that time a Woolco opened at the mall, possibly on the site of the JCPenney on the north end. The Woolco there closed with the chain in 1983, and by then the mall was in steep decline.

Fast forward to 2007, Lakewood Center looks like a phantom. The area around Stewart-Lakewood is now far from prosperous. Metropolitan Parkway is still known as a haven of crime and prostitution. What businesses operate along the road are hardly high class tenants unless you consider Church's Chicken fine dining and the Family Dollar quality merchandise. As you can see in the pics, Family Dollar is the only chain tenant even left in the mall today. The mall itself is only partially accessable with the back side completely abandoned. Almost a third of the mall was completely demolished when I arrived. Google Earth shows this is as vacant buildings that were already fenced off meaning a big part of the mall was already inaccessable. These apparently burned or were simply just demolished leaving only the front and side of the mall intact today.

Like its sister mall, Ansley, the stores had entrances outside the mall part, allowing stores to continue to operate without using the mall corridor. The Woolco has also been converted into a gym and bowling alley, which keeps the center from being completely dead. Nevertheless, it looks like a timepiece and has been modified very little since it opened over 40 years ago. It is hopeful that one day the neighborhood can support better retail and the mall can be restored to look like its cousin Ansley Mall.

Photos: Googie-style sign at corner of Perkerson and Metropolitan (Stewart), south side of mall and mall entrance, Google Earth image of main mall labeled, looking north into the only open part of the mall corridor, looking at the end of the open mall corridor through demolished buildings, demolished part facing Woolco and northeast entrance, the other open entrance, front side of the mall, detail of front court (no entrance), rear northwest side entrance (no mall here, Woolco on left), dead entrance, Woolco, demolished buildings from rear looking toward active mall.