Jump to content
fm2176

Long-Gone Retail Chains

Recommended Posts

fm2176    122

There used to be few home improvement retail chains in the central Virginia area which are no longer with us.  Builder's Square, Home Quarters Warehouse, and Hechinger were three that I recall seeing and occasionally even venturing into.  There was little need for the wares such stores offer insofar as my family was concerned, so the few chances I had to see the interior were memorable.  I don't recall Home Depot back then (though I'm sure they were around the area), and the local Lowe's was not much larger than a Dollar Tree. 

 

To be honest, I don't remember a whole lot about these stores, despite remembering all sorts of stores like Bradlees, Ames, Hills, Best, Service Merchandise, Roses (still in business, but a shadow of its former self), Thalhimers, Miller & Rhoads, McCrory, G.C. Murphy, and numerous other chains.  Sadly, Sears and Kmart will probably soon be added to that list.  Retail history is a subject that has long interested me, though; from the dead malls and label-scarred shopping centers with dated designs, to the shifts in popularity for retail centers.  Downtown was still thriving in the early '80's, enclosed malls finally dominated the latter part of the decade, and now the open-air town center (in some cases merely an upscale and massive strip mall) is killing many malls.  These are and were places where handymen bought their tools and supplies, housewives outfitted the children with school clothes, and families spent memorable (if only for the kids throwing a fit) times. 

 

A fairly recent store to go out of business is Alco.  In 2012 I moved to a one-light town in Georgia.  There are a couple of gas stations, one with a McDonald's, and a Dollar General and supermarket, and until a couple of years ago there was also a store that is best described as a mini-Walmart.  Alco appeared to be a lawn and garden store when I first saw it.  They had a small fenced in lawn and garden section in the parking lot, lawn mowers out front, and even had a sign that proclaimed they were starting to sell beer!  When I first walked inside, though, I was amazed.  Those of you who never had an Alco can imagine a store the size of a Walmart market.  Rather than groceries, though, they had clothing, footwear, home needs and decor, furniture, hunting/fishing supplies, electronics, seasonal departments, toys, a few aisles of non-perishable food, milk and eggs up front, hardware, and of course, tools!  In other words, they sold just about everything Walmart does on a smaller scale and with less selection.  Prices were unable to compete with Walmart, but factoring in gas and time, they were bargains as opposed to driving 60 miles round-trip.  I shopped there often before placing all of my stuff in storage for an all-expense paid trip to Afghanistan, then moved closer to the installation once I got back.  A couple of months later I read that Alco was going out of business, leaving a lot of small communities with Dollar General or Family Dollar as their only retail option.  I made a last trip to see what was left (not much) and walked out a final time.

 

The attachment some of us get to places we frequent--even chain stores run by mindless corporations that care only about our money--can be real.  Don't get me wrong, the places that are now gone and the businesses that are no longer don't cause emotions to well up inside of me.  Still, these were places where men and women earned a living, provided for families and themselves, and which were generally relied upon to make life a little more convenient. 

 

Okay, so an off-the-wall post that will very likely be on page 2 in no time, but it killed a little time for me.  Conquered the Finance homework, organizing tools, and about to YouTube it up with AvE, The Great War Channel, Forgotten Weapons, and some retro gaming channels.  Batteries charged, 10 gallons of water available, steaks for the dog, and a few cans of green beans and rutabagas just in case Irma decides to crush the Chattahoochee Valley.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
JimboS1ice    7,707

I remember going in builders square when I was a little squirt, that's about all I remember, other than them closing down


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
BMack37    3,798

I don''t really remember many, Service Merchandise and Montgomery Ward and Scotty's. Lowe's came in sometime in the late 90s and now have a lot of locations here. I have like 12 HD and Lowe's within an hour of me. I know JC Pennies used to sell tools as well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
fm2176    122

Montgomery Ward used to have a nice video game section.  I recall seeing the Sega Master System display and seriously considering asking for it.  The Sears catalog had me also considering the Atari 7800, but I eventually got my NES instead.

 

One thing I forgot to add is how nice it is to see former retail space repurposed.  I used to be amazed at pictures of Dixie Square Mall that urban explorers have shared on various blogs.  That was the mall used the The Blues Brothers, and though I've never even been near the area, it was sad to see trees growing up through the floor.  On the other hand, Baton Rouge had Bon Marche Mall until twenty or so years ago.  Driving down Florida Blvd one doesn't even recognize the former mall, which is now occupied by Cox Communications and some other businesses.  I didn't recognize it as a former mall until I drove around the unaltered back and saw the unmistakeable layout.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
JimboS1ice    7,707
Montgomery Ward used to have a nice video game section.  I recall seeing the Sega Master System display and seriously considering asking for it.  The Sears catalog had me also considering the Atari 7800, but I eventually got my NES instead.
 
One thing I forgot to add is how nice it is to see former retail space repurposed.  I used to be amazed at pictures of Dixie Square Mall that urban explorers have shared on various blogs.  That was the mall used the The Blues Brothers, and though I've never even been near the area, it was sad to see trees growing up through the floor.  On the other hand, Baton Rouge had Bon Marche Mall until twenty or so years ago.  Driving down Florida Blvd one doesn't even recognize the former mall, which is now occupied by Cox Communications and some other businesses.  I didn't recognize it as a former mall until I drove around the unaltered back and saw the unmistakeable layout.

My grandfather worked for Montgomery wards paint division, which got sold to ace which is now Valspar. My parents have a chest freezer from wards that's about 30 years old and still going


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
fm2176    122
2 hours ago, JimboS1ice said:


My grandfather worked for Montgomery wards paint division, which got sold to ace which is now Valspar. My parents have a chest freezer from wards that's about 30 years old and still going


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

 

I've got my dad's old welder and air compressor, both with Wards branding.  Sad that some people probably find such items at yard sales and think they were a tool or appliance company. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
BMack37    3,798

Powr-kraft hand tools are also Montgomery Ward, not very uncommon to see those. I think they branded some power tools in the 80s or 90s.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
JMG    652

Home Owners Warehouse. They were located in the southeast US and liquidated in the early eighties. They used big bright yellow banners and they were originally competition for Home Depot in the Jacksonville area and had a mascot named Mr. How, but when the owner passed away the family decided they did not wish to continue running the business, and sold everything off. I bought my first cordless Makita 7.2v tool from them.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
DR99    2,089

We had the Builders Square Home quarters around here for a minute. Actually a former Home Quarters is a Costco now. We also had Forest City re named Handy Andy at one point also. The one thing that blows my mind is Home Depot ran 24 hour stores for a minute and I remember when all the power tools were in a tool corral at the store.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ChrisK    5,522

We had a Home Quarters. Pretty cool store back in the 90s. I remember a buddy working police details for them in '99 when they were going out of business and selling everything really cheap.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Nordraw    404

We had stores called "Whitefront" that were replaced by Target. Of course my first credit card was from Wards. Can't forget good old Mervyn's either. Sears and Pennys are going to be gone soon.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Jronman    828

@Nordraw JCPennys? This is a surprise to me. I was unaware of it going. The one near me seems to do well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
DR99    2,089

The funny this is they are doing this big construction project at the Sears by me.  Part of me is whats the point. Pennys has been struggling but they are not nearly as bad of as Sears. I think 2017 might be sears last holiday season.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
JimboS1ice    7,707

I have a sears right near me in a Mall (those are falling apart too who shops at malls?) last time I ran in sears looked like they were clearing the shelves


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Nordraw    404
22 hours ago, Jronman said:

@Nordraw JCPennys? This is a surprise to me. I was unaware of it going. The one near me seems to do well.

Handwriting is on the wall for both of these old war horses.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Conductor562    2,532

A friend and I were just talking about this the other day. We surmised that we were pretty fortunate to have been the last generation to truly remember life before the internet. Growing up in a rural area I remember having 3 TV channels, and standing in the snow taking commands to turn the antenna just right to be able to get those. When we moved to town when I was in elementary school we were finally able to get cable. Never forget my grandpa telling my dad what a dumbass he was for paying to watch TV and how nobody could ever watch 23 stations anyway. 

 

The retail landscape is the is the same way. It's great to be able to order anything that this world has to offer and have it at your door in 3 days, but there's definitely something lost in the process. 

 

Within reasonable distance we had GC Murphy, Western Auto, KMart, and Lowe's, but back then it was just a hardware store. Our real shopping destination was Hill's. When you were a kid Hill's might as well have been the North Pole. Nobody had more toys than Hill's.

 

We had a decent sized mall in Charleston, but even though it was only a 40 minute drive, we only went once or twice a year. They had a Sears, Montgomery Ward, JC Penny, Kaufman's, Lazarus, couple sporting goods stores, jewelry stores, Circut City, seemed like every store in the world at the time. Hell, as far as we knew it was every store in the world. Every store that opened did so to much fanfare. People around here were funny though. I remember my grandparents vowing never to return to the mall when Victoria's Secret opened. Filth they called it. You'd have thought they hired strippers to dance at the food court or something. Of course we're talking about the same people who boycotted our only gas station and ran the owner off because he started selling beer. It was all orchestrated by the guy that owned the local beer joint, but everyone was to blind to see what was really going on. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
fm2176    122

How could I forget to mention Circuit City?  I grew up in the same area they originated from and recall playing in the kids area where parents could sign in their children for stress-free shopping.

 

I too recall the "old" days, though the internet became widespread as I was about to leave high school.  My grandmother kept a 12" black and white TV on the kitchen table, tuned to The Price is Right during lunchtime (I have that TV now and will probably hook the Atari up to it).  We ended up getting cable in the mid-80s; we had the wood grain corded remote that I'd always trip over, sending the remote flying to the chagrin of my parents.  Technology has taken off since then, with cable companies struggling and phones able to take the place of nearly every communications device, computer peripheral, and literary source out there.

 

Back to tools and stores, six to seven years ago I was taking advantage of the Sears in the mall I recruited out of.  I guess they stopped carrying Milwaukee tools just before, because I lucked out and found a new Sawzall on clearance for $32 and a drill for $64, both corded and both since stolen.  Sears had a lot of clearance deals back then (especially as they were discontinuing their Professional line of tools), but they didn't seem to be in serious trouble.  Now, I'm about to create a thread for my Finance class pertaining to an article about Sears' financial state.  This article theorizes that Eddie Lampert is being strategic with how he is running the company and that he has a long-term plan to restructure it.  I'll share the link when I get on the laptop later.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Nordraw    404

Oh yeah. "Bestbuy" took "Circuit City" down. "The Good Guys" was another one the was killed by Best Buy.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
fm2176    122
27 minutes ago, Nordraw said:

Oh yeah. "Bestbuy" took "Circuit City" down. "The Good Guys" was another one the was killed by Best Buy.

 

The last I paid attention, Best Buy itself was feeling the heat from online competitors.  Chains come and go, I guess, but some of them have such long histories (Sears, Montgomery Ward) that it is sad to see them struggle and eventually disappear.  After all, such companies kept rural farmers like my grandparents and their ancestors on their feet in a time when the general store had only the basics.  Walmart and now Amazon spoil us these days.  I suppose that's why I always take the time to stop into small town hardware stores, especially if they seem to be mom-and-pop owned as opposed to having corporate affiliations.  There are a few gems along the Golden Isles Parkway here in Georgia.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
BMack37    3,798

Bestbuy will be out of business in the next 10 years, I'm sure of it...unless they change. They've helped themselves by making stand-alone mobile (cell phone) stores but they're on the way out. It's a shame, Walmart and Amazon are eating up everyone.

 

I don't know how Target is doing, it seems that everyone loves them, as do I, but it's always a LOT less busy than Walmart.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


  • Member Statistics

    11,730
    Total Members
    414
    Most Online
    asad
    Newest Member
    asad
    Joined
×