Saturday, June 8, 2019

Fred's Store #1 Closing, Coldwater, MS

Today's post highlights Tate County, MS, retail.


As promised at the end of the previous post, today the blog introduces a new series: a chronicle documenting liquidation sales of Fred's stores around the Mid-South. A company history webpage provided by Funding Universe describes the chain: "Typically serving small and medium-sized towns, Fred's stores offer housewares, pharmaceuticals, clothing and linens, health and beauty aids, paper and cleaning supplies, food, and tobacco products, including a wide variety of items with the proprietary Fred's label." But my Mid-South readers are likely already familiar with the company, and in fact, I've even covered a Fred's store on the blog once before. But since we'll soon be seeing a lot more, I thought it would be a good idea to delve deeper into the company's background today, as well as investigate how and why it has arrived at the point to where it is liquidating so many stores.

The history of Fred's begins in 1947 in the small town of Coldwater, Mississippi, where Paul Baddour founded the Baddour Wholesale Company. A 1996 Southeastern Geographer profile on the company ("Fred's Stores: An Analysis of Retail Diffusion") provides additional context:

The wholesale company bought merchandise that was used to supply Mr. Baddour's retail stores, the first of which was also located in Coldwater. Following Coldwater were stores in Sledge, Senatobia, Lula, Forrest, and Tutwiler - all in Mississippi. These first retail stores were called Baddour's Bargain Center and sold a variety of merchandise, including certain apparel items purchased as rummage and then sold to the public at a "bargain." 
Paul's brother Charles's first store was in Hughes, Arkansas, and was called the Good Luck Store. In 1951 Paul Baddour moved his Baddour Wholesale Company to West Memphis, Arkansas, where his brothers - Charles, Fred, and Victor - came into the business. The first Fred's Dollar Store, named after their deceased brother Fred, was opened in New Albany, Mississippi, in 1954. In 1960 Baddour Wholesale Company was incorporated into a new corporation, Baddour Wholesale Dry Goods Company, with Paul Baddour as president and Charles Baddour as vice president. During the early years from 1947 until 1968 some of the stores retained the name Baddour's Bargain Center, whereas the new stores assumed the dollar store connotation.

Courtesy Images of America: Fulton

Paul Baddour passed away in 1973, and his son, Paul M. Baddour, would then take over as CEO of the company. Fred's expanded from 53 stores in 1953 to over 200 by the mid-1980s, but - per Funding Universe - "the expansion had left Baddour $56 million in debt, and its banks wanted their money. At this time, the Memphis Retail Investors Limited Partnership (MRILP) entered the scene," lending Baddour money with which "to pay back its more expensive debt. In return, MRILP got the right to convert its note into 51 percent of the company's equity."

MRILP's Michael Hayes "thought that with an infusion of money, Paul M. Baddour would be able to get the company back on track, and then MRILP would convert the note into shares, take the company public, and sell its equity at a big profit. ... But things did not work out as Hayes hoped. Instead, the company lost $27 million over the next three years." A court settlement in 1989 ultimately placed control of the company in Hayes's hands, and Paul M. Baddour resigned immediately, ending the family involvement in the namesake Baddour, Inc. Hayes would go on to solicit and secure a shareholder vote to change the company name to Fred's, Inc. in May 1991.

Hayes took Fred's public in 1992, and in the following years tried but failed to expand its size by merging with other similar chains, including Bill's Dollar Stores and Rose's. While these transactions never went through, Fred's did begin to expand in a new sector: pharmacies. The logic with this move, presumably, was that a number of Fred's stores were located in small enough communities that pharmacy options were either limited or nonexistent; therefore, introducing pharmacy counters into Fred's stores both served a need and differentiated Fred's from its competition. This move was met with success, and accordingly, "Fred's continued to increase the number of pharmacies in its stores, reaching 101 by the end of 1996, more than double the number of pharmacies there had been five years before." But - and this next sentence is key - "Still, the company was not ignoring its other merchandise categories."

I highlight that sentence in particular to emphasize that while Fred's was seeing great profitability with its pharmacy operations (which "had come to account for nearly one-third of the company's total revenue"), it still considered itself at heart to be a dollar store, going so far as to drastically alter its look in the mid-2000s as it expanded outside of its core footprint into new markets:

Fred's started its remake in 2005 when it began putting coolers in all stores and expanding the food selection in new stores, says Jerry Shore, executive vice president and CFO. 
At that time, Fred's also began rolling out the new logo and new color scheme, replacing the signature yellow and red signs to a softer blue and green. 
"It was quite dramatic," Shore says. 
The change was made to more clearly define Fred's as a discount retailer, something it found to be a struggle as it moved into new markets outside its core footprint. 
"They weren't sure if Fred's was a hardware store or what it was," Hayes says.

Fred's yellow and red logo, prior to the mid-2000s

Fred's blue and green logo, introduced in the mid-2000s

CFO Jerry Shore, who is quoted in that above excerpt, would take over as CEO in November 2014 (replacing Bruce Efird, who had become CEO after Hayes retired in 2008). Then, in August 2016, Michael K. Bloom became CEO. And while Bloom certainly does not deserve all of the blame for Fred's subsequent downfall (the company has admittedly had quite a turbulent past, regardless)... his administration did seem to bring about a pivotal misguidance in the company's direction.

You might recall that, soon after Bloom's ascension to the CEO position, Fred's in December 2016 entered into an agreement with Walgreens whereby it would assume operations of 865 Rite Aid stores, pending federal approval of the 2015-announced Walgreens/Rite Aid merger. The Memphis Business Journal elaborates: "Walgreens Boots Alliance announced in 2015 it would acquire Rite Aid Corp. in a $9.4 billion deal. Before that deal can close, the companies have to sell or divest up to 1,000 stores to comply with federal regulations. Enter Fred's." We at the Mid-South Retail Blog even shared this unexpected news with you, at the time.

During this era, Bloom was very open to the media as CEO, speaking often in exclusive interviews to the MBJ. One such conversation in June 2017 posed the question, "Is the end goal for people to ultimately see Fred's more as a leader in pharmacy than a discount merchandiser?" Bloom's response: "With or without the divested stores... it is crystal clear to me that pharmacy is our point of differentiation. ... That is going to bring customers to our store versus the dollar stores." In response to a separate question, he minces no words: "This is a pharmacy."

If I remember correctly, the previous blue-and-green logo didn't last very long, and was replaced by this logo, which also features blue and green colors but otherwise substantially alters the design. Note how this logo also definitively confirms Fred's primary status as a pharmacy.

In short... it became clear that Fred's was no longer trying to focus on both its past competency as a discount store and its growing success in pharmacy operations. Instead, it went all-in on the latter component.

And it lost.

News broke, ironically, in the very same month (late June 2017) that the Walgreens/Rite Aid merger had been cancelled, with any and all Fred's involvement terminated alongside it. The blog reported on this news at that time, too. An editorial in the MBJ following the announcement shared thoughts on the setback (edited for clarity):

It was the story that surprised even us. 
As details came into focus for the Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc./Rite Aid Corp. merger, Memphis-based Fred's Inc. took a big risk - and a big leap onto the national stage. 
The drugstore chain was initially poised to buy up to 865 Rite Aid stores for $950 million; that alone would have catapulted it to the third-largest drugstore chain in the country. Then the deal was restructured to have Fred's buying up to 1,200 Rite Aid stores. 
And, all the while, we couldn't quite believe it. Fred's?!? Fred's headquartered on New Getwell? 
We were excited for them, of course, in the way that impartial journalists are, but we also thought it was a little crazy that Fred's would become the nation's third-largest drugstore chain. 
Ultimately, it wasn't in the cards. Walgreens and Rite Aid restructured their deal, cutting out the need for Fred's - a development that disappointed even us. 
CEO Michael Bloom, himself a longtime exec with CVS, said this after the deal was announced: "While the acquisition of additional stores was an opportunity for growth, we always viewed it as a potential outcome that would accelerate our transformation, not define it. This is a disappointing outcome; however, the termination of the transaction has no impact on the company's transformation strategy or our ability to execute." 
We hope that's true. We're still interested in what Fred's does next - especially since they plan to continue their transformation even without the new Rite Aid locations. What will that mean - and look like - moving forward?

Good question. Ultimately, it would look like a whole lot of nothing: Bloom's attempts to execute Fred's so-called transformation strategy "proved futile." In December 2016, on the heels of the divestiture takeover announcement, hedge fund Alden Global Capital "took a 25 percent stake in the company," and in September 2017, once that agreement failed, Alden strengthened its position by instituting its founder, Heath Freeman, as the chairman of Fred's board of directors. Bloom was gone by April 2018, replaced as CEO by Alden familiar Joe Anto. Alden's stake in Fred's has only increased, standing today at 37.7 percent of the company's common stock - meaning Alden owns more than one-third of, and via its hold on the company's C-suite effectively controls all of, Fred's.

I was enrolled in a financial markets and institutions class this past semester, and one of the topics we covered was hedge funds and their takeovers and activist techniques. I'm not saying that all hedge fund involvements in retail chains (or indeed, other businesses) are bad or bound to turn out negatively, but there does often seem to be a disconnect between the purported beneficial changes they bring to the companies and the ultimate outcomes of their involvements, including mass layoffs and store closures. Alden Global Capital in particular is notable as being, many argue, the party to blame for the downfall of numerous entities, including Payless Shoesource.

I bring this up because, as a result of their influence over Fred's, Alden on the surface seems to be making some logical decisions, such as returning the company's focus to its discount store roots. But in other ways, its decisions appear to be more desperate efforts to preserve the company's ability to stay in business. One example of this is Fred's late 2018 sale of a majority of its pharmacy assets to Walgreens - the very same assets they had worked so hard to build up over the years, going back as far as the 1990s when Fred's first began to dip its toes, metaphorically speaking, in the pharmaceutical waters. On one hand, selling some pharmacies is sensible in that it allows Fred's to return its focus, as noted, to the longtime "super dollar" aspect of its business, particularly in regards to those towns where other pharmacy competition exists and Fred's may not have been performing as well as in communities with less competition. But selling so many of the pharmacies seems like a step in the opposite direction: while I can't agree with former CEO Mr. Bloom that Fred's is a pharmacy and only a pharmacy, I do agree with his assertion that the pharmacy counters serve as a point of differentiation. Fred's continues to market the remainder of its pharmacy assets for sale as well, and already sold off its specialty pharmacy business to CVS several months prior to the Walgreens deal.

Moreover, Fred's warned in its 2018 annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it has "substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern" - which effectively means the company may well be facing imminent liquidation if it cannot turn around its performance. For those unfamiliar with the term, a high-profile use of it was in Sears Holdings's two most recent annual reports prior to the corporation's bankruptcy filing last October. And even in the wake of the corporation's remaining Sears and Kmart stores being reverted to new ownership under Transform Holdco LLC, there is still doubt about those stores' viability as a going concern as well.

Current Fred's logo, introduced in early 2019, not yet on any storefronts (and who knows if it will ever make it there). It can, however, be found on in-store products, a few of which will be shown later in this post. Note how this logo has more of a general store feel, harking back to the discount chain roots, and also drops any reference to "pharmacy."

The final, biggest, most recent warning siren blared just two months ago, when in April 2019 Fred's unexpectedly announced that it would liquidate 159 of its 557 company-owned stores. This was followed one month later by news that another 104 would close as well. According to USA Today, "After the 263 closures, representing 46% of the company, there will be 294 remaining locations."

So: Fred's is actively looking to ditch its pharmacies and is also shedding nearly half of its store base, with little certainty as to its future longevity even after these clearly desperate actions. The company has also retained PJ Solomon "to evaluate strategic alternatives to maximize value," which often is a sign of trouble. It's unfortunate, but no wonder their annual report expresses uncertainty about their ability to continue to operate as a going concern - if I were Fred's, I'd have substantial doubt, too.

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Despite having stores in 13 states, Fred's concentration is focused mostly in a select few nearest its origins as well as its Memphis headquarters, so it makes sense that those states - including Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and, of course, its birthplace of Mississippi - are losing the most locations. Many Mid-South stores are either being liquidated presently, with closing dates set for the end of June, or have already closed, given that the first round of 159 stores wrapped up at the end of May. In fact, in the Memphis metropolitan area, only five out of fifteen stores will remain: two in Shelby County, and three in DeSoto County. Crittenden County will have lost all of its Fred's stores once all is said and done, as will have Tate County - which is particularly unfortunate, given that (the predecessor to) Fred's had its start in Coldwater all those years ago.

There's a special kind of sadness that arises whenever a chain departs the town in which it was founded. Residents of Green Bay, Wisconsin, for example, experienced this feeling back in April when Shopko closed its very first store there after 57 years of continuous operation. A similar sadness permeated the town of Garden City, Michigan, when it lost its Kmart store, the chain's first, in 2017 after 55 years. Now, I don't think anywhere in the public opinion does there exist an expectation that a retail chain operate its very first store indefinitely. The very first Wal-Mart building, for instance, has clearly been superseded by newer counterparts over the years – and I doubt anyone harbors any resentment toward that fact. However, just because the building has been replaced, doesn't mean that Walmart has abandoned Bentonville, Arkansas, entirely – to the contrary, Walmart now operates no fewer than eight stores in the town, as well as retains its corporate presence there at a headquarters facility (and soon will construct an entirely new headquarters complex in Bentonville, to boot).

This, I believe, is the expectation that does resonate with public opinion... that there's an unspoken commitment between a retailer and its town of origin. To be fair, the chain doesn't necessarily have to be in a downward spiral, as in the Shopko and Kmart examples, in order to depart the town... indeed, the chain could have grown so successful and/or national that, by comparison, its first store, or its hometown, or both begin to look too small or quaint for them to justify continued operations there. But in this scenario, too, the same sadness still exists, and in fact, it may even be amplified: local residents likely feel forgotten, left behind; there's an implication that the chain has outgrown its roots. In either situation, the unfavorable result is that a silent, yet strong, bond has been irreparably broken.

Screengrab from the FOX13 report on the Coldwater Fred's closing. Courtesy FOX13 Memphis

And so, it is with that implication in mind that we finally arrive at the store tour portion of our post today, a look around the original Fred's store in Coldwater, Mississippi, during its liquidation sale after 72 years in continuous operation on the town square. A little selfishly, once the closures were announced and no one seemed to pick up on the fact that the Coldwater store was on the list (or, at least, that it was the very first Fred's store), I was hoping to be the exclusive bearer of that news here at the Mid-South Retail Blog. But ultimately (and thankfully, for I feel the attention is important), local reporter Tom Dees with FOX13 Memphis did shine some light on the location. (Mr. Dees does a good job of reporting many news items in North Mississippi that other Memphis stations fail to cover, including an important development in Panola County that will be referenced in a future post.) If you so choose, you can view his video report here, but I've also printed the text of his report below:

Memphis-based discount store chain Fred's is closing hundreds of stores across the country, many because they are underperforming. 
But none of the closings may hurt more than the one in Coldwater, Mississippi. The store holds a lot of history for the town and the company. 
In 1947, it became the first Fred's store to ever open. 
Donna Brisco told FOX13 she had shopped at the Coldwater location regularly for the past ten years. She said the store closing will hurt. 
"It's very sad," she said. "A lot of people rely on this Fred's, and I guess when it's gone we're gonna have to travel further." 
For Cary Embry, the shopping experience at the Fred's store goes back almost six decades. 
"It's just part of my childhood," Embry explained. "Daddy would give me a dime and I would buy a drink and a bar of candy." 
Embry told FOX13 the store is now double the size it was when he was a kid. He owns a business in downtown Coldwater, and worries about the impact the store closing might have. 
"It will definitely hurt having a building of this size vacant here," Embry said. "I asked what they plan on doing with it and I haven't gotten any answers." 
People had hoped the Fred's location in Coldwater would stay open, if only for historic reasons, but that is not the case. We learned the store currently employs six people and will be closing at the end of the month.

The Coldwater town square, looking towards the first Fred's store. Courtesy Wikipedia

A similar hard-hitting Fred's closure can be found just one county south of Coldwater, in the Panola County community of Sardis, Mississippi. WREG News Channel 3 aired a report on that store's liquidation, which you can view here; and the blog, too, has touched on the lack of options in Sardis once before. Realistically, a good many of these Fred's closures are likely affecting their small-town customer base in much the same fashion, which is really sad to think about, especially when you consider those residents may not have many, or any, other alternatives nearby.

I've already documented three Fred's closures, and hope to go by at least three or four more before the end of the month, when those additional locations will close their doors. I'll be sharing those with you here on the blog every few months or so, similar to my current Rite Aid series of posts, although unlike those I've yet to determine a specific schedule for the Fred's posts (but you can keep up with them here). Also, over on flickr, l_dawg2000 is starting his own series of Fred's albums with stores he has or will have documented, some of which overlap with my coverage but others of which are separate. Stay tuned for all of those images! And for now... enjoy this walk through the very first Fred's store in Coldwater, Mississippi.

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Before heading over to the Fred's, I made a quick pit stop at this little area just past the I-55 exit into Coldwater, to see the monument dedicated to the site of the old town of Coldwater from 1856 to 1942 (as can be read on the monument). According to Wikipedia, due to construction of the Arkabutla Lake and Dam - a flood control project - in the 1940s, "the U.S. Government moved the town of Coldwater and approximately 700 residents, at a cost of $250,000, to its present location 1-mile (1.6 km) south of the original site. Today a monument dedicated to the old town of Coldwater stands just west of the Coldwater exit off Interstate 55. A few remnants of the old town are visible, but a majority of the site remains underwater year round." Based on my pictures, I can attest to that underwater bit! And unfortunately, if those other two fixtures at the site ever had any information on them, it has long since faded away.

Given that the town relocated in 1942, the original Baddour's Bargain Center that opened in 1947 was likely one of the first new businesses to open in the "new" town (assuming most of the area was populated by those that had relocated from the "old" town). Pretty cool!

Courtesy Google Street View

For a good many years, the Coldwater Fred's retained this classic look, bearing a shingle roof and a red block "FREDS" logo that predates even the old yellow-and-red logo seen near the top of this post (quite possibly the first-ever Fred's logo, come to think of it). Google Street View captured this particular angle in 2013, and another the following year, but more recent images posted to Google Maps by customers of the store showed that the facade had sadly been modernized sometime between then and April 2018, which discouraged me from visiting the store any earlier than its liquidation. If the classic facade had still been intact, I would've been there in a heartbeat! After all, downtown Coldwater isn't very far from Hernando. But, I can honestly say I'd never stopped there before my April 20, 2019, visit.



Here is the modernized Fred's facade, which replaced the shingles with a blue tin roof and added new storefront signage as well, this time placed above the doors instead of centered on the building. I would say that perhaps the reason this store took so long to receive an exterior update is because it had no pharmacy, but then that doesn't explain why the Sardis store, which did have a pharmacy, also retained its classic look until finally being updated during approximately the same time period as Coldwater.


A look at the entry doors reveals a fair amount of windows out onto the sidewalk (always welcome for letting in natural light to the salesfloor), as well as a fair amount of merchandise placed on said sidewalk - the better for maximizing merchandise selection and placement, in a store as small as this. Does make me wonder whether or not these outdoor items had to be moved inside every night at closing time, though.


Our first view upon heading inside. The store goes back about three aisle lengths deep. The back two aisle lengths are home only to aisles, while the first aisle length, which is where we've entered at, is home to the registers, on our right from this vantage point, as well as a seasonal department to our left and a grocery department on the other side of the registers, with those aisles facing perpendicular to all the rest in the store.


Stepping to the left and peering down the left-side interior wall for a view toward the back of the salesfloor. On the endcap to the right, you can see some "Closeout" shelf stickers. Fred's began to dabble in closeout merchandise in recent years, and even experimentally replaced two existing Fred's stores with a new concept called "Fred's Closeout Bonanza." Those locations, at 7695 E. Shelby Drive in Memphis and at 7657 U.S. Hwy 70 in Bartlett, opened in 2018 and were very short-lived.


Looking back into the seasonal department, with those front end windows clearly visible here. The gondolas in seasonal were shorter in height than those in the rest of the store. Note also the blue and green stripes running along the upper wall near the ceiling. This element circles the entire interior.


Moving closer to the back of the store, where we find greeting cards to our right, and some clothing and soft home items straight ahead. A pallet of soda, which doesn't quite belong, is next to us - likely an extension of seasonal.


I thought the use of a two-liter bottle to hold the sign up was interesting :P


Here's a view down the center actionway, cutting across the two sets of aisles from the left side of the store over to the right. Notice that this store has no aisle markers. Per Google Maps, it would seem that it once did; I'm unsure when they were removed, but my guess would be they were taken down when the liquidation signs were put up so that the two would not be competing for space. (That would also explain why they weren't replaced with any new endcap-attached aisle markers, at least.)



Some peeks across the back actionway. Note the angled mirror that runs across the entire upper rear wall: definitely a classic trait! I've not seen this in any other Fred's store, and it's likely here due only to the store's age and small, narrow size, making it more difficult to monitor any suspicious goings-on within the aisles.



A look down another soft home aisle - this one home to pillows and bedding - before emerging out in the center actionway again, and taking a look back over to the left-side wall. If you enlarge these photos and look closely at the items shown in all of them, you might realize that Fred's actually carries a wider selection of merchandise than you'd think.


One such category you might not associate with Fred's at first glance is electronics and digital media, which is exactly what could be found on this aisle. Sure, some of the items may not be from better-known name brands or the DVDs of famous films, but that also helps keep the price down, and the quality (or acting :P ) hopefully shouldn't be that much worse...




Another trio of actionway views here, with the top one looking across the center, the middle one down the right, and the bottom one across the back. The aisles in these shots appear to house primarily health and beauty products, while the back wall itself looks to be home to the pet care department.


Glancing along the right-side wall again, this time up toward the front of the store. Cleaning supplies are straight ahead.



As we approach the front third of the store, as I noted previously, the aisles here in the front right corner turn perpendicular in direction to the rest, and are home to the grocery department (as well as, evidently, small electrics).



A view from one of the grocery aisles out across the store, followed by a look down the right-side interior wall from the front of the store to the back. That photo should give you a good idea of just how deep the store was (while the views across the center actionway shown earlier should, in comparison, give you an impression of how the store was much deeper than it was wide).


The lone department sign to be found inside the store was this one for groceries, placed directly above the few refrigerated and frozen units for cold items. If I had known my sole picture of it had blurred like this, I would've taken another :(

Although it's hard to read, that orange piece of paper on the fridge door notes that the storewide discounts do not apply to milk. Fresh items like milk and eggs continued to be stocked during the Fred's liquidation sales, which I believe isn't always the case in events like this.


Another look across the store, as viewed from the grocery department. The store is so packed with merchandise that it's almost hard to make out the rear wall from here! (Thankfully, that mirror near the ceiling gives it away :P ) Part of that is due to the fact that I visited the store relatively early in its liquidation, meaning the discounts weren't yet super deep and therefore not much merchandise had been snapped up, but I bet even if I had captured this same vantage point later on in the sale it would still have been obstructed due to the height of those shelving units.


Courtesy Fred's

You might find this strange, but I paid close attention to the design of the hanging "store closing" signs while I was here. (Honestly though, it's not that awfully different than examining the various styles of wall d├ęcor that stores use, to my mind...) Wrong as it may be given the implications of a liquidation sale, I actually quite like this particular design! It's got a lot more personality than the standard stuff you're likely to see at most liquidation sales (Exhibit A and Exhibit B), and is likely custom to the Fred's sale, as I haven't seen it in use anyplace else. The top photo is just a zoomed-in crop of the one shown before that, while the bottom image comes from the Fred's website.




Since we're on the subject of design and had also previously discussed the Fred's logo lineage, now's as good a time as any to share these next three photos. In this trilogy you can see the various products in the store bearing different versions of the Fred's logo. The most common logo is the one shown in the middle image, which was the logo for probably a decade or so up until just a few months ago. The switch to the new logo on storebrand products has been relatively slow-moving, with it appearing only on food items right now from what I've seen in the Fred's stores I've been able to visit. Meanwhile, a surprising number of items in this store (as well as others) still bear the 2007 logo (such as that invisible tape seen in the top image), meaning they've all been hanging around for quite some time!



  
Our final interior photos explore the front end, which had a tiny management office buried away just next to that last storefront window, and only three checkout counters. In a store that only employed six people, though, I doubt even more than one checkout counter was ever really needed!

The middle photo should give you an idea of where the checkouts and grocery department lie in relation to the rest of the salesfloor, with the front right corner visible in the background.




Heading outside again, here are some final views of the store's exterior. According to Paul Baddour's obituary, "the company had its birth...in a 75-foot-by-25-foot building," and a resident quoted in the FOX13 profile on the store shared above said that it is double the size of what it used to be in his childhood, so there's no doubt that it was expanded over the years... but I can't find any visible evidence of which portion of the structure may be original. If you can, please let me know in the comments!


Our last shot from Coldwater proper also includes an overview of a little bit of the town square in addition to the Fred's store. The town's water tower can be seen in the center of the image, just past the square, with the First Baptist Church to the right of that. The little gazebo in the median is neat as well. It's a nice-looking square, except for the fact that Fred's appeared to be one of the only businesses operating out of it, and certainly the largest. With it now closed, I echo the residents' concern that Fred's departure is going to leave a big hole in Coldwater's downtown.


Back at home after the fact, I took some photos of some stuff I grabbed during my visit, as I always do. Shown here is a Fred's branded plastic bag, which seems commonplace now but may well soon be rare to find, assuming either the new logo is placed on the bags or... well... that other alternative happens.



I had to buy something with the new Fred's logo on it, so I opted for this tube of Pringles potato chips in a can, which can be saved after its contents are depleted :P  As I said earlier, I like the design of the new Fred's brand products, but I also can't help but think it's particularly cruel that they so heavily emphasize the "Since 1947" component, now that they've closed the store that started it all...

Note also that the fine print says the item is still distributed from Fred's headquarters on New Getwell Road in Memphis. For how much longer remains to be seen. I refrained from discussing Fred's headquarters in this post since it's already long enough, but rest assured, that's a can of worms in and of itself - and one we'll open in the next Fred's post...


These last two images look at a flyer available for customers to grab at the front entrance, advertising the store's discounts for that week, as well as the receipt for my purchase. I found it curious that the flyer was printed on heavy orange cardstock instead of regular white printer paper - surely that's more expensive! - but I'm not complaining, since it makes it nice and sturdy for me to hold on to :P  And on my receipt, the two expensive items marked as "THEORY POL" refer to a style of sunglasses that I really like, and haven't been able to find for a few years. They sure were pricey here at Fred's - $15 before the discount, compared to the $5 I was able to get them for at Walmart years ago - but I like them so much, I had to have them regardless!

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This wraps up my first of several Fred's posts. As I said earlier, I have several more stores documented and yet more that I'm hoping to go and photograph in the coming weeks, so be sure to stick around for those additional Fred's posts in the future. Hopefully those posts won't be quite as long, but I did feel that sharing the history of the company in this post was important background information for you to be familiar with before we embark on the rest of this series of posts! Correspondingly, I've also included this post in my directory of Lost Histories posts, as you can tell from the banner included at the top of the entry.

Again, I hope you'll join me for more Fred's stours in the future, as well as all the additional content I'll continue to upload in-between my ongoing Fred's and Rite Aid series posts so as to mix things up and keep it interesting around here. While it's certainly a shame to see Fred's depart its hometown after all these years, I'm happy that I had the chance to document the store and share it with all of you here today. If any of you have any stories or comments to share about Fred's, please feel free to do so in the comments below or by emailing me at midsouthretailblog [at] gmail [dot] com. Until next time, then, and as always... have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are!

Retail Retell