Monday, May 27, 2024

What's Bueno at the 99¢ Only Store! (My Trip to Dallas, TX)


Last December, I had the opportunity to travel to Texas for the first time as part of my best friend's bachelor trip. I had an amazing time, and managed to check off a number of bucket list items while I was there. My bucket list probably doesn't look anything like the average person's bucket list, but given we're all retail fans here, maybe you guys can relate. One item was to visit Half Price Books -- which I have only subsequent to this visit learned also exists in Atlanta, a city I've visited countless times, with at least two locations. Oh well, I had more fun experiencing the company in its home state, anyway. Another item was to visit the 99¢ Only Store -- a California-based chain that y'all may or may not have heard of, but which I am familiar with from the inimitable Ted Parsnips blog. So, in the spirit of that blog being inimitable, I am of course going to imitate it, with my own edition of What's Bueno at the 99¢ Only Store! (With apologies to Ted and his, what, six readers)


I visited the location at 13444 Preston Road in Dallas, right around sunset on December 2, 2023. The exterior has a bit of a resemblance to a 1990s Office Depot mirrored facade, except more like the dollar store version of it -- which, hey, works out perfectly!



Let's head inside to see a sampling of items what was bueno! 

"The 99" Big Rig!


It seems very common for stores to have toy eighteen-wheelers of their own brand. I have a big one from Fred's and a Hot Wheels one from Target... as a kid I had the Wally Hauler from Walmart (as produced by Mattel for the movie Cars)... and I even have a really nice, legit metal one for Jitney Jungle (not the one from that exact listing though!). The 99¢ Only Store is no exception, with this neatly illustrated pink number bearing the chain's current name and logo, "The 99." You see, right around the late 2000s recession, the 99¢ Only Store increased its prices for the first time in history, from 99¢ only to 99.99¢ -- the same way gas stations price gallons with an extra 9/10ths of a cent; essentially rendering product prices as one whole dollar. Since that time, further price increases have been introduced on various items throughout the store, and -- in an effort to more accurately reflect its pricing base (looking at you, "Dollar" Tree!) -- the company changed the name of its stores from "99¢ Only" to "The 99," even though storefronts don't really reflect this change all that well or consistently.

According to the Wikipedia article I obtained all of this information from (only the most reputable and reliable of sources for my readers!), not too long before my visit, in October 2023 it was announced that the company may soon be seeking a bankruptcy filing -- news which, per the Google, appears to be even more imminent as of the date of this writing, with a filing expected as early as April 2024 (aka tomorrow, as I sit here typing) and perhaps even a liquidation to follow. Sad news for sure, and I'm glad I had the chance to visit when I did! [EDIT: That news didn't take long at all... on Friday, April 5, the bankruptcy and liquidation of all 371 stores was announced. Darn.]

I made sure to purchase this toy truck, to help them out. I'm very altruistic like that.

Although it is a bit of a rip-off that the outer box says the trucks are 99.99¢ while the one specifically done up in The 99 branding was marked $1.99.99. 

Anthropomorphic Produce!


These wacky fruits and veggies look like they belong on a sitcom, don't they? I'm sure you all agree. What a cast of characters. It's also lovely how all of their feet are smaller versions of their full bodies. The potato literally has pota-toes! Get it? Ha ha ha, these jokes write themselves, folks.

It's too bad they are all imprisoned in those plastic cubes, forever frozen in time, punished for escaping Western Beef Supermarket.

Crayola Headphones!


A quick Google search shows that these headphones do in fact come in multiple colorways, and that $7.99(.99) actually isn't a terrible price for them. What's more concerning is that these Crayola headphones imply the existence of even lower quality Rose Art headphones. (Those, presumably, would only come with AM radio as compared to Crayola's FM.)

Tempered Glass Screen Protectors!


Ah, screen protectors for outdated-model electronic devices, one of the hallmarks of dollar stores (or so it seems, anyway). For my college graduation present several years ago, I received a 7th-gen iPod Touch, the newest and final iteration of the iPod. Longtime readers (all six of you -- or heck, even fewer than six -- I'll go crawl in a hole now) surely know by now that I am a fan of physical media, and own all kinds of CDs, which, as a family, we import into iTunes and load onto our iPods. (Hence my excitement for visiting Half Price Books!) The iPod 7 featured the highest storage capacity of the entire product line at 256gb, higher even than the classic, OG iPods with the scroll wheel, which is what my parents have connected to a speaker system throughout their house. For a variety of reasons, we never got the iPod up and running until August of 2023, and now I am very very happy to have it all loaded and working properly. The only thing it's missing is a screen protector... which is surprisingly very hard to come by. Alas, it would seem that even that device is too old now by The 99's standards, given that all of the screen protectors they had on hand were mostly for newer Apple products. I guess I'd need to find a Kmart to locate the screen protector I'm after.

Oh Wowww!


The enthusiasm died off towards the end there. Either that, or it was being delivered sarcastically from the start. I like that theory because it plays well with the boastful claim of LA's Totally Awesome Cleaner on the right. (With bleach!)

Emoji face binder clips!


This one was actually a bit disappointing given I had just recently bought some similarly designed binder clips from HomeGoods, at what most certainly was a significantly higher price point. Unfortunately, the joke is on me either way, since I'd never feel comfortable using these, lest they get lost or stolen at my workplace. To protect my purchase, I must never even open the box, heroically leaving them to rot untouched in a desk drawer in my cubicle. (Cue Creed.)

InstaHang Rotating Shelf!


Spins! 

Instant Shelf! 

TV As Seen On! 

Gripology!

Charmin Essentials Mega Roll!


Only recently did I learn that the Charmin bears actually come in different colors for different products. The red versions are for Ultra Strong, and the blue versions are for Ultra Soft. The brown versions, seen here, are just the basic versions of the Charmin bears. What's odd is that it appears to always be the same family, just different colorations. I'm assuming, of course, that this is all building up to the eventual, inevitable full-length feature film exploring the Charmin multiverse.

Holiday Duckies!


Another of my closest friends (who was not on this bachelor trip, but who does also work at the office with us) owns a Jeep, and -- as I learned shortly after he purchased his Jeep -- Jeep owners have a thing where they collect rubber duckies for placement on their dashboard. You may also walk out to your Jeep in the parking lot one day and find a random duck placed on the hood by a fellow Jeep owner as an act of kindness. This trend is fascinating to me, so of course, whenever I see a rubber duck now, I have to buy one for his collection. Alas, the snowman ducky I bought from the 99¢ Only Store was too big to fit on his dash, but it's the thought that counts. (I went with the snowman because it was the least creepy looking of all the options available here. Seriously, that reindeer ducky is about to commit a crime.)

Side note: one of my coworkers informed me that there is now a new, similar thing going on between Subaru owners, called "Moo Moo Subaru," involving little rubber cows. I have yet to find a cow placed on my Subaru, but if that ever happens you best believe I'll be over the moooooo-n.

Ready Cut Spaghetti!


Despite a half-Italian heritage, I like to cut my spaghetti with a knife when eating it, rather than twirling it with a spoon and slurping it up. (If this is a disgrace to you, I apologize.) So, in some ways, I can understand the sentiment behind boxed-up "ready cut spaghetti." However: as with things like pot-ready spaghetti or pre-cooked lasagna, I'm certain that the extra work on the manufacturer's side results in increased costs on the consumer's end. Are those costs really worth the small extra effort it would take to cut your dang pasta after you cook it? And worse: these noodles have holes in them! That's not spaghetti, that's just Kraft macaroni!!

The serving suggestion, dry noodles with a sprig of green and one-half of a grape tomato, is also pretty criminal. Especially since I imagine it's even more difficult to find a store that sells ready cut grape tomatoes.

Four-Pack Cool Whip!


I can't say I've ever seen a four-pack of Cool Whip for sale before. This one boggled my mind a little bit, since typically in dollar stores you'll find smaller packages for higher unit prices, not bulk products which allow for a cost savings. Even more interesting, if that price tag on the shelf is correct, is that even the regular Cool Whip tubs were going for 99.99¢ -- about $1 cheaper than Walmart. I'd be especially curious to know how much the four-pack was going for. And now I really want some dang Cool Whip.

Miniature Chips!


When I first encountered these mini versions of Doritos, Cheetos, and Sun Chips at Target, housed in the same packaging as Pringles, I bought a couple of tubes, and in fact the Sun Chips tube was my snack for the car trip to Dallas (a seven-hour drive from Hernando, following Thanksgiving. Yes, I ate the whole tube). I was surprised to see such a large selection of them at a dollar store, thinking they must already be on their way out (a la the "Red, White & Blue Crunch" cereal I saw further down the same aisle... half a year after its holiday had passed). These Minis definitely appear to still be in active production, though, so maybe they are just intended to become a new dollar store staple. (Like Lay's Stax on the shelf above, which I literally only ever see inside dollar stores.)

3-D M&M's Cup Set!


I'm not certain this picture fully captures the three-dimensional effect of the cups, but I tried my best. This is one of those products that I can easily understand why it ended up at a dollar store, because really, who wants a 3D cup?! The pattern looks cool and all, but if you ever want it not to be fuzzy when you're looking at it, you're going to have to set it down, get your nearest pair of 3D glasses, and just stare at them. Because when you bring the cup toward your face to take a sip -- and the designers may have overlooked this part -- it's not like you're going to actually be able to see the dang cup...!

Unless it's three-dimensional on the inside too... which, you know, surely opens up a whole 'nother can of worms.

Cans of worms, by the way, were on Aisle 7.

Random interior picture!


I was walking around the store long enough, I figured I might as well actually try and photograph at least one of the store's wall graphics [industry term]. This one, in an attempt to notify customers of the store's hours of operation, proclaims that 99¢ Only is "open 9 days a week." However, as you and I both know, well, that claim is pretty preposterous, considering, as The Beatles educated us way back in the 1960s, there are only, in fact, eight days a week. Silly 99¢ Only Stores! That's a little bit of marketing humor right there.

Global Warming Eraser!


I definitely saved my best find in the store for last -- this is peak 99¢ Only Stores material right here. The "Global Warming Eraser" is a "giant polar bear eraser," with the polar bear figure standing atop a block of ice. The manufacturer's slogan claims "the fun starts here!" as it warns consumers to "be precise & save the ice" -- "ice 'melts' as you use the eraser." The copy on the back of the box takes the cake, so I'll just let it speak for itself:

Do you or anyone you know sometimes forget about global warming? Well be reminded everyday with this global warming eraser! Infact everyone around seeing you use this eraser will also be reminded!

Is it 50 years? 20 years? maybe even 1 year until the worlds end, who knows! With Global Warming Erasers, it's a question you'll never forget!

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I did not actually purchase a Global Warming Eraser, sadly, but I did do the next best thing... left it there for you. I hope y'all enjoyed seeing all those random items, and thanks for indulging me as I (hopefully lovingly!) parodied the Ted Parsnips blog!

For the rest of this post, I thought I'd briefly share pictures and stories from the rest of my Dallas adventures. When I drove in on November 30th, I was one of the last people to arrive; everyone else had gone to eat at In-N-Out Burger earlier in the day, so the next day, when most of them had gone out to the world's largest casino (across the state line in Oklahoma), I went to In-N-Out by myself to see what it was all-a-bout. I ordered a Double Double and thought it was pretty good; tasty, for sure, but in my opinion still not better than, say, Freddy's. So I can understand some of the hype, but for my personal preference, there are better options out there.


The main event of the bachelor trip was the Cowboys/Seahawks NFL game that week, which was fun to attend (and AT&T Stadium is crazy huge!). The Cowboys won, and while my friend was actually pulling for the Seahawks, I think he still had a great time! As for the rest of the trip, though, as you guys know I'm not really a sports fan -- or a gambler, or a drinker, or a fan of large groups in general -- so I hung out with the rest of the guys some when we were all at the Airbnb, but otherwise, I went out and explored on my own. And I had the most awesome time of it. Seriously -- I had never been to Texas before, so that in and of itself was exciting; but I also realized that I had just never been *anywhere* before on a road trip solely by myself, with the freedom to drive around randomly and stop anyplace I wanted. It was very liberating, and I am extremely grateful and lucky to have a friend who allowed me to go out and do that instead of feeling pressured that everyone present had to go do the exact same activity every day! (For what it's worth, I wasn't the only one to go out and explore on my own -- the same offer was open to anyone and everyone, and some others did take advantage of that too.) While they went to the casino on Friday and a basketball game on Saturday, I drove around and checked out a bunch of stuff, including...




...no fewer than four Half Price Books, lol! Yes, I know only three are pictured; I didn't purchase anything at the fourth store I went to, and it was also difficult to get in and out of in a busy shopping area with a bunch of stores including a Super Target, so I didn't bother photographing it. But at the first, second, and third locations I went to, I came away with way more CDs than I surely needed, haha, and just overall had a great time looking around. HPB is an awesome chain and I would absolutely love it if we had something like this closer to where I live! Maybe not here in Jackson specifically, as I'm sure these places depend on having the customer base to trade out merchandise on a regular basis, and I'm a bit doubtful we actually have that here. Plus, such a store might get old if I had the opportunity to go to it every week; it would lose the "special" feeling. But a good compromise would still be somewhere closer than Texas in one direction and Atlanta in the other, lol!

The location pictured in the middle image is actually HPB's flagship store, and I spent a good couple of hours in there just wandering around, exploring all the merchandise. CDs were my main focus, and I did find a couple of specific albums I was looking for between the four stores, so that was great! I would have spent more time looking for books, too, if not for the fact that I already own all the books in all the series I currently like to read (and haven't really found any new series yet, partially because I'm not looking either, since I barely have the time to keep up with reading regardless). The CDs were probably a bit overpriced compared to what I could get them for at other places, particularly Goodwill, but perhaps even online as well; but that's just the whole thing -- unlike others who shop online on a regular basis, I pretty much do 100% of my shopping in-person, because if something is online, I can easily talk myself out of buying it. On the other hand, if something is right in front of me, physically held in my hands, I am definitely much more inclined to purchase it -- and that's exactly what I did at all these Half Price Books stores, lol! In addition to all the CDs, I also purchased a few coffee table-type books (one of which was retail related, and I'll show y'all below), as well as a tote bag to add to my retail collection. The locations I visited were at 13388 Preston Road (top), 5803 E NW Hwy (the flagship, middle), 2440 Preston Road (in Plano, bottom), and 3221 Preston Road (in Frisco, not pictured). (As you might can tell, a lot of my driving was just endlessly down Preston Road!)




Not too far from the flagship HPB was Dallas's Northpark Mall. Now, I live not far from Ridgeland's Northpark Mall, and let me tell you -- this Texas alt-universe Northpark is 10,000% fancier, haha! The anchors (as you might can see if you zoom into the directory) are Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Macy's, and Dillard's, making Dillard's the *low-end* anchor out of all of those XD  I did go to Dillard's and bought a nice orange shirt (my favorite color -- if you couldn't already tell from the blog!), and did a lap around both levels of the mall, seeing tons of top-tier name brand retailers, and even more high-end stores I'd never even heard of. The Breitling (watch) store had a security guard outside! Elsewhere in the mall, there was an actual concierge station, and in one of the corridors was a live pianist! There's definitely no concierge or pianist at the Ridgeland Northpark, and any security guards you see here are probably for different reasons...

Because it was approaching the holidays, the mall had a neat little Christmas village setup, called "The Trains at Northpark" and supporting the Ronald McDonald House charity. That was fun. I also stopped at Maggiano's Little Italy for dinner, where I had some outrageously good chicken marsala and spaghetti aglio olio (butter pasta), with warm apple crostada for dessert. I never really eat out by myself, even at fast food places, but especially not at fancy restaurants like this, since I get self-conscious about doing so; however, even seated at a one-person table with tons of people surrounding me, on this day I didn't care in the slightest whether anyone was looking or what they were thinking -- I guess I was just high on the freedom, haha! The crostada wasn't really my favorite, and I don't normally even order dessert, but that was definitely a "when in Rome" moment. Plus, it let me save the rest of my entree for dinner the next night, as opposed to going with the rest of the group to Dick's Last Resort, which would have made me even more self-conscious, lol!




Back near our Airbnb was the former Tuesday Morning Corporate Offices, which was pretty wild to see with all the signage still intact, but everything else completely wiped out. (I'm a little curious in that last image, where only the "Tue" remains, how the rest of the sign would have been displayed: is that not a wall to the right, preventing any further sign placement?) I'm pretty sure we passed another, older corporate headquarters -- or perhaps former warehouse space -- on our way to the stadium the night of the game, too.

Of course, I have no pictures of the Airbnb, but it was a pretty neat place as well; we played frisbee in the yard at one point, and cooked out in the backyard on Saturday afternoon. I also had a good time just walking and driving around the rest of the neighborhood on various occasions. We had nice weather the entire time, thankfully (well, except for my drive into Dallas, where it rained buckets pretty much the entire drive beyond Little Rock and past the Texas border; it was so bad at one point I could barely see! Glad I made it safely, and for that matter that everyone else had safe drives and flights to and from, as well).

I guess because I slept in where most of the others were early risers, I never got the chance to join any of them on their grocery runs; I know they went to Aldi a few times, as well as at least one Tom Thumb (Albertsons) location. I'm a little bummed I missed out on a Tom Thumb, and I'll probably also disappoint any Kroger fans out there by saying I didn't stop in a Dallas Kroger, either -- although I did at least pull into the parking lot of the one at 17194 Preston Road, lol (which, I see now, is right next to one of the new CosMc's prototype locations -- whaaat?!). The one grocery store I did stop at, though, boasts itself as being Texas's best...



...H-E-B! Anonymous in Houston may never forgive me for this, lol, but I couldn't resist seeing what it was all about. I was really impressed by the store overall (as well as its decor, despite the fact that I didn't get any interior pictures); I was, however, a bit irked by the crowds (but I guess that was to be expected: everything is bigger in Texas! Including the interstates, too. That stuff is scary). I ended up leaving with a new T-shirt and pair of socks (again, couldn't resist: what other grocery store do you know of that has a full-blown display of branded merchandise?!), which are shown in the picture above alongside that retail book I mentioned from HPB, and our growl towel from the football game (okay, I know that's not what they're actually called, but I am familiar with that term from all the Grizzlies coverage on the Memphis news growing up, so that's what it will forever be known as in my mind). I bought a pretty good donut and chocolate muffin from there that was my breakfast the next day, and after that took off on the trip back home to Ridgeland: definitely a fun and memorable experience!

At the time I'm publishing this post, my friend's wedding is either happening very soon, or has just recently taken place (I'm writing this a couple of months in advance). I'm honored to be a groomsman, had an incredible time on the bachelor trip, proud to call him my friend, and so happy and excited for him and his wife, who are both amazing people. If you two are reading this -- congrats again!!

We'll set our sights back on Mid-South retail for our next post, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this fun excursion out to Texas with me. Until then and as always, thanks for reading, and have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are!

Retail Retell

Saturday, April 27, 2024

#WaffleHouseinOxfordMS

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

Longtime followers of mine know that I'm from Hernando, MS, and my alma mater is Ole Miss. (Just graduated in May!*) 

(* -- Okay, so I wrote the introduction to this post on a piece of paper circa late 2019/early 2020. The intention was obviously to write and publish the post soon after graduation... well, "May" in that sentence refers to May of 2020, a mere four years ago. Oops. Anyway, continuing on.)

This connection between city and college isn't unique, of course; there are many other people who meet both of these criteria, one of whom is University of Mississippi law professor David W. Case. Well, Case may not be from Hernando, but he did live there for a number of years, commuting the one-hour distance back and forth between the Oxford campus and the DeSoto County seat every day. Finally, in his eleventh year of teaching at Ole Miss, Case uprooted from his Hernando home and settled in Oxford. Immediately, he noticed two things about Oxford that set it apart from Hernando, which he shared on Twitter via the prompt "without naming your city, what is your city known for":




The City of Oxford, Case claimed, was known for (1) "having the very worst Kroger on Planet Earth," and (2) "not having a Waffle House." A profile on Professor Case from Parents of College Students explains that "Case shares his sense of humor with the Oxford community on Twitter. According to Case, the purpose of Twitter is to express humor and find humor in more serious topics. If Twitter isn't making him laugh, he's not enjoying it."

In 2016, the Kroger in Hernando tripled in size and reopened as the first (and only) Kroger Marketplace in the state of Mississippi, something that likely spoiled Case in comparison to the smaller Oxford store. In addition to Kroger, Case "spent a lot of time at Hernando's local Waffle House because there wasn't much else to do and he genuinely enjoys the food. Naturally, it became one of his Twitter bits."

Hernando Waffle House, May 2019



"If Oxford didn't want me to tweet about it not having a Waffle House all the time it should have gotten a Waffle House before I moved here," Case wrote in March 2019. Similarly, after Whataburger took the lead in an Ole Miss Twitter poll asking users to choose between it and Waffle House as the most desired restaurant not currently in Oxford, Case proclaimed that the university would be relocating to Hernando, "which already has a Waffle House and as a bonus a Super Kroger," to be henceforth known as "the University of Hernando also affectionately known as Ole Hern," concluding "I did warn you guys." As you can tell -- his tweets were definitely very funny.

Not long after Case moved to Oxford, Kroger actually did announce it would be expanding the Oxford store into a Marketplace of its own; ultimately the Marketplace designation didn't come to fruition, but the store did undergo a significant expansion, reopening in late 2020. I have pictures of that entire project over on my flickr account. As for bringing a Waffle House to Oxford, on the other hand... Case's Twitter antics played a much larger role in that story. It all began on April 4, 2019, when Oxford's mayor, Robyn Tannehill, followed Case on Twitter. Case's immediate response: "omg you guys I am SO about to get us a Waffle House in Oxford."


According to a later interview with Tannehill, "it was a slow Friday afternoon, so Tannehill thought, 'Why does Oxford not have a Waffle House? Which is a fabulous question.'" So, sure enough, she proceeded to do two things: first, she responded to Case with "Challenge Accepted" and the hashtag #WaffleHouseinOxfordMS. Second, she submitted a contact request form to Waffle House corporate. In the interview, she summarized her message as follows: "Hey, I’m the mayor of Oxford. We’ll have a parade when you get here. We can’t be the only SEC town without a Waffle House. I’m out front, let me know when you’ll be here."


Mayor Tannehill's submission to Waffle House corporate

What started as a lighthearted Twitter joke was actually gaining some serious, if tongue-in-cheek, traction. Professor Case was beside himself, excitedly tweeting, "IT'S HAPPENING" in all-caps. Within hours, #WaffleHouseinOxfordMS was trending worldwide.



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Waffle House took notice of the hashtag and the excitement brewing in Oxford. Just 10 days later, a care package arrived on Tannehill's doorstep at City Hall, "complete with a waffle maker, waffle mix, syrup, two different T-shirts, hats, coffee mugs, and a 'Waffle-Opoly' board game." In addition, according to the Oxford Eagle, "Almost immediately after Waffle House retweeted Tannehill and Case's exchange, the chain contacted the mayor to set up a call with its CEO, Walt Ehmer." Tannehill "honestly thought someone was playing a joke on her." The article continues:

The whole situation is one Tannehill admitted was rare, and bizarre and entirely unlikely -- but for her, it shows the power of positive social discourse.

"What I think it demonstrates more than anything is that people are tired of venomous, hateful dialogue," she said. "Nobody 'decided to start a Waffle House campaign.' It was just fun and games, but now it's turning into something real."



Close-up of the thank you card sent with the care package

Mayor Tannehill wasn't the only one to receive a Waffle House care package; Professor Case did, too. As shown below, his swag included a few different pieces, including a tie, insulated cup, keychain, and novelty pins. Oh -- and a nametag. A feature story on WLBT notes that they both received an official Waffle House nametag: "one that says 'David/Batman,' and one that says 'Robyn.' Case argues that Tannehill should be Batman since she has the power connections, but she insists that it was Case’s Twitter stroke that made this thing gain traction.

"Plus, she said, she’s already Robyn."



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Slowly but surely, continued progress on the Oxford Waffle House saga was brought to Twitter. In May 2019, Tannehill met with Waffle House's Vice President of Real Estate, donning her hat for the occasion. In June, she wore her nametag for a meeting with another corporate real estate executive. Case continued to tweet about bringing a Waffle House to town during this time as well, but unfortunately, he has since deleted his account, and all his old tweets are now lost to time; the ones in this post are only available because they were saved as screenshots while the saga was still unfolding. I'm pretty certain I saved a bunch of others myself, but I, too, appear to have lost them along the way.



In August 2019, "waffle history was made" when Waffle House upped the ante by bringing a food truck to the Oxford Square as part of its National Waffle Week celebrations. In another Oxford Eagle article, it is noted that "Bobby Garner, former Ole Miss quarterback and current senior vice president of Waffle House, was one of several staffers on hand, passing out free waffles on the Square. Garner played for the Rebels from 1976-78.

"'It's been a long time coming,' Garner said. 'This here just kind of solidifies our decision to go ahead and move into this market here. The mayor's commitment is just wonderful.'" Before all of this, Oxford only had a Huddle House, and the closest Waffle House was half an hour away, in Batesville.



A few months later, in December 2019, Waffle House showed up on the Ole Miss campus, with a career opportunity setup in Conner Hall, the accountancy building. Some swag was available -- which, of course, I picked up. (I would have liked to have grabbed one of each type of koozie, but didn't feel comfortable doing that. I did end up snagging a second novelty pin that I found left on a table, though.) The Facebook post on the event notes that Waffle House was also planning on "feeding our students during finals week this spring at Holman Hall," next door at the business school, but alas, the subsequent COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns squashed those plans.




My Waffle House swag pack

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Events which were made less public but which were still very real took place in the two months between September's Waffle Week on the square and December's campus visit. In October 2019, the Oxford Planning Commission officially approved a preliminary site plan for a Waffle House in Oxford, and in November, the Board of Alderman seconded. The building was to be located on Commonwealth Boulevard, north of the Malco, in the Oxford Commons area of town.


Further discussion continued into January of the new year, but as you and I know, pretty much everything ground to a halt in March 2020 when the pandemic hit. News on Waffle House's arrival in Oxford wouldn't pick up again until a year later, in March 2021, when it was announced the company had decided on a new location, still in Oxford Commons, but now in a more visible spot directly abutting the roundabout at Ed Perry Boulevard and Sisk Avenue. The final site plan and architectural renderings were presented and approved in June 2021, and construction finally began in July 2022, after some further delays.

Site plan

Architectural rendering

Groundbreaking

By late September 2022, the building was coming along fast, and finally, the day arrived: Oxford's very first Waffle House held its grand opening in late November 2022. Mayor Robyn Tannehill was on hand for the festivities, alongside Waffle House executives including former Ole Miss Rebel Bobby Garner, mentioned earlier. Also in celebration of the event, TeeWhites -- a locally-owned custom apparel business (in nearby Flora, MS!) -- put out a limited-edition run of "Finally in Oxford" sweatshirts. According to their website, TeeWhites' founder, Tyler White, is actually a student at the Ole Miss School of Law... I wonder if he knows Professor Case.

Construction progress

Grand opening day

Limited edition sweatshirts

Definitely would've bought one of these if I'd known about it!

Speaking of Case... as I said, it seems he is no longer on Twitter, but he is still very much an active professor at the university. I feel it's only fitting to assume he has been to the Waffle House many times since it opened; he did state multiple times that his dream scenario would be to have "a stool at the counter that’s kind of like my stool, like Norm on ‘Cheers.’ And maybe when I come in everyone would yell my name." I'd like to think that hopefully, on at least one of those times he's visited, he kept his promise from the tweet below and shared a waffle with Mayor Tannehill. They are, after all, the dynamic duo that brought about the #WaffleHouseinOxfordMS: Batman and Robyn.


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Obviously, though the introduction I wrote years ago was clearly very optimistic that a Waffle House would arrive in town seemingly overnight, I had long since graduated and moved away by the time the restaurant was finally built. As a matter of fact, I hadn't been back to Oxford at all since graduating with my masters degree in May 2021. Last month, though, I was in nearby Water Valley for a friend's wedding... and since Oxford was so close, I couldn't resist the temptation to drive that way and finally see the Waffle House in person.


Having just eaten at the wedding, all I did was park and briefly walk around the restaurant for a few pictures, but I'm glad I took the chance to see it. I'm sure I may have looked a little strange, a guy in a full suit walking around taking pictures of the outside of a Waffle House on a Saturday night, but after all that build-up, the restaurant had to be seen to be believed!


If walking around a Waffle House parking lot in my suit and tie was strange, then subsequently driving over to campus and doing the same was probably even weirder. Luckily, there wasn't really anybody out and about at 8:00 on a Saturday night. (Well, I'm sure a lot was going on in Oxford, just not on campus!) As I said, I hadn't been back since graduation, so it was very neat and nostalgic getting to recreate all the usual routes I'd take to class and see my old apartment and the Grove. I enjoyed it a lot. (Even if I wasn't able to walk it all quite as fast as I used to.)


I really like the backlit sign along the road for the Waffle House. The building itself is composed of all brick, similar to the Waffle House in Hernando (seen earlier in the post). Hernando has a brick ordinance, whereas Oxford does not, but it's possible Waffle House is building all of its new restaurants these days out of brick; I'm not sure. A tweet I saw in doing my research for this post called this "the most Madison looking Waffle House," in reference to the architecture of Madison, MS, which is pretty funny.


As I said, I didn't go inside the restaurant, but if you zoom in, you'll see that the tiles along the wall -- which are usually black against a yellow background -- are alternating red and blue instead, the Ole Miss colors, on a black background. I thought that was a nice touch. I believe the pictures on the wall above the tiles are also related to the University and/or Oxford.


Even the mailbox is 100% Waffle House! We'll close with a nice overview shot of the entire building, as viewed from the roundabout out front, from an image posted to Google Maps. It's still not a daytime shot, but at least it's not pitch black outside like in my images.

Courtesy Google Maps

Y'all seemed really excited about my "Batman"-related post when I teased it last month, so I hope you guys enjoyed it! I thought it was really cool getting to follow along with this story in real-time while I was still in college, and I'm glad to have my own little tiny personal connection to it with the swag pack I picked up at Conner Hall that afternoon (the items from which I still have proudly displayed with my retail collection to this day). I only wish I had saved more of Professor Case's tweets along the way as well, as there were definitely plenty more besides the relatively few still surviving online (including, if I'm not mistaken, the Batman "origin story," if you will).

For those wondering, my friend's wedding was great as well; I'm really happy for her and her husband. I enjoyed getting to go to that, and I also enjoyed the freeing feeling of walking around campus on a Saturday night, in a suit and tie, three years since my last visit! Incidentally, the topics of weddings and freedom will play a very major role in my post for next month, too, so I hope you'll stick around for that. In the meantime, until then and as always, thanks for reading, and have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are!

Retail Retell