Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Poplar-Perkins Kroger Auction (The 411 on My Day at 411)

Today's post highlights Shelby County, TN, retail.

If you've checked out my flickr photostream before, you know I'm a big fan of the grocery store located at 576 S Perkins Road in East Memphis. I have a whole album dedicated to it (which you may visit here, if you please). Heck, I've even mentioned it here on the blog a couple of times before (see here and here)!

Photo courtesy Commercial Search

The store began life in 1964 under the banner of a local chain, Seessel's. I have a post set for next month that will go into more detail about Seessel's, but suffice it to say that their stores were bought in 1998 by Albertsons, who exited the Memphis market in 2002, selling the former Seessel's stores to Schnucks. Albertsons had kept the Seessel's name during their time here but aggressively remodeled the stores (and built new ones as well); Schnucks, in turn, dumped the Seessel's name, and re-remodeled all the stores (well, almost all of them...).

Photo courtesy Commercial Search

Schnucks lasted in Memphis until 2011, when they finally decided to call it quits and sold out select stores to Kroger. The 576 S Perkins location was among those Kroger assumed operations of, redubbed store #411, but they didn't actually own it; rather, it was a leased location. With the lease set to expire in June - and two other, larger stores (this one is only 28,041 square feet, and that's from a late '90s expansion) within a mile - Kroger decided to close this store on March 26, 2016.

Though the store was closed for two months, no activity took place, i.e. there was no auction of the equipment (and other goods) that remained inside. Turns out, that auction as just waiting for the lease to expire on June 1st! June 2nd, 2016, saw an auction finally take place at the hands of Grafe Auction Company, which has conducted multiple auctions for multiple supermarket chains in the past. The above and below images are all solely from that auction, unless otherwise specified.

Not for the duration of the auction it isn't...

Auction registration taking place

I came to the auction 1) to get photos, of course, but 2) because I was interested in bidding on (and hopefully buying) a lot, number 153 to be specific. I saved a view of its contents to the Wayback Machine but can't find it... long story short, though, it contained all of the hanging décor throughout the store - not the actual wall signage, but everything else, like the "fast checkout" promotional signage and the one I was going for, the "public restrooms" sign.

I'm fairly certain this same balloon can be seen inflated up by the ceiling in one of my flickr photos from before this store's closure.

Wishing I had taken this :/

 I had never noticed the detailing on the gold parts before the auction!

In one of the prep rooms of the service departments. Possibly an Albertsons relic?

By the time the auctioneers reached my lot number, several hours had passed already. Then they began the lot auction by claiming it encompassed all of the wall décor, which, as I said, is false. I told them that and upon further investigation of a list of future lots, they agreed they were wrong. But instead of actually knowing that the contents of lot 153 (as catalogued online for a week prior to the event, remember) consisted of other items, they simply skipped the lot and moved on to the next one. I did make sure to ask if I could bid on the public restrooms sign individually, since that was really all I wanted out of lot 153 anyway, and was told they would get to that once they reached that side of the store again.

Under the platform... was becoming more experimental with my shots at this point :P

...unfortunately for me, they had just returned to the left side of the store (the public restrooms sign being on the right), and began auctioning off all of the service departments' equipment. As a result, it took three more hours of waiting for them to reach lot 330, the frozen and dairy department signs, which are located near the restrooms one. I assumed the public restrooms sign would be squeezed in next due to its proximity. I was wrong. They moved on into the stockroom.

Old Schnucks tags! And creepy package of chocolate that was left behind...

The sign I was trying to purchase.

Neat backroom cart

Kroger script décor checkout lights, which pretty well match the Albertsons Industrial Circus décor (as do the security camera signs elsewhere in the post)

Now, I should note that the store, being closed, had working electricity, but nonworking air conditioning, so I was inside a hot former supermarket with nothing to do but wait for hours on end. That was pleasant. (sarcasm...)

Would've removed this and called it my own if I knew how. The other checkouts were all stripped of this already.

Headed to the mysterious upstairs...

Old café chairs

Finally, one of the auctioneers (the same one I had questioned earlier) walked out from the back room and passed me, so I asked him if they were going to get to my sign anytime soon. Immediately he apologized and said he had forgotten about me. He took me into the back room and interrupted the auction in process so the acting auctioneer (there were two, one speaking/taking care of the bidding and one writing results) could squeeze in the public restrooms sign, which he did.

"Thank you for shopping" sign, which I also tried to purchase (story further down the page...)

Edited this one so you could see remnants of the stylized Schnucks logo from where they had it placed under the "thank you" sign

As soon as the bidding started I thrust my hand in the air, because after what all I had gone through I wasn't walking out of that place with that sign, haha! No one else bid, thankfully, so I won the auction. The auctioneer who had taken me back so I could get the sign also took me up front so I could pay. The total, however, was not a pretty one; let's just say that I thought the speaking auctioneer had begun the bidding in an amount that was in cents, but was actually in dollars. Again, pleasant surprise... not.

I mentioned this to the auctioneer who was taking care of my receipt, and for my troubles, he marked it down to half-price, which was very generous. I still had to shell out more money than I was hoping (especially since I saw, upon checking the online bidroom, that certain lots went for $1.00), but at least it was a more reasonable amount than it was to begin with. Almost certainly that's a dirty auctioneer technique: starting higher than is necessary, then reducing as needed to finally get bids. But, being an unexperienced auction-goer, and having held my hand up so early, I got duped.

Several cases in this store that were being auctioned were either a) units sent for use in this store from older Kroger stores, or b) units sent to this store from older Kroger stores for auction purposes only. As you can tell from the purple trim, this one is an old millennium décor case. 

Thought this shot turned out well :)

Oh well. I was able to get my sign, so I shouldn't be complaining! The next challenge was removing it; luckily, we had brought the right tools, and were able to leave shortly thereafter. By that time it was nearly 5:00PM. We had arrived around 10:00AM; the auction began at 10:30AM. Ultimately, I got what I wanted, but I more or less wasted the entire day in doing so.

I know this gold shelf is likely an Albertsons or Schnucks relic, since the former Seessel's/Schnucks in Southaven has several gold shelves as well. Thinking (what's left of) the sticker says Albertsons more so...

Another find from upstairs (sorry for not having it with the rest of the shots): quite likely a message from 1976!

This view has been seen on the blog before, but it was prettier last time :(

Now, you're probably asking – aside from “Are you insane?! Who in their right mind would spend seven hours in a closed grocery store in Memphis in June without air conditioning?!” - “Why would a public restrooms sign be so important?” The sign – as pictured earlier in the post – is important to me because it is a manageable piece of Seessel's by Albertsons history.

You see, when Albertsons was on that remodel streak I mentioned, this store received the chain's “Industrial Circus,” or (as it's officially known) “Broadway,” décor package. Remarkably, Schnucks, and Kroger after them, left this décor untouched, save for a few things like the logo placed with the “thank you” sign and Kroger's customer service signage. The public restrooms sign was a way for me to own a piece of this décor history that's relatively small in size.

I say “relatively” small because it's actually a lot larger than I was expecting :P Let's just say this: I was hoping to hang it above a restroom door in my house; it's more accurately the size of one-half to three-fourths of the door! I still have found a place to display it, though. No sense in paying for it if you're not going to show it off, right?

After securing that sign, I got to thinking about the “thank you for shopping” sign, since it, too, was original to Seessel's by Albertsons' 2000 remodel of this store. It was, after all, a part of that lot (153) which I had wanted to bid on originally. I decided to call the number listed on my receipt about getting that sign; I left a message, and heard back later that it was not the auctioneers' number, but that of the equipment removal manager, who said – and I quote – it is his job “to sell or do whatever with” any items left in the store.

With that, as well as confirmation that the thank you sign remained in the store, in mind, we returned once more to 576 S Perkins on June 4th; the picture above, as well as the ones below, are from that visit, joined by several shots of my takeaways. Naturally, I was hoping I could get this sign for free, given the “do whatever with” language; that, or at least a really cheap price, would make up for my having to pay more than I had cared to for the public restrooms sign. Unfortunately, the equipment removal manager instead asked me to make him an offer, which I did: $1.00, good-naturedly saying I was going to start cheap.

It was pretty neat seeing one of these completely dismantled! Since I neglected to mention this elsewhere, all the wall décor in this store did sell off. Perhaps it will live on... but scattered around, and not here with whoever the next tenant may be.

Perhaps you don't recognize this wall sans bakery and deli signs...?

He countered with some unreasonable figure like $150.00, saying if I started low he was going to start high, and proceeded to 'teach me a lesson' about bidding, negotiating, and the auction process. I don't mean to bad-mouth him (or Grafe, for that matter, as they were professional), because ultimately I was able to secure the thank you sign (minus the Kroger logo – more on that in a moment), and he was likely trying to do me a favor, but this did nevertheless rub me the wrong way.

Handwritten "Albertsons Thanks" message on the back of one of the letters, photo edited so you can hopefully see it better. Cool find!

At least the equipment removal manager let me have this crate to place the letters in for free XD

Door notices I discreetly removed from the store
Another cash sum later (and only $5 less than the restrooms sign, too :/ ), I was able to walk out with the “thank you for shopping” letters. The Kroger logo, I was informed, had to stay, because he personally was required, as part of Grafe's deal with Kroger, to take anything that says “Kroger” and break it in two so it can never be reused. He did hint that if we were to come back on the final days (the store remained open for five days following the auction for equipment pickup), he would let us have it, but I decided not to return for that, especially after what I'd been through just to get those two signs. 
Newer Kroger tag, with closeout price underneath. Kroger doesn't seem to do big, all-encompassing liquidations, instead choosing to closeout certain items only. The 33% off perishables is about as close to that as they'll go.

Older Kroger tag

Schnucks tag that was left on one of the shelves! You can see several of them at one point above...

You can see I didn't just make out with those two signs, though – I did manage to sneak out some old pricetags and such. If I had had more time (and patience) on my return visit, I probably would've walked down every aisle to see if any goodies could be found amongst the dust and trash that marked where shelving once stood. But I wasn't about to spend more time in there, as hard as that is to say. This is my second favorite store, even though it's now closed, and I hate to say that of my five visits there overall, two weren't up to par. I'm not going to let them tarnish its legacy in my mind, but I do want to get their story off my chest, hence this blog post :P

All in all, in terms of walking out with what I wanted, I got the easy way out... but I had to take the hard way to get there.

Hope you enjoyed the 100+ pictures I took during all that waiting I had to do, lol, and thanks for helping the MSRB break 10,000 page views!! Stay tuned for a blog post concerning Seessel's as a chain more broadly next month... and until then, have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are!

Retail Retell