Thursday, June 21, 2018

Walmart Remodel, Louisville, KY (Bonus: Kroger Over-the-Rhine)

For today's post, the Mid-South Retail Blog is introducing an entirely new series: Beyond the Mid-South! Posts under this banner will feature retail from anywhere outside of the region defined by our logo. What few posts we already have up that fit that criteria have retroactively received this graphic, but today's entry is the first true post of this series. There are more to come as well, and of course, this now also opens up the stage for readers all over the retail world to send in your contributions, regardless of location, to midsouthretailblog [at] gmail [dot] com!

I was hoping to post this last week, as a matter of fact, but incidentally I was "beyond the Mid-South" myself during that time! So while I wasn't able to get any posts up any earlier in this month, I did manage to give the blog a few updates nevertheless. None of them are all that pressing; most are simply changes in wording, such as to our "welcome to the blog" sidebar or our comment form instructions. Speaking of sidebars, you'll also see the graphics for all of the blog's feature series (such as this one, Beyond the Mid-South) now lined up for easy access to all of the posts within those series, if you're visiting the site's desktop version. And perhaps most pertinently - if unfortunately - I've been forced to set all comments to where they now must be verified before appearing. So please don't be alarmed when your comment no longer automatically posts after you've written and submitted it!

With all of that out of the way... let's get this post started! These images come from a vacation I took two years ago, in late July 2016. In particular, the main subject here is a Walmart located just down the road from a hotel we stayed in up in Louisville, Kentucky. This Walmart's address is 3706 Diann Marie Road. And, as you can surely tell from the logo-less façade... this store was right in the middle of a remodel!

Indeed, it was the prospect of a Walmart completely devoid of any and all exterior signage that drew me into this store on July 25th, 2016. In the above three images, you can see the exterior repaint making some good progress. The new color scheme is Walmart's current blue-and-gray look; previously, the exterior would have been several shades of brown.

Inside the store, some remodel courtesy signage greets us, noting where some items have relocated and that a new look is on the way. We can also see that this store's previous décor - unsurprisingly - was Project Impact. Given the exterior repaint, the new décor on the way was what we on flickr have been calling Black Décor 2.0.

Here are a few shots from some various departments, including menswear, entertainment, and furniture. In these you can see that despite the exterior repaint making good progress, the interior had seen little work, at least décor-wise. (There are many other things that take place in remodels besides sign swaps however, so I shouldn't be so quick to judge like that!) The walls had all been painted white in preparation of the arrival of the new décor, but all of the old Impact-era signs remained in place.

Speaking of new signage, though... I did come across this pile of boxes from Walmart Signing just hanging around in the middle of an actionway! (Let me be clear that they weren't *blocking* the actionway; rather they were just resting there. We were here in the evening hours, too, after the day's peak crowds would have already come through.)

Here's an example of a temporary sign advertising the changes and improvements coming with the remodel. I believe I photographed this one in particular because it seemed to indicate Walmart was reversing their earlier (say, circa 2008/2009?) decision to downsize or even remove their fabrics and crafts department in some locations. Additionally, now that two years have passed since I took these photos, this banner can retroactively represent the temporary signage used for original Black Décor 2.0 remodels... Black Décor 2.0 is already on Black Décor 2.2 now, in such a short time! But that's a story for another day... ;)

Here are some more pictures of the store's remaining Project Impact signage, with an emphasis on the baby department sign, seen close-up in the bottom image above. I think two things led me to take a picture of that sign in particular... one, I found the images on the inner portions of the circle unusual and interesting (something I hadn't seen before)... and two, I also found it interesting how this store didn't have an additional, slimmer circular piece hanging within the larger circle bearing the department name. (That's hard to put into words, but this photo ought to give you an idea of what I'm talking about!) I wonder how it was decided which Walmarts with this décor would get that version of the circular signs, and which would get the version seen here in Louisville. Alternatively, perhaps the decisions were based on corporate divisions rather than individual stores, or maybe it could even have been just a simple evolution of the décor over time, and I'm only overcomplicating matters!

I was pretty intrigued to come across the three signs pictured in the above three photos! You might be wondering what the big deal is... but if you look closely enough, you can tell that each of the three signs - that is, Home & Office, Crafts & Sewing, and Baby Gear & Furniture - are all from different Project Impact design eras! Specifically, Home & Office is from the first iteration of the décor, and features a three-dimensional, "pillow-like" shape... Crafts & Sewing is from the iteration that followed, and features generally the same design, only flattened out onto a two-dimensional sign... and lastly, Baby Gear & Furniture is from the final iteration of Impact décor, which is also undoubtedly the cheapest-looking iteration, seeing as how the signs were minimized even further so as to eliminate the product images and therefore drastically reduce in size. I have absolutely zero clue why this store had three signs all from different eras on display in this particular area of the salesfloor, but regardless I thought it was a rather neat find!

Heading over to the grocery department now, the remaining Project Impact décor becomes even more sparse, seeing as how the signage for the deli would previously have been mounted on the walls (which were stripped of all Impact-era paint and décor by the time of my visit). That said, some Impact signs did still remain hanging above the beverage aisles, and - even cooler - some even older food platter images and price signs had survived on the back wall of the deli! I don't know if those continued to survive past the remodel, though.

Heading down the main grocery actionway, not much to see besides the aisle signs, which are mildly interesting in that their numbers are placed at the bottom right of the signs. (The ones in my local Walmart had them at the top center, which effectively dates the version of Impact décor that this Louisville store got either older or newer than my Walmart... and I'm leaning more towards older.) Meanwhile, the bottom photo shows some "Fresh Guarantee" promotional signage, which was brand-new at the time, as I had yet to have seen it before. I thought it looked a bit like the forthcoming Black Décor 2.0, which is why I took this pic of it.

No clue why I got the bottom shot above, besides perhaps to show some old tile still remaining in the store's produce department! The top shot, however, I did deliberately take, because I thought the way the new strip of lighting directly touched the old, soon-to-be removed aisle sign was a funny sight :P

These four shots show the store's produce department in more detail, with an emphasis on the new wayfinder signs: the store's first taste of BD2.0. Not only did this store get an early remodel to Project Impact back in the day, it also seems to have gotten an early upgrade to Black Décor 2.0, seeing as how the produce icons on those wayfinder signs would be "colored in" on later versions of the signs (see here for an example).

The last department for us to come across on the grocery side of the salesfloor was the store's bakery, which is located beneath that rather low drop ceiling. As I understand it, this arrangement - deli in the back, and bakery in the front, below a drop ceiling - is common for older Walmarts like this one, but I'm not sure why the drop ceiling exists or what purpose it may have served in the past. Some more premature (so to speak) BD2.0 elements can be seen within the bakery department, and in the bottom photo above, you can also see the temporary banner promoting the changes coming with the remodel.

One shot across the front end, and then we're back outside again, with a few more exterior shots of the store. The paint job was mostly complete at this point, with only a few exceptions where the previous brown color remained. Looks like some additional work was being done on that one pylon, in particular.

Elsewhere outside the store, some other interesting things were to be found, including the old-school "Security Cameras In Use" sign seen in the bottom photo above, and the strange "No Fire Aceƨƨ" [sic] stenciling on the fire door above that :P  But most intriguing to me...

...was this trailer, sitting out in the open in the parking lot and very obviously containing the huge letters that comprise the "Walmart" logo and wordmark on the building's exterior! This helps explain where the store's logo was resting while I was here (if not why the logo was off of the building in the first place). Strangely enough, it even appears as if there were *two* Walmart logos sitting inside this trailer, based on the two large "W"s I believe I see in there. Perhaps this store had a second logo on its exterior, facing the nearby interstate? 

Lastly from this Louisville Walmart, a shot of the height (clearance) restriction poles at all of the parking lot entrances - something else I had never seen at a Walmart before this date - followed by a parting wide shot of the store's (still logo-less!) exterior. The store's remodel has (obviously) since been completed; for photos of that (and a few pre-remodel pics, too), be sure to check out the store's page on Google Maps here.

For the remainder of this post, I'm simply unloading some additional retail pictures I took on this vacation in July 2016. The above two photos were taken at a neat open-air shopping center in Louisville dubbed Westport Village. I thought the fun play on the phrase "walk-ins welcome" at a hair salon within the complex was creative :P

The above four photos come from the Ollie's Bargain Outlet located at 9236 Westport Road in Louisville. This was my first Ollie's experience, as the chain had - and, so far, still has - yet to open any stores in the Memphis metro area, including any of its suburbs. (The chain is actively growing, however, so it might not be long...) I thought the décor, while cheesy, was also funny (or at the very least, punny instead!).

The Tuesday Morning store pictured at the top of this group is located right next door to the Ollie's, out of view to my left in my photo of the Ollie's storefront. The classic mansard-roof era McDonald's, meanwhile, is located right nearby as well, at 9254 Westport Road. Per Google Maps Street View, it was remodeled not long after my visit. Before-and-after photos can be seen here.

The above-pictured Steak 'n Shake is located at 10721 Fischer Park Drive, as an outparcel to a Meijer store, whose gas station is shown in the bottom shot above. The Meijer itself can be found at 4100 Towne Center Drive in Louisville. I've heard lots of good things about Meijer. If I had had more time, I would have liked to have ventured inside and seen one for myself.

Moving on to what's known as "Old Louisville" now, with this look at a tower advertising a Rite Aid pharmacy within the shopping center it overlooks. I thought this was pretty neat! The store's address is 409 W Oak Street. According to Rite Aid's store locator, this location was purchased by Walgreens, so - as we've discussed in the past - there's a chance it will remain open and convert to the Walgreens brand, or that it will simply shut down entirely, in the near future.

Speaking of "shut down" - located just behind that Rite Aid, at 1148 S 4th Street, is this long-vacant former Winn-Dixie Marketplace. Online sources say the store has been closed and empty since 2005 (when Winn-Dixie vacated the Louisville market completely - alongside several other markets, too, including Memphis, per this article), but in looking up the store, I also uncovered evidence that local leaders are pushing to get a new grocery store into the space soon. Hopefully that will work out! Here's an article on the effort, and here's an entire website dedicated to a lease listing for the property.

Louisville wasn't our only stop on this July 2016 vacation; we also traveled to up to Ohio while we were at it. (You might recognize these Mansfield, OH, Kroger Marketplace photos that were posted on the blog much, much sooner after the trip than today's images!) In addition to Mansfield, we also spent a day or two in Cincinnati, which is the home of the unique Wendy's restaurant you see pictured above. This location (at 1246 Hopple Street) appears to have been one of the earliest remodels to the fast-food chain's current building style, seeing as how it features the old Wendy's logo; said logo would go on to be retired and replaced in 2013. Per Google Street View, this restaurant was remodeled not long before that, in fall 2012.

The main retail(-ish) thing that we visited while in Cincinnati was the absolutely awesome American Sign Museum. (I may or may not be wearing a T-shirt I bought in their gift shop as I sit here typing this right now.) The museum not only permits photography but encourages it; as a result, I went a little photo-happy there. Consequently, those images will have to go up in a separate blog post sometime in the future. Trust me though, it's worth the wait!

In the meantime, here we're looking at some sights to be found in downtown Cincinnati. Up top is a shot of Macy's corporate offices at 7 W 7th Street. (The chain's downtown department store, located in a different building, closed just this past March.) And below that is the Kroger Fan Zone at the Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds. 

Why the Kroger-branded fan zone, you ask? Why, because Kroger is headquartered in Cincinnati, of course! Here are a few close-up shots from their HQ at 1014 Vine Street, including two photos of one of many pig statues gracing the sidewalk in front of the building. My longtime flickr followers may recall this picture of the Kroger headquarters that I posted to my photostream back while I was on this vacation!

Kroger's headquarters wasn't the only cool thing related to the chain to be found on Vine Street. No, even cooler was this vintage Kroger sign and Ohio historical marker found in front of the store at 1420 Vine Street! This store is located in the "Over-the-Rhine" area of downtown Cincinnati. I included it as the "bonus" in the title to this post, but I didn't go inside the store to take any pictures, so I admit that was a little bit of clickbait on my end :P  As a matter of fact, I almost didn't even take these two pics, seeing as how (if I recall correctly) there was some police activity taking place in the store's parking lot. Nevertheless, these things were just too cool not to photograph! Here's the text of the historical marker, reprinted to make it easier for you to read:

The Kroger Co. 
Near this site in Over-the-Rhine was one of the original Kroger Grocery & Baking Company stores, where Bernard H. Kroger began serving the Over-the-Rhine area in 1902. Kroger was 23 years old when he opened his first store, The Great Western Tea Company, at 66 East Pearl Street near the Cincinnati Riverfront in July of 1883. By 1902, when the company was incorporated as the Kroger Grocery & Baking Company, Kroger operated 40 stores. By 1908, the company had grown to a chain of 136 stores in Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, and Northern Kentucky, and began making deliveries to customers with 200 mule-drawn wagons. Kroger was the first to combine meats and groceries under one roof and the first grocer company to operate its own bakery. Currently called the Kroger Co., the grocer is a major contributor to the local economy.

While it's close enough (in my opinion, anyway), Over-the-Rhine technically is not a part of downtown Cincinnati, so Kroger - and the city of Cincinnati in general - has not had a downtown grocery store since 1969. This store itself opened in 1961, if the information I've found is correct, and comes in only at a tiny 11,000 square feet. Just last year, however, Kroger announced plans to open a new downtown grocery store (as part of an all-new high-rise apartment complex) by 2019; that store will total 45,000 square feet, and will act as the replacement for this Over-the-Rhine store, which will close upon the completion and opening of that new store. You can read more about this here and here. I'm not sure what will happen to this old Kroger roadside sign and the historical marker, but there's no denying that the new store ought to be an improvement over this old one!

To wrap this post up, here's one final look at the Kroger headquarters building, as viewed from the hotel we stayed at in downtown Cincinnati. (Nice view for a retail fan, haha!)

I hope you enjoyed this first official Beyond the Mid-South post - as I said, there are more to come in the future! Since I don't foresee having another new post ready before then, I hope you all have a great Independence Day holiday this July 4th... and as always, have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are!

Retail Retell


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