|Today's post highlights Lafayette County, MS, retail.
Hello again, everyone! It's been a hot minute since I've been able to put a post up for you guys - sorry about that. Normally, I try to get my September entry up around Labor Day weekend, but this time I'm barely making the criteria for September at all, given that there's only one full day left in the entire month :P But that's alright too, because since I don't have an October post, this ought to help tide y'all over until November when my next post after this one will go up.
Anyway, onto the subject at hand! Today we're hanging out in Oxford, Mississippi, for a look at something that - unless I'm forgetting something - is a brand-new topic to the blog: an abandoned restaurant! Specifically, we'll be taking a look at the former Applebee's location at 1931 W Jackson Avenue in Oxford. The restaurant opened in the early 2000s, was remodeled in the early- to mid-2010s, and closed up shop at the end of May 2017. I visited the place a few months after that, on October 13th, 2017. But before we get to what it looked like then, let's quickly check out how it looked in the past...
Kicking things off here with a couple of Google Street View captures. I tried my best to screenshot them from exactly the same angle, so that you could make better comparisons between the two to see what all changed and what all stayed the same. The top capture was taken in October 2011, and the bottom one in February 2016. (However, the remodel was captured even earlier than that, in June of 2014.) In the two shots, you can see that the building remained generally the same, but (of course) the logos were switched out; the one on the building was a simple signage swap, while the one on the tall roadside sign was a more elaborate replacement involving a new sign shape and size altogether. Elsewhere on the building, the awnings changed colors from red, yellow, and green stripes to just plain yellow, and also grew much taller, displacing the "Neighborhood Grill & Bar" sign to a makeshift half-signage/half-awning hanging fixture above the entrance doors. Other than that though, the restaurant remained generally the same, including several (but not all) of those original green gooseneck lamps.
Moving on to my pictures now, we first approach the property along its right-side (east-facing) wall, which is where the vehicle access points are located. (Even though the building faces Jackson Avenue and has a Jackson Avenue address, it is up on a hill, so there is no driveway to or from Jackson Avenue itself.) We also get a pretty good idea of what this place has in store for us - given that those awnings, lamps, and to-go signs are all still intact, this Applebee's barely looks like it's been closed at all!
Here's a closer look at one of those "Carside To Go" parking signs along the right-side wall of the building, posted on either side of that doorway. Pretty cool to see all this stuff still remaining on the exterior of the building so long after the place shut down! Also, as you'd imagine, that door off to the right (in the previous pic) serviced to-go customers at this restaurant...
...and today, it's doing us a service as well, by providing us a nice look at the interior of the restaurant! All of the windows had their blinds drawn, but this door had no such blinds, and as such, I was able to get this peek inside the restaurant. It may be slightly difficult to make out based on the lack of electricity, but hopefully the amount of natural light flowing in is enough to allow you to see that looks to still be completely furnished (albeit with much of said furnishings stacked on top of tables and bars), up to and including the pictures on the walls.
Time for a more drawn-out view of the right-side wall of the restaurant now, where we can get a better look at the large awnings above those windows and that door. As I mentioned earlier, these awnings would have been shorter prior to the restaurant's remodel, and likely would have had green gooseneck lamps identical to those seen on the right of this frame placed above them. With the introduction of the larger awnings, new lantern-style light fixtures were installed between the awnings, but at least those goosenecks to the right were allowed to remain!
Heading around to the front of the building now... perhaps you can begin to see why I chose this particular day to visit this Applebee's :) Yes indeed, that tarp covering the Applebee's logo finally decided to (at least partly) give way, revealing the former inhabitant of this building underneath!
Here are a couple more views of the partially-revealed Applebee's logo and the front of the former restaurant building. The tarp went up immediately after the restaurant closed; see the image below, courtesy of The Oxford Eagle. It was pretty tightly cinched around the logo's contours, too, so I really can't explain how exactly it was able to loosen to this extent. If I'm remembering correctly, we may have had a few storms with some heavy wind gusts between May and October of 2017, so perhaps those are to blame. In any case, though, the tarp definitely got loose somehow!
In addition to the aforementioned Oxford Eagle image, shown above are two additional close-up photos of the entrance gable and the unmasked Applebee's sign. Shortly after my visit in October, the tarp gave way entirely, leaving the Applebee's logo 100% visible to passersby on Jackson Avenue. In turn, a few weeks following that, the Applebee's sign was simply removed from the building outright. So I'm glad I photographed this when I did!
One more shot of the front of the building, before we turn the corner once again and take a look at its left side. In particular, I was trying to get a nice wide view of the whole of the storefront with this image. I feel like I accomplished that objective :) In addition to the large yellow awnings and some (remarkably well-kept, for having been abandoned for four and a half months at this point) landscaping, we can also see a number of green-painted things that may well be original to the restaurant, including that bench, the front doors and the windows to their left, and the previously-mentioned gooseneck lamps above said windows.
Headed around to the left-side of the building, we get even more of a treat: not only has the tarp on the Applebee's sign on this side gotten loose, it's disappeared entirely! Definitely a cool sight to see :) Of course, this also was likely a very misleading sight, lest anyone passing by on Jackson Avenue interpret this sign to mean that the restaurant was back open again. Hence, I can see why the property owner took the liberty of removing all signs from the building (and the roadside sign as well) shortly after these photos were taken. But still... pretty neat!
Here's another view of the left-side (west-facing) wall, this time angled so as also to include a peek at that roadside sign (which is also tarped-over) in the background. Worth mentioning here that this side's awnings remained the same, kinda-short size as their pre-remodel predecessors, likely due to the presence of the Applebee's logo placed above them. Makes me wonder if the right-side wall of the building once had an Applebee's logo as well, considering its roofline has an identical push upwards.
One more look down the left-side wall of the building, before taking a closer look at those three classic elements I mentioned previously: the bench, the windows, and the gooseneck lamps, all still done up in that original Applebee's green color! Certainly a nice thing to see. I haven't eaten at an Applebee's in years (bar one semi-recent experience, which only served to affirm my lack of patronage), but I do have fond memories of eating at the (still open) Horn Lake location when I was much younger. In fact, we still had a small children's to-go cup from that Applebee's, from a promotion advertising PBS Kids' Dragon Tales (that couldn't have been any newer than 2004, based on this article), that we used around the house for cleaning up until just this month, when it finally shattered into pieces due to old age :(
Here's a close-up view of the roadside sign and its tightly-wrapped tarp. As you saw back at the top of this post, this was in fact the same sign that stood here prior to the remodel; it simply saw the top portion bearing the Applebee's logo exchanged in order to reflect the chain's new image (which, by the way, debuted in 2007, in case any of you were wondering. Also, relatedly, this remodel must have taken place prior to 2014, since it appears that yet another reimagining of the logo took place in that year, which mainly altered the appearance of the apple icon). Even though the tarp never came loose on this sign, the landlord decided to remove it, too - pole, letterboard, and all - at the same time that the other signs still affixed to the building were taken down.
One more wide view of the front of the building, as seen from the vantage point of the roadside sign located at the southeast corner of the property (right at the intersection of Jackson Avenue and Heritage Drive). Here's something else I thought was interesting: typically, in these Applebee's remodels, the awnings seem to be customized to the chain, featuring little apple icons in the bottom corners (similar to this). But at this Oxford location, no such apples exist - instead, the awnings are just a plain yellow color. At first, I thought that maybe they were changed out or flipped the opposite direction when the restaurant closed (similar to how some stores, like Walmart, do "paint-outs" when they vacate buildings), but from the Street View imagery I pulled, it appears that the awnings were always this way at this particular location. Strange. Makes it easier to backfill this building, at least - that's one less thing a new tenant would have to worry about removing!
Returning to the front doors of the restaurant, I decided to do a little bit of exploring, since - as we saw with those "Carside To Go" signs previously - there are obviously plenty of Applebee's relics remaining on the property. Shown above is the restaurant's hours sign, which is clearly quite new-looking. The sign beneath it, however...
...not so much! Yep, I was definitely happy to come across this gem :) I can't say for sure how old this sign is, but it's obviously older than 2007 given the presence of the chain's old logo, and let's face it - that cell phone is enough to date this thing back over a decade even regardless of which logo is on the thing! I considered blurring the phone number on here, but obviously the restaurant is no longer using it, plus it would interfere with the quality of the image, so I decided I'd just keep it visible. But I am warning you - I am not responsible for anything that happens if you choose to call that number as a prank only to discover that it's still in operation and registered to someone else!
Here's a close-up of that little Applebee's phone icon, just because it's so darn cool! If I were a little more adventurous like a few of my flickr friends, armed with a screwdriver, and NOT in the complete visibility of the thousands of drivers passing by this place on busy Jackson Avenue on a daily basis, I might be tempted to "save" their number indeed... but as it is, I'm glad I at least was able to get these pictures, which of course are always the next best thing :)
Posted on the interior side of the front door's glass windows was this notice announcing the restaurant's closure (which, come to think of it, may have been more helpful if I had featured it earlier than this spot nearing the end of the post, but oh well :P ). It reads:
Effective Wednesday, May 31, 2017, this Applebee's location is closed. We regret any inconvenience it has caused our valued guests.
We greatly appreciate your patronage and look forward to continuing to serve guests at our other locations:
181 Norfleet Drive, Senatobia, MS
7515 Goodman Rd, Olive Branch, MS
710 DeSoto Cove, Horn Lake, MS
Apple Investors Group
Franchise Owner, Applebee's Bar + Grill
As of this writing, all three of those other locations remain open. I'm also not sure what exactly caused the Oxford Applebee's to close down in the first place; I know news of Applebee's locations closing all around the country made the rounds recently, but it appears that this closure predates that major push. (Nevertheless, the previously-referenced Oxford Eagle article covering this restaurant's closure did mention that 40 to 60 Applebee's locations were expected to close in 2017. See also this report, from HottyToddy.com.)
Here's one last straight-on, close-up view of the former Applebee's entrance gable, and the partially-uncovered logo. In doing some research for this post, I came across a more recent (as in, just last month) video tour of the property, which you can check out on YouTube here. (That same user, Retail Adventures, also has a video tour of the closed Oxford JCPenney, which you'll recall I featured on the blog last summer. The video can be seen here, and you can revisit my post here.) I also came across another interesting tidbit: apparently, this isn't the only time this restaurant has closed! Check out this article from The Daily Journal's Dennis Seid, written exactly fourteen years and one day (!) ago - it notes that the Oxford Applebee's, and indeed all 12 locations owned by Applebee's franchisee Delta Bluff LLC of Memphis, closed down in late September 2004. The article also mentions that Applebee's corporate was actively trying to secure a new franchisee for the region; evidently, they succeeded, since Oxford (and other locations, such as Horn Lake, which I know for a fact closed around the same time, only to reopen a short while later, and remodel in 2012 - possibly around the same time this Oxford location did, come to think of it!) would open for business again after that initial closure. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that this time around, they've left Oxford for good...
As we prepare to wrap up this post, here are a couple of parting shots of the property from my October 2017 visit. To be honest with you, I'm kinda surprised that the property has sat vacant for so long, especially given the demand along Jackson Avenue (recall that Oxford is home to the University of Mississippi, which has no fewer than three entrances off of Jackson). As a student at Ole Miss, I've seen plenty of new retail pop up along this road, much of it crammed into tiny spaces that wouldn't ordinarily be considered for retail anywhere else but a college town (or maybe a landlocked urban city). But at the same time, I can also count at least two additional vacant restaurant spaces along Jackson Avenue, that have been vacant the entire time I've been enrolled. So who knows for sure...
Finally for today, here's an updated image, taken on May 6th, 2018, to show you what the property looks like today. As I've mentioned previously, all Applebee's signs have been removed, including those on the building itself as well as the roadside sign. However, the little "Neighborhood Grill & Bar" awning remains intact (...for now), so that's a nice little memory of this restaurant's past (in addition to those cool relics we saw affixed next to the doors and windows of the place!). And lastly, I noticed just this past weekend that there is now a giant "AVAILABLE" sign placed at the front of the property, to attract anyone and everyone driving along Jackson Avenue who might be interested in occupying this building (or at least, purchasing the property for a tear-down/rebuild - you'd be surprised how common that is in Oxford!). Whichever route is taken, here's to hoping that this property gets some new life soon :)
That's what's going on down in Oxford, where - while there may be no more "eating good in the neighborhood" - there's still plenty of promise for this property. Until next time, and as always, have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are!