Sunday, March 24, 2019

Dirt Cheap (Former Wal-Mart), Batesville, MS

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

Occasionally - if I can manage it - I like to try and link a blog post together with a series in progress that I have running over at my flickr photostream, as a bit of supplemental material, if you will. For my current Batesville Kroger album, it turns out I had the perfect companion waiting in my photo archives. In fact, this store anchors the exact same shopping center as the Kroger. Today, we'll be taking a look at the Batesville Dirt Cheap.

Courtesy LoopNet

To start us off, here's an aerial look at the entire plaza, which is known as Batesville Shopping Center. I didn't go super deep with my research for this post, but I did dig enough to find that the complex was built in 1990. The Kroger originally opened as Food World, according to a comment left over on flickr... and that other anchor building, at the top left of the image, clearly started its life as a Wal-Mart.

Courtesy LoopNet

For definitive proof on that Wal-Mart fact: check out this image of the building, taken way back on January 17th, 2005! Definitely can't deny those red, gray, and blue Wal-Mart colors here :)  As is common with many of their older, smaller discount store buildings, Wal-Mart opted to trade this one in in favor of a shiny new Supercenter on the other side of the nearby I-55 interchange, probably sometime in the early 2000s (not too long before this picture) if I had to guess. It's likely that the red color applied to the main vestibule façade was Wal-Mart's attempt at a paint-out, but given that the rest of the building looks like it was left completely untouched, I'd say they didn't really fool anyone. In more recent years, Walmart's (notice how I'm switching between the appropriate spellings based on the era to which I'm referring :P ) paint-outs have been more elaborate... but even then, the distinctive architecture they leave behind usually gives them away in most situations.

Courtesy The Dumes Falk Group

This picture doesn't have a date attached to it, but regardless, it's obvious that it must be newer than 2005 based on the new façade that Burke's Outlet is sporting off in the background. Let's head over there for a closer look...

Courtesy Google Maps

In this Google Street View imagery from January 2016, we can see Burke's Outlet's façade in close-up, as well as the old Wal-Mart vestibule immediately next door. After Wal-Mart left, the building was subdivided into three components: Burke's Outlet on the right, evidently the first portion to be retenanted based on that 2005 photo; Goody's in the center, reusing Wal-Mart's distinctive old façade; and a still-vacant space on the left.

Courtesy Randall Commercial Properties

This old site plan for the shopping center shows how the subdivision was carried out. As you can see, the building was not divided into even thirds; Burke's took approximately 38%, and Goody's 28%, of the 55,589 square foot building. However, when considered together, Burke's and Goody's portions did add up to two-thirds, with the vacant portion measuring the remaining one-third of the square footage.

Courtesy Google Maps

I don't know when Goody's first opened here in Batesville, but per that other image it had to have been after 2005; similarly, based on these Street Views, they must have called it quits prior to 2016 (but not by much - I believe that's their "Store Closing" banner resting on the sidewalk in this scene!). I'm going to guess that the façade repaint to brown and white happened concurrent with either Burke's façade upgrade or Goody's moving in... and for that matter, who knows, maybe both of those things occurred simultaneously as well, making for a trifecta of building improvements all at once!

Courtesy Randall Commercial Properties

Burke's Outlet updated its exterior logo just in time for the above photo to be taken and included in a 2016 marketing package seeking potential lessees for the former Goody's space and its unoccupied-since-the-Wal-Mart-days neighbor. The leasing package (as can be seen in the site plan above) originally advertised the vacancy as two separate spaces, keeping intact the subdividing wall that Goody's installed, but did note that the entire contiguous 34,533 square feet could be subdivided or combined to meet the tenant's needs. As it happens, the property owners found a new tenant who did indeed intend to occupy the entire vacancy, and in only a matter of months after releasing the marketing package, at that; the announcement was made on September 28th, 2016, that the rest of the former Batesville Wal-Mart building would soon become home to...

Courtesy Randall Commercial Properties

...Dirt Cheap! Now, I'm familiar with Dirt Cheap, but I always try to explain what a store is, especially if it's a chain that's regional, meaning you readers from beyond the Mid-South may not know about it. Consequently, I would normally do some research and a write-up myself... but I think the "About Dirt Cheap" section of that press release does just as good of a job for our purposes:

Headquartered in Hattiesburg, MS, Dirt Cheap (est. 1997) is a retail chain offering deeply discounted merchandise in over 70 retail locations across Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, Florida and Arkansas.  Dirt Cheap buyers travel the country purchasing liquidations, customer returns, overstocks, out of season goods, bankruptcies and closeouts from manufacturers, distributors and other retailers.  Inventory changes weekly, and sometimes daily, so there is always a great variety of merchandise to choose from.  On each visit customers could find name brand clothing, shoes, housewares, electronics, health and beauty products, furniture, bed and bath linens, toys and much more – all 30-90% off regular retail prices.

More information regarding Dirt Cheap's background can be found on their website. Of note, Dirt Cheap has its origins in sister chain Treasure Hunt... and has also spawned spinoff chain Dirt Cheap Building Supplies.

Courtesy Randall Commercial Properties

After ensuring the complex was 100% leased, the property owners attempted to sell the entire Batesville Shopping Center in late 2016, which made for this amusing collage featuring some questionable Photoshop choices. Unfortunately, I was never able to find a good photo of the Goody's while it was open... this was the closest I got, so I decided to include it here just because :P

Finally, with all that history of the Wal-Mart building out of the way, we get to move on to my photos! I visited the Batesville Dirt Cheap the same day as I photographed the neighboring Kroger store: June 12th, 2017. We start with this long view of the building.

Moving closer, here are a couple of looks at Dirt Cheap's façade, which once again repurposed the old Wal-Mart vestibule. Note also that Dirt Cheap repainted the façade to totally white, replacing Goody's brown color.

Heading inside, here's our first look at the interior. Instead of looking straight ahead, this shot was actually taken from around the middle of the front wall, looking towards the rear. That's the left-side wall of the building over on the left of the image.

Spinning around, here's a view back towards the entrance doors. Dirt Cheap has a simple two-checkstand setup here, with a register on either side of each counter, making for a total of four stations. I imagine these were installed by Dirt Cheap themselves, rather than remaining from Goody's.

Clothing takes up the majority of the right half (entrance side) of Dirt Cheap's salesfloor... incidentally, the same type of merchandise that would have been in this same spot back when Goody's operated here. From the very noticeable mix and variety that can be seen in this shot, Dirt Cheap's merchandise-sourcing story relayed earlier in this post can clearly be verified!

Looks like I spoke too soon: it appears two additional checkstands are placed just adjacent to Dirt Cheap's electronics department, here along the front end. The little built-out structure is, I believe, home to management offices and perhaps customer service... but as unique as that is, it is by no means the most interesting thing in this shot. Rather, that honor belongs to that checkered tile flooring and the red stripe right next to it! I didn't really put two and two together on this one while I was here in person (drat!), but now I'm fairly certain that those are both plain-as-day Wal-Mart remnants, meaning that the flooring in this portion of the store - that is, the non-Goody's, vacant-since-Wal-Mart-moved-out portion - is likely original to this store's 1990 opening. After having sat unused and without maintenance for that long, it's in phenomenal shape, and I'm glad to see Dirt Cheap has kept it intact! (I suppose that act can't come as too much of a surprise, given that the chain's name probably gives us a strong hint as to their cost strategy for store conversions, but hey XD )

Another Wal-Mart remnant that Dirt Cheap kept intact - and one which I actually did manage to catch on to while I was here, unlike that floor tile (again, drat!) - is this old door leading to the outdoor garden center, which is now functioning simply as an emergency exit. I would say that that sticker on the door dates back to the Wal-Mart days as well, except for the fact that it, too, pronounces this door to be an emergency exit, whereas I'm fairly certain that the door wouldn't have been marked as such if it did indeed lead out into the garden center like I presume. Maybe someone else can help us out on this one in the comments?

For this shot, I'm standing near the rear of the store, looking back up to the front. Whereas in the right half of the interior, men's, children's, and baby's clothing extends from the front wall all the way to the back, the left half of the interior has women's clothing up front but aisles of non-clothing merchandise in the back.

Dirt Cheap's slogan, "Bringing Extreme Values to Your Hometown," as well as their chicken mascot can be found posted along the back wall of the salesfloor. I recognize the chicken from a long time ago, back when Dirt Cheap had a store in Horn Lake (which has long since closed). Locally, besides this Batesville store, Dirt Cheap doesn't have too large of a presence... but they do have a store in Memphis, as well as a 2014-opened outpost in yet another former Wal-Mart building up in Millington: see l_dawg2000's album here. (l_dawg has also photographed the Corinth Dirt Cheap, and describes the place pretty well, ranging from a restatement of this slogan as "Bringing Extreme Disarray to Your Hometown" to calling the chain "If Big Lots met Goodwill"!)

Sure enough, l_dawg's descriptions weren't too off the mark, I found. (Of course, I remember the old Horn Lake store being just as disorganized.) Dirt Cheap appears to do their best to organize merchandise by department category, but beyond that, you're pretty much on your own. If you're lucky, you won't have to dig too far on the shelves or in the bins to find what you're looking for :P  By the same token, though, if you're looking for something in particular, Dirt Cheap probably isn't the best place to go, haha! Since their merchandise turns over frequently, Dirt Cheap is likely better shopped at if you go in just to see if they have any bargains too good to pass up, instead of trying to locate anything specific.

The food aisle was, hands down, the best-looking, most organized aisle in the entire store on the date of my visit - so of course, it was roped off from public access XD  I'm really not sure why this was the case... I mean, clearly they were restocking, but that seems like an activity (if being actively carried out, at least) that shouldn't necessitate the closure of an aisle...

I took pictures of these two items so that they could serve as examples of the types of merchandise that Dirt Cheap gets... as noted earlier in their "About Us" description, a lot of Dirt Cheap's items are sourced from liquidations, overstocks, returns, closeouts, bankruptcies, and the like, so they're liable to be a little... less than perfect. Hence, for example, the multiple "SALVAGE" stickers on many of their products, such as the bean bag toss pictured, or the rather unfortunate dent in that toolbox.

For more indication of the quality of Dirt Cheap's merchandise: the store provides customers with a "Testing Table" for electronic devices (i.e. a series of open wall outlets so you can make sure stuff works correctly when plugged in), and explicitly asks customers to "Please TEST all electrical items to make sure they meet your expectations." As you would expect of a store of this nature, at Dirt Cheap all sales are final. (And just so I can further reinforce my point, one of the questions on their website FAQ is literally "Is all of the merchandise in Dirt Cheap damaged?")

( be fair, their answer is "No. Some items may be damaged while others are in perfect condition.")

In this view, we're looking out from the general merchandise aisles across the narrow furniture department. That's the electronics department (with the classic Wal-Mart checkerboard tile pattern) off in the distance again, along the front wall. Note also the "Clothing Price Chart" on the right side of the photo, hanging from the ceiling; I don't know for certain, but based on that chart what I assume is the case is that Dirt Cheap marks each of its apparel items with one of those "letters," and then subsequently rotates which "letters" get which markdowns on a regular basis.

Another back-to-front view now, this time focusing on the right half of the salesfloor. The entrance can be seen off in the distance, but in the foreground, we find Dirt Cheap's selection of bulky/boxed items. I'll be honest: stuff in boxes can be some of the worst-looking merchandise, not only here but also at other closeout and thrift stores. I don't know about you, but something about the damaged appearance of the boxes - and the thought that the parts inside are all jumbled about, a fear which can be multiplied by any noises resulting from giving the boxes a gentle shake - makes me uneasy. Ironically, that fear is probably unjustified, because as long as they've never been opened and there's nothing fragile or breakable inside, boxed products probably have the best likelihood of retaining the highest quality of any goods in a store like this.

Restrooms are located in the back of the store. I'm unsure if this would have been their original location in the Wal-Mart days, but at the very least, they've likely been in this spot since the Goody's days. Note also the five signs on the wall to the right of the restrooms signage, notifying customers not only of the store's (nonexistent) return policy (as well as warning them to "l👀k closely for imperfections"), but also of discounts awarded on "Military Mondays" and "Senior Citizen Tuesdays" - I always love to see stores offering those!

Somehow, I managed a straight shot clear across the salesfloor from the right-side wall to the left, with no obstructions: obviously, this must have been the cleanest actionway in the entire store XD  Jokes aside, I do think it is quite intriguing how this shot clearly delineates the Goody's portion of the store from the untouched-since-Wal-Mart side: just look at how the style of floor tile abruptly changes near the middle of the shot, and that corresponding red stripe suddenly appears out of nowhere. Dead giveaways of classic Wal-Mart stuff there! I just can't believe I didn't think to photograph any more of these relics back when I was here in person. (Super drat!)

The bed and bath department is located straight ahead along the rear wall as you enter. I like this shot; I think it does a good job of showing how Dirt Cheap's shelves are organized (or, well, not organized. You be the judge!). Looks like there's also a discount-by-letter chart for this department, in addition to clothing.

I tried to leverage the comparatively lower height of the clothing racks to get this sort-of overview shot of the salesfloor, looking towards the rear wall from within children's apparel. I hope it turned out well. Be sure to check out just how many of the clothes have Target hangers on them! (Side note: I noticed just last weekend that Target appears to have redesigned their hangers away from this longstanding, easily identifiable look... a sure end of an era, there.)

Moving back up to the front end, here's a clear view of the entrance into the salesfloor from the vestibule, as well as the store offices build-out on the right of the frame. I find the little jut-outs to either side of the entryway curious... the same thing could be seen back at the restrooms corridor, shown earlier in this post. Anyone know if that's something that might remain from Wal-Mart?

Glancing back across the salesfloor, as we prepare to exit. Besides the floor tile, one more way you can tell the Goody's space apart from the other portion? The support columns. Check it out... the ones from Goody's are big and blocky, whereas the ones in the rest of the store are super thin. (A good question here would be to ask which of the two designs is original to Wal-Mart. If it's the thin ones, then that begs the follow-up question, why on earth would Goody's make them so much bigger, and eat up that much more floor space?)

For our final interior view, this shot takes a look from the front entrance, across the checkouts and electronics, and over toward that garden center door/emergency exit near the front left corner. In the bottom left of my pic, you can see one of this store's shopping carts, with the inset photo showing a closeup of the underside of the child seat flap. Besides the flaps identifying the carts as having come from California, they're completely generic, so I have no clue which retailer they would have originated from. If any of you might have a guess, please let me know!

Leaving the salesfloor, here's a shot of the inside of the old Wal-Mart vestibule - which, as you can see, still feels very much original to Wal-Mart. I love all the natural light coming in! It's a shame that none of these windows actually filter into the salesfloor proper (thanks to that wall there on the left of the pic), but it's still better than nothing, I guess. With doors on both sides as well as the front, I doubt Wal-Mart used this vestibule for cart storage (maybe it just housed a couple of soda machines?)... but Dirt Cheap sure seems to be making use of this room, as even more space to store some merchandise! (Consequently, they have blocked off at least the door in front of me here, if not the door out of view behind me as well.)

A couple more façade views of the old Wal-Mart vestibule-turned-Dirt Cheap entrance now. From looking at that 2005 image way back at the top of this post, I think this store actually had one additional set of double doors in a symmetrical placement on the right side of the front of this vestibule, making for a total of four sets of double doors (two on the front, one on the left side, and one on the right side) - that's kinda excessive, right? Like, what purpose could that many doors leading into this tiny vestibule possibly serve? I digress, though... It appears Goody's is the one to remove that particular set of doors, as I have little doubt that Dirt Cheap would have left it intact if it had still been here when they moved in.

Here's a close-up shot of Burke's Outlet in the portion next to the Dirt Cheap, just to make sure I give them some representation as well. I didn't go inside this store on my visit, but unless someone informs me otherwise, I don't think I really missed anything :P  I do quite like how this shot turned out, though!

Over on the left side of the exterior, I made sure to get this pic of the former Wal-Mart garden center. Certainly quite a different appearance compared to the Walmart garden centers of today! It appears there wasn't even an interior garden center... just that lone doorway connecting the store interior to this outside area, as seen and discussed already.

Last but not least, to wrap this post up here's a wide view of the entire building, as seen from the edge of the parking lot. That Burke's Outlet façade may be trying its best, but you just can't shake that old Wal-Mart feel from this building! The exterior is all original (the changes have all been cosmetic or add-ons, nothing taken away)... and the interior isn't lacking in its fair share of retro Wal-Mart relics, either, at least on the Dirt Cheap side that is.

I hope you all enjoyed touring this store and seeing all of that old Wal-Mart goodness. As I noted previously, I'm in the process of documenting this shopping center's Kroger anchor as well; to see those photos, please feel free to check out my flickr album here. And as always, until next time, have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are!

Retail Retell

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Celebrating Four Years of The Mid-South Retail Blog!

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone! Not the most typical holiday for someone to tell you to have a good one of, of course, but by now you probably know that here at the MSRB, this day holds a special significance as marking the blog's anniversary. Specifically, as of today, the Mid-South Retail Blog is officially four years old, and as a result the remainder of 2019 will mark our fifth year on the web. I've had a great time running this blog so far, and greatly appreciate your readership. So as always - thank you!

The blog's statistics have not varied too awful much over the past couple of years, actually, but I'll still list them below, just in keeping with tradition. Also, I'm writing this post a week or so before you're actually seeing it, so a few of the numbers might be slightly off from the exact figures as they stand on March 17th, 2019. But for the most part, they should be in the same ballpark at least.

Our all-time pageviews counter stands at 76,296 as I'm writing this (EDIT: and 76,616 on March 17th), compared to last year's 60,862. Pageviews have been hovering somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 every month, which is pretty steady. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if Blogger counts my own visits to the site as pageviews; if so, I'm probably to blame for most of those :P

The blog's top five posts by pageviews are the exact same as last year, so instead of listing all of those out again, I'll just direct you to last year's post here. It doesn't seem likely that any new post will ever be able to overtake those statistics, which is a bit unfortunate, because I like to think that my writing style has improved since that time, and my posts have become a bit more in-depth with copious amounts of research to support several of my more extensive essays. But I digress.

The blog continues to accept contributions from readers at midsouthretailblog [at] gmail [dot] com. Over this past year we featured a record number of contributor posts, ranging from a press release I received in my inbox (strangely enough!), to entries by two new authors, to the return of our very own l_dawg2000. I'm always happy to share content that you readers come up with, so please, keep your submissions coming! And on that note... if you also have any comments, concerns, or suggestions, please send me those as well. I always welcome feedback regarding the blog.

New to the blog over the past year have been several changes to our sidebar, visible on the right side of your screen if you're viewing the desktop version of our site; these include edits to our welcome page, the addition of easy access buttons to collections of our various series (such as Lost Histories), and a slew of new contenders to our ever-growing list of recommended retail blogs, many of which were fueled by flickr's decision to limit free accounts to 1,000 uploads. Personally, I'm still over on flickr, so feel free to continue to check me out there; and of course, I plan on continuing to bring lots of new content to y'all here on the blog as well, including this coming weekend if all goes as planned (!), so be sure to stick around for that.

Again, I sincerely value your patronage. Thank you for four great years so far - I'm excited for the next four, and hopefully more! Until next time, as always, have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are :)

Retail Retell