Saturday, July 27, 2019

Fred's Franchise Store Closing, Munford, TN (BONUS: The Final 11 Fred's Franchises)

Today's post highlights Tipton County, TN, retail, as well as that of several other counties located beyond the Mid-South.

Hello reader, and welcome back to the Mid-South Retail Blog's ongoing 2019 Fred's closure documentation series. This post is entry number three, and since we last spoke, Fred's has announced that it will close an additional 129 stores. This will leave the company with only 80 stores (in eight states) in operation, down from 568 (in 15 states) to start the year and following several consecutive closure rounds beginning in April. That's around 86 percent of the company that has been, or will have been, wiped out in such a short time period. It's been painful to watch.

Also, for those of you keeping track, according to SEC filings Fred's leases most of its locations. It only owns the real estate at a mere 76 sites. So, I'm sure it's no coincidence that only 80 stores are remaining open. (In fact, at this rate, I'd expect four more to close, at a minimum.) And to make matters worse, I've already seen "for sale" listings for some of those same stores supposedly on the "go forward" list, too. That doesn't exactly bode well.

As the Memphis Business Journal reported just last week, Fred's has unveiled a newly-revamped investor website, and it would seem like the company is trying to make it out alive. For example, they've closed only three pharmacies this year; even in the liquidating stores, they've opted to keep the pharmacies open for the time being, while they seek a buyer so that they may ultimately exit the pharmacy business and, per said website, return their business model to its roots (the exact words Fred's uses are "getting back to our heritage"). They also leave a glimmer of hope by suggesting that certain closed stores may reopen in the future "under a new operating model, with an updated assortment." But I can't help but worry that the company will succumb to its struggles, rather than survive them.

Most people - journalists and customers alike - would likely consider the most recent closures to be the fourth such list announced. After all, a list was announced in April, in May, in June, and now, in July. That makes four! But in reality, that list of 129 stores is actually the fifth closure round. Likewise, the preceding list announced in June was the fourth, not the third. You see, unbeknownst to most folks, Fred's quietly dropped a third round of closures in late May, after the first and second lists. It only affected 11 stores, so it wasn't highly publicized; in fact, there was no official announcement from the company at all. But, if there's one thing the Mid-South Retail Blog likes doing, it's shedding light on the lesser-known and otherwise forgotten aspects of this region's retail. That's why today's post will focus on those 11 stores: the final Fred's franchises.


I've talked a lot about the early history of Fred's in my previous two posts, but I deliberately saved this discussion for this post. In addition to its humble beginnings in Coldwater and its headquarters relocation to Memphis, among Fred's early stories is the expansion of the company across the southeast. I may have mentioned that in passing, but what I neglected to elaborate on is that much of this expansion (especially that which introduced the brand to new markets) was accomplished not by the company itself, but actually by franchisees, who had been licensed by Fred's corporate to use the Fred's name at their stores. It is perhaps not quite as intuitive to visualize how a franchise agreement works in a retail environment as opposed to its more common use in the restaurant industry, but broadly speaking, it's the same general arrangement: Fred's lets the franchisee call his or her store "Fred's" and supplies their store with merchandise, in return for collection of royalty and administrative fees and payments for said merchandise. Any profit the franchisee makes is the difference between what he or she paid Fred's for the product, and the amount he or she charges the customer for it. (Ace Hardware and Merle Norman Cosmetics stores are other examples of franchised retail chains that are not restaurants.)

Not many readily available online sources on Fred's, from the past or the present, discuss the company's franchise operations. The source I've been referring to in all of my Fred's posts so far - the 1996 Southeastern Geographer analysis of the company's diffusion - is one of the few that does. It references Fred's 1992 annual report, which stated that the total "number of stores in the chain, including its 37 franchised units, was 207." In addition, in discussing the diffusion of the company across the southeast, it mentions specific examples such as the following: "The addition of six stores in Georgia and one in Florida in 1984 was the result of an acquisition of an existing franchise operation. In 1988 seven stores in Arkansas and one store in Missouri also were added as the result of franchise acquisitions." Clearly, franchisees were instrumental in expanding Fred's business beyond its initial core region of Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee: the Mid-South. Ultimately, Fred's would end up with a peak of 712 stores, including franchised locations, in 15 states in the year 2012.

Of course, by 2012 Fred's franchise operations had rather decreased. I've been unable to find a peak number or year for those, but I have uncovered details on their figures from 2009 to present day. We already know from the Southeastern Geographer that there were 37 franchised Fred's stores at year-end 1992, and at year-end 2009, there were 24. Given the 17-year difference between those two annual reports, the number of franchised Fred's stores could have gradually climbed higher and then just as gradually decreased, or it may never have increased much more than 37, instead staying relatively steady over the long time period; without digging through all of the relevant annual reports, it's hard to say. However, in the immediate years following 1992 at least, the number of franchises fell, and whether it occurred in the 1990s or not, there did indeed occur a certain point after which Fred's franchise operations began exclusively to decrease. That pattern is certainly reflected in the years comprising this decade: Fred's went from 24 franchised stores in 2009, to 21 in 2011, 19 in 2014, 18 in 2015, and 16 in 2016. The most recent annual report reads, "Two franchise locations were purchased by the Company from a franchisee in 2017 and two locations were closed. During 2018, one additional store was closed." This would leave Fred's with only 11 franchised units remaining by year-end 2018, which officially took place on February 2, 2019. Fred's also notes - as it had in all of its annual reports for the immediate years prior - "The company does not intend to expand its franchise network and has the authority under its franchise agreements to terminate such network."

I think you all can see where I'm headed with this. As recently as 2013, Fred's was still involved with its franchisees, going so far as to work together with one operator to open a store in the chain's new prototype style, complete with pharmacy, in Vicksburg, MS, replacing an existing, non-pharmacy Fred's franchise store there. But, it's not difficult to imagine Fred's losing touch with - and interest in - its franchise operations in the years that followed, between the numerous management changes, failed initiatives, and financial troubles. So it should come as no surprise that on or around May 29, 2019, Fred's finally terminated its franchise agreements, leaving its remaining 11 franchisees to either close up shop or figure out some other way to stay in business (without Fred's as a brand name or a supplier). It took quite a bit of "intensive Googling" and other internet sleuthery, but I managed to dig up details on a majority of those 11 locations. The results of my research follow, presented in a store-by-store format.


I'll start with the locations operated by Fred's Stores of Meridian. Based out of Meridian, MS, this group was owned and operated by the Majure family since its first Fred's store opened in March 1968. David Majure, the present-day president of the group, said last year, "We’ve been the largest multi-store operator of Fred’s for the last 48 years. At our height, we had 28 stores…" Here's what Majure's official press release from May 2019 had to say (edited for clarity):

We regret that we are being forced to close our remaining Fred's franchise stores. David Majure, Sr., opened his first Fred's franchise store on 5th Street [in Meridian] in 1968 and went on to operate additional stores in MS, AL, LA, GA, and FL. 
Over the past 50 years, our Fred's franchise store count has fluctuated up and down and in 2016 we began a series of store sales and store closures, with intentions to keep our strongest, most profitable stores operating. Unfortunately, our franchiser, Fred's Inc. of Memphis, TN, has had a number of setbacks and decided to eliminate the franchisee program that we are members of, thus causing us to close [our stores].

Of the 11 final Fred's franchise stores, Majure and Fred's Stores of Meridian operated six. All of the others were operated by individual owners. Here are some details on those stores.

Meridian, MS

  • Address: 4305 8th Street, Meridian, MS
  • Franchisee: David Majure (Fred's Stores of Meridian)
  • Presumably the "home base" of Fred's Stores of Meridian.
  • Non-pharmacy location.
  • Closed summer 2019.
  • Facebook page
  • Article announcing the closure
  • Photos below show this store's façade had recently been updated, like most of Majure's stores.

Storefront prior to remodel. Note how each of the three most recent Fred's logos can be seen in this image! Courtesy Google Street View

Storefront post-remodel. Courtesy Facebook

Store closing. Courtesy Meridian Star

This image shows all of the managers of the six Majure-owned stores. Courtesy Facebook

Quitman, MS

  • Address: 125 Main Street, Quitman, MS
  • Franchisee: David Majure (Fred's Stores of Meridian)
  • Of the final 11 franchise stores, the only one to have a Fred's pharmacy.
  • Will remain open and be rebranded as The Pharmacy, "to include a more clinical setting for our pharmacy customers."
  • Facebook page
  • Article announcing the rebrand
  • Photos below show this store's façade had recently been updated, like most of Majure's stores.

Storefront prior to remodel. Note the classic signage. Courtesy Google Street View

Storefront post-remodel. The 2010s-era Fred's logo certainly doesn't look the best stretched that wide... Courtesy Facebook

Vicksburg, MS

  • Address: 3427 Halls Ferry Road, Vicksburg, MS
  • Franchisee: David Majure (Fred's Stores of Meridian)
  • Non-pharmacy location.
  • Closed summer 2019.
  • Facebook page
  • Article announcing the closure
  • Video featuring the store's final moments. In a separate article from that same source, the author writes, "Fred’s Vicksburg store closed July 6, 2019. It never appeared on any of the chain’s closure announcements." As you and I now know, this is because the store was a franchise location, and therefore never made any of corporate's officially-published closure lists!
  • This is not the same Vicksburg franchise store discussed earlier in the post. Evidently, Majure at one time operated multiple Fred's stores in Vicksburg.
  • Photos below show this store's façade had recently been updated, like most of Majure's stores.

Storefront prior to remodel. Courtesy Facebook

Storefront post-remodel. Courtesy Google Street View

Store closing. Courtesy Vicksburg News

Close-up of a window ad at the Vicksburg Fred's. For a time, the company had an actor portray the character of "Fred" in its commercials. Courtesy Facebook

For grins, here's that other Vicksburg franchise store, the one that opened in 2013 in cooperation with Fred's corporate (the prototype store). It's now Discount Beauty Warehouse, which opened by September 2017, indicating Fred's lasted less than five years. Courtesy Google Street View

Grenada, MS

  • Address: 1744 South Commerce Street, Grenada, MS
  • Franchisee: David Majure (Fred's Stores of Meridian)
  • Non-pharmacy location.
  • Closed summer 2019.
  • Facebook page
  • A subscription is required to read the full article in the local newspaper, but from what I can make out, the Grenada Fred's "historically...has been one of the strongest Fred's stores in the entire chain."
  • Photos below show this store's façade had recently been updated, like most of Majure's stores.

Storefront prior to remodel. Courtesy Google Street View

Storefront post-remodel. Courtesy Facebook

Waynesboro, MS

  • Address: 706 Spring Street, Waynesboro, MS
  • Franchisee: David Majure (Fred's Stores of Meridian)
  • Non-pharmacy location.
  • Closed summer 2019.
  • Photos below show this store's façade had a rare blue exterior sign.

I wonder if the blue logo was ever used elsewhere, and if so, how common it was. (With the late 2000s and 2010s-era blue logos, I suppose you could say this one was way ahead of its time!) Courtesy Google Street View

Logo close-up. Note also the "store closing" banner in the window, bottom right. Courtesy Google Maps

Tallulah, LA

  • Address: 506 E. Bayou Drive, Tallulah, LA
  • Franchisee: David Majure (Fred's Stores of Meridian)
  • Non-pharmacy location.
  • Closed summer 2019.
  • Facebook page
  • Article announcing the closure
  • Photos below show this store's façade had recently been updated, like most of Majure's stores.

Storefront prior to remodel. Courtesy Facebook

Storefront post-remodel. Courtesy Facebook

Store closing. Courtesy Facebook

Moving on to all the other franchised stores now...

Delhi, LA

  • Address: 902 Broadway Street, Delhi, LA
  • Franchisee: unknown
  • Non-pharmacy location.
  • Unlike all the other stores, I wasn't able to find a single shred of information on this location. I'm mostly confident it wasn't operated by Majure, but I can't determine who the franchisee actually was. I can't even confirm it's closing, honestly, but I have extreme doubt that it would remain open following the elimination of the franchise agreement.

Courtesy Google Street View

Jonesville, LA

  • Address: 1106 First Street, Jonesville, LA
  • Franchisee: Gary and Norma Odom
  • Non-pharmacy location.
  • Closed summer 2019.
  • Article announcing the closure (no exact opening date given, but it had been operated by the Odoms since 1984, at least)
  • This store is perhaps the only location remaining to feature the classic Fred's "key" logo anywhere on the premises. See the photos of the roadside sign below.

Courtesy Google Street View

I'm sure I'll discuss this more in a future post, but for some time Fred's used this very neat key logo, alongside the slogan "Your key to... [value, life, etc.]" Courtesy Google Street View

Love it! Courtesy Google Street View

Longtime followers of my flickr page may remember I uploaded a photo of an old notebook cover featuring the Fred's key logo way back when. Here's a close-up of it, for good measure.

Greenville, AL

  • Address: 163 Greenville Bypass, Greenville, AL
  • Franchisee: Randy and Cindy Beeson
  • Non-pharmacy location.
  • Opened 1987; closed summer 2019.
  • Article announcing the closure
  • EDIT, August 2019: This store will reopen as Roses, with Mr. Beeson as manager. Article announcing the deal
  • This store had classic interior signage and a neat old poster near the entrance, proclaiming Fred's to be the "Biggest Little Discount Store in America."

Unique three-dimensional exterior signage here. Courtesy Google Street View

Signage close-up. Courtesy Google Street View

Interior view. Check out the classic "CLEANING SUPPLIES" sign in the background, as well as the painted stripes on the wall. Courtesy Google Maps

"Biggest Little Discount Store in America." Courtesy Google Street View

Doniphan, MO

  • Address: 100 S&H Drive, Doniphan, MO
  • Franchisee: Clayton Jamison
  • Opened 1975.
  • While this store does have a pharmacy, it is operated not by Fred's, but rather through a separate franchise agreement with HealthMart Independent Pharmacies.
  • This store just recently relocated from its previous location, which received extensive flood damage in May 2017. The new store was built from the ground-up and opened at the beginning of 2018. Thankfully, that work will not go to waste, as this location will remain open as "Jamison's Super Saver." The rebrand was completed just last week.
  • Facebook page
  • Based on the images I've shown you so far, it would seem that, for the most part, modern-day Fred's franchisees were responsible for supplying their own interior and exterior signage. Interestingly, the new location of the Doniphan franchise recycles some old Walmart Project Impact décor! Obviously the blue color works fine, and the Walmart sparks were painted over with green stripes. Check it out in the photos below.

Former location's storefront, prior to the flood. Courtesy Google Maps

Flood damage exterior photo. Courtesy Facebook

Sadly, I was never able to find an exterior shot of the new location, but I did uncover all of these interior photos showing glimpses of the recycled Walmart signage. Check out the four-sided directory near the top right of this pic. Courtesy Facebook

"Toys" department sign is visible in the top right. Note how the Walmart spark is painted over with a green stripe. Courtesy Facebook

"Crafts & Sewing" department sign visible top right. These secondary signs didn't feature the Walmart logo at all, so they required no alterations and thus look exactly the same. Courtesy Facebook

More old Walmart signs in the top left of this image. Mr. Jamison likely purchased these signs at an auction at a closed Walmart store. Creative reuse! Courtesy Facebook

And finally...

Munford, TN

  • Address: 1565 Munford Avenue, Munford, TN
  • Franchisee: Harry Haddad
  • Non-pharmacy location.
  • Opened 1973; closed summer 2019 (Saturday, July 27, to be precise).
  • Facebook page
  • Article announcing the closure
  • The subject of today's post! Read on for more photos and information on this store...


As noted in the above information, the Munford, Tennessee, Fred's store opened in 1973 under franchisee Harry Haddad. Upon the elimination of the Fred's franchise program in 2019, Haddad had no choice but to shut the store down. Here's the text of the above-linked article from the Covington Leader breaking the news:

After nearly a half century in downtown Munford Fred's announced Wednesday it will soon close its doors.  
Owner Harry Haddad said Fred's corporate exercised its right to discontinue their franchise agreement.  
"I would have kept the store open, but I can't," he said, noting Fred's has its own suppliers. "A general merchandise store just can't run independently." 
Since April 11, Memphis-based Fred's Inc. has announced the closure of more than 260 of its 557 stores across the southeast.  
“After a careful review, we have made the decision to rationalize our footprint by closing underperforming stores, with a particular focus on locations with shorter duration leases," said CEO Joseph Anto on April 11 as the first round of closures was announced. "Decisions that impact our associates in this way are difficult, but the steps we are announcing are necessary." 
Last year, Walgreens bought Fred's pharmacy inventory and patient prescription files.  
Haddad – whose brother David operates the family business, Haddad's Department Store, across the parking lot – opened the store in 1973. He said the closure is personal. 
"I was looking for something to work on and that came about," he said. "I was there when we put the first item in. We unloaded five or six trucks and stocked the store." 
Over the years, the store has been reasonably successful. It began as Fred's Dollar Store and as the market began to change, so did the business model. It continues to be a popular place to purchase different items, from gifts to household necessities and gardening supplies. 
"(Selling plants and garden items) was an idea we had because there was nothing else like that in Munford. It's always done really well even though there was a limited selling time." 
The store's announcement via its Facebook page garnered many supportive and surprised reactions and comments. 
"A lot of people don’t realize what Fred’s has contributed to our community," said Amy Turnage, who works with the South Tipton Chamber of Commerce. "Countless donations to the chamber of commerce, sponsorships, charitable donations to people in need. Harry graciously donated discounted Tennessee merchandise for a family friend’s funeral in Georgia and the list goes on and on. They employed local people who knew you by name. Some of the friendliest staff, including Ms. Virginia Hoy and Ms. (Frances) Starnes and a host of others who treated you like you were special. We should all try to shop locally not only to support the economy but to show support for family-owned businesses that seem to fall to the wayside because they just can’t compete with the big guys."  
When Fred's opened, Haddad said there was nothing like it in town.  
"It was something Munford didn't have and I wanted to take the opportunity and bring things to Munford, to make it more convenient," said Haddad. "I'm sorry this has to happen for the town. For me, this is personal. I've had many businesses, but this was my first. I'm sorry to see it go."

As mentioned in the article, the announcement was first made on the store's Facebook page, where manager Kay Scott shared this message on May 29, 2019:

With great sadness (and that’s an extreme understatement) we are forced to announce that we have to close our hometown store that we’ve had for 46 years! We missed the first two lists of Fred’s closures, but the third hit us right in the face. With that being said, the whole store inside and out is 15% off excluding our balloon counter. Our customers are so much more than just customers to us, they’ve truly became our extended family and we really appreciate y’all!!

That message was followed by several additional posts announcing deepening discounts, until ultimately the page shared the news that the store's final day would be Saturday, July 27, 2019. Nearly countless comments from community members have been posted to the page since that time, recalling what the store has meant to them over the years and expressing sadness over its closure. In her responses, Ms. Scott often reiterated that the employees don't want the store to close, either, but the decision is out of their hands due to Fred's corporate revoking the franchise agreement. To my surprise, many other comments actually reference Fred's new owners, Alden Global Capital, and the (for lack of a better word) destruction the hedge fund has brought to businesses it has taken over, noting Fred's is but the latest victim in a long line.

For a town like Munford that doesn't have terribly many options of its own, this closure is extremely unfortunate. The same can be said about a majority of the Fred's closures affecting small towns of late, of course, but this one may sting even more because it was owned and operated independently and locally... and yet the owner has no power to keep the store open, and thus has to sit just as helpless as his staff and customers. Very sad.

You'll note that in her initial announcement, Ms. Scott wrote, "We missed the first two lists of Fred’s closures, but the third hit us right in the face." This line, of course, is where I got the information that the Fred's franchise program was cut only after the first two closure rounds, from April and May, had already been released to the public. Not wanting to miss my chance to experience a Fred's franchise store before they all disappeared forever, on June 18 I set out to make the trip to Tipton County, TN, and visit the closing Munford Fred's.

We begin, as is custom, with the storefront. The Fred's logo shown here is certainly classic, and likely one of the last of its kind to remain intact on a Fred's storefront. No doubt the fact that this store was franchised contributed to the sign's longevity; as noted earlier, it seems Fred's didn't impose many signage regulations on their franchisees, and in fact did not offer them new signage to replace the old stuff (as one expects a franchisor might do, in order to keep up the chain's overall image nationwide. This, of course, is common in the fast food industry.).

The garden center was located to the left of the main building, quite obviously added on later. As the Covington Leader article notes, the lawn and garden items stocked at this store were born from an idea hatched by the store's management; these items had nothing to do with Fred's corporate, and were simply a way of expanding the merchandise selection in tune with local demand. Other Fred's franchisees did the same thing over the years, such as Majure's stores, which stocked school uniforms and scrubs and even branded themselves as "Fred's Scrub Hub" in the latter department. In this way, you can see that the franchised Fred's locations were clearly their respective localities' hometown stores, arguably even more so than a Fred's store operated by corporate would be.

"Store Closing" signs could be seen in windows on either side of the storefront, letting customers know of the impending closure. Of note, the liquidation sales at the franchise stores, as with the daily operations and most other major decisions, were left to the franchisees to carry out independently; SB360 Capital Partners, the group handling liquidation sales at Fred's corporate stores, was not involved. So, each franchisee had the freedom to set liquidation percentages and closure dates by themselves - with the caveat that there was likely a certain date by which the store must either cease operations or stop using the "Fred's" name, whichever path they choose. (If one of the articles linked earlier in this post is to be believed, that date is July 31, 2019.)

Entering the store, I'll admit, felt like a total time-warp - but in the best way possible! I absolutely loved this store. The first area one encounters upon entering is the front left corner, home to the balloon counter, a large fenced area housing large seasonal items, and a door into the outdoor garden center. Sadly, the garden center had already been closed off by the time of my visit, as all plants were liquidated very early on in the sale.

Despite the entrance being clearly designated on the left side of the building, the aisles are numbered beginning at the right side of the salesfloor, meaning that the first aisle one goes down on a logical path through the store is actually numbered as Aisle 15. As the aisle marker here indicates, this aisle was once home to cleaning supplies, although as you can see, it had been pretty thoroughly wiped out by the time of my visit. We'll be seeing several more examples of aisles like this as this post continues.

Glancing down the back wall, across the width of the store. Note the employee off in the distance, designated by the word "STAFF" on the back of her T-shirt. Even employee uniform materials such as this were left to the franchisees; here at the Munford Fred's, the front side of the employees' T-shirts read "Fred's Garden Center," in a font nowhere near the actual corporate-sanctioned Fred's logo.

Aisle 14, the second aisle in the store as you're walking from left to right, was home to automotive supplies - as well as spraypaint, if those shelves at the back of the aisle are any indication!

Since we're at the front of the store again after winding up and down the first two aisles, here's another shot of the front left corner. This one is from further back than the earlier images, and should correspondingly give you a better idea of the layout of this area. Note the "Helium Heaven" wallpaper above the windows!

Aisle 13 was home to pet supplies...

...whereas neighboring Aisle 12 was evidently a bank robber's supply store :P  Just kidding, haha! Had a good chuckle about this one, though. There were a ton of these ski masks for sale here. In our climate and location, I doubt they sold well at all. That would explain why there was such a large stock of them present; no one was buying them.

In actuality, Aisle 12 was home to seasonal merchandise, and appears actually to have been a double aisle (although it was only numbered as one). I like the wooden boards stretching across the tops of the aisles. Those aren't present on every aisle in this store, but are on several. It's rather old-school, and reminded me quite a bit of a five-and-dime store I visited while on vacation in Branson, Missouri, a couple of years ago. The purpose, I believe, is so that some additional stock can be stored up there, if necessary.

Some more views at the front of the store now, encompassing the balloon counter and large seasonal area. Note the (faded) footprint stickers on the floor leading to the garden center doorway. And in the bottom photo, a selection of fake flowers rests on the opposite side of the shopping cart storage area, just inside the store entrance.

This shot glances across the front end of the store. Located between the entrance and exit doors are the store's four checkout counters, the ends of which can be seen here. And just like any other retail operation, the Munford Fred's was making good use of that end space, placing Duracell and Coke displays alike for all those impulse buyers!

Only one checklane was open at the time of my visit, so I took the opportunity to hide behind some shelving and sneak some pics of this very vintage Fred's sign along the front end. We'll see it in closer detail later, don't worry :)  Below it, behind lock and key, is the store's selection of cigarettes as well as - ironically - the key making department. Every square inch of this store was utilized for some purpose, which I really loved to see as it maximizes the merchandise selection, and services offered, for local shoppers!

Another view from the front actionway, this time showing the aisles themselves as they stretch on down towards the right-side interior wall. Be sure to note the difference in the height of the aisles: that's due to a drop in the ceiling height, which is visible if you look closely at the very top of this pic.

Aisle 11 was home to the store's toy department, which along the length of the aisle had a few signs such as the one pictured above differentiating between the girls' and boys' toys. (I liked these because they featured the early 2000s Fred's logo, but the late 2000s colors - unintentionally, I'm sure, but cool nonetheless.)

Aisle 10 stocked "household accessories," which evidently over the years expanded to at least partly refer to "electronics." Some neat stuff to be seen down this aisle, such as the three-logos-ago price stickers being used on the DVDs (that's a recently released DVD, so it's not that it had simply been here since the time when that logo was current), and the handwritten sign asking customers not to open any packaging, for "No one wants to buy a tore up product." Couldn't have said it any better myself! Love small-town charm like this.

The other side of the aisle stocked kitchen supplies.

Stepping back out into the rear actionway, here are two views: one toward the back right corner, and another toward the back left. A majority of the back wall was being used to store holiday merchandise, which had been pulled out from the back room in order to get all product on the salesfloor (hence, a liquidation's usual motto of "Everything Must Go!"). These items were marked to deeper discounts than any other merchandise in the store.

At this point, I began not to photograph every single aisle; as a result, it appears I skipped over Aisles 9 and 8, arriving at Aisles 7 and 6 for these next images. But I can tell you what all the aisles stocked, regardless. Aisle 9's marker reads "Home Furnishings," and Aisles 8 and 7 are a double-wide aisle stocking the store's selection of health and beauty aids. Aisle 6, as you can see in the bottom image above, was home to apparel: kinda neat to see that stuff stocked on a regular aisle with gondolas, rather than clothing racks!

Aisles 5 and 4 both stocked domestics, although I only photographed the latter. "Domestics" is a pretty vague term, but suffice to say that any category of home merchandise not found on any of the other aisles could be found somewhere in these two. For example, that excludes kitchenware, since we saw that on Aisle 10; but includes departments like bath, bedding, and home décor.

This view from the front actionway of the store looks across Aisles 2-5. Or, since we've been going down them in backwards order, 5-2. Either way, poor Aisle 4 isn't very visible here, given that super tall endcap that Aisle 3 has. Somehow, Aisle 3 also manages to have a rather low-hanging aisle marker compared to the rest, too. I guess together, both of those things balance out :P

Heading down Aisle 3, which is home to school supplies and greeting cards. The shopping cart was hanging around this aisle the whole time I was here, and presumably had a good reason to be there. I didn't photograph any other carts in the store, primarily because none of them had an old-school Fred's logo anywhere. But the carts were still vintage as expected, and cool to see regardless of a lack of Fred's logos.

Plastered all over the greeting cards shelving unit were these little ovals, featuring the early 2000s yellow-and-red Fred's logo alongside the chain's "Low Price Leader" slogan. How neat! I'm happy my close-up of this one turned out so nicely :)  In all of the corporate Fred's stores I've visited, the card departments have been Hallmark-branded, but this store gives me the impression that Fred's card departments were once self-branded (and likely featured non-Hallmark cards).

Speaking of close-ups, here's one of the opposite side of the Aisle 3 marker. You've likely been wondering this throughout this post, so I can confirm: these are indeed classic Fred's décor! Similar markers could once be seen in corporate Fred's stores of a similar vintage, but of course have been wiped out in a majority of those locations over the years. So, it was very cool to see them still in use at this store!

At the back right corner of the salesfloor, we find another vintage shopping cart, several "Farm House Tables" (this style is all the rage these days, popularized by shows like "Fixer Upper"), and some seriously neat, vintage "employees only" double doors.

One more glance down the rear actionway now, where if you look up toward the ceiling you can see a large number of security cameras, placed equal distances apart. These things were all over the store, and are quite likely the most modern fixtures here. They sure looked new, anyway. I don't know if this store had a theft problem, but even if it didn't, it never hurts to have security cameras to dispel such activity. I just hoped no one was watching the camera feeds and frowning upon me taking all these pictures, haha!

Aisles 2 and 1, the rightmost aisles within the salesfloor, were another double-wide pair and housed the store's selection of grocery items. Such merchandise was getting to be rather wiped-out at the time of my visit, but some stock did remain available for sale, including several products wearing the newly-outfitted Fred's brand packaging, such as the varieties of flour shown above.

The right-side perimeter wall was lined almost exclusively with coolers and freezers, stocking the store's cold grocery items. Almost certainly all of these units were added at various points over the years, which would account for their hodgepodge of makes and looks. In particular, I was thrilled to see the two units in the middle of the row, each bearing the classic yellow-and-red Fred's logo!

When I say "double-wide aisle," this is the sort of setup I've been referring to: where there's a cross-through between the two aisles, located in the middle of the center portion. This works best for large departments, such as those described throughout this post: grocery, health and beauty, and seasonal. Whereas seasonal only had one aisle number for both aisles, grocery technically had two aisle numbers but, alas, was missing its Aisle 1 marker.

One more glance up Aisle 1, looking down the row of coolers and freezers. I'm unaware of this store holding a fixture sale, but one would imagine it needs to dispel of its equipment somehow. Unless the owner is planning to keep it for his brother's store across the street, but even then, you'd think some of this stuff may be older and/or inappropriate for use in a different store environment. Maybe they're just keeping all the stuff here in hopes they can reopen it one day. Probably a pipe dream, but it's nice to think about...

The front right corner of the store acted mostly as an extension of the grocery department, with the aisle out of view on the far left of the frame (against the perimeter wall) featuring soda (if I remember correctly) and a custom-built spice rack endcap (which you can catch a glimpse of two photos back). Other items up here include grilling/outdoor supplies and, in the aisles on the right of the frame, collegiate merchandise, including items from schools like UT, Alabama, and Ole Miss. (I'd imagine there once would have been Memphis stuff, too. Perhaps it had already sold out by the time of my visit.)

Some shots across the front actionway, as we inch closer to the registers. The top image shows all of the aisles we've toured so far, while the bottom shot shows a trio of fixtures blocking in an area adjacent to the checkouts. Head over that way...

...and you'll find that there is indeed a department cordoned off behind those fixtures, cosmetics to be specific! I'm not exactly sure why this area was blocked in like it was; sometimes you'll see such arrangements due to theft issues, but here it could also simply have been a desire to maximize selling space (as this setup allowed for some additional walls of shelving to be present, and of course additional shelving equals additional merchandise).

From within the fenced-in cosmetics department (literally: check out the last pic!), here are a few scenes. The top pic looks at what appeared to me to be a rather old cosmetics fixture, although since I can't claim to be an expert in this merchandise category I can't say that for sure :P  The middle pic peeks above one of the shelving units toward the register lights (also vintage) and the rest of the salesfloor beyond, and the bottom pic shows a literal fence separating cosmetics from the exit door (in order to prevent shoppers from quickly slipping out of this department without paying for their goods), similar to the fence we saw over closer to the garden center and balloon counter.

Exiting the cosmetics department, here's a view out to the nearest aisles. The support pole in the foreground marks the location of the change in ceiling height we saw earlier, right beside Aisle 9. There's also a corresponding line visible on the floor denoting this change. All of this evidence suggests that the store may have expanded at some point, although I don't believe the exterior was altered any, nor do I believe that some of the old décor present here (i.e. the aisle markers) would have been anything other than original to this 1973-opened store... a mystery, for sure!

While standing in line at the checkout, I snapped this pic of a "Do the Dew" slogan decal pasted on the door to a soda fridge, just because it has some personal significance to me. Plus it doesn't hurt that it's not a slogan you see too often anymore, either.

I told y'all I had some better shots of the vintage Fred's sign above the checkouts coming up! Here it is, in all its glory. And by glory, I mean "Old Glory," since the poster features an illustration of the American flag as its background! Featuring a classic version of the Fred's logo, the poster reads, "FRED'S Is America's Friendly Hometown Store! OUR PLEDGE TO YOU: Fast, Friendly Service & Low Every Day Prices on Your Favorite Products." How neat!! I sure hope someone from the store keeps this sign, after it closes. It's absolutely a rare piece worth treasuring.

With our interior tour now wrapped up, back outside we go for a handful more exterior pics. Even the storefront sidewalk at this place felt vintage to me, so I made sure to get a pic of it, too!

Some more pics of the storefront, interspersed with a shot of the garden center. The parking lot wasn't terribly large here, nor was it oriented in a typical fashion. But regardless, from the amount of cars you see in it, you can tell that the store had a number of people shopping here. While I'm sure the store liquidation discounts encouraged additional visits, I have no doubts that this store was a popular shopping destination for locals long before the closure was announced.

Throughout the time I was inside the store, some employees were talking to each other and to a specific customer, and referring to the parking lot. I thought that was a little odd, until I got back outside and saw what was going on: the staff was helping a customer fix a flat tire!! If that's not great customer service, from a small-town hometown store, laden with southern hospitality, I don't know what is. Seriously, it warmed my heart to see this. I reiterate that it will be very sad to see this location close. And I only shopped there once - imagine how the locals must feel!

One more trio of storefront pics, because I wanted to make sure I had it sufficiently documented, especially with that old logo front-and-center :)  I know that Fred's had standard exterior designs from sometime in the 1970s onward, but I'm not certain about periods earlier than that. Does anyone know if this store had a custom design different from others at the time, due to it being operated by a franchisee instead of corporate? Or alternatively, if Fred's even had a standard design prior to the mid-1970s at all?

My final two photos from the property are these two wide views, taken as we were driving away. I wanted to be sure to capture the garden center and the store together in the same frame, with these pics. And it wasn't until I was reviewing them after the fact that I noticed that second classic Fred's sign hiding away on the left side of the building - this place was nothing if not full of surprises!

Finally, here's a shot of my receipt, just for grins. I thought it was interesting to see that the receipts from this store looked no different than those from corporate Fred's locations. I imagine this was the case at all franchised locations, as a result.


As of the time I'm publishing this post, we are entering the final day that the Munford Fred's will be in operation; so it's likely that, by the time you're reading this post, the store has closed for good. If I'm not mistaken, Munford is also the very last of the franchises to close; all the others closed (or rebranded) earlier this month. I've said this many times in today's entry, but I, in addition to all the Munford residents who have relied on Harry Haddad's franchised store there, will miss this unique Fred's location. I'm thankful that one of the remaining franchised Fred's stores was close to me, and that I had the opportunity to experience it before it goes. I wish the employees and the community the best of luck - in Munford, and at all of the other forced-to-close Fred's franchise stores, for that matter. On one hand, it is understandable from a business standpoint for Fred's corporate to sever ties with its franchise program at this point in time given the chain's troubles, but that still does not make the decision any better or more tolerable. It's truly a no-win situation.

I feel like I've been inundating y'all with Fred's content recently, considering this is my third such post in two months. I hope you understand that that is not my goal, but rather, I simply feel it is important to document this Fred's situation as it unfolds; I've not covered something of this magnitude in real-time before, and I'm trying to keep up with it as best I can. In particular, I've felt like the Coldwater, Getwell Road headquarters, and now final 11 Fred's franchises stories have been particularly newsworthy - especially with a lack of other sources giving them any attention - and thus worth featuring here on the blog as soon as possible so that those stories can be heard. I do indeed have lots more Fred's content coming up soon, but I'll try to do a better job of spacing the posts out a little bit and publishing other content between the Fred's posts. And where all these Fred's posts are concerned, it is my hope that you, the reader, may be able to use them as a source for information or for reminiscing; and to the latter point, if you have any stories of your own about Fred's that you'd like to share, please never hesitate to email us at midsouthretailblog [at] gmail [dot] com, or leave a comment on the blog. Thanks for reading.

Next month, our Rite Aid series continues with a brand new post. (I won't commit just yet to publishing future Fred's posts on a predetermined schedule as with the Rite Aid series, but it is an idea I'm considering.) Please be sure to come on back for that. Until then and as always, have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are!

Retail Retell