|Today's post highlights Shelby County, TN, retail.|
Last month on the Mid-South Retail Blog was, arguably, our most productive month yet - and I'm happy to have shared four posts with you in that period. Now that we're in August and the blog is returning to a more regular, spaced-out schedule, I fear that I won't be able to match that amount of posts in one month ever again. (As you know, the usual standard I try to hold myself to is simply one post per month, and sometimes I don't even meet that goal!) But I still have plenty of great content up my sleeves, so I hope you'll stick around regardless.
One such content area is, of course, the saga that is Fred's. Of last month's four posts, two were dedicated to that topic. Several more are in the works as well, although as promised I'll be spacing them out a little bit more in the future. Perhaps the best way to cap off my dedication/stubborn persistence (whatever you want to call it :P ) of documenting Fred's freefall was being contacted by journalist Wayne Risher of The Daily Memphian to speak about the company, its new hedge fund management, and its future. I was proud to be able to contribute to Mr. Risher's profile on Fred's, which was published this past Monday, August 12, 2019. If you've discovered the blog through that, welcome, and thanks for stopping by! If you haven't read the article, I strongly encourage you to do so, as it's a very well-written and comprehensive piece. It can be accessed here: The rise and fall of Coldwater's pride, Fred's Inc.
This month, the blog returns not to Fred's but instead to our other ongoing liquidation series, focusing on Rite Aid's exit from the Mid-South. Of course, by now this news is just about a year old, but we've still got several stores to tour. You'll recall that, of the ten Memphis-area locations, I visited five. (You can keep track of, and revisit, my previous posts at this page, which is also accessible from the blog's sidebar.) After today's post, we'll have only one more of those five left to feature, and it can probably be considered the highest-profile Rite Aid in the metro area. It was certainly the freshest, and it also closed last among the bunch. We'll head to that store (and reveal its location, if you haven't already guessed it) in December, but today, we're going to tour the Germantown, TN, Rite Aid.
I visited the Germantown Rite Aid on July 20, 2018, fairly close to the store's final day I believe (although unfortunately I don't have an exact date for that). I actually had not been intending to visit this store at all; rather, this was simply a spur-of-the-moment deal, taking place after I toured that other, fancier Rite Aid I just mentioned, the one we'll be seeing in December. Intentional or not, however, I wound up very happy that I visited this location. Among the Mid-South stores, this one was definitely a contender for most unique in several respects.
Located at 7570 W Farmington Blvd, this Rite Aid occupied a prime anchor spot in the small Saddle Creek North shopping center, which - as its name suggests - is located north of (across the street from) Germantown's popular Shops at Saddle Creek. I don't have a build date for this location, but given its store number - 7205 - it likely opened sometime in the late 1990s, given that stores 7202 and 7203, both located in Memphis, opened in 1998. (Of the sixteen store numbers between 7191 and 7206, seven were located in the Memphis metro. Clearly, the company was bent on infiltrating the market in that time period!)
I'm not certain if this shopping strip was built by the same developers as Saddle Creek proper, but it's obvious that the architecture was designed to be upscale so as to match the upscale tenants taking residence across the street. As a result, instead of the traditional 90s Rite Aid exterior design that we're used to seeing, with the dual blue awnings and the signature diamond windows, this store is much more elegant, with brick columns, stucco arches, and a stately façade. Even the lamppost in the above image is fancy-looking!
Even though this store, unlike most Rite Aid locations, was not built at an intersection, it is still laid out in a street-corner-oriented fashion, with the entryway on a diagonal. Here we're looking at said entryway, where we see the automatic doors were plastered with the same red "store liquidation sale" signs we've seen so far at Cordova, Horn Lake, and Southaven.
Heading inside the doors, we're immediately greeted by this standee, which once held store circulars but now was being used to advertise the discount percentage. And judging by the handwritten update, I'd assume the sale was getting closer to its final days by the time I stopped in.
These next two shots focus on the interior view of the store's entryway. As you can see, even with the absence of the usual diamond windows, the windows that are still present here at the entrance to the store do let in a good amount of natural light. Above the doors, we find a "Thank you for shopping at RITE AID" sign - which, by the way, is actually double-sided at this location (see the exterior photo of the entryway, two paragraphs above).
The cosmetics department, signed as "Beauty Shop" in this décor package, is the first department one encounters upon entering. It's located along the left-side wall. Beyond it in the background, we can catch a glimpse of this store's pharmacy counter, whose signage was rather poorly covered over. The pharmacy had already closed for good by the time of my visit.
Already it should likely be clear that this store's interior layout is nothing like your usual 90s Rite Aid. Where typically you'd see aisles splayed out in diagonals, with a curving actionway leading toward a pharmacy located off on one side of the building, here the aisles are instead placed into neat rows, and we've got a clear view straight toward the pharmacy in the back of the store. With this in mind, it's possible that this store may actually have opened as something else, but I have no way of knowing whether or not that's the case. If any of you may know, please drop a line in the comments!
Stepping over into the first aisle, so that we are standing parallel to the left-side perimeter wall. This view is simply taking another look at the "thank you" sign hanging above the exit. Before the gondola shelving begins here in the cosmetics department, there are a couple of smaller fixtures used to hold merchandise, such as the one shown in this image. I like the custom wavy pattern in the glass. This can also be seen in better detail two photos back.
As we move closer to the pharmacy counter at the rear of the store, here are a few scenes taken from in and around the center cut-through actionway. Yes, that's right - this Rite Aid had a center cut-through actionway! The symmetric, simple layout of the aisles in this location was a nice change of pace from the oftentimes-confusing normal 90s Rite Aid setup.
A look down the left-side perimeter wall from our new, further-back vantage point reveals that this aisle had actually been closed off to the public; see the small barricade at the edge of the aisle. Still, if I remember correctly this was the only such aisle blocked off, so I felt comfortable exploring back here anyway. In any case, this seems more like a way of informing customers no more stock was located back here than it does a way of trying to keep them out.
You'll also notice that the aisle marker here reads Aisle 13. The back halves of each aisle are numbered separately from the front halves, which increased this store's total aisle count to 23.
Just another close-up of Rite Aid's oh-so-90s endcap toppers. I must have gotten a shot of this at every Rite Aid I visited!
Finally, we arrive at the pharmacy counter, and get to see the view from its vantage point down across the rest of the back actionway. As you'd expect, it's entirely devoid of merchandise. It's always a little strange to see a store in this state. Bittersweet.
You may not recognize it, but the blue stripe on the upper wall is actually a normal element from this décor package. In the diamond window stores, it's simply broken up by, well, the diamond windows: see here for an example.
Elsewhere at the pharmacy counter, we find a Walgreens logo or two, indicating that this pharmacy had switched ownership briefly before the store shut down and transferred its prescriptions to the nearest Walgreens. There's also an "in loving memory" dedication - which I fear wasn't moved to said Walgreens once this location closed its doors - and a store map, where you can better visualize what I was telling you earlier about how this store is laid out compared to other 90s Rite Aids. For an example of the latter, see here and compare.
As usual, the in-store GNC department was located near the pharmacy, and in the above four photos you can see it remained somewhat stocked. Most of the merchandise had been consolidated further into the salesfloor, though, so that's probably not too accurate of a representation.
It's my understanding that these GNC departments were actually run as store-within-a-store models, meaning GNC included their Rite Aid business in their total store counts. As a result, then, GNC's store counts have fallen quite a bit, what with all the Rite Aid closures in recent years resulting from Walgreens's acquisition of half of the chain. The GNC departments, to my knowledge, are not being replaced with standalone stores in the same communities (similar to, say, Lands' End departments located in Sears stores that close down), and in fact GNC seems to have been accelerating closures of its other, non-Rite Aid locations as well.
Another trio of center actionway shots now, looking toward the front, left-, and right-side walls of the store, respectively. The four major department signs in this store were for the Pharmacy, Beauty Shop, FoodMart, and 1 Hour Photo counter. We've already seen the first two departments, and we'll explore the latter two in closer detail as the post continues.
I'm not quite sure why I took a shot of this endcap. I guess it must have simply grabbed my attention. The "Notes & Stationery" header is likely original, but then again, so is much of the stuff in this place. Come to think of it, it's probably that "As Seen on TV" 50% off sign that actually made me take notice. All of the other little red signs read "Entire Store" instead.
Heading down the greeting card aisle so that we can take some closer looks at the 1 Hour Photo department, located just past the registers along the front wall. I've shown you this film strip-like signage before, but this was my first time seeing the accompanying, separate "1 Hour Photo" sign. I like it! This also explains why none of the other Rite Aids I visited had marked photo counter signage; those signs were evidently separate in this décor (unlike the rest of the departments, which did have their names printed onto the background patterns). The question now becomes, did those other stores ditch their original "1 Hour Photo" signs because they got rid of the department, or for some other unknown reason? Or perhaps it was supposed to be removed at all stores, and the Germantown location simply disobeyed orders? Who knows...
Glancing across a handful of aisles as viewed from the front actionway, before settling on taking a stroll down Aisle 8. A mostly barren Aisle 8, I should add. Only some cough drops, dental hygiene materials, and wrist braces remain - none of which, I believe, were originally stocked in this aisle.
I can't remember which aisle I walked down for this photo, but I do know it was the aisle housing the store's home movie selection. You can see some DVDs in the bottom left of the above image, but I use the more generic term "home movie" for reasons you'll see in the next image! In this pic, though, my focus was not on that but rather on the flooring that could be found in this store. If I'm not mistaken, this is terrazzo flooring - a rather fancy material, and one that certainly isn't found in other Rite Aid stores from this era. Whether this indicates the store originally opened with a different occupant, or this was just another way to make the place seem more upscale so that it fit in with the Saddle Creek atmosphere, I have no clue.
Here's why I avoided calling this area the DVD department: because it had a whole ton of VHS tapes still for sale, in addition to the DVDs! Seriously - I only have a couple pictured here (because other people were browsing the same area and I didn't want to be super obvious taking this photo), but there were multiple shelves' worth of VHS tapes for sale. And what amazes me more is not that Rite Aid was still selling movies on VHS in 2018, but rather, that they simply never lowered the price on these things. I mean, asking $6.99 for a 1993 film, on an outdated mode of viewing that most people aren't likely to have the appropriate equipment to watch with, that's available to stream online for $3.99?! That's asinine! And that's supposedly just their "sale price"!! If they really wanted them out the door, they could have at least lowered the price to 99 cents or something; I've even seen cheaper at Goodwill. But no - Rite Aid is apparently too stubborn to use common sense here. Given the amount of similarly aged merchandise I've seen at other Rite Aid stores (including notebooks that had been on the shelf so long their pages had yellowed), I'd hazard a guess that an unwillingness to lower ridiculously high prices is a common theme with the (understandably) beleaguered chain.
...my rant aside, here's another shot of the terrazzo flooring, this time also including one of those red 70% off signs as well as a little bit of 1990s Rite Aid shelf décor.
Stepping into Aisle 9 now, where we get a handful of views looking in various directions across the salesfloor. In each, multiple aisle signs can be seen, all precisely arranged in nice and neat lines, but sadly overlooking empty aisles, despite whatever the placards on the markers read. In the middle shot, the FoodMart department sign can also be seen, placed above some coolers along the store's right-side wall: we'll head over that way next...
...and on our way, first take a quick stop for this photo, showcasing a "Red Hot Specials" sign placed on an endcap in the center actionway that I found unique. (It's certainly been "red hot" outside this week, haha!) More of the FoodMart sign can be seen here, too. It's worth noting that this FoodMart sign was slightly different from the others I've witnessed, in that it actually listed food categories in those diamonds, such as "candy" and "milk" in this particular image. Was that common at other Rite Aids? Does it help anyone pinpoint this store's age?
Moving down to the FoodMart department, here are a couple of shots of the aforementioned cooler units lining the wall. They are generic in design, and unsurprisingly empty, but at least the blue, rounded mesh light bars above the cases give us some clues as to what they used to stock (see the pink category names printed on them).
From the front of the FoodMart department - located in the front right corner of the salesfloor - here's a view along the right-side wall, as well as an angled view above the gondola shelving across the rest of the salesfloor (clear back to the GNC and pharmacy departments in the rear). I'm not sure what that ladder is doing down at the center actionway, nor what happened with the shelving that should have been straight in front of me, forming the right side of Aisle 11 and left side of Aisle 12. I'm not convinced that this would always have been a double-wide aisle as shown, though I could be wrong.
What little (and I do mean little!) food remained was placed along the front wall of the store, here in the front right corner. As you can see, it's not much, but it's not bad, either, in that it is at least name brand stuff remaining. We actually stocked up on some green beans and Chef Boyardee ourselves. Of course, at their marked prices they were considerably pricier than Walmart, but with the discount they wound up being a good deal.
These two views are more or less the same, looking down the front actionway over towards the exit doors; I simply decided to be somewhat "artsy" with the first shot, and hold my phone camera down near the floor to see how that view would turn out. As it happens, not very different from my normal camera level, lol!
The front of the 1 Hour Photo counter was lined with this small section of shelving housing various electronics products, which understandably I was rather wary of (I'm somewhat wary of drugstore electronics purchases in any situation, and this store's huge selection of VHS tapes didn't help assuage that feeling at all!). Still, though, we did take a risk and wind up buying a handful of items... and sure enough, I feared that our purchase was a dud, as a charging cable we bought turned out not to fit properly into our phones. As it turns out, though, now that we've switched carriers and gotten new phones, this cable works properly! (As you smarter folks may be able to guess, our old phones took Micro-USB cables, whereas our new devices require USB Type C.) We'd tossed the thing into our Goodwill donation pile once we discovered it didn't work right - thank goodness we'd been lazy in actually getting our donations to the store XD
Just like the overhead "1 Hour Photo" sign, the gold mesh light bars shown in this image were a new sight for me, too. Up until this point I had only seen the blue variety, which can also be seen in the above pic right beside the gold.
Here's one more view across the front end toward the exit doors and that "thank you" sign, as well as a brief glimpse behind the 1 Hour Photo counter. A manager's office is located just out of view to my left from this vantage point, and I seem to vaguely remember some police officers entering the store and heading over to said office while I was here. But this visit took place more than a year ago, so I'm having trouble remembering exactly what happened. If my memory is actually real (!), then I wonder what was going on.
For our final interior shots, here's one more view of the 1 Hour Photo signage, followed by a peek at the signature pink-and-blue checkout counters at this Rite Aid. Even though the rest of the aisles were all straightened out here in Germantown, the checkouts retained their normal staggered setup :P Shown alongside the checkout is a notice alerting customers to the location of their new pharmacy, aka the Walgreens in the next shopping center over.
Heading back outside, we find a sandwich board sign sitting on the sidewalk, in the little alcove created beneath the arches out in front of the entryway, advertising the ongoing liquidation sale. And after that, back out in the parking lot, two more parting pics of the building before we say goodbye to yet another now-shuttered Rite Aid. I certainly could have been happier with additional exterior pics, but there were several people outside each time (oh - including some cops, when I first got there! Perhaps that's why I have that other memory...), so I didn't feel comfortable walking around too much more. Besides, I don't believe there was much else to see, aside from perhaps some different angles on the same shots I already took - it seems like this location actually didn't have a pharmacy drive-thru, believe it or not.
Transitioning now into our usual post-tour random images, up first here is a quick drive-by shot of the place this Rite Aid's prescription files were transferred to, the Walgreens right up the road. Unfortunately my photo here makes this store look even more abandoned than the Rite Aid (!), but that's simply due to the trees blocking the Walgreens logo on the façade :P Unlike the Rite Aid, this Walgreens is located at an intersection, and does have a pharmacy drive-thru.
Speaking of Walgreens, here are some scans of one of the info pamphlets available for curious customers at the front of the store, followed below by some additional such material, including a homemade liquidation handout and a more official pharmacy closure/relocation notice. Just for the heck of it... and also because the above pamphlet is, for whatever reason, slightly different in style to the one we saw only a few months earlier at the Cordova location.
This flyer confirms for us that the Germantown Rite Aid pharmacy closed on July 12, 2018, eight days before my visit. It also shows how to get to the Walgreens that was to serve as this store's de facto replacement. Look closely, though: that's obviously not the best route, haha! I have absolutely zero clue why or how this happened, but this flyer is suggesting that customers literally make a big circle and put themselves through three intersections' worth of traffic when they can easily avoid that altogether by simply making a left out of the Rite Aid lot instead of the right turn that the flyer proposes. Really strange, but also rather hilarious :P
One of my purchases here was a CD player - actually a super-last-minute purchase, as in we were just about to pay for our transaction when I noticed it sitting on a shelf behind the register and asked if it was for sale. CD players aren't that common of a find anymore (Rite Aid's outdatedness actually came in handy in this scenario, haha!), this was from a name-brand manufacturer, and the discount really helped lower the price to where it was a great deal, so I was sold. My picture above shows the cool Rite Aid logo electronic protection seal affixed to the packaging. I also photographed both this new CD player and my old one that I replaced, but decided y'all probably don't care to see them XD Anyway, I'll still share this tidbit about the two: my old one, which I'd had for as long as I can remember, has a manufacturing date of May 2003, while this new one was made in November 2015. So it was still already a few years old even when I bought the thing, but it's undeniably newer than the one I had. I wasn't necessarily ready to replace my old one (as I really seem to live by the "if it ain't broke..." motto in many respects), but I've been happy with the new one. And the old one is still sitting in my closet, just because XD
Last but not least, as is tradition with these posts, here's a scan of our receipt. See if you can spot how much I saved on that CD player!! (It would also appear that the green beans I mentioned must actually have been purchased at another Rite Aid, but the Chef Boyardee is on here as promised :P )
For being an unplanned visit, I was very happy with my trip to the Germantown Rite Aid. I got to see a store with an unusual interior layout and classy exterior design, and scored a nice-quality CD boombox for a steal! Hopefully you all enjoyed this stour as well. As I mentioned at the top of this post, we've got one more Memphis-area Rite Aid post coming up this December... but our Rite Aid series doesn't stop there. As always, stay tuned for more! ;)
Thanks for reading, and as always, have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are!