Allow me to explain.
If you recall my "Broken Chains Edition" post on Danver's Restaurant from last year, then you'll remember that the present-day story of Danver's was made so interesting by the fact that Cook Out, the entirely unrelated fast food chain, purchased the land beneath four of the five* final Danver's locations in 2017. Cook Out immediately converted two of those Danver's buildings it had purchased, but the owner of Danver's, John Golon, calmed Memphis-area Danver's patrons by saying that the remaining three Danver's restaurants would stay open as Danver's.
In fact, at the time, Golon claimed that Cook Out's original plan when purchasing those Danver's locations was to convert all of them to Cook Out, but once they saw how busy and popular they were, Cook Out reversed course, "realiz[ing] they could probably bring the [Danver's] restaurants to profitability if they lowered food expenses." However, since Cook Out does own the land, Golon cautioned that there would always exist the possibility that they'd convert the other two Danver's restaurants that they bought as well, saying, "That's always the eventuality if things don't go well."
Cook Out kept its two Danver's restaurants operational for a good three years following its 2017 purchase, but in spring 2020 -- perhaps driven by the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on dine-in restaurants (as Danver's is very popular for its salad bar, but that item relies on the ability to dine in) -- Cook Out finally threw in the towel on Danver's, converting the Olive Branch, MS, Danver's to Cook Out. That's the location I profiled in my original post from 2019, and the same one I visited earlier today to try Cook Out for the first time (in addition to, you know, getting some pics for you all).
Per the Facebook post from which I obtained the menu image above, the Olive Branch Danver's converted to Cook Out sometime around mid-April 2020. Comments to that same post note that the other Danver's location owned by Cook Out, at Poplar and Kirby in Memphis, is, as of this writing, currently closed and boarded up. It remains to be seen whether that location will also convert to Cook Out or if the land will simply be sold to a new owner, but I would imagine that either of those situations is more likely than it is that the restaurant will reopen as Danver's.
Before we move on to the Cook Out pictures, here's a reminder of what the Olive Branch Danver's used to look like...
...and as you can see, very little has changed! I know Cook Out isn't known for doing super-extensive renovations to the restaurants they take over, but sheesh :P (Side note, a fun game would be to identify what all of the restaurants behind those links used to be, down in the comments!)
I'm just joking, of course; in actuality, since the conversion was so recent, I'm sure the changes are coming, and they simply haven't had time to happen yet. I honestly don't know whether to expect the existing facade to remain in full, to remain in part, or to be so drastically altered that none of it remains at all... so it will certainly be interesting to see the end result of Cook Out's exterior remodeling here. (Naturally, the lesser, the better!)
The exterior may be more uncertain, but there's no question that Cook Out will be remodeling the interior of the former OB Danver's. Call me crazy, but carpeting and Tiffany lamps don't really seem like their style.
If, in the above images, you peek in through the windows (particularly in the close-up shot), you can see slight evidence of work preparing to take place, notably the presence of a ladder in one spot. Since the interior dining room had to be closed due to the restrictions brought on by the pandemic anyway, it makes sense at this time to go ahead and convert this Danver's to a Cook Out. Sad as it is to see the already-broken chain become more broken, this is a prime -- and, some would even argue, necessary -- opportunity of which to take advantage.
As we circle around the back and right sides of the building, we see no modifications made to the existing Danver's structure in these areas, either, although Cook Out did make some changes to the drive-thru setup. Whereas previously Danver's had only one menu board and speaker, Cook Out has created a setup with two drive-thru lanes, visible best in the middle image of the above trio (and if you zoom in to the bottom one, you can see the old Danver's menu board covered up by a tarp, too).
However, Cook Out's two-lane setup is very rudimentary thus far, with absolutely no directional signage to let drivers know how to maneuver. I imagine that will be forthcoming with the full remodel. (They have, at least, closed off the southern entrance to the property in an effort to keep people from driving any which way in the parking lot.)
Thus far, the only branding present to let people know that this now-former Danver's is operational as a Cook Out are the two temporary banners placed on either side of the existing Danver's sign facing Hacks Cross Road. While there's a good chance the building itself may be altered beyond recognition, I'm hopeful -- minus the installation of permanent Cook Out sign faces in place of the banners, of course -- that this sign, at least, will remain unchanged, as the continued presence of the Danver's logo shape here would be a nice reminder of this building's heritage.
In addition to the newly-double-laned drive-thru, Cook Out also carved out a walk-up window from the large entry vestibule; it opens up onto the patio (where the existing tables and chairs have been piled up and discarded off in a corner), and can just barely be seen in a handful of the photos above. But like I said, for now, the interior of the restaurant remains closed pending a likely remodel. One of the comments on that aforementioned Facebook post suggests that Cook Out will actually keep the Danver's salad bar once the dining room reopens, but the author cautions that that's only a rumor right now. If true, that would be another nice nod to Danver's.
You'll notice that I don't have any pictures of my meal this time, primarily since 1) we had to eat in the car, and 2) Cook Out is not a broken chain. That said, since this was my first time ever eating at a Cook Out, I do want to note that I really liked most of it! The service was friendly and extremely quick, too; and I was astonished by just how much they have on their menu. Also, I can confirm that the Cook Out Trays really do give you a heck of a lot of food for the relatively small price. (For example, I got two hot dogs "Cook Out style" [topped with chili, slaw, mustard, and onions], a chicken quesadilla, a honey mustard chicken wrap, and a drink for about the same price or even slightly less than I paid last year for one Danver's roast beef sandwich, a lousy side of green beans, and a smaller drink...)
But enough about that. For an update trying to eulogize Danver's, I'm sure doing a more effective job of only praising Cook Out, haha! Maybe I'd be sadder if Danver's was gone entirely, but as I said at the top of this post, that's still not exactly true just yet.
Indeed, recall that I wrote that Cook Out only purchased the land beneath four of the five area Danver's locations. The real estate of that fifth Danver's, in Cordova, is leased rather than owned, and it therefore continues to operate as Danver's, completely independent of Cook Out's influence or ability to convert. In fact, owner John Golon appears finally to be returning to visible involvement with his sole remaining Danver's Restaurant, updating its Facebook page for the first time in, well, ever, and even personally responding to individual reviews on Google.
There's also the totally separate, independent from both Cook Out and John Golon location of Danver's that continues to exist down in Tupelo, MS, as well (which is what the asterisk I included earlier in this post refers to). So between both of those, here's to hoping that the Danver's legacy continues to live on, even if the chain has lost two more of its locations to Cook Out and has become even more broken than ever before.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, we have Fred's. As you likely are aware, I've been running a series on Fred's; the full list of posts can be accessed here. Fred's announced multiple successive rounds of store closures throughout 2019, ultimately leading up to a bankruptcy filing and total winding down of operations in October. My Fred's series documents the liquidation sales at many different local Fred's stores (and will, in fact, continue next month with our sixth of thirteen such posts!).
In my most recent Fred's post, from March, I mentioned that, in the bankruptcy, the Fred's intellectual property was sold to International Enterprises, Inc., about which I could find practically zero information online. Well, as it turns out, last week I finally stumbled upon that company's operations: a two-store chain in Ohio called Discount Outlet. Except now, those two stores are henceforth to be known as Fred's Discount Outlet.
As you can see from the logo above, the newly-christened Fred's Discount Outlet uses the exact same Fred's wordmark that the original Fred's company used circa 2009-2019, only now colored in blue. The old Fred's URL, fredsinc.com, also now redirects to Discount Outlet's website. And finally, I'm unsure if this is related or simply a coincidence, but even Discount Outlet's weekly ads use the same font that Fred's did for its Fred's Closeout Bonanza stores -- fitting, since Discount Outlet is a very similar concept both to that and to the similarly short-lived Fred's Discount Depot!
The only thing I'm not entirely sure about is why, exactly, this small chain in Ohio would bother paying for the intellectual property of a brand that existed exclusively in the southeast; surely there's not much recognition of Tennessee-based Fred's up in Ohio. That said, I did find this article that mentions Discount Outlet is exploring further expansion of its footprint in the future... but note also in that article that it took them nearly 30 years to grow from one store to two, with the second located a mere seven miles from the first! So unless they're planning on expanding all the way to the southeast -- which seems unlikely -- I'm still not sure what their end goal with the Fred's IP; but I must admit that I'm glad to see it placed in good hands and being reborn, nonetheless.
EDIT: Perhaps some of you figured this out already, but it only dawned on me after writing this post. International Enterprises, Inc., bought the Fred's IP explicitly for the URL! Online shopping, of course, isn't limited only to a single region. The new owners are likely betting that former Fred's shoppers in the southeast will stumble upon their website and be fooled into thinking Fred's is still around in an online format, or even if they're not fooled, that they'll still find something they like on the website and be enticed to buy it, regardless. Savvy marketing ploy, there. (It doesn't appear as if the two physical stores themselves, meanwhile, are going to be rebranded at all.)
One other Fred's update of note is that a lot of Fred's-branded products are finally reappearing in stores exactly like the new Fred's Discount Outlet, closeout chains that sell liquidated products. Examples can be seen below of Fred's merch found at three separate stores, in Memphis, Nashville, and Florida, respectively.
|Found at a Memphis Ollie's|
|Found at a Nashville Roses Express -- which, by the way, is itself housed in a former Fred's building! Courtesy Mike B.|
|Found at a Florida Ollie's. Courtesy Cape Kennedy Retail|
So that wraps up this quick update post. As you learned, with one Memphis-area location remaining (plus that other, seemingly-separate one in Tupelo, too), Danver's isn't truly dead; and Fred's isn't truly alive, at least not in the same form or company as it was from 1947 to its demise in 2019. But there have been enough major developments to where these claims are partially true; and for all intents and purposes of this post, certainly worth sharing as the two chains' stories continue to evolve.
With only two short posts to show, I know it looks like I haven't gotten a lot done on the blog this month, so for that I apologize. But please know that the truth is actually the opposite -- this month, I finally sat down and typed out the blog's big 100,000 pageviews celebration post! That way, it's all ready to go as soon as we hit the milestone, which, with any luck, will hopefully be just a few short weeks from now -- get excited, y'all!!
With that said, I hope you'll forgive me for the lack of up-front content this month, since my time was devoted to preparing that post "behind the scenes" instead. Not to worry though, as next month we'll jump right back into our regularly scheduled content, with that aforementioned Fred's post on tap for June, plus anything else I find time to complete. So until then, thanks as always for reading, and have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are!