Sunday, June 14, 2020

American Fare (Kmart Hypermarket Concept), Jackson, MS

100,000 pageviews -- thank you, everyone! I sincerely appreciate your continued readership and patronage which has enabled The Mid-South Retail Blog to achieve this significant milestone. In celebration, as promised, is a special post to mark the occasion. Its subject derives, fittingly, from the world of Kmart, perhaps the most symbolic chain behind which the online retail community unites. However, this post wouldn't be special if it featured simply a run-of-the-mill Kmart store. On the contrary, you know that a celebration on this blog, naturally, must involve a "lost history" story somehow. It's also got to have some tie to our Mid-South region, consisting of the states of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas. Taken together, all of that brings us to today's topic: Kmart's short-lived hypermarket concept, American Fare.

As my fellow blogger at Kmart World explains, a hypermarket "is a fusion of a department store and a grocery store along with other extra services. They range in size from a little over 100,000 sq ft to 250,000 sq ft. Today's closest equivalent to hypermarts are supercenters, although most are a bit smaller than the larger hypermarts of the time."

"American Fare," the Kmart World author writes, "was a joint venture of Kmart and Bruno's Supermarkets. Bruno's supplied the grocery side and Kmart stocked everything else. ... The first location was opened on January 29, 1989 in Stone Mountain, GA. The second opened on April 1, 1990 in Charlotte, NC." The third and final location was located in Jackson, Mississippi, and is the subject of today's post. We're going to explore its timeline straight from the beginning.


March 1990

American Fare's introduction to the Jackson market was announced in The Clarion-Ledger on March 27, 1990, with the above article. A majority of this post relies on past newspaper columns originally published in The Clarion-Ledger and sourced online from I strongly encourage you to read each article individually by enlarging the images, but I will include brief summaries for some of them.

This article discusses what a hypermarket is and states that the American Fare locations "planned for Jackson and Charlotte are smaller, more concentrated versions of the first American Fare in Atlanta." Despite this, these two were actually to stock about double the number of items. The American Fare stores also weren't meant to compete with existing Kmart stores nearby; unlike Kmart, American Fare was to "offer groceries and other merchandise ranging from name-brand clothes to sporting goods and electronics in an upscale setting," and was not to carry Kmart's private label (store-brand) products.

It is very crucial to note here at the beginning of this post that such a concept -- a singular store acting as both a discounter and a grocer -- was very new to United States retail practices at the time. "Picture the biggest supermarket and put it under the same roof with a Wal-Mart or K mart, and you've got a hypermarket -- almost," says an industry expert quoted in the above article. "It looks much spiffier." The world of today where this concept is commonplace only arose in response to the 1980s/1990s hypermarket push -- its successes and its failures.

July 1990

By July 1990, construction was well underway on the Jackson American Fare, and joint owners Kmart and Bruno's both confirmed their involvement and the identity of the project. This location would prove to be Bruno's first foray into the Jackson market, and would also materialize in a slightly different format than the prior two American Fare locations in Stone Mountain and Charlotte, with reduced square footage and the presence of white floor tile as opposed to polished concrete, "in an effort to eliminate a wholesale warehouse atmosphere."

The article highlights just how huge the Jackson American Fare would be upon its opening date -- about 147,000 square feet (roughly three football fields), with 27 checkouts along the front end (not including checkouts in other store departments) -- but also asks two important questions: "Will customers find such a massive store too big," and "will they want to buy a blouse and a dairy product in the same trip?" Again, remember that this was an entirely new concept to American retail. Obviously, the answer to the second question today -- and even at the time, based on the other American Fare locations -- is that customers wouldn't even think twice about buying those items on the same trip. But the answer to the first question would prove a little more complicated.

August 16, 1990

The Jackson, MS, American Fare celebrated its grand opening on Thursday, August 16, 1990. Alongside touting the novelty of the concept, the article above also reveals two important notes: first, "The Jackson store departs a little from the other hypermarkets. Bruno's owns 51 percent interest in the Jackson store, where K mart had majority in the other two." And secondly, "The Jackson location is the third American Fare, and company officials hope the third time is the charm. The stores in Charlotte, N.C., and Atlanta have not fared as well as anticipated."

In fact, the entire second article in the rightmost column of the above excerpt discusses the failure of hypermarket concepts to gain traction among customers. "The nation's largest discount retailers, K mart Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., seem to agree. After building seven hypermarkets between them, the retailers don't plan to build any more." Even though it's not explicitly spelled out, it's quite the juxtaposition to be celebrating the grand opening of the Jackson American Fare on the left while bluntly saying it will be the last one ever to open on the right.

If you're not familiar with the story of American Fare, I won't spoil its ending for you yet, but I don't think it's revealing much at this point to confirm that the concept wasn't around very long. For this reason, finding any interior or exterior images of the concept is rare and should be celebrated accordingly. The image shown in the above newspaper article is cool in its own right, but I'm extremely excited to share with you the content below. Archive footage courtesy of Jackson TV station WLBT shows the Jackson American Fare on its opening day, some of the only interior documentation known to exist, not just of the Jackson location, but of any of the three American Fare stores. Please take a close look at these video and image stills, and enjoy the rare trip back in time.


June 11, 1992

Nearly two years in, and things were going swimmingly for Jackson's new hypermarket. (American Fare was "faring well," the headline jokes.) But this success wasn't general -- it was in comparison specifically to the two other American Fare stores. Jackson, it would seem, was the only one of the three to be making a profit. Stone Mountain was losing money, while Charlotte was just beginning to break even. In response to this, Kmart confirmed that they would not be opening any more American Fare stores, but also promised "all three American Fare stores would remain open."

The same month saw the following ads for American Fare being printed in The Clarion-Ledger. Note the address of the Jackson location, 597 Beasley Road, right at an interchange with I-55. The Kmart circular also highlights the fact that all items and sale prices could be found at the three American Fare locations.

June 12, 1992

Just one day after the previous article was published, it would appear that things weren't going so well for American Fare after all. On Friday, June 12, 1992, it was announced that Bruno's was exiting the partnership¹, leaving ownership and operations of American Fare exclusively to Kmart. Consequently, Kmart said the Jackson American Fare store would soon be rebranded under the chain's newest umbrella, Super Kmart Center. Following two purpose-built stores in Medina and Montrose, Ohio (respectively), the Jackson, MS, American Fare would become the company's third Super Kmart Center in operation. The Charlotte, NC, American Fare would be the fourth.

At this point, separate articles begin to more thoroughly explain the Super Kmart Center concept. At a size "two-thirds bigger than traditional Kmarts," a Fortune article writes, and by "offering a full-line grocery store, with fancy specialty departments, pharmacies, video rental kiosks, and a complete discount store assortment, these stores are appealing to a broader audience than Kmart's usual low- to middle-income patrons. Shoppers like what they see. A previous attempt at something similar, called American Fare, was a disaster four years ago because Kmart simply cobbled a supermarket onto a discount store. Super K better integrates the two sides by combining the merchandise where it makes sense -- for instance, baby food with baby clothes, diapers, and carriages -- and by offering low prices." (It is also worth noting that both Kmart and Wal-Mart's hypermarket experiments involved partnering with a separate grocery operator, but for their supercenter concepts, the two retailers began operating the grocery side themselves.)

Another article from Cox News Service states, "Of the six Super Kmarts currently opened, four are in the Southeast," and notes that while Wal-Mart had already begun rolling out its similar new concept -- called the Wal-Mart Supercenter -- to a greater degree than Super Kmart Center (48 Wal-Mart Supercenters, to six Super Kmart Centers, as of 1993), Wal-Mart had "no plans" to open Supercenters in the southeast, "prime territory for Super Kmart." "By devoting more than 40 percent of its shelf space to food items at Super Kmarts, Kmart hopes to establish a niche with consumers who long for one-stop shopping -- without the confusion of an American Fare," which "intimidated the consumer."

"Potentially," the Cox article writes, "the ramifications for the retail industry ripple far beyond Hickory [NC]," home to one of the new Super Kmart Centers as of the date of publication. Kmart rapidly expanded its plans to open new Super Kmarts into the hundreds, and as we all know, Wal-Mart Supercenters took off running, too. Hypermarkets may have proven too big for US citizens, but supercenters were clearly identified as the future of retail.²

Presented below are close-ups of the image included in the above newspaper except showing the exterior of the Jackson American Fare, prior to its conversion to a Super Kmart Center.

August 1992

It was noted during the initial construction of the Jackson American Fare that an existing Kmart store was located close nearby, but at the time officials said they didn't expect the two to compete given American Fare's differing merchandise. However, with the American Fare set to become a Super Kmart Center -- and therefore adopt a more similar merchandise mix to the existing Kmart store -- said existing Kmart store became redundant. Consequently, on August 8, 1992, Kmart announced it would be closing its older store at I-55 and Briarwood Drive, and consolidating operations into the ex-American Fare facility just one mile to the north.

Additionally, on August 13, 1992, WLBT ran a story about the efforts underway to convert the American Fare into a Super Kmart Center. The below video and image stills could very well be the last recorded footage of an American Fare store. (Again, these images and videos do not belong to me and are being included in this post for historical purposes only.)

November 1992

In November 1992, the third-ever Super Kmart Center celebrated its grand opening at 597 Beasley Road, occupying the now-former Jackson American Fare building.

¹ -- Besides losing money, Bruno's likely exited the joint venture with Kmart due to a December 1991 plane crash of the Bruno's corporate jet that killed a majority of the company's executives. Per Wikipedia, "Following the crash, the company was never the same and within four years it was sold." 

² -- Many other articles exist documenting the rise of the supercenter concept; I find the novelty expressed within them fascinating, seeing as how these stores are so mundane and commonplace in today's society. Here is a link to one such article in addition to the two cited above, and here is a link to a study analyzing the diffusion and strategies behind Wal-Mart and Kmart's supercenter locations.


July 25, 2000

Super Kmart Center lasted a good seven-and-a-half years or so in the old American Fare building in Jackson, until finally in July 2000 it was selected for closure alongside 71 other Kmart and Super Kmart stores nationwide. The above article is accompanied by an August 2000 store closing ad, and below, we can see what the American Fare building looked like post-conversion, once again courtesy of WLBT. Besides a new paint job, the American Fare exterior design was left remarkably unchanged upon reopening as Super Kmart Center in 1992.

January 15, 2003

Three years later, it was announced that the Jackson Super Kmart Center would be closing... again. Apparently, against all odds, the store had reopened in September 2001, with an extensive interior and exterior remodel, no less (note the dramatically altered exterior in the article above and close-ups below. We'll also see more of this in aerial views later in this post). Unsurprisingly, however, due to the other events that took place in the US that same month, the reopening was not the focus of any major coverage.

This time, the store would not be saved. It, and 325 others, closed as part of the second round of closures during Kmart's bankruptcy. (283 Kmart stores had closed in the prior year.) Mississippi was to be left with just nine locations³, and the Jackson American Fare-turned-Super Kmart Center building was to go dark for good. In typical liquidation fashion, the below ad from February 2003 excitedly hawks the somber event as "one of the biggest store closing sales in history!"

³ -- The nine surviving Mississippi Kmarts, as listed in the graphic at the bottom of the newspaper article, were located in Corinth, Columbus, Greenville, Gulfport (two stores), Long Beach, Natchez, Southaven, and Waveland. The Long Beach store was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina in 2005; Southaven, the state's last Super Kmart, closed in that same year. Waveland and one Gulfport store closed in 2013. Greenville, Corinth, and Natchez closed in 2016. Columbus closed in 2018. The second Gulfport store held the title of final Kmart store in Mississippi before its closure in 2019, marking the chain's exit from the state.


After its closure in April 2003, the Jackson, MS, former American Fare/Super Kmart Center sat vacant for many years. Below are some images I was able to find of the abandoned building.

Once again, you can clearly see the exterior was significantly altered upon Super Kmart's reopening in September 2001. The formerly low, sloped gable entrances gave way to tall, square ones, and the Kmart logo was placed against a large, newly-added rectangular backdrop. Additionally, the paint scheme was swapped from American Fare's white and green and first-iteration Super Kmart's white and red to the patriotic trio of red, white, and blue. These colors remained as vibrant as ever as late as 2009. (While I don't know of any color images to exist of the second-iteration Super Kmart, hopefully you can picture the color scheme seen in these abandoned images on the black-and-white newspaper article image shared earlier in this post.)

Courtesy LoopNet

Courtesy chmeredith on flickr

Courtesy chmeredith on flickr

A building this large and this visible obviously didn't sit abandoned for so long without any effort to try and backfill it with new tenants. In 2004, just a year after the closure, Burlington Coat Factory was said to be "negotiating to buy the former Kmart building on Beasley Road," which had been the state of Mississippi's very "first supercenter when it opened as 'American Fare' in 1990." But that deal didn't pan out; Burlington ultimately wound up opening at Metrocenter Mall.

Better luck arrived in December 2007, when CarMax opened up a brand new 37,000 square foot facility -- its first in Mississippi -- in the parking lot of the property. That said, "though its parking lot is now occupied, the Kmart building is still standing" and still vacant, read the article announcing the news.

Finally, in September 2009, news spread that Comcast was eyeing the old Kmart building, hoping to turn it into a large office facility. WLBT reported that the Jackson City Council was "considering plans to waive 61.4 mills in taxes on improvements and equipment for the building" as an incentive for Comcast to move in. Those tax incentives must have been passed, for work began in 2010 and Comcast reoccupied the long-abandoned building a short while later.

To better illustrate the changes the property underwent over the past two decades, below you'll find a string of aerial and street views. You'll likely also be interested in a series of YouTube videos I found that document conversion work taking place in 2010; those can be viewed here, here, here, here, and here.

Up first are a pair of aerial images from Google Earth, the first from 1996 and the second from 2002. Neither of these images are from the American Fare days -- the store was already operating as Super Kmart Center in 1996 -- but as I said earlier, the exterior did encounter several design changes between the first and second runs of Super Kmart in this building. Unfortunately, the 1996 image isn't of great quality, so it's hard to make out exactly what the differences are. But generally speaking, the two entrances were reconfigured to accommodate a boxier, more commanding design, and the left-side (secondary) entrance was even shifted over to the right a fair amount (it previously would've been at the far left edge of the awning, but was moved closer to center as viewed in the 2002 capture).

This capture does a much better job of showing the storefront in its entirety. This image comes from the Dead and Dying Retail blog, and was sourced from Bing Maps. I'm unsure of a date on this one, but it has to have been between 2003 and 2007.

In this 2007 aerial view, you can see the new CarMax dealership taking shape in the former parking lot to the ex-Kmart building. The separate November 2007 Google Street View capture shows the Kmart logo peeking through from beneath a paint-out on the roadside sign facing drivers on Interstate 55.

The top image above, a 2010 aerial view, shows CarMax now operational and the building itself under construction, ready to become home to Comcast. The bottom image takes us to 2019, where we can see the final result of the parking lot reconfiguration necessary for Comcast's tenancy. Much of the building is home to offices and a call center, but there is a small portion that acts as a customer service center, so the visitor parking had to be kept separate from the private, gated employee parking. Much of the visitor parking occupies the spot of the former outdoor garden center.

Present-day, we move closer to street level with these bird's eye views courtesy of both Bing and Google Maps. In particular, you can see the arrangement with CarMax occupying the former parking lot space, and the minimal renovations Comcast did to the exterior of the building. So while the interior was completely stripped and renovated, at least the outside remains remarkably intact, a very nice surviving relic of this building's past life as a Kmart-owned supercenter!

Courtesy WLBT/Facebook

Above, I've included a duplicate image from earlier in this post, so that you may better compare and contrast American Fare's beginning exterior with Super Kmart Center's final design. Once again, Comcast made no changes architecturally, opting only to adopt a new paint scheme. Finally, I've also shared some street view imagery acting as a sneak peek of the building from ground level. But there's about to be much more where that came from...

-- Metrocenter Mall, the largest enclosed shopping mall in the state of Mississippi, is infamous for its dead mall status. Opened in 1978, the mall began to experience decline as anchors and inline tenants departed throughout the 2000s. Burlington opened in one of the vacant anchor spaces in 2007 (the chain's first store in Mississippi), and the two remaining anchors, Belk and Sears, pulled out within the next five years. The City of Jackson took over the Belk building and converted it to office space, and in 2018, the interior of the mall was closed to the public, leaving only Burlington and the city offices open and accessible. However, in early 2020, Metrocenter was purchased by a local investor who announced her intent to reopen and revitalize the mall. Those plans have likely been affected by the pandemic, but it will be interesting to watch what happens here. Much can be found online documenting Metrocenter; I'll simply link to Sky City's post on the mall.

 -- Interestingly, while it did have an outdoor garden center (in addition to "just about anything" else you would want in a hypermarket), American Fare did not have an automotive center nor did it sell tires. I'm not sure if the other American Fare stores similarly did not handle tire sales and installations, or if it was only the Jackson location that did not. Given that Kmart itself already had auto centers at many of its stores, and the angle of the hypermarket was to have "everything under one roof," I have no idea why an auto center would not have been included here.


As cool as it is to have uncovered and to be able to feature all of these wonderful newspaper articles and past images and video footage of the Jackson American Fare building, I typically try not to write any posts that don't include at least a tiny bit of my own photographic content. With that in mind, then, I am happy to share with y'all a series of pictures of this property that I had the opportunity to take earlier this year while down in Jackson.

We begin by approaching the complex from along the frontage road, focusing specifically on the roadside sign in the above two images. Note that this is the original sign from the American Fare days, still intact and in use. Only the electronic signboard below the sign frame itself has been removed, hence the portion where the poles get skinnier. (Refer back to the August 1992 video/images for a look at the sign during the American Fare days.)

Pulling into the parking lot, here are several views of the right side of the building. As I said earlier, a portion of this facility serves as a customer service center (hence the sign designating it as such, visible in the top image of this set), and the parking lot over here sits mainly on top of the site of the former outdoor garden center. Besides Comcast's newly added doors and windows, the architecture is unchanged.

It's rather difficult to get good pictures of the storefront itself due to the fact that the CarMax building and lot thoroughly blocks the Comcast building from view. That's the downside to the conversion into a call center: sure, the facade got to remain intact, but no one can see it all that well!

I figured I would try to rectify that visibility problem, though, by grabbing some shots from the interstate, which would give me a slightly higher vantage point than simply ground level. With someone else driving, I proceeded to grab the above and below images (which also were taken on a much sunnier day than the ground level photos! The Jackson area had never-ending gray skies and rainfall for much of early 2020, it would seem, so this particular date was a nice reprieve).

Finally, we get to seeing a wide view of the storefront in these images, as well as a better idea of just how large CarMax's facility is (that's a lot of cars!). I know these images aren't the best, but they are the best I was able to get. Hopefully they get the point across. I'm particularly happy with the third one in the above set; as well as the fact, of course, that the exterior was kept totally intact, something I don't quite think can be said for the other two ex-American Fare locations.

Last but not least, one more view, this time from the northbound lanes (all the others were taken from the southbound lanes). Quite zoomed in, but perhaps the straightest angle on the building one is able to capture. Just picture the Kmart logo in that empty rectangle in-between the two entry gables, with the "Super Center" text beside it and a different paint scheme, and basically you've got a good mental image of this store's final iteration!

 -- The Charlotte, NC, American Fare building appears to have become a call center as well, with a large Verizon logo occupying a prominent spot on the heavily remodeled exterior. The Stone Mountain, GA, American Fare is a bit more recognizable -- not too awful much has changed architecturally -- but the new paint scheme and occupant (DeKalb County School District) are enough to distract from its past.


As we head into the home stretch of this post, I think it would be worth it to briefly mention other attempts at operating hypermarkets in the United States. "In 1987," wrote the Tampa Bay Times, "hypermarkets were touted as the future in the retail world." The concept materialized in the US "with experimental stores such as Biggs in Cincinnati and Carrefour in Philadelphia. And the two top names in American discounting" -- Wal-Mart and Kmart -- subsequently "rushed to build their own experiments."

But as I noted earlier in this post, as early as the grand opening day of the Jackson American Fare in August 1990, both Wal-Mart and Kmart were already shifting gears away from hypermarkets, the ambitious, overly large concept not performing as well abroad as it seemed to be overseas. A retail analyst in 1993 said that "The vast expanses of the 250,000- to 300,000-square-foot stores are novel and exciting to Europeans, who are used to living closer together on narrow, winding streets. ... 'There's a contrast in lifestyles,' he said. Big stores 'don't feel different to Americans.'"

In response, and as we all well know by now, Wal-Mart would go on to experiment with its Supercenters and Kmart with its Super Kmart Centers, paving the way for supercenter domination in the American retail scene. But all of this began with the successes -- and failures -- of hypermarkets in the USA.

Besides the above-linked sources, there are a number of good ones out there, including (but not limited to) the Fortune magazine and Cox News Service pieces linked earlier, this trio of links covering Carrefour, Wikipedia's list of hypermarkets in the United States, these two blog posts on Auchan (thanks to Anonymous for sharing details in the comments below!), and these three links showcasing Wal-Mart's Hypermart USA concept, the latter of which is a recent article from the Dallas Morning News. Speaking of Hypermart USA, below are several additional images I thought y'all would be interested in seeing.

Courtesy BatteryMill on Discord

Courtesy BatteryMill on Discord

A handful of these images were shared recently in the chat room "The Retail Union" on Discord, so here's a shout-out in thanks to the various members who brought these items to my attention. Above is just one example, a hybrid ad/article showcasing Vulcraft's work with Hypermart USA, and also including a very nice interior view of one of the four Hypermart USA stores ever to exist (interior views of these are just as rare as interior views of any of the three American Fare stores). Below you'll find three additional interior pictures of a Hypermart USA location.

Courtesy Kohan, Simon, Namdar, & Assoc. on Discord

Courtesy Kohan, Simon, Namdar, & Assoc. on Discord

Courtesy Kohan, Simon, Namdar, & Assoc. on Discord

Surely I'm not the only one who thinks the "Seafood" department sign looks uncannily similar to Kroger's 1990 neon/grid pattern look! You can also see a veritable food court in these images. Yes, hypermarkets had a little bit of everything, including a much larger selection of independent restaurants, service providers, etc. leasing space as an almost "mini-mall" than we are accustomed to today. I believe American Fare had some semblance of a "mini-mall" in its stores as well, and also carried a wide array of merchandise, name-brand and in a multitude of departments (you'll note that the exterior of the Jackson store promoted Food/Pharmacy, Electronics, Clothing, Hardware, and Sporting Goods).

In addition to those interior pics, below you'll find a series of exterior pics of Hypermart USA locations. The designs for these were certainly out there!

Courtesy Pinterest

Courtesy emd on flickr

Courtesy emd on flickr

Courtesy Kohan, Simon, Namdar, & Assoc. on Discord

Unlike the three ex-American Fare stores, all of which are still standing, two of the four Hypermart USA buildings have been demolished. The other two remain operational, converted into Walmart Supercenters. You can read more about all four at Hypermart USA's Wikipedia page.


For the final section of this post, I thought I'd briefly share a few images of the other two American Fare stores that I came across in my research, as well as some other related goodies.

These are all images of the Stone Mountain, GA, American Fare, with the exception of the last image, a newspaper graphic that compares the size of the Stone Mountain store to both the forthcoming Charlotte, NC, American Fare and an average Kmart store. If you're interested in learning and viewing more about these other two American Fare locations, please check out any or all of the following resources: Kmart World, Trip to the Mall, Groceteria, Sky City. Images of the buildings post-American Fare are also scattered throughout the internet.

Courtesy Kennedy Retail

Courtesy Rebecca Sell on Coroflot

Soon after the American Fare hypermarket concept was nixed in late 1992, Kmart repurposed the name for the launch of its new, exclusive store brand. The above ad was published in newspapers across the country in December 1995, "introducing" American Fare to Kmart shoppers. In addition to the ad, I've included an example of one early American Fare-branded product. More can be viewed at this link. American Fare was phased out as Kmart's store brand in 2010, replaced by Smart Sense.

Image source unknown

Courtesy otterphoto on Facebook

Last but not least, in the top image above you'll see a slightly better look at the right side of the Jackson Comcast facility's facade, original to the second-iteration Super Kmart. Since the CarMax car lot isn't public, their online car listing photos are the best way to view that specific angle! And finally, in the bottom image you'll see a rare American Fare handbasket, which resides in the collection of flickr user otterphoto (who also operates the Off The Rack -- Retail Past and Present! Facebook group). otterphoto found this basket in rural North Carolina, which means it likely originated from the Charlotte American Fare, but who knows -- there's a one-third chance that it actually came from Jackson :)


That wraps up this extremely long post covering the lost history of the Jackson, MS, American Fare SuperStore (even longer if you actually read all of the newspaper excerpts like I suggested, haha!). I deliberately wanted to shed some light on this location since it seemed to be less well-documented than the other two, and the abundance of images, videos, and newspaper articles that I was able to find really made that goal possible. I thoroughly hope that you enjoyed the post, and that you found its topic as relevant of a subject for the blog's 100,000 pageviews celebration as I did. And on a related note, I would once again like to thank each and every one of you for stopping by the Mid-South Retail Blog. Every reader email, contribution, comment, and pageview is appreciated and welcome.

Between our fifth year on the web, new logo, 100 posts, and now 100,000 pageviews, the blog has had a lot to celebrate over the past several months. Here's to many more milestones ahead! I've got some more great content headed your way over the months to come, so please stick around. Until next time, then, and as always, have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are :)

Retail Retell

EDIT, July 2021: It looks like I published this post just in time... as it turns out, the Jackson Comcast center in the former American Fare building would wind up closing in May 2021, replaced solely by a new-build Xfinity store in front of Costco in nearby Ridgeland, MS. (That linked article is likely paywalled, but a line towards the end reads, "The new location replaces the former customer service center at 5915 Interstate 55 North Frontage Rd. in Jackson.") That's a sad fate, potentially but not necessarily for the building -- hopefully, a new tenant would also see fit to keep the exterior architecture intact, like Comcast did -- rather, I'm referring to the loss of so many jobs, because you just know that a giant 146,583 square foot facility had so, so many more employees than a tiny new 2,800 square foot phone store. Sad :(  For those interested in seeing more photos of the (now-former) Comcast building, check out this LoopNet sale listing.


  1. Fantastic post! I never realized how few hypermarkets there were here. I'm glad to see Comcast reused the building without altering the outside of it too much, they saved a neat little piece of retail history.
    Also congratulations on all those accomplishments! It's been a big year for the blog. :)

    1. Thank you for all the compliments! I appreciate you reading :) Once I started looking into the hypermarket stuff for this post, I kept finding more and more. I had to stop myself from digging further, or else this post would've gone on way too long! For as short-lived and few in number as hypermarkets were in the US, it's interesting to hear how many attempts were made (and by how many operators). As for the Jackson building, I'm very glad to see Comcast has left it mostly intact, too.

  2. Fantastic stuff. I remember American Fare and what a big deal it was for Jackson at the time. Great use of old newspaper archives (I especially appreciate that). American Fare was the scene of a notorious kidnapping and assault of a woman and her daughter from the store's parking lot in 1992. It eventually led to a big settlement from Kmart to the victim a few years later. Though the store persevered, it was always tarnished as "unsafe" after this. I think the incident also led many in town to incorrectly recall that's why the name was changed.

    It is surprising Comcast has allowed its old logo and branding to remain on this building since the Xfinity consumer rebrand years ago. I was in the building recently to return equipment (cut the cord, but kept Xfinity internet). The portion of it open to the public is tiny compared to its overall size.

    1. Thank you, I'm glad you like it! Thanks for the Jackson-area resident perspective on the store, too. I had no idea about the kidnapping and assault; that's such a tragic thing to hear about. I can imagine the community's assessment of this store changing, as well as understand their misinterpretation of the name change. Very interesting.

      I got very lucky with the newspaper clippings, as most were already clipped by a user. (You can tell the ones that weren't by the much lower resolution images.) I don't have an account on that site myself, but I've debated it for a long time. Maybe in a few years I'll get one, but I try to manage which paid subscriptions I have going. There's no denying that they definitely are a great resource, though.

      Good point about the Comcast vs. Xfinity branding; I hadn't even thought about that. I figured the interior space had to be tiny, but if I'm remembering correctly from what I saw on a Google Maps photo, it looks pretty nice inside. (Unrecognizable from its retail days, of course, but still nice.)

  3. Great post, and research, as always! This was well worth the wait!

    Lots of great old photos of American Fare too. It's nice to see such a short lived store from nearly 30 years ago have such extensive documentation posted online. This post is probably the most comprehensive collection of American Fare photos from around the web! It's interesting seeing these stores, and hearing about how so many tried and failed with the hypermart concept in the US. Looking at that Hypermart USA food court photo, that looks like a scene from a mall rather than a large discount store! Like you said, while these hypermarts all failed in the end, these stores were the first step to creating the retail scene we have today. It's nice the Jackson American Fare was preserved enough to act as a reminder of the early days of the modern supercenter.

    Also, congrats on the 100,000 pageview milestone, and all the other milestones you've hit on the blog this year!

    1. Thank you for the compliments and for all of your comments, friend!

      I agree, I was so stoked to find so much coverage of this store online. And as we discussed before, I can only imagine that this is the tip of the iceberg insofar as past retail scenes hiding out in newspaper and television news station archives is concerned. So much of that imagery will likely never see the public again, but it's right underneath our noses. Kind of agonizing, really XD

      Anyway, thanks -- that's the goal for sure! I would love for these lost history posts to attract people who are seeking out information on the subjects, as a central repository of sorts for the content and research within. I'm sure you're already familiar with that concept though, as that's your own M.O. for your blog, I bet! The success of this goal depends largely on Google pulling my posts into view, so hopefully that happens :P

      I agree, it's very interesting to dig into the hypermarket craze and just how many retailers jumped on the bandwagon in the US. All for it to turn out so (relatively) poorly, too -- what a shame. But the good part, as you said, is that a lot of the best practices and ideas eventually morphed into the supercenters of today, so we still have hypermarkets to thank for that, even if many people don't remember them all that well, or at all. I'm glad to see the Jackson store preserved enough for that purpose, too (well-put!).

      Thanks again! :)

  4. Congrats on the milestone! Kmart was involved in a lot of diversified retail projects in the 1980s and early 1990s and this was one of them. Most of the other diversification attempts of theirs ended up in Houston (Builders Square/Builders Square II, Pace Membership Warehouse, Designer Depot, and the Kmart Chef fast food restaurants from the 1960s/1970s), but not this one so it has been a bit of a mystery to me. The research and videos on this post does help to fill a lot of gaps.

    The Wikipedia link on hypermarkets lists FedMart as one. If we count that, Houston had hypermarkets going back a long, long time ago. Of course, we also had the early Kmarts and Targets which had attached, but separate grocery stores. Those were kind of proto-hypermarkets. Probably the big hypermarket which everyone of a certain age remembers here in Houston is Auchan. The first Auchan in Houston opened in 1988, was 250,000 sq. ft., and had 55 checkouts lined up in one long row. Another somewhat smaller location opened in 2000, but I believe both closed in 2003. I was at the opening of the 1988 store and shopped there many times over the years and got a lot of stuff from there.

    Although the store was somewhat iconic, there really isn't much online to remember it by. Pseudo3D did a blog post about it many years ago:

    And there is this short commercial about it which shows some images of the place:

    The building of the original Houston Auchan has been sub-divided and the grocery section of the store lives on as a Food Town. Food Town is a local chain of discount grocery stores. Unlike a lot of Food Towns which retain a lot of the feature of the previous tenant, this Food Town does not look much like the prior Auchan. That said, the impressive area near the checkouts still exists and the food court still exists even if it no longer has fast food vendors like McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut like Auchan did. Link:

    Auchan did last 15 years in Houston almost unchanged so it wasn't one of those 'here today, gone tomorrow' type deals like a lot of other hypermarkets. They had a reputation for having pretty good prices and excellent pastries given the chain's French origin. As time went on, it became obvious that the majority of the shoppers at the store would be the people who lived near it and the store was located near Houston's Chinatown. Thus, the store had a lot of products to cater to the Asian community.

    Maybe Auchan could have been an even longer success in Houston if they had more stores to increase scale, but it's not easy to open up successful 250,000 sq. ft., or even 180,000 sq. ft., stores just anywhere. Auchan did have a lot of good ideas which were copied by future supercenters though and it wasn't a total failure. I dare to say that those of us who shopped there won't soon forget it. I still have a lot of things which were purchased from Auchan. Some of the European ideas Auchan had live on at places like Aldi like having to put a quarter into the cart to release it.

    1. Thank you kindly! I'm glad that this post could help provide information on what seems to be the only Kmart concept store not to make it into the Houston area. (That's wild that so many of the other concepts did! Personally, I've always been fascinated by the tales of the Kmart power centers, the strip malls with all of the chains they owned: Kmart, Builder's Square, Pace, OfficeMax, Sports Authority, etc. I only know of a couple of those complexes, but I'm sure more exist[ed].)

      Yes, I noticed in my research that Texas happened to get in on the hypermarket game a bit earlier than the rest of the country. Those proto-hypermarkets sound interesting for sure, and if I'm not mistaken we just discussed Auchan the other day in another comment thread where you showed me that image of the food court up front. (Knowing that this post would soon be uploading, I was impressed by your comment's advance relevance to this subject!) Anyway, it's great to see Food Town preserve a bit of the Auchan legacy, even if cosmetically and/or functionally it's not quite the same any longer. I'll be sure to check out that commercial and Psuedo3D's post, too.

      It sounds like Auchan must have been much more successful than other hypermarkets, based on its longevity, so that's good to hear. It also sounds like Auchan left quite a lasting impression, on both its shoppers and on other stores, which is certainly a great feat. I do appreciate you sharing these details in the comments, since there was no way I could possibly cover every hypermarket in the post itself! Hopefully other readers will read these comments and come across your information.

    2. Yes, we did talk about Auchan a little bit just the other day. That was fortuitous timing! On the topic of Kmart powercenters, the Greenspoint area Fry's Electronics I shared with you recently is located in a former Kmart powercenter that had a regular Kmart, Pace, and a Builders Square II in it. The Pace and Builders Square II didn't last long. The Fry's is in the old Builders Square II and the Pace is currently a closeout furniture store called The Dump (what a name). The Kmart itself lasted the longest, but it closed around the time of Kmart's 2002 bankruptcy. I think it is now a Ross and some other stuff.

      Builders Square II was interesting and was kind of a concept itself. The original Builders Squares were smaller than a modern Home Depot, but they had the same warehouse type of feel to it. Builders Square II, OTOH, were sized similarly to a modern Home Depot and ditched some of the warehouse look for a traditional big box store look. I thought it was a nice look, but Home Depot and Lowe's didn't imitate Builders Square IIs. One of the oddest things about at least the Builders Square II near me, the one across from Willowbrook Mall that is now a Sam's Club, is that the race track around the store was tiled, but the rest of the store had concrete flooring. It just looked very strange because the tiled race track was then slightly elevated above the rest of the store. It's not unusual for retailers to used mixed flooring, but I've never seen anyone else do it quite the way Builders Square II did it. I don't know, maybe it's hard to explain.

      I can see why Texas was home to some of these hypermarket concepts. At least at the time, we had large population centers and lots of cheap, plentiful land. That said, the economy wasn't great in Texas in the 1980s so I think Auchan had a better strategy than American Fare. American Fare tried to make their store more upscale than a regular Kmart, but Auchan was a pure discount store...albeit a pretty nice discount store. The novelty of a big store will fade with time, but people will keep coming back for good prices. Somehow Kmart missed on that point and Auchan, a rookie to the US, had the right idea.

      They say everything is bigger in Texas. If you want to see a really, really big store, check out The Nebraska Furniture Mart in the Dallas area. The sales floor is a whopping 560,000 sq. ft. and they sell furniture, appliances, electronics, BBQ pits, lawn mowers, and so forth. The store is the size of 3 to 4 typical two-story Sears stores! American Fare would be like a Walgreens compared to that giant store.

    3. That's a fun coincidence about the Greenspoint Fry's Electronics! Cool to hear of that center as well.

      One night I briefly did some digging into Builder's Square and Builder's Square II, but still not enough to understand why there were ever two of them, lol. That tile setup sounds strange indeed. The Buck's store we were discussing (in the former Burlington, in the former Super Kmart) kept some of Burlington's tile right at the very front, so there's a hop down from it to the concrete in the rest of the store. Sounds similar, but it's odd even there, so I can imagine it being weird for sure across an entire store like that.

      Definitely fair points. I would've thought the European hypermarkets would've been upscale, just based on the luxury of having a European store come to America, but it sounds like Auchan, at least, smartly played to America's love for discounts. It's funny how Kmart did not but the foreigner did! Score one for Europe :P

      Good grief! That's basically two IKEAs, even! And it looks way nicer, too... wow.

    4. Yeah, Builders Square II did have an odd name. The name came out around the same time as the Kroger Signature name. I think the idea behind Builders Square II and Kroger Signature names was to signal to the shoppers that whatever stereotypes or other opinions they had about older Builders Square/Kroger stores do not apply to these new stores.

      Kmart tried something similar with their own stores, but it was more of a failure. You probably remember Big Kmart, but do you remember the "Today's Kmart" marketing scheme right before Big Kmart? Probably around 1995-1996 or so, Kmart was referring to themselves as "Today's Kmart." I don't think any store signage was ever changed or anything like that, but all their advertising had a Kmart logo with the word "Today's" above it. Well, unfortunately, the "Today's Kmart" of 1995 still felt like the old Kmarts that people stopped liking. Then they tried Big Kmart, but that still felt like the old Kmart as well. Here's a Kmart ad from 1995 that shows the "Today's Kmart" marketing scheme. With advertising like this, is it any wonder that Kmart had to file for bankruptcy a few years later? Lol.

      Back to Builders Square II for a moment, I found an article discussing the differences between a regular Builders Square and a Builders Square II. The article even mentions the tiled racetrack. That really was a big feature of the store. I suppose back then concrete floors still had a negative stigma to them (which I still hold against them). Here's the link:

      One odd thing about Builders Square II is that the 'Idea Center' mentioned in the article took up the majority of the center part of the store. There, they had mock up bathrooms, kitchens, bedrooms, and so forth showing what people could do to redecorate their house. The majority of the products then were out on the perimeter of the store. They really tried to make their stores different than Home Depot and more like a traditional big box store than their very warehouse feeling older stores, but I suppose it didn't work since they didn't last too long.

      Chains like Auchan and Carrefour are the 'Walmarts of Europe.' Since it's hard to get big areas of land for big stores and parking lots in Europe, they often have to build their European stores in the outskirts of town. Here in the US, that's not such a big problem because the outer suburbs often have upscale neighborhoods, but that's not the case as much in Europe. Often in Europe, the outskirts have the poorer neighborhoods. I guess a lot of customers from those areas go to the hypermarkets to shop for discounts.

      Even with that, it is surprising that Kmart made a positioning blunder with American Fare that a novice to the US like Auchan knew better than to make themselves. Kmart made a lot of blunders in those days though and so it's not difficult to see why they went from being the top discounter to being bankrupt in just a few years.

      Although Auchan was clearly a discount store with a focus on low prices, they did have European touches like a very good bakery. They made very good French bread and they smartly placed their bakery right at the main entrance so you'd smell the fresh bread right as you walked in (though the McDonald's was there as well so you might smell french fries before you smell French bread, lol). They also had very big and diverse produce and seafood departments which appealed to the local Asian community in the surrounding neighborhoods. Their electronics department had mostly the type of electronics you'd find at a Kmart type store, but it was a lot bigger than a Kmart electronics department. They also sold some higher end products to bring in electronics fans as one of the articles in Pseudo3D's article mentions. I still have a lot of music CDs purchased from Auchan.

    5. Interesting. That does make sense, though.

      That was still before my time, haha, but I have seen bits and pieces of "Today's Kmart" branding online. I would say that Kmarts even to this day feel old, but in actuality they're surely much worse. I wonder what the people who complained about 90s Kmart would say about 2020's Kmart! Such a shame, what that company has been through (or, more accurately, put itself through).

      Anyway, thanks for the video link (yikes XD ) and the Builders Square article. It's interesting to read about the changes they made; the logic they share seems sound enough, but as we all know Home Depot (and Lowe's) haven't really changed their image much, and they're still successful, so clearly that wasn't the only thing holding Builders Square back. Oh well. Would be interesting to hear how, if at all, impressions were changed with Builders Square II, though. The concept of having the Idea Center in the middle sounds good to me, but again it must not have gone over too well in person after all.

      Ah, that makes sense concerning the discount strategy! I had no idea. Auchan's merchandising strategy sounds well-thought out, too. (Especially both the bread and the fries -- I'll take either one, lol!) Oh, and yes, Psuedo3D's post has a lot of great information. I edited this post to add a link in.

  5. Congratulations on the landmark pageviews! A great accomplishment! Also, this is a very interesting store. We really don't have any stores like this in the northeastern area where I'm from except the boring ol' Walmart Supercenters, but way back we had Two Guys (Two Guys from Harrison was the full name, and the original store later became a Pathmark supermarket) that was a similar hypermarket concept. I love the historical pictures and such thorough coverage of this location and the chain though!

    1. Thank you very much; I appreciate that! Yeah, as we've discussed several times on your blogs, the stores that you feature seem a world apart in some ways from the stores that I'm familiar with. And that's even without throwing the extra-large hypermarkets into the mix! It's neat to hear that your area didn't miss out entirely on the hypermarket push, though; Two Guys definitely sounds intriguing. And thank you again! I know I write really long posts, but I always try to make them thorough, so it means a lot to me to hear positive feedback from people who read through them.

  6. Just one more quick observation from the first video and the still shots you provided from that. Is that a crucifix hanging in the checkout area in the fourth still shot (at about 0:11 in the video)? If so, I can't say I ever saw something like that at a Kmart. It's pretty surprising to see that at any major national retailer aside from a Hobby Lobby or something like that. Even then, I'm not sure if I've ever seen it. Maybe that was something Bruno's did?

    1. Good catch! Yep, sure looks like one. I can't say I've seen that, either. I can't tell if that area is supposed to be a regular checkout or customer service, but if it's the latter, maybe the thought was that it was not such a prominent spot? Who knows. In any case, I would have to imagine it was put up by store employees/management themselves rather than supplied by Kmart or Bruno's. (Although, since Bruno's was family-run, perhaps they really did have one in all of their stores. There's really no way to know for sure!)

  7. Wow, this is super cool! I've heard of some of these concepts before, but never dug into them in much detail. I'm curious as to whether there was any discussion of Fred Meyer in the articles you found -- they were one of the first to experiment with this concept back in the late 70s/early 80s (and much smaller combined grocery and home goods stores dating back all the way to the 30s), and are in some ways the closest remaining store to the original hypermarket concept (though clearly nowhere near the level of some of these stores!).

    And, of course, congratulations on the milestone! That's very impressive to me -- I mean, my blog only gets about 5 views per post on average!

    1. I'm constantly amazed by how much information I'm able to find on certain topics online. I'll have another post coming up (hopefully soon) on My Florida Retail that covers a Kroger experiment, which was more warehouse-store than hypermarket, but still interesting and something I had never heard of before being introduced to it in the chat room. I bring that up because it was short-lived and few in number, and had a super difficult name to dig for, to boot, but there turned out to be a surprising amount of info online once it turned up. It's amazing how many rabbit holes retail research can lead you down! The pictures, videos, and newspaper articles for this post were a major help and an unbelievable find.

      I don't think I saw much about Fred Meyer, but I also wrote this post about a month ago, so there's a slight chance they were mentioned and I simply have forgotten about it. Still, I do recognize that they're pretty much the best remaining example of a hypermarket, which is neat to think about. The lines these days are blurred between hypermarket and supercenter in the US, but knowing that no store here will ever match the scale of a true European hypermarket any longer, the definition seems a bit more flexible. For example, if a regular Kroger is a supermarket, and a Kroger Marketplace is a supercenter... does that make Fred Meyer a hypermarket? Interesting debate, for sure.

      Thank you, pal! I always appreciate you reading and commenting, and of course I enjoy your blog as well. People are missing out on your great content!

    2. I'm always amazed by how much you're able to find too! I really need to dive into that somewhat more with some of the stores around here, especially the tangled web of predecessors to Fred Meyer (which I've mentioned a few times previously), but I never know where to start... and to be perfectly honest, don't find researching history all that interesting. :)

      Personally, I'd say that while Fred Meyer is closer to a hypermarket than any other US store that I know of, they're more of a supercenter than a hypermarket. (From what I've seen, Kroger Marketplaces barely seem like supercenters! :) ) Fred Meyers are more like hypermarkets in size (with 80s-2000s stores often well over 150,000 square feet) but lacking most of the other features. (I think some of Fred Meyer's Seattle-area predecessors were more hypermarket-like, but a good bit smaller and dating back to the 60s and 70s so well before that term was in use.)

      And with all this talk about European hypermarkets, I'm sad I never did end up stopping at one on one of my many trips to Europe growing up! We went to tons of supermarkets/normal grocery stores (my mom and I both love grocery shopping!), but I don't recall ever visiting a real hypermarket.

    3. Ha, yeah, researching isn't for everyone! I hate it if I'm required to do it (for, say, an essay or something like that), but enjoy it when I can control what I'm trying to look up :P It can get frustrating when nothing is to be found, though, but luckily there's a lot of retail stuff online -- it just may be hiding a little!

      That's a fair point too, and I trust someone who has actually shopped at Fred Meyer to make a more accurate statement than me! I agree about the Marketplaces; it's just that, in that case, I don't really understand what Kroger is going for if, in fact, the store isn't all that different from a regular Kroger :P Like I said, though, I agree on both counts.

      That's a shame, but still, it's super cool that you went on multiple trips to Europe and visited tons of grocery stores! That's amazing!

  8. Great Post on American Fare. The store looked cool! Kmart were a bit ahead of their time with this concept. Also congrats on 100,000 page views 👏.

    1. Thanks for the compliments, buddy! I agree, a lot of Kmart and Sears concepts over the years have been ahead of their time. Yet unfortunately, the concepts are poorly executed and allowed to die off rather than continued and improved so that they can actually be relevant and useful when the time other stores adopt similar concepts rolls around. Such a shame, really.


  9. Congratulations on 100k views! Definitely a wonderful milestone for any blog. Also, thanks very much for including my insight to the Hypermart USA portion of the article! All in all an expansive read into the dawn of American hypermarkets and I hope to see more great work from you.

    1. Thanks a lot for the nice compliments, and you're very welcome -- I appreciate you having shared those items!

  10. Good stuff. I must have missed this post. Apparently, in 2001, Kmart did start remodeling some of the Super Kmart stores going forward with produce in the front with faux wood flooring...somewhere I grabbed a thumbnail-sized picture...but obviously few of these stores got the remodel and none of them were long for this world.

    1. Thanks, glad you liked it! That's cool info about the faux wood flooring too. I never knew about that.


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