|Today's post highlights Monroe County, MS, retail.
I had originally intended for this month's post to be the absolute final entry to the blog's Rite Aid series. Well, maybe not absolute, but final for the foreseeable future, anyway. So far, we've featured a Rite Aid post every four months for three years straight. It's probably a good time to take a break, right?
Well, I didn't anticipate getting additional Rite Aid pictures. And maybe I'll get even more after that, who knows. But for sure, I've got at least one more post in me. I can't say yet whether that will follow along with the existing schedule and go up this December -- I had already planned on ceding that space to our ongoing, similarly large Fred's series -- or wait until next April instead; or maybe it will fall out of pattern altogether. In any case, this is not, in fact, the last we'll be seeing of Rite Aid.
But it is going to be pretty cool.
I thought we'd start off this post a little unconventionally, by first exploring the "bonus" store instead of the main subject. Our post today takes us down to Aberdeen, MS, located in Monroe County. You'll recall that, this past April, we were in nearby Columbus, exploring a very vintage Rite Aid -- now a Walgreens, and before Rite Aid a Revco, the store still retaining all of its interior décor from the latter. Our travels on that same day also brought us through Aberdeen, via the Hwy 45 Bypass. And lo and behold, we came across another Rite Aid-to-Walgreens conversion.
Before encountering that, though, we passed by a shopping center with a vacant big box store. The store by itself may not have attracted too much attention, but its roadside sign sure did. Take a look at it below, and let me know if you see what I saw.
You can make it out, too, right? That's an old Wal-Mart Discount City sign, plain as day! Remarkably, it continues to survive in Aberdeen, legible even with the sign long since painted over. Very, very cool. I did some further digging on the Aberdeen Wal-Mart, and came back with two quite interesting sources. One of them is the 1977 Wal-Mart annual report, which discusses Aberdeen as being among the 28 new stores it opened that year. This gave Wal-Mart a grand total of seven stores in Mississippi -- four of them new in 1977 -- and 153 stores altogether. I've attached a screenshot of the page discussing the new stores below. Who knows, maybe one of those three images is from the Aberdeen store!
|Screenshot from Wal-Mart 1977 annual report. Courtesy Walmart
The other source is tailored specifically to the Aberdeen Wal-Mart, and as such is much more interesting. It's a case study, authored by CREATE Common Ground -- a project of the MSU Small Town Center -- that investigates "Downtown vs. Wal-Mart." In most cases, the downtowns of small towns such as Aberdeen were adversely impacted upon the arrival of Wal-Mart; and then when Wal-Mart would leave later on -- for example, in favor of a new Supercenter in a larger city nearby -- the small town would be left without any options, the downtown shops already having been driven out of business years before. This has sometimes been referred to as "the Wal-Mart effect."
|A similar Wal-Mart Discount City sign to the one in Aberdeen, as seen at a store under construction in 1988. Courtesy Pleasant Family Shopping
Aberdeen, however, proved different. In the case study, the author suggests that in this instance, the opposite may have been true -- indeed, that the strength of downtown drove out Wal-Mart. It's an interesting read, and a short one at that, so I strongly encourage all of you to take a look at it. I've attached it as a PDF file below. Even today, Aberdeen's downtown continues to remain strong, if this April 2020 article is any indication.
Below, you can see the vacant Wal-Mart building itself. According to that case study, another discount store occupied the space after Wal-Mart left, and perhaps a string of other retailers have operated in the building, too; I really can't say for certain how many other tenants the building has had, or how long any of them lasted. All I know for sure is that the store opened as Wal-Mart in 1977, and closed 20 years later on January 20th, 1997, as stated in the case study. Per Google Street View, it has been vacant since at least 2008, but it's likely that it had already been empty for years prior.
At 41,000 square feet, the abandoned former Wal-Mart Discount City is probably an eyesore, albeit a long-familiar one, to Aberdeen residents. With Rite Aid's departure from Mississippi in 2018, Aberdeen was almost faced with another long-term vacancy. Thankfully, though, this Rite Aid was one of the locations picked up by Walgreens, who did not already have a store in town. Thus, for the remainder of this post we'll be taking a quick look at the converted Aberdeen Walgreens.
With the image above, immediately you can see why I was excited to go back and stop in this store, after first driving past it. It's still just your typical 90s diamond-window Rite Aid building, but unlike most of those that converted to Walgreens, here Walgreens did nothing to alter the exterior besides removing Rite Aid's signage and adding their own -- not even a drop of paint was added. Indeed, the building remains Rite Aid tan, complete with Rite Aid blue windows. Very low-budget, and also a bit of an unfortunate representation of the corporate assessment of degree of effort required based on town size; but for retail fans -- a cool find!