Saturday, September 18, 2021

Fred's Closing (Final Day), Senatobia, MS

Today's post highlights Tate County, MS, retail.

It's September, so here at the Mid-South Retail Blog, you know what that means: it's time for another Fred's post! Now, I'm going to be honest with y'all... maybe it's just the fact that I've written so few blog posts this year compared to a more typical year in the past, but I'm kinda sick of Fred's posts at this point XD  But I've got so many of them in my backlog -- both before and after closure -- that I feel obligated to keep this series moving along at a steady pace. So, this may wind up being a bit of a shorter post than normal, but who knows; knowing me, I'll find myself enjoying it more and more as I go through it, and it will end up as lengthy as usual :P  Whatever the case, that's not worth dwelling on here up front -- so let's dive right in!

Courtesy LoopNet

Our Fred's location of focus for today will be the store at 102 Norfleet Drive in Senatobia, MS, with very prominent interstate facing. At some point I managed to save this image of the store, showing its original exterior design with the shingled awning and yellow-and-red FRED'S logo, from an online lease listing... but it would seem I neglected to take note of any year-built information that may also have been on that page, unfortunately. So while I don't have an exact year for you, given that we've seen this style many times before and said it hails most likely from the 1970s at its earliest -- sometime in that decade seems as good a guess to me as any.

Courtesy Google Maps Street View

Interestingly, as we go back in time on Google Maps, it looks like as late as 2007 the store still had what was likely its original gray colored shingled awning, not the blue shingles as shown in the LoopNet photo above -- so that blue paint scheme must have been very short-lived indeed. By 2011, the store had been remodeled into its new exterior design, complete with the new lowercase fred's logo, as we'll see below.

Before we do that, though, be sure also to take note of the high-rise "FREDS" sign overlooking the store, each letter comprising its own individual panel. That version of the logo -- all red, with plain white letters -- is even older than the yellow logo seen on the building in the above two images, which may well indicate the store is even older than we think.

Returning to present-day -- or, well, recent history, at least -- here are some close-up shots of the exterior in its final design. Note that the shingles had been replaced with an all-metal awning, and the neat stonework on the façade painted over with a single shade of gray... but all things considered, the renovations weren't much more extensive than that. The building is still very recognizable and not more than cosmetically altered.

This little "STORE CLOSING" banner was pretty much the only thing on the outside of the building letting shoppers know of the liquidation sale, which had commenced as part of the second round of closures, issued on May 16, 2019. All of the other posters were on the interior of the building, including some taped to the automatic doors at the front, which can be seen best in the image above the previous paragraph. If you look close enough at that one, you'll see that the sign reads "LAST 01 Days" -- yep, my visit to this store on June 26, 2019, turned out to be very fortuitously timed.

Jumping right into our tour, beginning with the already-shuttered pharmacy counter -- and adjoining health product aisles -- in the front right corner. Given that this was in fact the store's final day in operation, it should come as no surprise that all of the pharmacy signage had already been removed, and the merchandise that did remain on the shelves was wildly varied and messily presented.

Here's just one example of the crazy merchandise left in stock on the final day at a closing Fred's store. Hard to believe that a "Cats in Sweaters" calendar didn't sell out much sooner...

This looks like a pretty awful throwaway shot, and trust me, I had half a mind to do just that -- but the more I look at it, the more I think I actually had a specific purpose in taking it... notice how the color of the tile floor changes from white to brown; this Fred's was unique to me in how its pharmacy area had that brown tile instead of just plain white like the rest of the store.

A better shot looking out from the pharmacy across the front end, followed by a straight-on shot of the closed-off remains of the pharmacy counter. It's very interesting to see toys consolidated forward into this space, which would once have been home exclusively to health-related items!

Along the right-side and rear walls, the aisles that made up the personal care, home, décor, and pet departments had all been emptied out and roped off, with the shelving fixtures along the perimeter walls themselves already removed and dismantled, exposing the concrete block wall behind them. It looks like several additional freestanding fixtures that were marked as available for sale were still hanging out there in that open area near the former pet department, but it's kind of poor planning that access to that space was completely restricted...

Due to the caution tape, I couldn't explore this area any further, but I tried to take all the photos I could. In the top image above we're looking across the center cut-through between the aisles, while in the bottom image, we're looking once again towards the back right corner, once home to the décor and home departments, as the signs still affixed to the wall indicate. As you can see, this store had Fred's final décor package, with the "LOW PRICES!" signage.

Spinning back around, we see where the caution tape demarcation line intersects the right-side actionway, near the back of the personal care department which lined this wall, adjacent to the pharmacy. The bottom pic continues to look down that same actionway back toward the front wall, where the pharmacy was. Is it just me, or does having the gift card and battery endcaps abut the personal care aisles seem like a strange choice?

As we exit that actionway and return to the front of the store, here's a much better overview of the pharmacy area than any of the above photos has provided us thus far. At least one aisle's worth of shelving had been totally removed, replaced with those black wire dump bins to hold various random merchandise in this store's final days. We can also see much better the differently-colored tile in this area; notice how that corner on the far left even curves a little, on its way to meeting up with the alignment of the aisles in the personal care department (wish I had gotten better pictures of that cool element!).

The first aisles in the center of the salesfloor are basically the first things you see looking straight ahead as you walk into the building, so it makes sense that Fred's had them laid out in a bit of a double-wide format, with the middle aisle truncated to where the front portion of its footprint could instead house some lower-profile display table-type fixtures. These aisles were still open for shopping, but were pretty heavily wiped out, like the rest of the store.

At the very front of the aisle, hidden amongst some other junk, I did come across this fun find -- VHS tapes! They're not just for Kmart liquidations anymore!

Looking out toward the front doors. Interestingly, you'll note that the interior-facing side of that same sign which we saw earlier reads "LAST 01 Days" from the outside, instead reads "LAST 00 Days" from the inside. Well? Which is it?! The public demands to know!

This other aisle in the middle of the store was probably the best stocked in the entire building, although naturally the stock that was present was clearly a bunch of stuff that just wouldn't sell. We have Wolfgang Puck rice cookers and stacks of puzzle books (crossword, Sudoku, etc.) in bulk on the right, joined by various other items in bulky, plain cardboard boxes that no one probably knew and/or trusted the contents of on the left. Come to think of it, a lot of this stuff may well have been sourced from Fred's late-game closeout initiative: I'm seeing a lot of Threshold-branded light fixtures on the bottom right shelf; Threshold, of course, is a Target house brand.

Lest you think the "Cats in Sweaters" calendar from earlier was the only one, in this aisle we find plenty of companions from the same series, including the miniature version of "Cats in Sweaters," the popular "Dress Up Your Kitty," and the rare international edition, "Cats in Kimonos"!

Joining them are some yard signs for the Senatobia High School Warriors, continuing the saga of local team yard signs that we've been seeing in many of these Fred's posts.

Like I said, those couple of aisles we just saw were essentially the only ones left in the entire building with any respectable amount of stock; as we move closer to the left-side wall, we find yet more roped-off, empty aisles, such as the two pictured above. Notice, beyond the end of the aisle in the top image, one of the fixtures for sale is a rolling cart with one of those old-school tube TVs in it -- those were always the best days at school when the teacher would roll one of those into the classroom, haha!

The left-side actionway of the store drops us off at the pet department in the rear of the building, and the extended food department all along the wall itself, in the wooden-floor area. I've always told y'all that the wooden floor would originally have designated the apparel department, until such time as Fred's decided to more heavily emphasize food and thus relocated and expanded their grocery departments, most commonly into this area of their stores. We've seen this arrangement so many times, however, that I'm beginning to wonder if the wood floor may always have been meant for food from the beginning. I'm still thinking my initial understanding is the correct one, particularly based on other stores which did still have apparel in the wood floor areas; but still, having food in this space is certainly a scene we've encountered enough that it's at least understandable for me to begin thinking it's more than just a coincidence, I hope!

A close-up shot of the fridge and freezer cases lining the wall directly underneath the food department sign -- notice that this area is blocked off by yet more black wire dump bins, except these ones actually look to be empty -- followed by one final shot looking down the left-side actionway toward the rear of the building. He doesn't particularly look it, but I'm pretty sure that that tall guy you see on the left of the bottom pic was an employee of the store, or was at least working for them in some capacity, based on what I remember seeing him running around and doing that day.

Up at the checkouts, the last of the "LOW PRICES!" signs didn't really have any specific department to designate, so instead it simply inserts "Everyday!" -- grammatically incorrect, but still a convenient way to make the phrasing work absent a department to promote. It looks like I didn't get a photo of them specifically, but the registers in this store were set up in the same queue-style layout we've seen in several other Fred's stores.

We end the interior portion of this visit with two final shots looking out from the registers, the first toward the center and right-hand side of the salesfloor, and the second toward the former pharmacy counter in the front right corner. 

Here's something that I found curious on all of my Fred's visits... notice how the liquidation signs hanging from the ceiling in the top pic above show the discounts were still holding steady at 50 to 90 percent off, even on this store's very final day. I think I may have mentioned this in a previous Fred's post, but from my understanding of things, typically on a store's last day in operation the items are priced to -- quote-unquote -- "sell out to the bare walls!!!", with discounts rising as high as 99 percent off in the very last hours. Fred's liquidations, on the other hand, strayed far from that standard, with many items not even rising above the 70 percent off mark -- making me question if in fact everything sold, after all.

At other store liquidations since this time, I have continued to see the discounts stay steady into the final weeks, rather than approaching 90, 95, or even 99 percent off like online photos of liquidations past have led me to believe was common. The thing is, though, that those liquidations have all been during 2020, when the pandemic uncertainty and fallout from all the mandated closures had good reason to leave the liquidators not raising the discounts as high as in years past. That is to say, I feel like those liquidations have a valid explanation... but all the Fred's liquidations, in contrast, took place in 2019, before the pandemic. So in short, I'm not really sure what the logic was for its discounts. Have I been deluded all along -- is this a common practice, and the 90-99 percent off range is in fact super rare? If you have any insight into this, please enlighten me in the comments...

Exiting the store, above you'll find one final shot of the storefront -- note the blacked-out "Pharmacy" sign -- joined by several pics of the high-rise interstate sign as it appeared post-remodel, with the old red-and-white "FREDS" lettering replaced by the more modern blue and green "fred's Super Dollar" logo. It looks kind of strange to have that logo separated onto individual panels like this, but they made it work pretty well, I think -- even going so far as to incorporate the apostrophe that was missing in the original iteration, haha! 

Not to spoil future blog posts (*ahem*), but this building has since been taken over by a new tenant, whose name also just so happens to be spelled with five letters. Unfortunately, rather than reuse this sign as I had sincerely hoped they would, they instead just lopped off the Fred's portion entirely and opted not to have a roadside sign at all, leaving this sign awkward-looking and hawking only Subway. Sigh.

One last fun shot of the store, before we hightail it outta here. Notice how there's this tiny sliver of herringbone-pattern black material at the upper part of the left side wall of the building, between the front of the Fred's and the front of the rest of the adjoining shopping center. Well, if you scroll all the way back to the very first image at the top of this post, you'll see that that pattern at one time used to extend all the way across all of these shopping center storefronts; evidently, the pattern was continued onto this small side wall of the Fred's store, too. For what reason, I can't be sure -- did it perhaps run across Fred's storefront, even before the gray shingled awning? Or was it simply for 'continuity purposes,' so to speak? Who knows. Regardless, I find it cool how it still remains intact, a small relic of the past hidden between two otherwise-altered neighboring buildings.

These pics of my receipt and the store's "It's Almost Over! Last Days!" flyer will wrap up our store tour as usual, but we're not done with this post just yet. First, some views of the Fred's building post-closure, as the owners were seeking out a new tenant:

Courtesy LoopNet

The former Fred's sure looks lonely and desolate in this view. The odd parking lot carveout and green awning you see on the right here belong to this store's "drive-thru" pharmacy, located rather uncharacteristically off-building for a Fred's store. I'm not entirely sure why this was necessary, either, since as you can see the building not only has a walk-up pharmacy window along its front, but also its entire right-hand wall clearly faced an open alleyway.

Courtesy LoopNet

Courtesy LoopNet

A couple of views inside the vacant building, showing that the majority of the shelves that were left standing on the final day simply remained that way... with perhaps the exception of the aisles in front of the pharmacy, affording us this wide open view of the counter (which also had its rolling shutters opened back up). Like everything else, the department signs also were not removed from the walls.

Courtesy LoopNet

Included in the lease listing I obtained these photos from was this picture of the adjoining plaza's road sign. While they appear to be two distinct, separate shopping centers as far as building design goes, these days the entire strip -- including the Fred's building, the stores to its left, and the stores to its right -- are all marketed under the singular Senatobia Plaza moniker. That said, all of the stores on this specific sign seem to belong exclusively to the right half of the center -- including the former Goody's, which we previously explored in this blog post. (Unlike the Fred's, the Goody's unfortunately remains vacant, to my knowledge.)

Courtesy LoopNet

This shot shows the high-rise Fred's sign blacked out, I suppose not too long before it would ultimately wind up being removed entirely, sadly. The below pic also shows us one last view of the building proper, from a spot fairly far away in the neighboring parking lot.

Courtesy LoopNet

And last but not least, the final thing I wanted to share with you in this post: below, you'll see a glass pitcher from Baddour Memorial Center, "A Unique Ministry to Mankind" located here in Senatobia. I spotted the pitcher in the Hernando Goodwill exactly eight days shy of a year after my Senatobia Fred's visit, and wanted to include an image of it in this post because of both the Senatobia and the Fred's connections: Fred's, you'll recall, was founded just up the road in the Tate County community of Coldwater in 1947 by one Mr. Paul Baddour. The Baddour Center, in turn, was founded in 1978 after his passing, and still operates today, doing great work serving adults with intellectual disabilities at its campus in Senatobia. You can read more about the history of the Baddour Center here, and you can revisit my post featuring the history of Fred's founding here.

On that sweet note, we will wrap up this month's Fred's post. As alluded to earlier, I have since returned to this building to explore the new tenant that has taken over for Fred's, so I'll have a separate post on that coming to the blog sometime in the future! More immediately, our Fred's series will continue in December with our last Tennessee location, so be sure to stay tuned for that. I'm still not sure at this point if the blog will have a post next month; for sure, though, I've got some really special stuff planned for November, so do keep your eyes peeled either way. Until then and as always, thanks for reading, and have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are!

Retail Retell