Sunday, November 14, 2021

Exciting Times: MSRB in Other Media (Plus: Bonus Albertsons Content)

Happy November, my friends! It's hard to believe that we are almost finished with 2021 already. I'm not quite sure whether time has flown or whether I've just had so much going on this year that the time has passed me by, but either way, 2022 fast approaches. I'm hoping to settle into a new routine sometime after the new year begins, and that will result in some changes to the frequency with which I publish my content. I'll share more details on that below, alongside some very exciting updates which I've been eager to share with y'all for quite a while now; so let's get to it!

MSRB on the Albertsons Florida Blog

You may have noticed that there was no new blog post this October, and (of course) that this month's post is a bit of an unconventional one. That's because I spent a lot of time last month writing and putting the finishing touches on my special guest post over at the Albertsons Florida Blog

AFB, you'll remember, was kind enough to substitute for me earlier this year -- in March -- while I was busy taking my professional exam. I thought it would only be fair to return the favor, and while on vacation this summer I was presented with the perfect subject matter to make that possible: the former Albertsons building in Mobile, Alabama, which was once part of the Florida division of Albertsons stores. I was very excited to have the opportunity to photograph an honest-to-goodness Skaggs-Albertsons model store, especially one which was part of the famous Florida group -- even if it wasn't located in the Sunshine State itself. I'm also grateful to AFB for the opportunity to be the first-ever guest author on his blog. 

I intend for that post to be my primary topic of the month, as compared to this secondary entry, so please be sure to check it out when you get a chance -- I hope you like it! I've embedded the link below; just click the picture and it'll hop right over.

Former Albertsons #4317 - Mobile, AL (Albertsons Florida Blog)

Speaking of Albertsons

As a bit of a companion to the above Albertsons Florida Blog post, I thought I'd share here on the Mid-South Retail Blog this month a handful of images I've had laying around of former Albertsons stores from this region. With AFB's (major) help, I've covered the subject of Albertsons' Mid-South Division before, and photos of many of the former stores can be found on my flickr page. Below are some of the additional locations that I've come across, but not photographed thoroughly.

Cape Girardeau, MO

Located at 2126 Independence Street, this was the only Albertsons-branded store ever to operate in the state of Missouri; the rest were under the Smitty's banner. Here are some additional details on former Albertsons #4740, reprinted from the aforementioned Mid-South Division table:

Opened in March 2001 as the first and only Mid-South division store in Missouri (4700 series). This store only lasted 13 months, closing in April 2002 as Albertsons was preparing to completely shut down their Mid-South division. Southeast Missouri Hospital bought the building in 2003, and converted the space into a medical and rehabilitation center called HealthPoint Plaza, which opened in Summer 2004. 

Here's another angle on the building, showing what it looks like from afar. Although it's obviously been heavily altered in order to accommodate its new medical usage, the exterior still retains several recognizable Albertsons traits, if you know where to look. The overall entry area façade, though now boxed-out, is still pretty comparable to what would likely have been there before: see the former Tupelo, MS, location for a comparison. And there on the far left of the building, that red brick section with the much lower roofline is no doubt an expansion onto the building, occupying what once would have been Albertsons' loading dock.

I'm not quite sure what the HIGH INTENSITY message was trying to get across, but my intention with this shot was to capture the road sign overall. The electronic signboard surely was installed new by HealthPoint Plaza, but I think the remainder of the sign is still fairly true to the Albertsons days.

Last up, a zoomed-in shot of the building, as viewed from the nearby intersection. My photos of this store were taken in March 2019 while on vacation in Cape Girardeau, and while I haven't shared any of my other images from that trip just yet, I hope to finally start getting some of them uploaded to flickr soon enough.

Ridgeland, MS

During my many years spent in North Mississippi up near Memphis, I was able to get some good coverage of a number of the former Seessel's by Albertsons stores in that area. Now that I live in the Jackson metro area, I've been able to get some documentation of the former Albertsons stores down this way, too. Albertsons only ever had 10 stores in the state of Mississippi, and four of those were around Jackson. You can see the full list on the blog here, with images and more details in my flickr album here.

The former Ridgeland Albertsons, onetime store #4238, is located at 7045 Old Canton Road and is now my local Kroger store. I pass by here every single morning on the way to work, and even though it's a lot smaller than the store I'm used to from back home, it's still pretty neat to be able to shop at a Mississippi Krogbertsons on such a regular basis!

Courtesy YonWoo

The Ridgeland store was in fact the very first Albertsons to open in the state of Mississippi, celebrating that event on January 29, 1997. The image from the newspaper excerpt above appears to show the front end of the store, and though it's not very clear, YonWoo -- who also shared these clippings with me -- managed to identify the décor package as Blue and Gray Market. The additional clipping below shows the exterior of the store; you can see that practically nothing has changed (although I admit that this is not an Albertsons design that I'm familiar with, at least not from the Florida stores).

Courtesy YonWoo

Flowood (Brandon), MS

The Ridgeland store has an identical twin, former Albertsons #4298, at 143 Fresh and Friendly Drive (previously 143 Albertson Drive) in nearby Rankin County -- and when I say identical, I sure do mean it! The address for this store places it in Flowood, but the in-store signage all says "your Brandon Kroger". Perhaps that will change after the remodel; both this store and Ridgeland are currently being Remixed by Kroger. I have photos from both of them prior to their respective remodels, and intend to return for post-remodel photos, too. Those will all find their way to my flickr page eventually. The Ridgeland and Flowood pictures I'm sharing with y'all in this post are just teaser images (unlike the other locations, where I'm sharing all the pictures I've taken).

Like Ridgeland, the Flowood Albertsons opened in 1997 and closed in 2002, at which time Albertsons exited the state of Mississippi (which occurred simultaneous to the dissolution of their Mid-South Division, even though the central and southern Mississippi stores were part of other divisions of the chain). Albertsons sold the Jackson-area stores to Brookshire's, who continued to operate all four of them until 2010 when they, too, departed Mississippi. Kroger took over these two locations, with the other two going their separate ways. Check out how clear the old Brookshire's labelscar is in this nighttime view of the Flowood store! (You may have to enlarge the image to see it better.)

Jackson, MS

Besides those two stores in neighboring communities, the other two Jackson-area Albertsons stores were in the City of Jackson proper. The first, store #4202, located in South Jackson at 2861 Terry Road, opened in 1997 alongside the Ridgeland and Flowood stores, and now operates as Food Depot; I have not been past that store. The second, store #4245, opened a few years later -- in 2001 -- and as such only lasted a single year (if that) before closing in 2002 along with the rest of the Mississippi Albertsons stores. After Brookshire's closed, this location became a Virginia College, which itself closed in 2018 concurrent with all other Virginia Colleges nationwide.

As you can tell from my September 2021 images, this location continues to sit vacant today. Tucked away on an awkwardly-shaped property at 5841 Ridgewood Road, I'm not sure how suitable the spot would be for another grocery store operator, although I suppose Brookshire's must have done well enough in the space to justify keeping it open through 2010. That said, with the alterations Virginia College did to the space, it's unlikely that any retail operator will occupy it again. (That's a similar scenario to the onetime American Fare-turned-Super Kmart located on the opposite side of I-55 from this store, which later was turned into a giant Comcast call center until that, too, closed in 2021.)

Courtesy YonWoo

While Virginia College's façade does look fairly supermarket-like, you might be surprised to learn that it's not at all what Albertsons had here, back in the day. Instead, as you can see in the above image -- again courtesy of YonWoo -- Albertsons' façade was a much more angular presentation, with a lot of stonework detailing. At least Virginia College looks to have kept Albertsons' old road sign intact!

North Little Rock, AR

While I billed this section as ostensibly being comprised of former Mid-South Division Albertsons stores, in truth only the very first one I showed you -- the Cape Girardeau location -- was part of that division. The four Jackson, MS, area stores were all part of Albertsons' Dallas Division; and now we find ourselves in North Little Rock, Arkansas, exploring a very intriguing store. In Arkansas, only one store -- located in Hot Springs -- was part of the Mid-South Division; moreover, the research that AFB and I did seemed to suggest that Albertsons only ever had one other store in the state of Arkansas, located in Texarkana, which still operates to this day. That said, while on a short trip to the Little Rock area in June 2021...

...I noticed that this Kroger store down the street from our hotel sure looks a heck of a lot like an old Albertsons! So much so, in fact, that I made sure to snap these pictures of its exterior, although I didn't go inside for further exploration. The old river rock walls would have been swapped out for brick at some point, but otherwise, this looks very, very much like what an old Skaggs-Albertsons store would have looked like in the 1970s, just like the Mobile, AL, location that's the subject of my guest post this month on the Albertsons Florida Blog.

Here on the right-hand side of the building, we can see where Kroger recently removed some "Food & Pharmacy" signage; but the jut-out on which that signage was placed seems more than just coincidentally characteristic of an old Skaggs-Albertsons model store. I questioned AFB about this, and he agreed that it's very interesting. 

We both dug around a little after that, and as best as either of us could tell, this store was indeed at one point a Skaggs: but it was a Skaggs-Alpha Beta, not a Skaggs-Albertsons, we concluded at the time. Nonetheless, the architecture was noticeably the same, and it was a neat, unexpected treat to come across this so soon after also stumbling upon the former Mobile Albertsons (both trips were just weeks apart, as a matter of fact).

Courtesy YonWoo

Fortuitously, separate from my and AFB's research -- which we kept private -- YonWoo uploaded to flickr just a few weeks ago the above newspaper ad excerpt and street view imagery of another Kroger store in Little Rock, which YonWoo was able to prove started its life as (surprise!) a Skaggs-Albertsons store! That location, at 8415 W Markham Street, isn't quite as recognizable today, but the rendering in the ad above shows that it absolutely was a cookie-cutter Skaggs-Albertsons at one point in time.

Courtesy YonWoo

After asking him about it, YonWoo was kind enough to dig up this further newspaper ad for me, proving that the North Little Rock location we've been seeing pictures of -- located at 2509 McCain Boulevard -- indeed also originated as a Skaggs-Albertsons (note the addresses at the bottom right). The Little Rock store opened on July 3, 1975 (as the previous ad attests), and the North Little Rock (separate town) location followed in 1976. 

Very cool! And a piece of Albertsons (and Arkansas) retail history that even AFB and I never knew about, seeing as how all of our research came up empty. Turns out Albertsons had an Arkansas presence much, much earlier than we thought!

The timeline from there grows more than a little fuzzy, but the gist of it, I think, is that the two stores probably became Skaggs-Alpha Betas sometime in the late 1970s, after Skaggs and Albertsons amicably ended their partnership in 1977. Skaggs-Alpha Beta went on to open some more stores of their own in the Little Rock area in the years that followed, including the location shown in these images from 1988.

Again fortuitously, the webmaster of Groceteria just this month published his latest chain grocery history listing, this time covering the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock. His research confirms that these two Skaggs-Albertsons stores had already become Skaggs-Alpha Beta by 1980, and changed hands to Harvest Foods by 1990. The two stores converted to Kroger by 2000, and are still operating as such today. 

(Harvest Foods has a pretty complicated history, and I won't even bother trying to sort through it all here, except to say that the company was born out of the spin-off of Safeway's Little Rock-area stores... and yet somehow also came to include the former Skaggs-Alpha Beta locations. Yeah, who knows.)

One last shot here of the North Little Rock Skaggs-Albertsons/Skaggs-Alpha Beta/Harvest Foods/Kroger. Hopefully all of that convoluted history made a little bit of sense! And even if it didn't, the short rundown is that it turns out Albertsons had a small presence in Arkansas long, long before the short-lived Mid-South Division or the Texarkana store. Check out the surviving original road sign at this location, too: it's pretty easy to imagine the old Skaggs-Albertsons logo stacked in there where the new Kroger logo is placed today!

MSRB in a Documentary Film

All of that Albertsons fun aside, we still have several exciting updates left to go through. Up first is one that I've been waiting to share with y'all for over a year. In January 2018, I visited and photographed the Clarksdale, MS, Kroger store, which Kroger's Delta Division management had announced would be closing one month later. Then, in August 2020, I was contacted by David Garraway and James Parker at Mississippi State University. These gentlemen work with the university's Television Center, and were in the process of putting together a documentary film exploring the ramifications of Kroger's closure on the Clarksdale community as part of the series "The Hungriest State."

As it turns out, their film crew had been allowed inside the closed Kroger for a day to shoot footage for the documentary, but they were lacking "before" imagery of what the store looked like prior to its closure. Enter my photos, which they stumbled upon on flickr. The two showed me how several of my images happen to line up very closely with the footage they shot (see below), and I was ecstatic to be offered the opportunity to have my work be featured in a project so important as this one. Although a great deal of it is just for fun, I do also fully intend for my retail photography to document these subjects for posterity, so it was greatly affirmational to learn that some of my pictures were actively achieving that purpose.

This September, I learned that the documentary, titled "The Last Supermarket," had not only been finalized and released into the world, it had also been submitted for much-deserved recognition... from which it and its personnel garnered numerous accolades, including several Southeast Emmy Awards (among which was a win in the category "Societal Concerns -- Long Form Content") and both a regional and a national Edward R. Murrow Award. Congratulations to Garraway, Parker, and Hal Teasler! 

It's a fantastic documentary, and I promise you, I most certainly am not saying that just because a handful of my pictures are in it. It's well worth a watch -- at 30 minutes, it's not overly lengthy to get through, but it still packs a punch -- and I highly encourage you to check it out below. Thanks again to the MSU Films crew for the opportunity to be involved with this project.

MSRB in Official Stuckey's Posts

The fun doesn't stop there! Shortly after finding out about all the successes of the MSU documentary, I was contacted by none other than Stuckey's CEO Stephanie Stuckey herself, who -- if you weren't aware -- is on a mission to revitalize and regrow the legacy of the Stuckey's brand. Always eager to learn about the current status of past Stuckey's locations, she came across images that l_dawg2000 and I had shared to flickr of the former Como, MS, store, as well as the story that famous bluesman Mississippi Fred McDowell used to work there when he wasn't touring the world as a musician. She asked if she could use my image of the store in some of her social media posts spreading the news about Stuckey's most famous gas attendant ever, and of course I said yes! 

For more details on McDowell's time with Stuckey's, check out Stephanie's LinkedIn post, embedded below (there are also posts on all the other social media sites, if you're interested in seeking them out). Just last week a blog post on the topic was also published to the official Stuckey's website, so I've embedded that as well. It's a really fun story, and again, I'm excited to have the opportunity to have my photos featured alongside such a noteworthy brand and its online engagement. (I'm sure l_dawg2000 is, too!) One of these days I'm definitely going to have to travel to a Stuckey's to feature here on the blog!

Some Changes Coming Soon

Last but not least, the housekeeping part of the post. I've already sprinkled mentions here and there that my upload formats will be changing next year, but here's official notice, as it were. Over on flickr, I'm still not 100% settled on what the final format will be just yet, but I for sure will no longer be posting three times a week on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday as I do right now. I will still be posting at least once a week, but most likely not on the same days every week, as I'm looking to instead adopt a more "rolling" schedule for publishing content. 

Here on the blog, I'll simply be posting whenever I have the opportunity to do so, rather than strictly once a month. The most likely result is that there may be multiple months without a post, but please don't feel like that means I'm abandoning the blog in any way! I put a lot of effort into my blog posts, and that simply means they take more time to put together -- time which I don't necessarily have in big enough chunks anymore. Rest assured, I'll be working on posts behind the scenes, and then publishing them as soon as they're ready. The only regularly scheduled feature that this change will really have any bearing on is our ongoing Fred's series, but that's not too big of an issue. The December 2021 Fred's post will continue as scheduled next month, and then I'll switch to the new format for blog posts next year.

I have a lot of content built up in my backlog and unfortunately these changes will make it a little slower to go through it all, but I'd rather do that and still be engaged with the hobby than get burnt out and dislike it trying to get it all posted in a timelier fashion. After sitting at a desk and staring at a computer screen for 8+ hours every weekday, an unfortunate side effect is that I'm quickly losing motivation to come home and do more of the same just so I can get stuff posted, haha! That said, I don't intend to ditch the hobby anytime soon, and I hope you'll stick with me even if my uploads do wind up being even less frequent than what I've outlined above. I do enjoy interacting with all of y'all in regards to the wide retail world around us, and as the above examples throughout this post have shown, plenty of great opportunities and collaborations have arisen from the hobby, for which I am extremely grateful. Here's to lots more fun in the years ahead!

Thanks as always for reading, and until next time, have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are :)

Retail Retell