Saturday, December 11, 2021

Fred's Closing, Somerville, TN

Today's post highlights Fayette County, TN, retail.

Happy December friends, and welcome to the final 2021 installment of our Fred's series of posts -- as well as the final 2021 post on the Mid-South Retail Blog overall. In past Fred's posts we have explored nine liquidating stores spread over two states and five closing rounds, plus two additional locations: one that showed what the future of Fred's would have been had the company not gone bankrupt, and one former Fred's in Florida that's now operating as an antique mall. In this post we will explore our tenth closing Fred's store, whose liquidation began in the penultimate round of closures, issued on July 12, 2019.

My visit to this store took place on July 23, 2019, so the store was only in its second week of closing sales. The trip was planned such that I would hit the Middleton, TN, store first -- the prototype Getwell Drug & Dollar store, which was much further along in its liquidation. Then we swung over here to Somerville, TN, to check out this store. Besides trying to hit all of my most local Fred's locations, my goal with all the other stores I visited was to track down some unique ones. Middleton certainly hit that mark, and while in comparison Somerville is much more standardized, we'll see as we go along that it's definitely still got some charm to it.

A lot of that charm begins with the fact that the store was never updated to the mostly-ubiquitous lowercase blue-with-green-swoosh "fred's Super Dollar" logo, which debuted right around the start of the 2010s. Instead, as we can see in all of the above exterior photos, the store retained its mid-2000s blue and green "FRED'S HOMETOWN DISCOUNT STORE" logo until the very end. And before that, the store would have had a much, much older logo: notice how, behind the current signage, we can still make out the framing for the five individual letters "FREDS" logo, like we saw at the wonderfully vintage store down in McComb, MS. We'll see a few other similarities to the McComb store later, too.

The Somerville and McComb stores are of about the same vintage, but clearly Somerville was remodeled much more recently than McComb, which may well have been 100% original all throughout its life. That said, while Somerville's remodel was more recent, the exterior logo and interior décor it's sporting were still both outdated by a good decade and a half or so before Fred's 2019 demise. This is our first time seeing both that logo and this décor package in person here on the blog, so that's why I definitely wanted to be sure and include this location on my itinerary for that July 2019 trip.

My guess is that this store remodeled shortly before the new lowercase "fred's" logo debuted, and as a result, it wouldn't have come up for another remodel so soon after that time. Ultimately, though, it would wind up never remodeling again. A consequence of that is that the store's layout also didn't get changed around to the newer standard, so here we get a good taste of how things used to be at Fred's. As we've seen, we entered straight into the clothing departments, which line the store's left-hand wall. In the front left corner, as can be seen in the top image of the above duo (facing back towards the front wall), is a small, singular fitting room.  

As with most Fred's stores, the general merchandise aisles occupy the bulk of the space, beginning immediately adjacent to the apparel department and continuing all the way through the center of the salesfloor all the way over to the opposite side of the building. Later Fred's layouts tried to declutter this design a little bit, but this setup was definitely still very easy to find at many stores through the end. The center cut-through aisle, seen above, was another staple, designed to help make navigation easier.

Two pics looking back up the left-side actionway towards the front of the building. A few things to point out here: one, the department signs are all angled, which is a nice touch. Two, the closing signs advertise discounts ranging from 5 to 50 percent off, which is a pretty wide range for a sale so young (only a week and a half in). And three, despite the department signs for apparel continuing all the way to the back left corner, that's clearly not apparel occupying most of that space!

One could make the argument that a lot of the apparel had already sold down and as a result what remained had already been consolidated up front, but the store was still pretty full of stock, and all this other non-apparel stuff looks like it had been in this spot for a good while. So my theory is that the store's selection of apparel simply shrunk down over the years, and Fred's opted to backfill the empty space with seasonal merch as well as overflow home furnishings, specifically that aisle of artwork we see in the bottom image above. The top image proves to us that home furnishings is already the next department one would encounter along the rear wall of the store, so it makes sense that its offerings would simply be extended over into this nearby space as well.

One last look from the left side of the building back toward the front. It does look like whatever merchandise occupied the bulk shelving in the middle of the scene here had already sold down.

As we progress along the back wall of the store, here are a couple more views of the home furnishings department. In-between those pics we see a close-up of the marker for Aisle 12 (our favorite!). Fred's would go on to keep this same format of aisle marker in its next décor package(s), but the actual style obviously would change to match the décor. The style we see here somewhat matches the hanging department signs, but even more closely goes with the blue and green stripes along the perimeter walls. It's also interesting to see the "filler" placards with the Fred's logo and "Your Hometown Store!" slogan, instead of information about any additional items to be found on this aisle besides solely "blankets."

Further up from home furnishings we have the similar-but-apparently-distinct department of home décor, featured in a series of several images above. In the first one we're walking up the aisle towards the front wall but still facing the rear of the store; the second pic shows us that front wall itself, with all its nice windows still uncovered (some Fred's stores of this era would close off a couple of those in order to gain more shelving space, as we discussed in the Hernando post). Then, in the other three images, we're meandering our way back towards the rear of the store, alternating angles looking toward the back, right-side wall, and front of the building.

Returning to the rear wall, above you'll find another look across the home furnishings department over to the back left corner, as well as a look at the signage for the store's restrooms, hanging directly over the stockroom doors. Yep, as we've discussed before in earlier posts, most older Fred's stores had their restrooms located within the stockroom, which isn't exactly the most customer-facing place they could be (in fact, it's about as opposite from that as you can get, haha!).

Perhaps the most noticeable layout abnormality between this Somerville store and the later-remodeled stores we've toured thus far is that the pharmacy was still located in the back of the building! McComb didn't have a dog in this fight, since it didn't have a pharmacy at all (nor did the original Coldwater location, for that matter); but Somerville does, and surely it was one of the very last Fred's stores not to have relocated its pharmacy to a much more prominent spot in one of the front corners of the building. Consequently, it's pretty well hidden back here, and in fact there's not even any overhead department signage for it at all, although it may just be that such signage was already removed given that the pharmacy had already ceased operating in December 2018, long before I got here (note the prescription transfer notices affixed to the windows).

Not only is the location of the pharmacy classic and original, so too is the décor: check it out! Wood paneling!! So delightfully retro. I thought this was a really cool sight. Additional, darker-colored (and probably fake) wood-look stuff adorns the top of the pharmacy windows as well, and affixed to those are multiple décor-specific blurbs about the pharmacy. I highly encourage you to enlarge the previous image which shows all five of them so that you can read them all; they're pretty fun to glance over.

Since you'd expect such items to be close nearby the pharmacy, there was a small amount of health-related merchandise placed on some low shelving directly in front of the pharmacy windows; however, most of that merchandise was placed elsewhere in the store, as immediately next to the pharmacy in the back right corner of the store was what appears to be the paper goods department. Looks like there was an upstairs manager's or loss prevention agent's office over that area, too -- note the one-way mirror.

Meandering back down into the center-store aisles. I find the photo above particularly intriguing. On the endcap sign, notice in the bottom right corner the display dates: 8/29 - 11/30/2015. That's been up for a bit longer than intended! And even older than that is the bottommost placard on the Aisle 5 marker to the right... "VCR & DVD." Love it!

Looking over to the right side wall of the store, followed by a glance back towards the rear, where we see the shuttered pharmacy counter straight ahead.

Time for a couple of random aisle finds. Up top, sitting at the very back of a bottom shelf, is an old "Low Price Leader" hanging shelf tag that got tucked away back there at some point, never to be removed. Below that, a comparison pic showing old and new product packaging for Fred's-brand ammonia. I know we've seen a lot of Fred's merchandise still bearing the older, mid-2000s logo at many of the stores we've toured, but for this item in particular, I don't know that I'd trust the one that may have been here for over a decade!

Continuing over to the right-side wall, we stop briefly now in the cleaning products department. Anyone who stocked up on this stuff at Fred's closing sales in 2019 surely was glad they did so in 2020...

The rightmost aisle of the store was home to the (unsigned) paper goods and continuation of cleaning supplies in the back... candy and snacks in the front, as the selection morphed into pantry goods... and a random Party Bot Speaker along the way. Which did indeed play music and have light-up glasses, in case you were wondering. Obviously, I had to test it out. For research purposes.

As promised, groceries are the next department in the store, occupying a small portion of the rightmost aisle with candy and snacks, and otherwise taking up the entire front right corner of the store with a series of several aisles perpendicular to the rest of the ones in the building. At its intersection with the main front actionway, the department features a large "GROCERIES" sign, complete with "Guaranteed Fresh Everyday!" tagline. I'm also curious about the "Seafood, Meat & Pizza" fridge -- is it just me, or does it look like there's a second, slightly different "Seafood, Meat & Pizza" sign directly behind the first one? Notice (in the middle image) the ghosted letters called to attention by the backlighting...

Looking out from groceries across the front actionway at a couple of the nearby departments (cleaning supplies and pet supplies, to be specific). Notice on the endcaps here -- as well as throughout this whole tour, really -- the presence of many of those blue signs with quotes from the "Fred" character, again hailing from the time period when this store's logo was on its way out and the new lowercase one was on its way in.

Due to its orientation and placement right next to the checkouts along the front end, it was difficult to get many photos of the grocery department, but between the two sets above you'll find the handful that I was able to get. The bottom pic isn't much, I just thought it was interesting how one shelf randomly had a checkerboard pattern affixed to it, haha. (I'm also not sure how I feel about the pre-bottled Kool-Aid on the shelf above that...)

Despite a lot of seasonal stuff being located over in the back left corner of the store (beneath the "men's" department sign), the actual "seasonal" department sign is located here in one of the very first aisles near the store's entrance -- and it ain't lying, either, for as we can see, it was stocked to the brim with back-to-school merchandise, which was indeed in-season at the time I took these photos! I'm sure the discounts on those items were helpful to a lot of folks. And, referring back to something I've touched on in a couple of past Fred's entries: it's still amazing to me what products you could find at Fred's that seem so difficult to find at any other brick-and-mortar retail stores these days. In the bottom image above, check out the kindergarten nap mats (directly beneath the security TV)!

Walking up Aisle 4, then glancing both left and right across the center-store cut-through actionway. Aisle 4 is particularly egregious in its lack of useful item placards: all three of those are simply fillers, rather than telling you anything that's actually stocked within the aisle! You'd think having only three placards would make it difficult to choose what to exclude, not the other way around...

In one of the toy aisles -- this store actually had a surprisingly large amount of space dedicated to toys, as I recall, including Aisle 15 in the image below housing "Toys For Girls" (a category name that surely wouldn't fly in a décor package introduced today, lol) -- I spotted this large "Mighty Haulers" trailer bearing the lowercase Fred's logo, and priced at $20. I circled back to it a couple of times in the tour; you're seeing both of these images presented together, but in reality I took them 20 minutes apart, as I kept hemming and hawing on whether I wanted to purchase it or not. I liked the truck, but it was also pretty big which would make displaying it difficult, and the discount on toys wasn't steep at all meaning I would be paying close to what was on the sticker. Regardless of my decision, I made sure to snap a couple of photos of the thing, because I thought it was so cool.

A couple more shots of the rear actionway -- specifically, glancing back toward the back left corner -- before we circle back over to the health and beauty department, in one of the aisles near the pharmacy. Now that this is our very last department sign photo, it'd probably be a good time for me to actually discuss the décor, haha! As we've been seeing throughout the visit, these department signs adopt a standard, almost rectangular shape, albeit with curved corners at the bottom complementing the smooth swoosh beneath the department name text. That "swoosh" is presented as a red line, with a lavender color underneath; up top, more primary shades of blue and green comprise the bulk of the sign (with a thin white line in-between those, also). The ratios of the larger blue area to the thinner white and green areas are echoed in the stripes running along the perimeter walls (seen in the background of the image). Finally, notice that the blue portion of the signage has an artificial sheen to it, which seems common for the era and presents an illusion of three-dimensionality.

As we make our way back up to the front end of the store, here are a few looks at the checkouts before we make our way back outside. As with most Fred's stores, this store had the separate entrance and exit setup, to where you had to exit directly beneath the "Thank You For Shopping With Us!" logo sign that we see along the front wall. Also worth noting is that, strangely, the lane numbers are 3, 4, and 5 -- we're missing lanes 1 and 2! My guess is that there used to be two additional checklanes over in the space where the perpendicular grocery aisles are now, and those were removed over time in order to expand the selection into that space. Smart, because aside from the long line we see in these pictures as a result of the liquidation sale, I don't think any Fred's store ever needed more than three checkouts. 

Another important aspect to point out about the lane lights only reflecting lanes 3, 4, and 5: that means that instead of ever being replaced, they are original to the store, and indeed, we can see that they are a 100% match for what we saw at the vintage Fred's in McComb! That's as good an indication as any that this Somerville store once would have looked more or less identical to that McComb one. Since I've been publishing these posts in a different order, y'all probably don't realize this, but I actually visited the Somerville Fred's before the McComb one. As a result, I assumed these lane lights were old, but I didn't really have any knowledge or proof to truly appreciate how old they really were. Seeing them again in that McComb store was some nice confirmation, and just a blast overall!

One last look at the interior -- peering over into the front left corner, with its fun "fashion" department sign! -- before exiting and taking a close-up shot of the outdated logo on the exterior. I brightened this one up in editing, since a lot of my exterior pics turned out on the darker side for some odd reason.

Two final shots of the storefront itself. Notice the Somerville Home Furnishings store next door: it's surely just a coincidence, but I thought it was pretty interesting how their façade looks pretty dang close to Fred's over here! I'm referring specifically to the shape and size of the awning above the storefront doors and windows, as well as to the rectangular store logo signage mounted to said awning.

Out at the front of the property, facing Highway 64, is the roadside Fred's sign, along with a collection of similar signs for all of the other tenants of the shopping center (not often you see multiple individual signs like this, rather than one big collective sign for the whole plaza!). This iteration of the Fred's logo looks rather stretched in this sign shape, which is most likely because the sign probably originally bore this logo, which was much better suited to the narrow, vertical orientation. The blacked-out secondary sign beneath the Fred's logo would have read "Pharmacy."

Courtesy LoopNet

Today, as far as I can tell, the store (sadly) remains vacant, and we can see its current status in the above image from an online lease listing for the property. With the newer (but still outdated) Fred's sign removed, we can see the original five-letter framework completely exposed along the awning. We can also see the brick construction along the left-side of the building; looks like the stonework was only for the front façade (again, same as we saw in McComb, and at the numerous other stores from this era that we've toured on the blog).

As usual, we're closing out the post with some pics of the liquidation flyer -- although I would like to point out that nowhere on the flyer does it actually mention that the store would be closing -- as well as the shopping bag I got from the visit, featuring the final, very short-lived return-to-all-caps "FRED'S" logo. Oh, and my receipt -- can't forget that. That's presented below, along with the item I purchased. It might look familiar to you ;)

On that note, we'll conclude our Somerville Fred's post, and press pause on the series -- and the blog as a whole. I noted in my previous post (from November) that some changes would be coming to my blog and my flickr page in the future, and that begins in January as I enter a very busy period at work. I'll still be uploading to flickr during that time, but I don't anticipate having time to dedicate to lengthy, well-thought-out blog posts, and while I could feasibly publish lower-quality stuff, I don't feel that that would be doing me, you, or the content any justice. So instead, the blog will go on hiatus for a bit, and will return later in the spring. 

As for where that leaves our Fred's series, I've decided that since I won't necessarily be writing monthly posts anymore, it would be pointless to try and keep the Fred's posts to a strict schedule as I've been doing thus far. Instead, I'll simply write one every few posts or so, as I feel up to the task. This particular point in the saga feels like a fitting time to enact that change, seeing as how, after the July closure round, Fred's operated without any more closures for a few more months until its September 2019 bankruptcy announcement and total chainwide liquidation. I spent those few months without any further closing Fred's tours, and it feels appropriate to echo that break now that we've reached the same point on the timeline in my Fred's blog posts. When the series does resume, it will be to tour two final Fred's stores while they were still in operation (but liquidating), and then after that, we'll transition into exploring life after Fred's for several local locations. 

We've still got a long ways to go with this series, and I've got tons of other, non-Fred's content waiting to be posted on the blog as well, so please don't let this hiatus keep you from coming back for more in the future when I return with new content! I look forward to welcoming you all back here in the new year. Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are!

Retail Retell


  1. Cool stuff as always! I found it interesting that the receipt refers to the model truck as a "Ford Aeromax" -- I don't know much about trucks, but apparently that was discontinued in 1998 (and the model does look like the pictures of that truck) -- that's a strange choice for a model that was clearly made much later than that!

    I also noticed that in the last pharmacy picture, there seems to be a bit of wood paneling sticking out between the dark wood and the white walls above (just above the perpendicular glass panel). That makes me curious if this store once had a decor package even older than the rainbow-stripes version from that other store (though that decor package does look rather 70s, so who knows).

    1. Thank you! Yep, good catch, and you'll notice on the box it also says "1997 Ford Aeromax." Not sure why that would be chosen either -- unless somehow there are rights involved in which vehicle is chosen, in which case one that's been out of production a long time would certainly be cheaper to make! Who knows :P

      Ah, good catch there as well! It almost looks like that may have been around the whole store, and was just drywalled over, doesn't it? It could very well be that there was an older package here, but I totally agree, the McComb package for sure looks very 70s!

  2. Given how you described your thought process about the Fred's truck, I thought you passed on buying it! Given that, the end of the post was certainly a bit of a surprise! I was looking forward to seeing the receipt photo just to see what you did end up buying!

    That DVD & VCR aisle marker sign is great! I wonder if they had any blank VHS tapes for sale here. It's too bad Fred's is no longer around for the latest in VCR supplies!

    That wood paneling around the pharmacy kind of reminds me of our local Kmart from 1978 which had something which looked kind of similar. I can't remember for sure if it was wood paneling, but it was something very 1970s-early 1980s looking anyway as one would expect from a classic mansard slice facade Kmart.

    It was not uncommon back in the day for stores to put their restrooms in the back storeroom somewhere. I actually remember the local Greenhouse Kroger, which relocated across the street in around 2001 to a new location, had the restrooms back behind the double doors leading to the storeroom. I think the local Safeway was rather similar in design. I suppose retailers back in the day discouraged using their restrooms unless it was absolutely necessary. I'd imagine that at a store like Fred's, which probably didn't ever have a lot of staffing, they probably didn't want to have to do a lot of cleaning of the restrooms if they didn't have to. Then again, at least in modern times, they did have a sign for the restrooms so they weren't exactly hiding it either.

    I don't know much about the history of Safeway in Louisiana, if they were even there, but I came across something odd on Google Maps the other day! It is what looks to be a Safeway Marina store, or a clone if nothing else, in the Northern Louisiana town of Bastrop. This isn't too terribly far from Mississippi. I don't know if you have any reason to head out in that direction, but if you do, this might be worth checking out! Link:

    Merry Christmas to you and your readers! I know it was a bit difficult for you to find the time to keep the blog updated this year, which is certainly understandable, but I enjoyed what your posted and I'm looking forward to seeing what you have for us in 2022!

    1. Ah, glad the suspense worked out then! :D It was still more expensive than I would've liked, but of course I'm happy I sprang for it now that the company no longer exists.

      Ha, thought you'd like that VCR sign also! They may have had some blank tapes, but I didn't look close enough to know for sure.

      PlazaACME had some photos of very old Kmart layaway décor that survived in the store he briefly worked in, and I want to say there was wood paneling associated with that as well. Definitely was trendy during that era!

      Yep, exactly -- greenhouse (and superstore) Krogers had the exact same practice of hiding their restrooms away in the back. The cleaning theory makes sense as to why this practice would have remained in place for so long. I'm also not sure when exactly it was that having public restrooms became a mandate for stores of a certain size -- that is, assuming it's a mandate at all! (For some reason I believe it is, but I could be totally wrong on that...)

      Ah, yep, definitely a Safeway there! Safeway had a presence in Mississippi as well, and one day in the far-off future I'll have a post on that, lol. Don't know that I'd ever be in Bastrop, but I'll keep that one in mind!

      Thank you, friend!! Merry Christmas to you as well!

  3. Fred's was my first tax-paying job. That was in the Fall of 1977 when the store was located on the west corner of the town square next to the highway. I quit just before Christmas, and I believe they moved to this "new" location sometime in the spring or early summer of 1978. Frank Franenburg (sp?) was the manager then. in 2019 my family took a road trip from CA to back east (scouting potential retirement areas) and I showed them some of my old haunts. We visited this Fred's location then, and I picked up a Fayette-Ware Wildcats t-shirt. Kind of sad when you see parts of your childhood disappearing like this. At 63 I've been getting used to it, though ;)

    1. Cool to hear about the original Somerville Fred's location and your experiences there -- thanks for sharing! The 1978 date for the "new" location gives me a good idea of when this style of facade was in use, too. Sorry Fred's is among the list of childhood haunts disappearing -- I'm sure many people with fond memories of the company feel much the same way...


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