Sunday, August 28, 2022

Fred's Closing, Olive Branch, MS

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

While it wasn't necessarily my intent for the delay to be this long, I had always planned to exit my established quarterly posting schedule and insert a time lag between my last Fred's post and the one you're reading today. The goal was for the lapse in time to emulate the way the Fred's scenario played out in real life; after its fifth consecutive closing round concluded in late August of 2019, Fred's quietly sat and contemplated its new status quo for a few weeks, making key decisions on how to proceed with its new smaller footprint (only 80 stores) and what changes needed to be made to keep the company in business. We saw a portion of this in real-time here on the blog back in early October 2019, with the rollout of the new "Fred's Discount Depot" concept, designed to (presumably, eventually) become the company's new chainwide format for all of its remaining stores. Unfortunately, however, as you read at that linked post, things ultimately didn't work out for Fred's, with the company declaring bankruptcy and announcing the closure of all 80 of its final stores beginning in September 2019.

After the Somerville Fred's in late July, I, like the company itself, took a brief pause, not visiting another Fred's until the final liquidation was announced. The Olive Branch store we'll be touring today is the next-to-last Fred's I ever visited, with my very last Fred's store tour to come soon in a future post. Then, after that, our ongoing series will continue but with a shift in format, moving to documenting life after Fred's for some stores we've already seen as well as several new ones.

So, all that introduction now aside, here we are in October 2019 at the Olive Branch, MS, Fred's. Although I was a DeSoto County resident for nearly 20 years, I didn't often get out to this part of the county, and I always enjoyed exploring what (to me) were new areas in a place I considered myself otherwise intimately familiar with. So, the excitement from that aspect of the visit, coupled with the beautiful crisp, cloudless fall day, made this a fun outing indeed. And given that I hadn't covered a closing Fred's store in a few months at this point, even the sad circumstances that brought me here couldn't dampen my day.

We begin outside the store, taking a look not only at the storefront itself but also at one of the parking lot cart corrals, inside which are a handful of classic carts -- no doubt dating back fairly far into the store's vintage, perhaps even original to its opening day. Based on the stonework and general exterior design of the store, I'd say this Fred's likely opened sometime in the 1970s; it's practically identical to several other locations we've toured such as Hernando, Senatobia, Somerville, and McComb (the most vintage of them all!).

The old "PHARMACY" sign had been blacked out, and a "STORE CLOSING" banner had been haphazardly hung beneath the store's logo. Notice that the old sign frame was reused, rather than a new sign being installed when the logo was switched over to the 2009-era "Fred's Super Dollar" one; hence why there's so much dead space to either side of the wordmark itself (compare to Senatobia, which did get a new sign frame).

Heading inside, the apparel department lined the right side interior wall of the store, denoted by its special wood-like flooring. In the front right corner of the building was the former location of the fitting rooms, similar to what we saw in Somerville (and with a ceiling jut-out above them, similar to what we saw in McComb).

Quickly making our way into some of the aisles, we find that the one shown in the top image above was almost completely wiped out -- as were a good many others. My visit took place on October 12, 2019, which would've put us only about two weeks or so away from the store's final day (as all remaining Fred's locations were out of business by the end of that month). If you look very closely at the extreme right edge of that top picture, you'll see that the sole product remaining on that aisle was a 2-pack of Altoids -- which we did in fact buy!

While we were evidently standing in (what used to be) the grocery section for those last two pics, this one takes us over to one of the home décor aisles, which (in comparison) actually seemed to have a reasonable amount of merchandise left, scattered though it was. Contrary to what I normally do with my posts, in this one I'm not moving my pictures around any, so you're seeing all of my interior shots strictly in the order I took them -- in other words, we might bounce around a little bit as a result.

On one of the deserted aisles, this planogram remained, showing us how the shelves were to be stocked with a boatload of new Fred's products, the design of which we discussed at length back at this post. Sadly, the "issue date" portion of the planogram is forever lost to that hole punch, so I guess we'll never know when exactly these changes were made -- although I'm almost certain they were probably made before the majority of the successive closure rounds took place during 2019. It's a little ironic how all of the products reflected on the page have the new, final Fred's logo, while the planogram itself retains the older, lowercase one in the upper left corner.

Some aisles had sold out of merchandise entirely and as such had already had their shelves dismantled, as we can see in the top image above. The following two images show us that the shelves along the perimeter on the back and left walls of the salesfloor had met similar fates, and although they hadn't been dismantled or removed yet, the refrigerated and frozen units were also quite close to selling out of their last bits of inventory.

In the grocery aisles, a wealth of Fred's-branded products were the majority of what remained -- definitely the most I remember seeing of any of the Fred's stores I visited, as I believe there were also many additional Fred's-brand canned goods in another aisle closer to the front of the store, to boot. Contrary to the canned products, the mustard containers still bore the old Fred's logo, but were still found in a fairly healthy quantity.

The coolers were a later addition to most Fred's stores, and as such their placement within the salesfloor commonly varied. Here in Olive Branch, they were located along the far back wall of the store, going so far as to encroach upon the wood-floor apparel area. This, I believe, was my first time seeing them along the rear wall (but not the last!). In other stores it was more common to see them closer to the front, but still very often encroaching upon or outright taking over space within apparel (similar to what we saw in Southaven at the Church Road store).

Walking down another emptied-out aisle takes us to the center of the store, where the cut-through actionway was. This actionway divided the two sets of aisles horizontally across the salesfloor. We're looking over towards the right-hand wall in the image above, with plenty more of that canned fruit cocktail occupying the endcap in the foreground.

One more shot of the fridges across the back wall, before moving into the "Super Discount Cleaning Supplies" department. That signage, as well as the green stripe around the perimeter walls and the various other Fred's logo signs and accompanying phrases (such as "Save. Smile. Smart!" in the picture below), indicate that this store likely remodeled circa 2010 or so, which fits right in line with when this Fred's logo debuted and major changes were made chainwide.

In these two pics, be sure to note that weird, patterned backing material on the gondola unit to the right of that door adjacent to the fire extinguisher. The material looked old to me, but I have no idea if it's something that could possibly be a relic from this store's older days, or if I'm just spitballing on that. Let me know in the comments if you have any ideas.

The shelving along the left-side wall of the store had already been dismantled in the back half of the aisle, which is the side we're approaching from in the image above. Then, as we've already seen, the center cut-through actionway remained comparatively well-stocked with all of its various endcaps.

The "Super Discount Cleaning Supplies" department gave way to health and beauty the closer one moved to the front of the store, with the endcap on the left of this image featuring perhaps the most stock of any single product in the entire store... that wasn't a Fred's-brand canned good, anyway.

Another thing this store had a significant amount of stock of was these 4-packs of "septic safe premium bath tissue." I'm sure this stuff didn't really appeal to anybody at the time, and as someone who grew up having to use septic safe items, I can understand why; however, if only anyone could have predicted how much of a hot commodity toilet paper would have become in just a few short months, I'm sure it would've been snatched up much faster!

Another shot down the dismantled left-side wall, followed by a quick look at some "Fred's Kids" branded items and a view of the shuttered former pharmacy counter. Like many other Fred's in-store pharmacies, the one here in Olive Branch closed prior to the rest of the store, back in 2018. Two former pharmacists have since opened their own independent pharmacy in Olive Branch, called "GetWell Pharmacy" (not to be confused with Fred's own onetime experiment, Getwell Drug and Dollar!)

This is the part of the tour where we begin to jump back around to other parts of the salesfloor, rather than making a clean exit past the pharmacy and checkout counters. Above, we're looking at the sad remains of the erstwhile lawn and garden department, which was marked at half-off (and given that the signage was of Fred's own promotional style rather than that of the liquidation company, I'm assuming this was just Fred's way of clearing out the summer seasonal department prior to the liquidation sale even having begun). On the left you can see two little solar-powered dancing buddies; one of those is now mine and is sitting on my desk watching me as I type this :)

Near the middle of the store, this heavy-duty shelving held Fred's selection of furniture. It was probably about the quality you'd expect from a dollar/value store; that said, I still think it was cool that Fred's carried these sorts of things. If you zoom into the labels, you'll see that they even distributed these themselves!

Moving back towards the front of the store, (what I believe to be) the very first aisle after you enter the building was just chock full of fake florals, joined by other random miscellaneous items, including some leftover Easter merch dragged out from the depths of the stockroom. The actionway-facing side of that same aisle stocked excess apparel, as did those overflow dump bins we see here behind the vacuum cleaners (another item I'm surprised Fred's had!).

While the dump bins certainly weren't very presentable, I was actually pretty impressed by how well-kept the apparel department itself was, especially for a store in this stage of a liquidation sale. Hanging against one of the apparel fixtures we find this store's version of the Fred's "go team!" yard signs, cheering on the Olive Branch Conquistadors (or the "Quistors," as they are colloquially known). Obviously I'm partial to my alma mater Tigers, but I must admit that I always thought the Conquistadors were a cool and unique mascot in a field full of overtrodden repeats (such as, well, the Tigers...).

Some more shots of apparel, showing us also greeting cards at 90 percent off, and mason jars at 30 percent off. That shirt in the bottom image above is definitely eye-catching, although I'm not sure whether or not that's in a good way!

Moving back to the rear actionway, we see several aisle pics, revealing that, in addition to food, pet supplies was one of the better-stocked categories at this point in time. Still other aisles, as we've already seen, were totally empty.

I can't say for certain why I took the picture of the emoji Pez dispenser, but I do know why I got the close-up of the Fred's basket! This style, with its bright blue color and full Fred's Super Dollar logo, was not one that I could recall having seen before; the much more common design I had come across, and which I own a copy of, was of a dull plastic material, with a darker blue color and just the Fred's wordmark etched into the side. Naturally, I wanted to be sure to get a picture of this maybe-rarer style for posterity.

Looking out at the pet department -- notice another one of those handbaskets hiding in the image as well -- followed by a look at the backside of one of the Fred's promotional endcap toppers. Normally this side of promotional material isn't intended to be seen, but that doesn't mean it always works that way in reality -- so I think it's pretty neat to see that the designers of these signs acknowledged that fact, and made sure to put a simple "Low Prices!" pattern along the back in case it was ever revealed to the public!

Not the most conventional interior shot to end on, but I wanted to be sure and photograph this wet floor sign for two reasons: one, because it's so old that it likely dates back very far in the store's lineage, perhaps to the beginning; and two, because I knew my flickr contact compdude512 would appreciate it. If you're reading this, this pic's for you.

Back outside again, here's a look at the store's entrance doors against the stonework -- this store had the typical separated entrance/exit setup that most older Fred's stores had -- followed by a close-up of the storefront logo with the crooked "STORE CLOSING" banner below it. Note how the doors and windows are plastered with liquidation signage; and for that matter, note how this store had all of its original windows still as well! (Sometimes windows would be removed and covered up with non-matching stonework or some other material -- look closely at this pic from Hernando, or this one from Senatobia.) I really like the sidewalk pic for some reason.

Above, a few last pics of the storefront, followed below by a couple of shots of the roadside sign for this location. Some Fred's locations with the same style of signage as this -- that is, with the large upper box and smaller lower box -- would place the "PHARMACY" text in the lower box, with the upper box bearing the "Fred's Super Dollar" logo. Here in Olive Branch, it would seem instead that the upper box consolidated the two possibilities and simply read "Fred's Pharmacy," given the way the text in the green portion of the logo has been covered over.

I actually like seeing the "LOW PRICES!" tagline on the road sign; it adds some personality and definitely alludes to what type of store Fred's is (or "was"...). And again, as I said earlier in the post, I'm also very much a fan of how pretty this day was! 

In the road sign image three pictures back, as well as the one directly above, you can get a fairly good feel for how steeply the parking lot slopes downward towards the Fred's store as well as its neighbor, Barton's Home Improvement (formerly Surplus Warehouse), whose sign can be seen here. Mainly, I took this image to show the person standing on the street corner holding the Fred's liquidation signage, boasting store fixtures for sale and discounts up to 90 percent off. I'm a little surprised Fred's didn't switch to using "going out of business" verbiage for this final set of closures, but perhaps they were just reusing the same "store closing" materials from store to store, which would make sense as a cost-saving effort.

Courtesy LoopNet

Courtesy LoopNet

The above two pics were both sourced from real estate listings for this store, which was located at 7105 Cockrum Road (Hwy 305) at the intersection with Pigeon Roost Road, just west of Old Towne Olive Branch. In particular, I wanted to point out how the top image shows the store post-logo-replacement but pre-roof-replacement; check out the old blue shingles as opposed to the later blue metal. (We can also see an old red-and-yellow era Pharmacy Drive-Thru sign!)

Finally, to round out this post, as normal we have a shot of the liquidation flyer I picked up, as well as our receipt. I certainly don't remember us buying this much stuff here, and I have no idea what all the items marked "POG BIG CALL W/LIG" actually are! Definitely some good deals to be had though, as we saved nearly $30 according to the bottom of the receipt...

The Fred's store in Olive Branch was the very last one to close out of all six in DeSoto County, but was one of the first ones to gain a replacement tenant, after locally-owned furniture and home décor store The Wooden Door announced in May 2020 that they would be moving from their existing location in Olive Branch to the former Fred's building, which had closed just a few months prior in October 2019. (The Hernando Fred's began construction around the same time on its conversion to Jenkins Floors & More, but I'm not sure which of the two local businesses actually got the ball rolling first.) The Wooden Door celebrated its grand reopening in November 2020, and continues to operate out of the building today.

As promised back at the top of this post, after today's entry I've only got one more Fred's tour left -- stay tuned for that post sometime in the future! I hope you've been enjoying our Fred's series so far, and thanks again for following along as it nears the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next. Until next time and as always, thanks for reading, and have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are!

Retail Retell