Monday, July 3, 2023

(Sunset on) Fred's Closing, Batesville, MS

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

Well, friends, here we are: at long last, we've reached the conclusion of the Fred's saga. Not the conclusion of the overall series here on the blog, mind you, as after this point we'll begin exploring the various reuses of former Fred's buildings -- that promises to be a lot of fun! But rather, this is the very last Fred's store I visited while the company was still in operation. Call this tour a "sunset" on Fred's, if you will. That's particularly appropriate given sunset is also the time of day I visited this location, on October 19, 2019, with just nine days left before the chain would give up the ghost for good. I made this stop in Batesville, MS, on the way back from a day down in the Jackson area scouting out a good place to stay during my internship the following spring. And I'm definitely glad I did.

Courtesy LoopNet

Courtesy LoopNet

Before we get to my pics, we'll start with a handful from LoopNet showing the store how it used to look in the old red-and-yellow Fred's regalia. This store was a bit unique in that it was stuck smack in the middle of a regular old shopping center, which wasn't super common for Fred's stores that I've encountered -- even those that have been in shopping centers, such as Senatobia, were purpose-built for Fred's, and had separate exterior walls. (Horn Lake did not have separate exterior walls, but that's because it inherited a former Jitney Jungle space.) Batesville also does not have any particularly identifying Fred's traits, such as the usual stonework facade. That said, I'm still not doubting the fact that this store was probably a Fred's its entire life.

Image source unknown

I'm also including the top pic here of the store's later-logo look just so you can compare how it looked in regular daylight to all of my pictures, which -- as noted above -- were quite clearly taken at sunset!

While the storefront may have been updated to the chain's (second-to-last) blue-and-green logo, the old-style roadside sign out in the parking lot kept the yellow and red letters until the very end. I was very happy to see this and be able to photograph it in such good lighting. The close-up shot is one of my favorites I've taken in this entire hobby, I think. 

Senatobia kept its similar roadside sign, as can be seen here, but updated the logo, perhaps because it was visible from the highly traveled Interstate 55. In contrast, the Batesville Fred's is quite a bit west of 55 along Highway 6, and presumably never saw the need to go to the expense of changing out the letters.

Notice also the blacked-out "PHARMACY" lettering beneath the main signage.

A couple more shots of the storefront before we head inside show the sunset reflecting heavily along the facade of the store (they also show the plain block building material, as opposed to the trademark Fred's stone). Even absent the sunset, you can tell this store gets a lot of sunlight during the day considering how faded those liquidation posters are.

Immediately inside the store, the wall of the register unit to my left showed some black-and-white photographs of fixtures available for sale, many of which had already sold.

Like many Fred's stores, the entry doors take us into the right-hand side of the building, with the pharmacy immediately occupying the front right corner. In front of the pharmacy are the health and beauty aisles, running parallel to the storefront. Notice that this Fred's had a fairly high aisle count: looks like it went up to 32 in total.

While the rest of the store was updated to the common 'lowercase Fred's logo' decor package, the cosmetics department managed to hang on to its older-style hanging department sign, matching those we saw over in Somerville, TN.

Approaching the back actionway now, as we travel farther along the right-hand side. Looks like the aisle straight ahead of us was a double-wide aisle, perhaps home to the seasonal department at one time.

Even if I had wanted to take a right turn upon reaching the rear actionway, the caution tape wouldn't have allowed me to. Given that this store was only nine days out from closing time, many areas and aisles were blocked off from public access.

Seasonal or otherwise, whatever this double-wide aisle was once home to, it had by this time been converted into the miscellaneous fixture sales area. And when I say "miscellaneous," at this store, I definitely mean it! A wheelchair isn't one I normally seem to see, and while I guess all of those items on the left side of the aisle appear to have actual SKUs, they still seem more like random junk that was hiding in the back as opposed to actual merchandise sold by the store. Just take the below velvet-encased silverware set, for instance!!

Some more shots of the more "traditional" fixtures for sale, including the shelf pegs, grid caps, hangers, and U-Boat carts (misspelled as "U-Bolt" on the liquidation signs).

A look across the back wall of the store shows a fully emptied-out space, whereas one of the neighboring aisles, home to automotive and pet supplies, still had a fair amount of stock left in it. Access to the restrooms was located through those stockroom doors in the background.

Looking across the center actionway towards the left-side wall of the store. As you've probably been able to tell by now, the orientation of the aisles have switched to perpendicular to the storefront for the majority of the salesfloor. The front half of the perpendicular aisles is located on that wooden-style floor, whereas the back half is located on regular gray tile. Again, many of these aisles were already emptied and roped off.

Something I found particularly interesting about this store, which I had not encountered at any other Fred's location, was that the grocery selection was located in the back left corner of the store! (It's a bit difficult to tell from these pics, given how all the aisles were blocked off, but the "candy shop" endcap should help give it away. The cooler/freezer units were also located along the back or left-side wall -- can't remember which.) 

This was literally the farthest away that groceries could've been from the front entrance, and that seemed counter to Fred's normal M.O. Olive Branch had them against the back wall, but even then, that was straight ahead from the entrance -- not buried away in the opposite far corner. Many stores, like Church Road in Southaven, even moved groceries forward over the years into the wooden-floor area once used for the clothing departments, which Batesville certainly could have done considering those departments were fully intact here -- but I guess they just never got the memo!

Looking back over towards the right-hand wall from whence we came, followed by a few shots of the apparel sections in the wood-floor area along the left-hand wall. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, a lot of Fred's stores relocated these items out of this area, in favor of moving food to this more visible spot in the salesfloor (the headquarters store along Getwell Road in Memphis -- which, by the way, is still vacant -- included). It was kind of refreshing to see apparel still in its dedicated area here in Batesville, even if that also meant seeing the grocery department in a very strange spot as a result.

A couple random shots here, the top one showing the greeting cards discount flyer -- note how its edges were cut off by the printer -- and the bottom one showing some various liquidator signs not currently in use, resting quietly on an endcap.

A couple pics looking along the front end now, showing the aisles to the left, the registers to the right (note those classic lane lights!), and the already-shuttered pharmacy off in the background. The fact that those aisles on the left are also sitting atop some woodgrain flooring leaves me wondering why said flooring was installed in this area, in addition to apparel. Surely the apparel department was never so large as to take up both wood floor areas, so I'm not quite certain why the special flooring was continued over here.

Even though the grocery department was located in the back left corner of the store, by the time of the liquidation, all of its remaining merchandise had, of course, been consolidated forward into the frontmost section of the salesfloor. This aisle shows a portion of that remaining grocery selection, and will also serve to -- a bit abruptly -- close out our interior tour of this store. You see, about the time that I took this pic, I was trying to read what those papers taped to the "Visit the Hallmark Card Department" signs said, when (who I presume to be) the manager of the store came up to me and asked if he could help. I replied that I was just trying to read the sign (because I was!), and when I met up with my mom the next aisle over, she told me that, after talking to me, the manager went over to another customer who told the manager, "well, he was taking lots of pictures," and the manager mumbled something in reply -- which, of course, implies that the customer had said something about me to the manager before, and that's why he came up to me in the first place. My mom told me I should stop taking pictures, and I did, to be safe.

Certainly not the worst way that could've gone down, and if I remember correctly it was also my one and only "encounter" -- if you could even call it that -- after photographing a great many Fred's stores in 2019, so I'd say I was pretty lucky with that track record! Still kind of unfortunate to have something like that happen at the very last Fred's store I'd ever visit, but I have no bad feelings against anybody but myself, for not capturing certain parts of the store the first time I was in those areas (namely, the grocery department). As it turns out, at the end of my visit, I asked if I could purchase the store's hours sign, and the very same manager laughed and let me have it for free! So he was very kind and most likely didn't even care about the pictures, but again, I didn't want to push my luck.

And with that, we'll hop back outside again, to resume our quick tour of the closing Batesville Fred's with a few more shots of its exterior. By this time the sun had just about set, as the sky had turned more so to dusk in the photo above. The Fred's logo sign had lit up, as well.

While riding past the store on the way out of town, I also snagged the above two pics, mostly in an attempt to capture the store's unique pharmacy drive-thru contraption out in the parking lot. Since this store was fully encased within a shopping center, the drive-thru was instead erected via a series of pneumatic tubes out in the parking lot. I've seen a similar setup at some Walmart and Kroger stores.

As promised, here is the store hours sign that the manager let me have for free! Despite having holes to hang from or affix to something, this was just resting in the windowsill of the store, hence the odd curvature to it. It is decently small (a nice change of pace from several of the other retail memorabilia items I've got!), and certainly a welcome addition to my collection. If you zoom in to my pic of the entry doors back at the top of this post, you can actually see this sign still in action.

Last but not least, for one final time -- here's my usual collection of the store closing flyer, my receipt, and one of the store's plastic bags. It's hard to believe I won't be posting any of those things again!! This series has spanned five years, and spawned north of 15 posts, including 13 store tours of my own, 2 guest posts from Albertsons Florida Blog, and an interview featured in a profile on the company in The Daily Memphian. I've said before that, given all of this, it's kind of ironic that I never really shopped at Fred's prior to its liquidation sales (!), but I certainly am appreciative of the opportunity I had to document the local Mid-South chain before its demise, and I've had a ton of fun doing it. Like I said earlier, too, I'm not done yet; this simply concludes the portion of the series where we're looking at active Fred's stores. Up next, we'll transition to exploring former Fred's stores and their various reuses, which should be a lot of fun, and I hope y'all will all stick around for it!

On that note, I'll conclude this post with a bit of a spoiler on one of those reuses. I have yet to revisit the Batesville Fred's building post-closure, but as announced in The Panolian in July 2021, the building would soon be taken over by a Roses Express discount store -- the same fate as many other former Fred's stores, as you'll soon learn. Roses also took over the Senatobia Fred's, and at that location, they dismantled the old Fred's roadside sign, despite the interstate frontage. But according to Google Street View imagery, luckily, here at the Batesville store, the old Fred's sign lives on -- and offered Roses the perfect number of spaces to add its own name in Fred's place :)

Courtesy Google Maps

That'll wrap up our sunset tour of the Batesville Fred's, also acting as a sunset on the first major part of this series. Much more to come in the future, though, so please stay tuned for all that in the second half of the Fred's series! And of course, there's plenty more other retail coverage coming soon to the blog as well, and perhaps to some other blogs, too -- you'll just have to wait and see what I have in store...

Until next time, then, and as always: hope you have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are!

Retail Retell