That Mall is sick and that Store is dead!

November 23, 2021

Woolco Closes (and what came next) (1982)

Filed under: dead chains,dead stores,Hampton,Roses,then & now — Anita @ 9:20 pm

This time of year, I’m always reminded of discount department stores that we no longer have. The department store variety is getting smaller and smaller here in the United States, especially with Kmart pooting out its final stores slowly but surely. To me, Target still has the soul of those old stores.

One discounter that failed spectacularly in the early 1980s was Woolco, a subsidiary of the smaller discount store, Woolworth. About 19 years after the company began, it announced in September of 1982 that it was shutting down:

They were losing so much money, that in the first six months of 1983, Woolco lost $20 million. 1 The chain had become too big, too fast. 7 Woolco had been in trouble for quite some time, but kept opening stores — up until the very end. 2  In Boutte, Louisiana, a store opened on September 29th — three days after the announcement that Woolco was going out of business:

[I had to pay $3 for that article, hope you like it]

Nearly 25,000 people lost their jobs in the closing. At one store the employees found out via reporters calling:

Some Woolco employes learned that the stores would close from reporters calling to question their bosses. A woman at a store in Burke, who answered the telephone for Woolco store manager F. Moreau, began crying.
“Thanks for making my day,” she told a reporter. “Thanks a lot.” Moreau said he had not had a chance to inform his staff before the phone calls began. “I just found out myself,” he said. 6

There was one glimmer of hope that the stores would stay open. Sheik Mohammed al Fassi was interested in making an offer for the troubled chain, citing that he wanted to save the workers’ jobs. 3  Days later, lawyers for the Sheik said that they had convinced al Fassi to not buy the chain: 

With that consideration gone, the going out of business sales began on November 22nd, and of course like with any going of business sale, there was complaints that Woolco had raised prices before the sale. 5

In early 1983, Woolco locations were winding down business. This report from a store in Alexandria, Virginia: 

Naked plastic hangers dangled in long rows like windblown cornstalks stripped of their grain in what used to be the women’s department of the Woolco store on Route 1 south of Alexandria.Coathangers were about all that was left Saturday and they were for sale: seven for $1.The piles of ice skates looked interesting until you tried to match up a pair the same size and style. Oil filters for Subarus or some such car, a rats’ nest of radiator hoses and a very nice selection of auto registration holders struggled for attention in the automotive department. Mis-mixed paint, mis-matched shoes, misanthropic clerks–some choice.The security guards were superfluous. What remained of a $1 million plus inventory was barely enough to put on a good garage sale. Like suburbanites willing to take any offer so long as they don’t have to haul the stuff back to the basement, Woolco workers were pleading for someone to buy what was left. 2

There were two Woolco stores in the area I grew up in, in Williamsburg and Hampton, Virginia. 

I don’t know much about the Williamsburg location, other that it became a Roses a few months after Woolco closed. The Roses shut down in 2002 because its lease wasn’t renewed. I wonder if it was because they wanted that shopping center to become more “high end” like everything else was getting in Williamsburg around this time. 

Six years later, I would come to this building when it was a Marshalls, and I wondered why the entire building wasn’t used. Seriously, one side of the building looked abandoned.  I took this picture way back then. Turns out that was the Garden Center for that Roses. The nearly 50 year old building was later torn down in 2019 when Marshalls moved into a new building.

Now, the one in Hampton, that one I know. Obviously, not as a Woolco, because they shut down about three months before I was born. The store was a fixture of the new Todd Center, opening on November 3, 1971. 

A little over a year after Woolco closed, the building became a Bradlees store — after initially denying that the store was opening a location in Hampton. 8



(I love how that kid’s stupid “Go for it!” shirt got a mention)

By the beginning of 1989, Bradlees was gone after only five years. A tiny blip in retail history time. 

In October of 1989, a flashy new locally-based electronics store, FX opened in the old Bradlees store. 

You know, nobody needed a motorized walkway in an electronics store. 

The shopping center finally got it right on November 4, 1991 when we got Big Lots. Big lots opened in the corner, and later Office Max opened in the other half of the old Woolco/Bradlees.  I miss it when Big Lots had crazy stuff. I remember as a kid going in there and seeing Barbie dolls from Korea, notebooks with Kelly Bundy on the cover, tang juice boxes. 

  1. “Woolworth Will Close All Woolco Stores.” Daily Press, September 25, 1982.
  2. Knight, Jerry. “Woolco, Memco Closings Show Lack of Class.” Washington Post, January 17, 1983. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/business/1983/01/17/woolco-memco-closings-show-lack-of-class/8ed29aea-fcb3-4f92-ae0e-1134eb7686c6/.
  3. “Woolco Awaits Sheik.” Daily Press, September 28, 1982.
  4. “Saudi Sheik Won’t Acquire Woolco Chain.” Tallahassee Democrat , October 5, 1982.
  5. “Md. Seeks Ban On Woolco Sale Price Increases.” Washington Post. Accessed November 15, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1982/12/28/md-seeks-ban-on-woolco-sale-price-increases/8a5f719e-4db2-4a4c-a1bc-47faaa1480b9/.
  6. Brown, Warren, and Thomas Lippman. “Woolworth Will Shut Down All 336 Woolco Discount Stores.” Washington Post, September 25, 1982. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1982/09/25/woolworth-will-shut-down-all-336-woolco-discount-stores/45da5b4c-9570-46b0-9a02-023bb1f89a63/.
  7. Oklahoman.com. “Woolco’s Quit-Business Sale Drawing Crowds in 40 States,” November 23, 1982. https://oklahoman.com/article/2004020/woolcos-quit-business-sale-drawing-crowds-in-40-states/.
  8. “Bradlee’s Won’t Open Stores on Peninsula” Daily Press, January 4, 1983. 

December 9, 2020

424. Black Friday though the years (Hampton/Newport News, VA), part 2, 1990-1999 (crosspost from my “history” blog)

A reminder of the movers and shakers and failures of the retail landscape of Hampton and Newport News back then: 

Coliseum Mall

Newmarket North / Newmarket Fair Mall 

Patrick Henry Mal

Bart is the star of 1990′s coverage. My mom loved Everything’s a $1.00 back then. It felt like we were at the Newmarket location every weekend when I was in the first grade. I found a copy of the Simpsons Christmas book there. K&K Toys was an unfortunate name for a store. 

Oh boy, this is the beginning of the end of Newmarket Fair Mall (formerly known as Newmarket North). They had just finished 10 months of remodeling, just to have several stores leave after their leases expired, and one of the anchor stores, Miller & Rhoads closed the year before. This is the final time in Daily Press history that Newmarket Fair Mall is mentioned in Black Friday coverage. 

1991

The Fisher-Price Game table! With the commercial where the boys played games on the table all day and half the night! 

This was the first year that Kmart decided to be redic. and stay open on Thanksgiving. My mom and I were there that day! This was the thanksgiving that my dad was out to sea, and mom decided that we would just eat at Piccadilly Cafeteria at Coliseum Mall that day and hit KMart later to pick up Home Alone on VHS. 

Note that Newmarket Fair wasn’t mentioned! 

President Bush bought some Reeboks and slime for the grandkids. 

1992

1992′s coverage was sparse. Rollerblade dolls were hot. 

1993

Roses got a shout out. This was right before they turned into a dump. Still a dump in 2020! Newmarket Fair which was one foot in the grave at this point, only receiving a quick Sears mention. Above is a Proffitt’s ad from 1996 that shows what the Cracker Jack sale was all about. Proffitt’s didn’t last long at Coliseum, closed in 1997 and then Dillard’s moved in. 

1994

This was the first year my paper went to WalMart, which is strange considering WalMart opened around 1991 in Hampton. Took them three years to get there. Maybe the Newport News location was new in 1994. There was a $139 VCR on sale at WalMart if you got there at six am. 

The Cracker Jack promo was back at Proffitt’s. I forgot that they had two separate stores in Coliseum Mall, because they took over the old Children’s Palace and Hess’s store. So if you needed women’s clothes and men’s clothes, you had to go clear across the mall for the men’s clothes.  

Our Super KMart got a mention too. 

1995 

1995 feels like the first year that the discount stores beat the malls in popularity on Black Friday.  Hills, which had just opened in Hampton was the the star in 1995. By January of 1997, they were toast. The store stayed vacant from 1997-2017 when an At Home store finally moved in. 

My mom and I actually went to Coliseum Mall on Black Friday that year. The first time I had ever been to the stores that day. I don’t remember it being that crazy.

1995 was also the last year someone said they were excited to go to Montgomery Ward. 

1996

Aw, weeks before Hills closed, and months after we got our first Target. Brenda forgot her shoes! Jeanie got her Tickle Me Elmo! Internet greetings at Patrick Henry Mall! People fought over a dinky gift bag at Target!: 

1997

Daily Press didn’t have the 1997 newspaper.

I saved this paper when I was 15! I’m surprised Montgomery Ward carried Furby. 

1999

Barely any mall coverage in 1999, mostly focusing on stores like Toys R Us and the guy who hoarded all those monitors at CompUSA. Check out Carol and her walkie talkie! 

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December 7, 2020

424. Black Friday though the years (Hampton/Newport News, VA), part 1, 1980-1989 [crosspost]

(cross post from my “history” blog)

I know everything is going wrong right now, and I know, priorities, but sometimes I really just miss going to the store. I didn’t do Black Friday in person this year, due to the obvious. I only went grocery shopping for my mom on Black Friday this year. 

(Woolco, 1980 or 1981) 

So beginning with the parade on Thanksgiving, I hopped on ProQuest and began looking at my local newspapers for their Black Friday coverage in the 80s and 90s. 

I’ll try and set up the retail landscape of the area to the best of my ability and using my retail blog for assistance. Here’s all my information about Newmarket North / Newmarket Fair Mall. It started dying in 1989 when local retailer Miller & Rhoads shut down. By 1994 it was pretty much toast other than Sears, and around 1997, the former anchor stores were renovated into offices. Now the mall is all offices, except for the empty Sears which closed in 2018 and was one of the last locations in the state, and the Piccadilly cafeteria. 

Coliseum Mall was the mall in the area until about 2003? when Burlington Coat Factory moved in at the old Montgomery Wards, and Dillards moved out. After that, things went downhill fast, and by 2007 the mall was town down, and was rebuilt into an open air shopping area with apartments and a big Target and a rebuilt JCPenney. 

1980

Shopping was “fast and furious” at Newmarket by 11am. The stores opened at … 8am. Toys R Us and Lionel Playworld were new to the area. 

1981

This is the only photo I’ve seen of this JCPenney location that was almost across the street from Newmarket North Mall, at the Newmarket South Shopping Center. I was surprised that it was still open in 1981, considering that Coliseum Mall had a giant JCPenney just a five minute drive away. 

1982

Five people had to direct traffic at Coliseum Mall! 

Unfortunately, ProQuest did not have the 1983 paper. Which I’m so mad about because I was born in 1983. 

1984

Back when there was traffic on Mercury Blvd. Also, can’t you imagine a giant six kid family coming out of that giant van in the parking lot?

1985

1985′s coverage was half-rear ended. It’s truly bizarre to me to picture Newmarket North being busy. By the time my first real memories begin in 1988, 1989, I never remembered the mall being “busy”. 

1986

Okay, so I had no clue that Sears was still selling real fur coats in their stores in 1986. I didn’t think Sears old fur coats all, even in the catalogs at this point. Miller & Rhoads had an on site fur vault at their Newmarket location. I wonder why those ladies weren’t picketing that.

1987

How could I forget 1987?! That was the year that the next town over, Newport News got their own mall: Patrick Henry Mall. Although in the beginning things seemed awfully slow according to this article.

Check out the Fisher Price vacuum cleaner a couple is buying at the Children’s Palace toy store at Coliseum Mall. I had one of those! 

1988

As I said earlier, my earliest memories begin in 1988, 1989. My parents did NOT go to Coliseum Mall back then, citing that it was always so crowded. So I have no memories of that mall until the mid 90s.

Nintendo Computer Games

1989

Wendy just wanted the 106 fm Wild Money Man. 

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May 8, 2017

So I just found out the Kmart in Hampton closed … last year

Filed under: dead stores,Hampton,Kmart — Anita @ 8:24 pm

I completely missed the bus on this one. And this was a big one! I’ve been really out of the loop lately with my Hampton stuff. I rarely go out there these days.

This is really spergy, but for years I’ve had this dream where I’m driving down Mercury Blvd, and I look over and Kmart is gone, and I’m like “wha?”. Turns out it happened for real today. It’s been closed for almost a year, I completely missed the article on Daily Press (.pdf).
KMart (Hampton, VA 1988)

This is a pic my mom took back in 1988. This was back when the marchers for the Christmas parade would meet up at KMart. Now everybody just marches through the Peninsula Town Center.

April 29, 2016

2 pics of the closed Macys in Hampton

Filed under: "coliseum mall",dead stores,Hampton — Anita @ 9:56 pm

A comment I screened last night with inaccurate information about the Peninsula Town Center reminded me that I forgot to post these. I took these almost a month ago. I went to buy a pair of shoes at Sneakers in the Town Center and rolled by Macys to take two last shots:
Macys, Hampton, VA Closed March 2016

The person who made the inaccurate comment thought that this was a brand new building, it’s not — It was built as a Thalhimers in the early 1970s.

Macys, Hampton, VA, Closed

I just read rhat First Watch, a brunch kind of place is planning on opening soon at the town center. Noodles and Co. is coming soon as well.

February 2, 2016

Kroger to anchor $60M renovation of Hampton shopping center

Filed under: dead stores,Hampton — Anita @ 11:56 am

I just found this out while dillydallying on the Daily Press’ webpage. It’s a miracle, you guys, a miracle.  This place has been dead since ’99:

 

One of the oldest shopping centers in Hampton’s Coliseum Central District is set for a $60 million overhaul pending the final sale of the property.

Hampton development officials announced plans Monday to redevelop the Riverdale Plaza Shopping Center, which includes plans for a new 123,000-square-foot Kroger Marketplace grocery store to help anchor the project.

At Home, a national home décor and furniture store based in Plano, Texas, is also set to anchor the retail center at 1072 W. Mercury Blvd. with a 91,000-square-foot store, company officials announced last week.

Augusta, Ga.-based Southeastern Development Associates would maintain and manage the retail center once the sale of the property closes, said Southeastern Development Associates President Mark Senn.

Senn said officials plan to rename the aging center Riverpointe.

All parties involved in the final transaction, including Kroger, had not reached a final agreement on the property sale by press time Monday evening.

 

 

January 6, 2016

Macys at old Coliseum Mall Location to Close

Filed under: "coliseum mall",dead stores,Hampton — Anita @ 8:26 pm

Macys at the former Coliseum Mall

(2007)

This didn’t surprise me at all. It’s an old location, the parking lot is never busy on Saturdays, and the store didn’t have a MAC counter.

Macys, Hampton, VA
(2010)

Gigantor Hecht's (Coliseum Mall, Hampton, VA)

(2005)

I’ve never shopped in this Macys. I go to the one in Colonial Heights for the Calvin Klein plus size dress selection, or the one in Newport News for their MAC counter.

Macys closing at the old Coliseum Mall

Macy’s plans to close three stores in Hampton Roads, including its store at Peninsula Town Center, by early spring, the company announced today.

The closure of the 173,000-square-foot store at Peninsula Town Center will affect 109 employees, according to a Wednesday news release.

The closure of stores at Military Circle Mall in Norfolk and Chesapeake Square in Chesapeake will affect 164 employees, according to the announcement.

Macy’s said it closed four stores last year and plans to close 36 more stores, including six in Virginia, over the next few months. Final clearance sales at those stores begin Jan. 11.

About 3,000 positions will be affected nationwide, the company reported.

Other stores closing in Virginia are: Virginia Center Commons in Glen Allen and the main store and furniture store in Regency Square in Richmond.

Macys Regency Square Mall, Richmond, va

(2010)

I’ve been to Regency Square a few times, their makeup department is upstairs which is strange. Several of my dreams have taken place up there.

October 24, 2015

Look Back: Christmas shopping – Daily Press

A long-standing holiday tradition – shopping!

Source: Look Back: Christmas shopping – Daily Press

September 5, 2015

“Newmarket Theatre ’65 time capsule to be opened” (Daily Press, 9/5/2015)

Filed under: dead stores,Hampton,newmarket fair mall,newspaper clippings — Anita @ 10:57 pm

Newmarket Theater '65 time capsule to be opened.

(more…)

July 24, 2015

Drone Video of Dead Mall Called ‘Creepy’

Filed under: dead stores — Anita @ 1:19 am

YouTube user Mike Purks posted the eerie video June 25, which combines video shot with a GoPro camera while walking through the empty, dusty hallways with soaring drone footage around the exterior. The video is accompanied by music from the “Nightmare on Elm Street” horror film.
Link to video

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