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.
  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.
  6. Brown, Warren, and Thomas Lippman. “Woolworth Will Shut Down All 336 Woolco Discount Stores.” Washington Post, September 25, 1982.
  7. “Woolco’s Quit-Business Sale Drawing Crowds in 40 States,” November 23, 1982.
  8. “Bradlee’s Won’t Open Stores on Peninsula” Daily Press, January 4, 1983. 

April 19, 2017

At Home opens in old Hills building

Filed under: Hampton,then & now — Anita @ 9:53 am 2017-04-14 16-30-22

PLANO, Texas, April 19, 2017 /PRNewswire/ —

Specialty retailer brings on-trend furniture and accessories for any style or budget

At Home Group Inc. (NYSE: HOME) will open its new Hampton location today, Wednesday, April 19, at 1072 W. Mercury Blvd. in the Riverdale Plaza Shopping Center.

The 91,000-square-foot home decor superstore, the sixth in Virginia, will offer more than 50,000 home decor items from furniture, rugs, art and housewares to tabletop, patio and seasonal items.

“We offer the widest selection of home decor items to fit any budget or style, from boho to luxe, modern to traditional,” said Constance Williams, At Home store director. “We welcome everyone to explore the store and find decorating inspiration to turn any house into a home.”

Shoppers will find new design ideas throughout the store, with room vignettes that are continually updated to showcase new trends and seasonal items. More than 400 new products are brought in each week to provide fresh inspiration.

Grand opening events include a ribbon-cutting at 9 a.m., Friday, April 28, with the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, followed by mystery gift card giveaways to the first 50 people in line during the grand opening celebration on Saturday, April 29.

The new retail destination brings 25 jobs to Hampton.

Old Riverdale Shopping Center, Hampton, VA

(my photo)

I am so excited that a store took a chance on opening in the old Hills building which was abandoned for 20 years. Hills closed in January of 1997.

August 8, 2014

New & new to me places

I don’t really leave the house too much anymore, so everything is new to me these days.

Mooyah veggie burger and side salad

MooYah, Hampton, VA 

The veggie burger on wheat was meh, too “beany” for my tastes. However, that side salad was amazing. Look how big it is! When I ordered the side salad, I thought it was going to be some dinky thing with one tomato slice and some iceberg. There’s mushrooms in that salad!  I was bad and got the MooYah sauce for dressing, which is like thousand island dressing.
Urban Outfitters, Norfolk

Urban Outfitters, Norfolk

Urban Outfitters, Norfolk, VA

This location is almost across the street from the California Pizza Company at MacArthur Center. It’s a three level old building, which I brought up here a couple of years ago. I swear they’ve kept the ancient cobwebs in the ceiling too! I visited this place on my birthday back in June.  I bought some stickers and an Adventure Time book, oh and these amazing Bart Simpson socks:
Birthday 2014

(I haven’t worn the Bart socks yet D:, and no I don’t know why UO thought it was cool to make stickers that say “stay drunk”…)
Birthday 2014

Lush, Norfolk, VA 

This location opened up almost 2 years ago? I have never been into Lush before, but I’ve been on their website to window shop a few times. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this was in the old Starbucks before they moved to a kiosk on the first level. It has that shape. There was so much stuff I wanted, but wow you have to take a loan out to buy more than two things at Lush, or Grav3yardgirl. I bought the Danger! Cosmetics to Go book, about the company that later became Lush, and unless you are from the United Kingdom, where Cosmetics to Go originated, you really can’t relate to this book. I’ve already sold it on eBay. The other products I bought was the Wiccy Magic Muscles , and You Snap the Whip.


Crappy pic of MacArthur Center, Norfolk.
Sephora, Norfolk, VA

I didn’t take any pictures, or buy anything. Sephora came back to MacArthur Mall after a 15 year absence. Sephora had a location at the mall when it first opened in 1999, but I guess back then with the store coming to the States for the first time they didn’t have a good business plan for opening new stores. The location was gone after just a few months, I believe.

Zoë’s Kitchen, Williamsburg, VA (no photo)

I think when I came by the other day, it was during the opening week. They were giving away plastic reuseable cups, but they uh, didn’t wash them first, and my drink tasted like plastic. I had a Ruben sandwich and fruit as my side. On every table, there is their special vinaigrette salad, I put it on my fruit salad, and it was pretty good. Other than my sandwich, everything else on the menu was stuff I could just make at home. Even the tabbouleh salad.

Sticks, Williamsburg, VA (no photo)

My to go plate looked like a dog’s breakfast, and my rice was cold, and they gave me too much hummus.


Lush, short pump mall

Lush, Short Pump, VA 

This location just opened a few weeks ago, it had its official grand opening this past Saturday. I went by yesterday, and they still had a good stock, except for the fresh masks. I don’t think I’d spend money on those anyway, because they’re so perishable. It was crazy hot inside that day. This saleslady forced me to put my hand under the sink so she could wash my hand with the African Paradise, which I wouldn’t be able to afford even if I had a full time job, which I don’t right now. She was kinda pushy to say the least. I couldn’t afford much yesterday, like I said, I’m not Grav3yardgirl. I bought the Magnificent soap, a tea tree toner tab, the Greenwich, and the stepping stone.
Short Pump Mall work

Short Pump is currently getting some work done. Looks like they’re adding another elevator, and a crosswalk, because honesty time, it does take for-ever to get to one point of the mall to another.


Short Pump Town Center Lomography Fisheye

This is what the area looked like back in 2010.


July 13, 2014

The new Olive Garden logo

Filed under: then & now — Anita @ 5:00 pm



Screen shot 2014-07-13 at 5.55.31 PM


Did you see that new Olive Garden logo? It reminds me of the packaging for store brand organic food. Not a good look.

January 9, 2014

Dinosaur Dracula’s look at Hot Topic’s website from 1998

Filed under: then & now — Anita @ 6:25 pm

Buncha random t-shirts. Totally forgot about the Taco Bell dog. I escaped that fad unscathed, but this chihuahua really was a fashion kingpin back then. I can sorta see the appeal of a shirt that turned the dog into Che Guevara, but the one below it just looked like the fifth-tier prize in a Taco Bell instant winner game.

May 9, 2013

Razing For Revival: Mercury Shopping District Reborn From Rubble (Daily Press, August 23, 1999)

Razing For Revival: Mercury Shopping District Reborn From Rubble

1960s Mercury Plaza And Langley Square To Get More-modern Look
August 23, 1999|By FRED TANNENBAUM Daily Press

HAMPTON — Danny Shackelford and Kelly Jones deftly inserted their fingers and tools to fix videocassette recorders at the Langley Square repair shop that they work in off Mercury Boulevard. Outside, an electric saw screeched as it bit into a metal frame.

A little more than two miles west, the Mercury Plaza parking lot was occupied by unlikely vehicles – wrecking machines, including an excavator and pavement shredder. They’ve turned one wing of the old mall into fine rubble.

Langley Square and Mercury Plaza are separate places with different owners but with a common thread: Both 1960s-vintage malls are getting significant upgrades, giving them new lives along Hampton’s retail corridor. City officials said the refurbished malls would bolster the boulevard shopping district.

The work at Langley is having an effect.

“Business has gotten better. People are looking at the mall because of the work and see our signs,” Shackelford said Thursday. He repairs electronics at the Audio-Video Lab at Langley Square. “They used to just drive by.”

Once completed, the two refurbished malls will have a “tremendous impact” on Hampton’s shopping areas. It’s necessary to renovate them to keep them viable, said Kathy Grook, Hampton’s retail- development manager.

“Those centers are critical to our retail tax base,” she said. “We feel it’s very important that these renovations take place.”

The city has a program ready to help mall owners renovate their properties, in part through low- interest loans. The program is awaiting financing.

This summer, Mercury Plaza’s owners razed a building along its west side once occupied by a Farm Fresh grocery and other small shops. The supermarket had been vacant since a fire in 1997. Only a dry cleaners is left standing. Fashion Care Cleaners’ lease extends to December 31, 2000.

Mercury Plaza is owned by Mall Properties Inc. of New York, the owner of Coliseum Mall. Mercury Plaza General Manager Raymond Tripp said the site was being cleared to make it more attractive to a new tenant. Waiting for Farm Fresh fire-insurance claims to be settled has delayed site improvements about two years.

Rebuilding the grocery after the fire would have been expensive. “We thought it was more suitable to tear it down,” Tripp said.

A new tenant is not been signed, but Mall Properties is negotiating with potential occupants, Tripp said.

Eventually, Mall Properties wants to upgrade the exteriors of all Mercury Plaza stores, including Burlington Coat Factory, Circuit City and Home Quarters.

The Burlington store once housed a small mall that Tripp said was thought to be one of the Peninsula’s first.

“That site is a viable retail site and a good location,” Tripp said. “Those are the original structures that have served those neighborhoods well. We would like to come back with a retailer to support the neighborhood that has supported us so long.”

In addition to the Farm Fresh, the demolished building housed a music store and a beauty-supply store.

“We’re eager to renovate it and bring it up to standards,” Tripp said.

Langley Square is getting a complete face lift. A Food Lion supermarket and Family Dollar discount store are scheduled to open this fall.

There, a wooden tunnel leads to Audio-Video Lab’s front door, where Shackelford and Jones worked surrounded by VCRs, televisions and stereo equipment. Holding a soldering iron one minute and a cotton swab the next, Shackelford worked to bring new life to the VCR on his workbench.

The business owned by Bob McLain has seen some tough years, so the recent renovations are welcome. The construction even is attracting more customers, Shackelford said.

The Audio-Video Lab isn’t the only business making a go of it before and during the renovations, which started earlier this year. Ling Nam Asian restaurant, Vito’s Pizza, Fertitta’s Grill, a hair salon, and a coin laundry also remain open.

The new canopy over the sidewalk almost hides the blue-and-red neon “open” signs in many of their windows. Pallets of drywall sit where shoppers someday will stroll.

The mall’s landlord, John Katsias of Virginia Beach, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Jones, the Audio-Video Lab technician, said he was looking forward to sharing the mall with new tenants such as Food Lion.

“It’ll be nice having somewhere else to go for lunch,” he said.

Fred Tannenbaum can be reached at 247-4787 or by e-mail at


Burlington was shut down and moved to Coliseum Mall in 2003, and effectively killed Coliseum Mall because nobody wants a Burlington in their mall.

After Coliseum Mall was torn down in 2007, Burlington moved back into this EXACT spot (in a new building:

Screen shot 2013-05-09 at 11.38.55 PM

The last time Google maps drove by this site was in 2007, so the new Burlington Coat Factory wasn’t open yet, and the building was just finished.

June 17, 2012

From A.A. Adams to Urban Outfitters | |

Filed under: then & now — Anita @ 5:46 pm

From A.A. Adams to Urban Outfitters | |

From A.A. Adams to Urban Outfitters | |

January 5, 2011

Starbucks new logo, a preview.

Filed under: old packaging,Starbucks,then & now — Anita @ 8:40 pm


More info here. The dingbats who only go to starbucks for frappuchinos are like, “but I need words on the starbucks logo!” …

The new siren sorta reminds me of a network logo or a green cloud against a white sky.

November 13, 2010

Nouveau Cheap – “From the Vintage Vault”

Filed under: old packaging,then & now — Anita @ 5:07 pm

On a related note from the Cover Girl old Compacts post I made this summer, there is this category on this beauty blog, Nouveau Cheap of old cosmetics the author has found around her house.

October 4, 2010

New Belk Logo

Filed under: belk,signs,then & now — Anita @ 12:10 am

Oh dang that looks a lot better than what they’ve been using for the past billion years.



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