Friday, July 24, 2015

History of Random Retail and the Milestone of 5,000 Pictures

Well, this is quite the achievement. Today, I officially reached 5,000 pictures on my photostream and though I am no pro when it comes to taking pictures, I have seen where I have drastically improved from where I was when I first started back in 2012. And what a ride it has been, I've seen many 'faces' come and go on Flickr and I've also seen a bunch of newcomers recently hop on to the retail photography bandwagon. I also remember seeing two fellow bloggers on Flickr for the first time. Ironically, it was these two that inspired me to create a retail blog of mine as a celebration of my 5,000 picture milestone. 

And its no wonder why so many people joined on the fun since 2015 has definitely been a historical year in retail when you think about it. First, Deb announces bankruptcy, followed by Radioshack. Then Target announces CVS will take over its pharmacies. Now A&P, the historical supermarket chain, is the latest victim of bankruptcy. Not to mention the fact that Kmart and Sears keep closing stores, and will likely continue to do so until they cease to exist. 

Here's a little story of how I became interested in retail. The first ever pictures I ever took was of my local Kmart in Olean, NY. I soon followed about a week or so later by visiting the Wellsville location. Eventually, I found myself going a little further and further to take pictures. (It should be noted though that I had visited some of these further away places before I took pictures.) I remember reaching the 200 picture limit for non-pro members that was in place at the time and I was a little frustrated because I would delete pictures to allow for the newer ones I had taken. Thankfully, it was around that time that Flickr gave 1 terabyte of picture space to everybody for free. That encouraged me to take more pictures.

As I've said before it was because of the dead Warren Mall that got me interested in pictures outside of Kmart. I thought it was weird to see such an empty mall and the pictures I took got the attention of fellow Flickr users at the time. I only had maybe two or three people following me at the time. After a couple months of no pictures, I returned with a bang. Pictures from Williamsport, PA and surrounding areas gave even more of a boost in attention. Then came parts of Erie, PA and Jamestown, NY on a separate trip. 

Eventually I started to get more and more followers and soon enough I became one of the people to expect retail photos from on a regular basis. I got to thank I_dawg2000, MJBarnes and Nicholas Eckhart for being with me for quite some time now. And though Bradley Memphis isn't active on Flickr, I still have to thank him as well. And if you are new or a longtime viewer that I didn't mention, thanks for taking an interest in my pictures! I got lots more to come, so don't go anywhere!

Unless any news happens, the next blog post should occur on the first week of August.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Former Kmart #9529 (Dead Warren Mall Part Two)

One of the hardest things to take as a fan of Kmart is to see one of your local stores close. (Which might start to become a little more common if the 'missing' stores do end up closing.)

This store was probably one of the top 5 stores that I most frequented, but obviously this is now longer the case. It was rather special to me because it was located as a part of a mall, something of which you don't see a certain competitor doing. There are still a few mall Kmart locations left, but they are becoming a bit more rare. This Kmart opened as a smaller store and anchor to the Warren Mall and it saw a major remodel and expansion in 1992 for the 'Big K' format. It hung on for a couple years after the mall itself lost pretty much all of its tenants. Although its lease was until 2015, Sears Holdings ultimately made the decision to close by late 2014 citing the usual 'costing-cutting measures.' This was the first major closing after the Sears/Kmart merger to affect me directly. Although the Kmart bankruptcy did close a few stores in my area, one in particular being the Bradford store, I was to young to remember it like I would today. Don't get me wrong though, I do remember going to the Bradford Kmart a few times and stopping by once during its liquidation sale, but it was mainly toys that I remember.

Kmart in 2012.
Mall Entrance back in 2012.

I took pictures of this store before its closing in 2012, but you can find them on Flickr photostream here. These pictures may not be of the best quality though. All photos from this post can be found on Flickr via that link as well. Here's a few more pictures I took literally just 2 weeks before it was announced that this store would be closing.

The typical curtain used to cover up space that Kmart uses when they do not want customers in an area anymore. This was previously a Little Caesars pizza station.
You're not fooling anyone, Kmart.
Pretty cool Kmart balloon. Ironically, it says 'Now Hiring' on the other side as you will see a later picture.

The garden shop was added on when this store expanded in 1992. You don't normally see this type of signage for a Kmart garden shop.

Nice little vintage bench still being used before the store closed.
The following pictures are during this store's liquidation. I can't guarantee that I will visit all of the liquidation sales for Kmart and/or Sears in my area, but I'll try to do what I can. This store was special to me, so I had to visit at least once before it closed forever.

This Kmart was hiring even though it was closing.
Ironically, a smiley-faced balloon was at this Kmart's store closing and it was not here before. I imagine the Warren Walmart must be pretty happy.
Former cafe tables for sale.

Former Cafe/Little Caesars. The curtain was removed.
Former Pharmacy.

The obligatory signage for no new layaway contracts.

Mostly empty or empty aisles.

Referring customers to shop online at and/or
Goodbye, Warren Kmart.
We regret having to close your store. It's because our CEO doesn't know how to run a retail chain like a business. It's more or less his personal pieces of real estate.
Well, that finishes up the dead Warren Mall pictures, for now. I may return in the future and get some shots of the now closed Kmart as well as some of mall itself.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Mysterious Case of the Missing Kmart Locations

Taking a break from the Warren Mall, (Part two will be up later during the week.) I give you a rather interesting mystery. Kmart has 'erased' over 100 stores this week from their website. Stores missing are all over the country, so this post could affect you as well. Before I continue, I just want to set one thing straight, just because the stores are no longer listed, it doesn't mean they are closing for sure. These 'vanishing' stores could be glitch on the website's part or it could mean business. With Sears Holdings, you can never tell for sure. Earlier this year, a store in Maryland was taken off the website and within a month or two it announced it was closing, so keep your eyes out for any news. The thing that concerns me is that over 100 stores disappeared and that could easily mean another round of mass closings around the country. Doing some research, I've uncovered the following stores to be 'missing' from the Twin Tiers blog coverage area.

Du Bois, PA
Dickson City (Scranton), PA
Shomakin Dam, PA
Cheektowaga, NY
Jamestown/Lakewood, NY
Victor, NY
Watertown, NY
'K's in orange are the locations missing, while the red 'K's locations are shown on the website store locator as of this blog post.
Some of these I've visited in the past, some I have (or at least had if these stores don't close) plans to visit. There are more in closings in PA, but they are outside my coverage area. I didn't come across any other missing NY locations, but I was really only looking through my blog coverage area. 

For all three PA locations, it probably comes down to the fact that they don't seem to much business (at least when I visited these three they weren't very busy and Dickson City isn't really visible from the main road because it sits on a hill. Both Du Bois and Shomakin Dam were the pretty average Kmart. Not very busy, older store and no special departments other than a pharmacy.

The NY stores would likely close for real estate reasons, especially Victor. Victor sits right across the road from a major upscale mall near Rochester. I can't exactly pinpoint reasons for Watertown or Cheektowaga because I have not been to these two stores. I would guess real estate as they are both near major regional malls as well, though the Watertown mall isn't as major as the other two malls. I would assume Jamestown would be a combination of both a lack of business and real estate, as it sits on the major retail strip for the city, but it doesn't seem nearly as busy as other locations I've stepped foot in.

If all these 'missing' locations do end up closing, we are inching ever so closer to the point where you may no longer see Kmart and Sears.... which isn't much of a surprise.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Dead Warren Mall (Part One)

NOTE: The following pictures are some of my earliest pictures I had ever taken of retail. This mall is what got me interested in retail outside of Kmart. At the time, I was only taking pictures of Kmart locations, and I was still relatively new to Flickr. But it was the emptiness of the mall caught my attention to the point where I had to take some pictures. I apologize if the quality of some of the photos aren't the greatest. I think I'm going to try to re-visit here once again in the future and if I do, I'll be sure to take some photos of its current state and perhaps do another blog post.

Welcome to a dead mall. Literally. This is perhaps the deadest (if that is even a word) mall in my area. There is one other dead mall in Bradford, but lately it has seen a resurgence in activity with some retail making it more of a plaza and with health services behind the stores. (I'll do a post at a later date.) But the other fact about that mall is that it doesn't have any public access or it didn't, where as the one I'm about to show you does. 

Before I begin I have two maps to show you. One is made by my Flickr contact Bobby P, and the newer is from myself with the permission of Bobby. 

Photo credit to Bobby P.

Mall outline via Bobby P.'s photo.

As you can see, things really went down hill. Exactly why? Well, the blame falls on this Walmart. Around 2006 or so, Walmart built a location in Warren and a plaza followed soon afterwards literally a 1/4 mile south of the Warren Mall. A lot of the stores that were previously in the mall moved to the plaza or just closed. The mall hung on for a couple years with a few stores still, but one by one, they started to close. In 2012, the mall was still in pretty decent shape because it had all of its anchors. The following pictures are from 2012.

Most of the parking here would be for the then open Kmart.

Kmart's entrances.
First Sights upon Entering.

Goodwill (Previously Fashion Bug) & a former Foot Locker

Center court

A look down the Big Lots wing.
Label Shopper (Previously CVS/Dollar General)

The following pictures are newer:

Looking down the mall at the Kmart entrance.

Now for some exterior pictures. These are mixed from all of my trips.

JCPenney, then Big Lots. Currently vacant.

Now only a total of four stores inside the actual mall remain and some more service-like establishments have started to open. The year 2014 was when the mall suffered major blows, losing two of its three anchors, those being Big Lots and Kmart. Only Bon-Ton remains as an anchor, but you have to wonder for how long.

Anchor History:
JCPenney to Big Lots, now empty
Kmart (opened with the mall), soon to be empty space
Bon Ton (opened with the mall)

There are rumors that Durham's Sports is interested in opening a store at the mall. 
The second part of this post will focus on the closing of the Kmart at this mall.

That's it for now, see you in the next post! I think that I will take a couple of days off to possibly a week though. I don't want to post too much too fast.