Thursday, October 23, 2014

Former Montgomery Ward; Pasadena Flea Market

The Pasadena Montgomery Ward at 2222 Spencer Highway opened in 1966 and has two floors and an attached auto center. 
Here are some facts about this retail relic.
The sign for the store can be seen in the movie Urban Cowboy. 
This store contained a Bargain Center that was moved from the Northline Mall Montgomery Ward in 1990. 
The store was mentioned in a news article about the company bankruptcy but survived the 1997 closures. The store closed in March 2001 with the rest of the company after 35 years in business. 
Here is a thread on the HAIF forum discussing Montgomery Ward stores in the Houston area. 
The store was redeveloped into a flea market in the mid 2000's, but the second floor is closed to the public. The inside of the store still has most of the original paint, floors, and even signage from the Montgomery Ward days. The flea market has gotten smaller since it originally opened with new developments taking store space. The Pasadena and Palms Center Wards stores are from the same era and both are now flea markets. 

It is amazing that this sign is still up in the middle of an active flea market. 
The old floor is mostly intact throughout the store. This I believe is part of the former auto section.
This store has a second floor so one can only guess how it looks up there now since the ceiling tiles are stained on the first floor. 
The next three photos are from either the Boy's or Men's department of the store. This whole section of the flea market has now been walled off for a new development with an outside entrance only. 
The exit near where Women's fashions were once located. The wall color remains the same as before but the "Gracias Por Su Patrocinio" is a new sign. 
Most of the former Montgomery Ward stickers are still on all of the entrance doors around the building. This store was open long enough to advertise Wards.com on the bottom of the right door. Notice the MW door handle as well. 
Here is the view of the store from the Spencer Highway entrance.
The view from South Shaver.
The attached auto center.
A close up of the Wards.com stickers on one of the entrance doors. 
Some fixtures from the old store can be found at some of the flea market stores and in this back corner of the flea market. Notice the Associates Only sign from Montgomery Ward on the right door. 
More entrance doors there are several around the building. 
A wide view from across the street. As you can see from this picture, the second floor did not stretch across the entire building. The store may have been expanded at some point, but it is difficult to tell since booths are covering up most of the space inside of the store. 

187 comments:

  1. These are wonderful pictures, thanks for sharing them. The pictures are very detailed. A grand opening commercial for this store featuring an exterior rendering of the store in 1967 is available online, but I can't find it at the moment. I'll post a link to it if I ever find it again. That commercial is certainly a real gem. The flea market looks to be in pretty poor condition inside with the stained ceiling and everything. Hopefully it is just the case of a leaky pipe between the floors and not some roof problem that is leaking through the top floor.

    It’s interesting to see another former Montgomery Ward that still has the M over W door handles. Those were certainly one of the most famous and personally memorable features of Montgomery Ward stores. It’s also interesting to still see some Montgomery Ward signage in the store and on the doors. I wonder if the current Montgomery Ward website is enjoying the free plug. I wonder if any of the flea market shoppers get confused about the Montgomery Ward signage.

    I wonder if this Montgomery Ward got all the new department signage, paint, and flooring that other Montgomery Wards got in their last few years like the Willowbrook Mall and Memorial City Mall Wards. I don’t see any of those features specifically in these pictures, but it’s possible that it is there and it isn’t visible in the store. I found this link from October 2000 indicating that Jupiter Realty purchased the property and planned a renovation within a year. I don't know if that meant that Wards was going to renovate the store or if Wards was planning on leaving and the new owner would then renovate the store.

    Some of the replies on that HAIF thread are interesting. It sounds like a lot of shoppers had negative experiences at Montgomery Ward similar to the stories we hear about Sears. Then again, people write a lot more bad stories about auto center repairs than good stories regardless of what the store is. My experiences shopping at Montgomery Ward were good. Sure, sometimes the salesmen would push extended warranties and things like that, but I never saw them being excessively pushy. In fact, for a while in the 1980s and 1990s I really liked Montgomery Ward much better than Sears because I viewed some Sears salesmen as being somewhat arrogant.

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    1. Ever since starting up this blog a few years ago, I have learned to be more observant when looking at and into redeveloped retail buildings. You never know what you will find such as the old signage and other things that I have found in other retail explorations.
      I would have to say I did not have any experiences that I can remember when a salesperson pushed me at Montgomery Ward. Sears on the other hand still continues to push things at the checkout, but lately that has gotten better since not all cashiers will bug you.
      This Montgomery Ward did not appear to have any updates on the first floor, but who knows what is on the second floor. I would not be surprised if the Electric Avenue is still up there and intact.

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  2. I’ll start off with the bad news. I kept trying to find that Pasadena Montgomery Ward grand opening commercial on YouTube, but I could not find it. I found a link that had the URL to the video, but it seems that the video, along with the other vintage commercials Channel 39 uploaded, have been deleted. Unfortunately, I guess we’ll never see that gem again.

    It is interesting to look at redeveloped properties to see if there are any vestiges of the past remaining. Some retailers do a really good job scrubbing the past off a building (of course, sometimes retailers will paint over everything before they leave a building), but others don’t seem to care as much. Often times smaller, local businesses don’t even try to hide who used to operate out of the building. One interesting redevelopment story was just posted to the Dead and Dying Retail blog the other day. The blog covered a Wal-Mart in Alabama that operated out of a former billboard style facade Kmart. Wal-Mart did a pretty good job erasing Kmart elements from the inside of the store, but the outside looked just like a Kmart.

    You’re probably right that there are even more detailed Montgomery Ward vestiges left upstairs like the Electric Ave. perhaps. If I remember correctly, a lot of the renovations that Montgomery Ward did at the Willowbrook Mall location in the few of years before the chain closed was mostly on the first floor. There may have been some renovations to the 2nd floor too, but perhaps the changes were just more visible downstairs in the clothing and housewares departments in particular. As far as I can remember, the Electric Ave. never really changed much since the time that Wards started using that concept, although I remember reading an article saying that Wards was trying some new layouts for Electric Ave. in their last year. I don’t know if any Houston stores got that upgrade.

    Sears pushes their Shop Your Way Rewards program pretty heavily if someone checks out without giving a phone number, but otherwise they aren’t too pushy these days. I remember when Sears appliance salesmen (and in some other departments too, but not all) would be arrogant when asked questions about products and pricing because they seemed to assume that one would buy from them regardless of how hard they tried. Also, I can remember shopping for a color inkjet printer at the Sears computer department (back when such a thing existed) in 1993. Color printers were still fairly new at the time and cost over $500. Obviously we were going to do our research before we brought anything. I remember the Sears salesmen asking us not to “play” with the demos. None of the other stores we shopped at had any issues with us doing our homework. It seemed like the implication was that the demos were for the salesmen to play around with, not the customers. Maybe they assumed that I didn’t know what I was doing, but if so, it’s because they didn’t know what they were doing. Oh well. Eventually we purchased the printer from the FM 1960 and I-45 CompUSA during their grand opening sale (they were giving away 50 free diskettes with the purchase of the printer we wanted and back then that was worth $50). AFAIK, that was the only time that I waited in line for a store to open other than a few Black Friday visits in recent times.

    Sears isn’t arrogant like that now in my experience. Perhaps they learned their lesson when Montgomery Ward closed. It did seem like things changed a bit after that. I always enjoyed shopping at Montgomery Ward and I don’t remember feeling any sales pressure or anything like that. We purchased a lot of electronics on sale from Montgomery Ward and I don’t ever remember the salesmen trying to talk us into buying something more expensive. I always remember the Montgomery Ward salespeople being helpful in calling other locations to try to find out of stock items at other stores.

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    1. I read the Huntsville Kmart/ Walmart article as well. I was very surprised to see Walmart take over a Kmart location without doing much to change the exterior of the building besides a paint job. I wonder if there are any other stores where the same thing happened or maybe a Kmart taking over a former Walmart location.
      Sears has taken much more of a hands off approach to sales tactics lately when checking out. I have only had a couple of cashiers push credit cards when making a sale. The warranties seem to be what they are pushing now even with smaller items. The computer section of the electronics section is a shell of what they used to have before. They still have a few laptops and tablets for sale, and some accessories but not much else.
      It is telling that many Montgomery Ward locations are still sitting empty for years after closing. You can compare what will happen if Sears closes a significant amount of locations in the future to what happened with Montgomery Ward stores. San Jacinto has been empty and Greenspoint has been mostly empty for the past 13 years since closing. Many of the Sears locations are not desirable except for locations at Willowbrook, Baybrook, Deerbrook, and maybe the Midtown Sears store for redevelopment into townhomes.

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    2. Actually, the Sears on North Shepherd in Garden Oaks is a pretty desirable location. One of the old-time stand-alone Sears stores, it sits on a large parcel of land with lots of parking and entrances all around. With the renaissance of the Garden Oaks and Oak Forest neighborhoods, this Sears store could eventually become a shining star, if the Sears name doesn't jinx it. One of the great features of these old stores was the Candy Counter with its smell of freshly popped popcorn wafting through the store. Do any of you know if North Shepherd store still has a candy counter?

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    3. Sadly there is no candy counter at the store anymore. It is not much different from most Sears stores in the mall except for the retro design features. Sears should have never gotten away from the cursive red logo!

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  3. Part I:

    I’m going to put my replies to your latest replies on the Blockbuster post here since that post is getting close to the 200 reply point that seems to cause problems. I’ll reply to what you wrote here first. I’m not really aware of any Wal-Marts at the moment that were converted into a Kmart. I’ve heard a rumor that the newer ex-Kmart in Texas City started out as a Woolco, then became a Wal-Mart, then became a Venture, and finally became a Kmart before it was converted to non-retail use. I’m not sure if that is correct though because that is just a rumor that I’ve heard. I am aware of a Wal-Mart in Kansas that was converted into a Sears. I don’t know what the Sears looks like inside, but Sears did a very good job making the Wal-Mart look like a typical mid-to-late 1990s Sears. I’m surprised that Wal-Mart did not do more to make the Huntsville ex-Kmart look less like a Kmart. Perhaps they planned on that store being a temporary location until something else was built, but then maybe it lasted longer than expected.

    I can’t really recall Sears pushing their credit cards at the check outs in more recent times. I know that they do push their Shop Your Way Rewards program if someone isn’t a member, but it’s not like they are insistent that people sign up if they say no. Sears does ask if the buyer wants a warranty with certain electronic items (and appliances too probably), but I don’t think that they ask as much as they used to. I brought a digital camera from Sears a few months back and I also got a letter in the mail a few weeks later saying that it wasn’t too late to buy a warranty. That was the first time that I’ve seen that from any store and I thought that it was a bit weird, but I wasn’t bothered by it. I know that some others are more sensitive about those types of things though.

    Many former Montgomery Ward locations across the country remain vacant or underutilized. It seems like Montgomery Ward had more prime locations in Houston than they had elsewhere (though certainly not all their Houston locations were prime locations by 2001). That said, they did locations at Willowbrook, Baybrook, and Memorial City Malls that would all be prime locations. It seems like Wards had a lot of locations elsewhere in the US that were in B or C type malls by 2001 (like the San Jacinto and Greenspoint Mall locations in Houston) and so obviously those were hard to redevelop.

    I actually think that many of Sears’ Houston locations are in prime or near prime locations. I would consider the Memorial City, Willowbrook, Baybrook, and North Shepherd locations to be prime spots. The Deerbrook Mall and Midtown locations are in what I would consider to be near prime locations. The Westwood Mall location may also be considered prime or near prime, but it’s a little harder to say about that one. The locations that would be hard to redevelop would be the Mall of the Mainland, West Oaks Mall, San Jacinto Mall, and Pasadena Town Square locations.

    That is interesting that the Metairie Kmart property was purchased. I would say that it isn’t a good sign for the future of that store, but then again, who knows. Sometimes developers buy a property and have big plans, but the big plans never pan out. I would guess that at least one of the Metairie Kmarts will close, but who knows. It seems like many of the Sears and Kmarts that are closing are leased locations and not company owned locations.

    That is interesting that Kmart is running a promotion on the Xbox One. Perhaps everyone has the same promotion, I’m not really following video game sales these days. Perhaps gamers will give more consideration to Kmart. I don’t know about Kmart, but I think most of the people who buy games at Sears are very casual gamers or people buying gifts for others (perhaps grandkids or something). I’m certainly interested in seeing any pictures of Kmart electronics departments that you have.

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    1. It sounds like I will have to take a look at the Chron archives and see if I can figure out the "new Kmart" Texas City store history.
      I could see the Memorial City Sears location getting snapped up quickly by Nordstrom or a replacement for the Town and Country Neiman Marcus that never happened at Memorial City. Willowbrook and the rest are a little harder to figure out, but some of those stores are likely to be demolished if they close. I am hoping some of the negativity surrounding Walmart and Target lately can help Sears out, but Sears and especially Kmart have a lot of journalists predicting the company will fold in a couple of years. The perception of the company and the age of their stores has really hurt them in the past 5 years.
      The Kmart in Metiairie that was sold is a prime location that would be good for a high rise hotel. It has traffic light access to one of the busiest commercial corridors in the city and it is close to I-10. There are several mid and high rise hotels in that area near the site so I can see this happening. There is also a huge shortage of land on Veterans for any new large developments.
      I have at least 6 new Kmarts on the pipeline for new articles. Houma, Gretna (now closed), Metairie Vets #1, Metairie Vets #2, Gonzales, and Kileen.

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    2. That particular chain of stores (Woolco/Venture/etc.) has been mentioned on HAIF. That's probably where you heard it.

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    3. I have been fortunate to have visted many of those older stores in my lifetime such as Woolco, Venture, Zayre, United, Leonard Krower, and several other regional chains from Louisiana such as Gaylords. There were so many back in the day, lol.

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    4. Part I:

      I was able to do some research about the history of the "newer" ex-Kmart in Texas City and I found some very interesting information. I can now confirm that the store used to be a Woolco, Wal-Mart, Venture, Kmart, BP office, and now a Marathon office, but the store's history is actually more complex than that even. I don't know if the building was anything prior to Woolco's opening, but it seems that the Woolco opened around September 1973 and lasted until (or around) the chain's demise about 9 years later.

      Wal-Mart moved into the store in 1983 then. The store would have been rather large for a Wal-Mart of that time so I don't know if they used all the space, but maybe so. A Wal-Mart in Dickinson opened around the same time. In 1991, Wal-Mart decided to open a new store in the Mainland Crossing shopping center near the Mall of the Mainland that would consolidate the Texas City and Dickinson locations. Wal-Mart then decided to open one of their Bud's Discount City concepts (a Wal-Mart clearance store basically) in the ex-Woolco Texas City Wal-Mart. This was controversial according to my research as Dickinson made a strong push to have the Bud's located in the Dickinson ex-Wal-Mart. Anyway, I don't think the Bud's concept lasted too long and the ex-Dickinson Wal-Mart became a Sussan's Furniture store eventually before becoming vacant as it is now. The Mainland Crossing Wal-Mart, along with a Sam's Club, moved just across I-45 to La Marque at some point in recent years.

      The Texas City store didn't stay vacant for too long as Venture moved in when they came into the Houston area in 1994. Venture decided to close Texas City store in 1996 due to poor sales, but three months later Venture decided to keep the Texas City store as a clearance center. Venture then closed and sold the Texas City location, along with many other Houston locations, to Kmart in 1997.

      The "older" Texas City ex-Kmart across the street from the ex-Woolco Venture opened on November 13, 1980 according to my research. This is odd as Kmart decided to move their store from a newer built store to the older ex-Woolco building (thus, the "older" ex-Kmart is also the "newer" ex-Kmart in a way), but I guess the ex-Woolco is a larger building. So, anyway, the building was a Kmart from 1997 until Kmart's departure from the Houston area in 2002-3 (I'm pretty sure at least, I think the Texas City Kmart lasted until then). At some point after that it was converted into offices for BP until BP sold their Texas City operations to Marathon Petroleum in 2012. Then it became Marathon offices as it is now. I don't know if the building had any tenants between Kmart and BP.

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    5. Part II:

      So, anyway, the ex-Woolco store has had quite a history. There aren't too many buildings that have had such a history with so many retailers (much less one type of retailers like a discount store) over the years. Interestingly, I don't think any of the retailers lasted more than ten years in the building. Perhaps the Woolco and Kmart did well, but only went down when the company itself went down (or decided to leave the area as a whole like Kmart). Obviously the Venture did not do well perhaps even compared to other Houston Ventures. It's hard to say if the Wal-Mart did well or not. I think the Mainland Crossing location is a better location for a consolidated Dickinson/Texas City store though so maybe that was their thinking.

      The ex-Woolco shopping center appeared to be a baseball field of some kind before the retail developments. I'm not sure when the rest of the shopping center that the Marathon building is in opened, but I did visit the Kroger there once some time back and it appears to be a heavily renovated store that was probably a newer style greenhouse store at one point based on the layout. I didn't really pay too much attention to the store details during my visit as I was there to actually buy something. Anyway, the grocery store was probably built in the 1980s if it was built as a newer style greenhouse Kroger. Maybe it was built around the time that Wal-Mart moved into the ex-Woolco, but that is just a guess. Then again, maybe there was a different store there first that Kroger renovated into a greenhouse style layout or maybe Kroger was their earlier than the 1980s and had renovations done to the store over the years. The shopping center has a RadioShack and a thrift store in it (plus there is a Goodwill across the street) in addition to the Kroger so it is still a useful shopping center to me.

      The "older" ex-Kmart (the 1980-1997 one) is still vacant and well-preserved as a mansard slice facade ex-Kmart. That may change soon though as HEB is rumored to own the land and it is rumored that HEB will tear down the ex-Kmart as soon as this year to make room for a new HEB store (HEB has an older store down Palmer Highway). Nothing is official yet AFAIK so we'll see what happens.

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    6. Here's another update about the Texas City former Woolco, Wal-Mart, Venture, and Kmart building. The Galveston Daily News has a story today about how Marathon Petroleum will leave their offices at the building later on this year when their lease ends. Thus, the building will become vacant again unless someone else leases the place. The reason why Marathon is leaving is because they are moving those offices back to near the refinery in Texas City. This is interesting because BP (who operated the offices and the refinery until a couple of years ago when Marathon took them over) moved the offices away from the refinery in order to increase safety after the Texas City BP refinery explosion about 10 years ago.

      Of course, the big retail news out of Texas City this week is the news that Jerome Karam is planning on purchasing the Mall of the Mainland with the intent on reopening the mall. That story is discussed in the Mall of the Mainland closing post.

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    7. I will consolidate the above three posts into this reply.
      The Texas City Woolco was one failed retail venture 'no pun intended' after another. Even offices can't last in that space. I am not sure there are any buildings in the Houston area that had that many retail uses in such a short time. Restaurants are a different story though. Thanks for digging and figuring out the history of this building as it is an interesting one indeed.

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    8. I know for a fact that Bud's Discount City was also in the former Dickinson Walmart that became Sussan Furniture, and is now vacant. I remember going there as a kid and noticing how the prices on some items were 50% off the same item you could get at Walmart.

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    9. I didn't realize that Wal-Mart also opened up a Bud's in Dickinson as well. I didn't see that in my research. I wonder if Dickinson's petitions worked or if Dickinson offered some incentives to Wal-Mart to get the Bud's.

      I shopped at the Tomball Bud's Discount City back when it was briefly open during the same timeframe. They did have some interesting bargains in there. It was unfortunate that the store didn't last longer. I do remember that the store wasn't really overly organized and they had some odd ball items for sale like a lone White-Westinghouse refrigerator. Perhaps that came from a Sam's Club store.

      I did some research about Texas City retail in the last few decades and the failures at the ex-Woolco are far from the only retail failures in Texas City. It seems that Randall's opened a Texas City store in the early 1990s across 1764 from the ex-Woolco that only lasted for a few months before it closed. The store became one of the early Albertson's stores in the Houston area and perhaps it had better luck than the Randall's, but obviously it didn't last too long (oddly enough, Randall's/Safeway and Albertson's have some common ownership at the moment). That location is now split between a Dollar Tree and a Goodwill store and both seem to be doing decent business. I go to the Goodwill somewhat often as there is a thrift across the street in the ex-Woolco shopping center too. The building still has the distinctive Randall's look on the outside.

      There is also a vacant former Minimax grocery store down Palmer Highway a little bit from the ex-Woolco that was briefly a Heilig-Meyers Furniture store in the 1990s apparently. Heilig-Meyers was a very large furniture chain, but I don't remember them having a big presence in Houston so that was somewhat remarkable.

      Of course, no post about Texas City retail failures can be complete without mentioning the Mall of the Mainland. The rumors of it opening again have been discussed on the Mall of the Mainland closing post, but I did find something interesting in my research. It seems that Mr. Herring stated in an interview before the mall opened that JCPenney had some interest in the mall. I'm not really sure what that meant, but perhaps some of their money went into the development of it. If so, JCPenney was clearly not as successful in the mall development game (in Houston at least) as Sears/Homart.

      Are there any other interesting Texas City (or related areas) retail stories worth sharing? There just seems to be so many odd stories of retail failures down there. The rumored new HEB has some people excited there I'm guessing, but that also means that the old HEB will become yet another vacant Texas City retail site. We'll see if HEB is more successful in that ex-Kmart shopping center than Randall's and Albertson's was.

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    10. Here is yet another update about the former Kmarts in Texas City. I went to do some thrifting in Texas City this week and I noticed that the original mansard slice facade Kmart from 1980 has indeed been demolished. I figured that the demolition would be coming soon when I saw the fence go up around it, but now it is officially gone. It's sad to see such a well preserved ex-Kmart go down, but oh well. At least the vintage "In" (or "Out," I don't remember which) sign is still standing. Fortunately, I did get some photos of the store when I heard the rumors about HEB demolishing it last summer.

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    11. It sounds like Texas City has been through a lot of retail changes over the years. It is common for retail districts to change but it seems to be way more than usual in that area. One of the issues is that every new development seems to sap the life out of an old one.
      Losing another vacant Kmart is not good for retail history, but the locals will have a chance at a new beginning even though another big box store will go dark. If you would like to send over the photos email me at souhternmalls@gmail.com . I took a couple of photos of the exterior about a year ago and I can put together a nice post to remember the store.

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    12. It is a shame to lose another former Kmart building in the area. We’ve lost a few of them in recent months (do you have any updates on the Homestead Rd. ex-Kmart in NE Houston?). The Texas City mansard slice one was preserved really well. Oh well. The roller derby history of the store is also a tad interesting.

      The Galveston Daily News has an article today saying that the groundbreaking for the new HEB is today. I guess that HEB will be opening sometime this year, but we’ll have to see how long it lasts. HEB already has a presence in Texas City that will move to the new store so the new store should be at least somewhat successful, but we’ll see. I think a Joe V's store may have a better chance in Texas City, but perhaps Texas City gave HEB financial incentives to HEB to build a regular store. I think I read something about that before. I don't know if HEB would consider converting their old store into a Joe V's.

      The photos I have of the ex-Kmart are just of the front exterior of the store I think (I took some photos of the store before the summer too, but I think they are the same angle). I can send them to you if you want, but you may already have what I have in your pictures. It would be great to have a post on Texas City retail oddities someday. The Texas City museum that is in the old pre-Mall of the Mainland JCPenney may also be an interesting topic to add to that post.

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    13. The Homestead Kmart is still standing as of about 2 months ago. You can send over the photos if you would like. I passed through Highway 6 earlier today and saw the two Kmart stores that still look like Kmart stores. The flea market one was closed today, but I will check that one out one day.
      I have only seen a few Joe V stores, are they more like a discount grocery store?
      Speaking of lost retail, the Highland Mall in Austin is going to evict the last 20 or so businesses inside of the mall by late April. The Highland mall as recently as 2006 was nearly full and bustling. Rackspace, the same company that bought the Windsor Park Mall in San Antonio is going into the former 4 story Dillard's at Highland. Austin Community College owns the rest of the mall and recently completed the renovation of the former JCPenney into college classrooms.

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    14. Thanks for the update about Highland Mall. I shopped there a few times in the late 1990s when I visited Austin semi-frequently. The mall was doing fine at that time as far as I could tell, but things seemingly fell off pretty soon afterwards. It's sad to hear that it is closing at least as far as retail goes. The Dillard's toilet paper affair at Highland Mall was one of the strangest mall stores that I've ever read.

      Joe V's Smart Shop is a discount grocery chain by HEB. I've never been there so I can't really comment on it in great detail, but I believe it is intended to compete against Food Town and grocers like that. There are a at least a couple of them in Houston in former Kmart shopping centers. One is the Uvalde Rd. and Wallisville Rd. location (on the same intersection as a Food Town in a former Safeway) and the W. 43rd and 290 location.

      I'll get the photos of the Texas City ex-Kmart one of these days from my photo archives and take a look at them. I'll probably e-mail them to you if they are good photos. I don't think I've ever seen those pictures on a big screen so I'm not even sure if they are blogworthy pictures in terms of quality. I'm certainly not as skilled of a retail photographer as you are.

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    15. There has certainly been a lot of negative news that helped Highland fall apart much quicker than it should have. It is like mall management just gave up on the property once JCPenney moved out,
      One of these days I may stop by one of the Joe V's stores. I have been to two Mi Tienda stores that HEB also owns. HEB is little by little creating concepts that are taking over every segment of the grocery business. They also have a Joe V's on Garth in Baytown in a former Kmart.
      You should take a look at some of my earlier work, I am surprised the blog did not get a bunch of comments for my blurry and bad photography, lol.

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    16. HEB certainly is trying to cover all the bases in the Houston grocery market. There are larger and smaller regular HEB stores, Central Market upscale stores, HEB Plus with expanded general merchandise, Joe V's discount grocer, Mi Tienda as you say, and there are even a few small regular HEBs that used to be HEB Pantry Foods stores that was HEB's first step in the Houston market. I've not been to Joe V's, Mi Tienda, and HEB Plus stores, but I'm not as impressed with regular HEB stores as many others seem to be. The stores are ugly IMO with the warehouse store decor. The stores are badly designed IMO and they seem to be designed in a way that causes bottlenecks. Also, different HEBs have different prices which makes it difficult to shop for sale items when I don't go to the stores that I get ads for. The prices all in all are okay at HEB and they don't have a card which is nice, but I otherwise prefer to shop at Randall's, Kroger, Fiesta, and Food Town.

      Speaking of Fiesta, I recently visited the Midtown Fiesta during a visit to the Main St. Sears. It's something between the smaller, older Fiestas and the big Fiestas like the Willowchase Fiesta. It certainly has some retro features like neon type lighting and mirrored decor, but it looks pretty clean and nice. I like it. On the topic of Fiesta, they recently opened a new store in Cypress at FM 529 and Fry Rd. I believe. I have not been there, but I may visit it at some point. I believe the store has the newer signage that the Sugar Land Fiesta Marketplace store had, but I don't know if it is considered a Marketplace store or not.

      There's certainly been an improvement in your photos over the years, but I'm guessing better cameras/camera phones have something to do with it too. I still have not had a chance to retrieve those Texas City former mansard slice Kmart photos yet, but I will try to do that soon. I'll be sure to send them your way if they are decent photos.

      I'll post a reply to your other new replies further down on this post in the next day or two. I have some updates to discuss as well as some further thoughts about the bleak looking RadioShack situation that will take me some time to write. For sure you should get photos of RadioShack stores if you want to document them because they may be gone very soon unfortunately. It may also be a good idea to buy RadioShack branded items as souvenirs if that is something you are into.

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    17. I think Randalls is struggling to stay in business in the Houston area. HEB, Kroger, and Aldi have been expanding at a rapid pace. Most Randalls stores were renovated around 10 years ago, but it does not look like any improvements have been done since then. If you make it down to the new Fiesta let me know how it is.
      I have the Deerbrook and San Jacinto Radio Shack locations right now. I am also going to dig up some photos from my past posts. I am sure once these stores are converted, Sprint will push the Radio Shack section to the back.

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    18. I believe that most Randall's are using Safeway's Lifestyle store design. Safeway started using the Lifestyle format about 10 years ago so you're probably about right on the renovation timeline. I actually find the Lifestyle stores to be pretty nice looking. They really aren't a huge departure from the layout Randall's was using in the pre-Safeway days. Most of the Randall's that I've been to have a fairly typical grocery store layout to them so it's easy to find things even if you're not too familiar with the store itself. The stores aren't set up like an obstacle course ala HEB.

      There really are only three Randall's stores that are reasonably close to me or are on my route. There's the Champions Forest and FM 1960 Randall's Flagship store, the 290 and 34th St. Randall's, and the Barker Cypress and 290 Randall's. The first two are in areas with limited competition so that may help their sales. The Barker Cypress store has stiff competition from the very popular HEB next door and the new Kroger Marketplace store down Barker Cypress. The Champions Forest Randall's Flagship is probably my favorite out of the ones I visit. It's not particularly big so it's easy to navigate. Plus, the store has a lot of history. It's been a Flagship Randall's for a long time now and I believe it was a Handy Andy before that. Randall's has removed a lot of the unique architecture inside and outside the store, but it's still a nice place to shop.

      The Randall's near downtown between Louisiana and Milam on Hadley St. is one of the more unique large retail establishments in Houston. It's one of the newest Randall's in the area and the underground parking aspect of it is interesting. I don't know if it is a blogworthy store since you really don't post much about grocery stores, but it might be something worth visiting if you're looking for ideas for posts.

      Randall's has closed a lot of stores in recent years, but perhaps they've kept a core of well-performing stores. It's hard to say. Safeway competes in a lot of markets where the competition isn't nearly as fierce as it is here in Houston so they may be struggling a bit competing against the many other grocers in town. That said, perhaps Randall's can fill the niche of being a more upscale mainstream grocery store. I don't know if there is a huge demand for that in Houston as a whole, but there are some areas (like Champions Forest perhaps) where there is some demand for nicer than average grocery stores that sell run of the mill type groceries. I'd hate to lose Randall's (I liked the old independent Randall's and I also liked Safeway back during their original run in Houston) so I hope their niche can keep them around here even if it is with the reduced store count that they have now.

      I e-mailed you those photos I have of the Texas City mansard slice ex-Kmart earlier this week. I hope you got them. Let me know if you did not and I can re-send them. The e-mail bounced back when I sent it to the address you gave earlier above, but I figured that there was a small typo in it so I corrected that and I think I sent it to the right address. If not, well, someone is probably wondering why they got pictures of a vacant (and now demolished) Kmart!

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    19. the new Randall's on westhimer is really nice and upscale looking

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    20. Where is it located, I did not know Randall's is still opening locations in our area.

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    21. I shop at Randall's from time to time to break up the monotony of Kroger and Super Target. I don't go to HEB very often because they are not where I usually go to shop. Usually on holiday's I have found them to be the best place to shop. The store I go to usually is not too busy and does not run out of items when everyone else has around the holiday's. I have passed by the downtown Randalls several times but I have never stopped. I think Randalls has some good deals from time to time, but it is not a place where I would buy all of my food from. I could not afford to do that, I just go there for specific sale items.

      I got your Kmart photos, I just need to unzip the files. Thanks for sending them over.

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    22. the Randall's is on Westhiemer and Gessner . It was rebuilt in 2011 . I believe they were going to rebuild the voss location but the owners didn't allow and they closed the store. Parts of the Gessner store especially the bakery and deli reminds me of department store cosmetic section / a showroom for a upscale furniture store. I think is a one of the best looking stores.

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    23. It's possible to get good deals at Randall's, but it requires some work. Randall's doubles coupons. Most other grocers don't do that these days. Also, there Just For U deals Randall's has can be quite good if you add the coupons online. Randall's also has pretty good weekly sales, but I guess most grocery stores have those.

      I was pretty disappointed with some Randall's locations 3-4 years ago because they often ran out of sale items and had food close to their expiration dates on the shelves. Those locations have since closed though and the remaining ones seem to be better stocked (they were better stocked than the now closed stores even a few years ago too). It's hard to say if Randall's slacked off at those locations because they weren't good enough to stick around or if the inventory problems caused customers to dump those locations. Either way, the current locations seem to be fine for the most part. I've had issues getting sale items at HEB and Kroger too at times. Food Town seems pretty solid in that regard.

      I usually shop at multiple grocery stores depending on sales and what I'm looking for. I usually prefer Food Town if I need to buy some items without knowing what the prices are beforehand. That said, I also go to places like Randall's, Kroger, Wal-Mart, and Fiesta when I need something without checking the ads.

      I've shopped at a couple of Foodaramas and Sellers Brothers stores on the SE side that are on my commute. They're pretty nice. I wish we had some closer to where I live. Foodarama in particular seems pretty nice with good prices. They're both Grocer's Supply supplied stores so there is some commonality with places like Food Town.

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    24. I have been to several Randall's stores on the North and Southeast side of town over the years. Many of the Southeast side Randall's stores closed around 2005, I believe. If I am ever down Westheimer I will have to check out that Randall's.
      Several new grocers are coming into the area, so it will be interesting how this all shakes out.

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  4. Part II:

    On the topic of Sears/Kmart electronics, earlier we discussed how Panasonic is bringing back the Technics name on some high end Hi-Fi equipment. I was browsing either the Sears or the Kmart website when I noticed that they were selling Android tablets branded by Technics. The tablets seem pretty generic in quality so I don’t think they are actual Panasonic products. I did find this website so maybe Panasonic licensed the Technics name out to someone who is using the name to sell potentially cut rate electronics (they may be good, but the broken English on their website makes me suspicious). I don’t know why Panasonic would license the Technics name out to someone who might be making cut rate tablets (again, that is just speculation) when they are trying to sell very expensive audio equipment too. Even if Panasonic didn't plan on selling their own Technics products, it does seem like a desperate move on Panasonic's part to license out the name. It’s not like everyone remembers the glory years of Technics products so to some extent Panasonic has to rebuild the brand and make sure that people want to pay top dollar for their Hi-Fi gear. I’m not sure if this is the best strategy to do that. Either way, it’s interesting to see the Technics name return to Sears even if it isn't the same thing. Sears/Kmart already sells Nakamichi products and now they have another big name from the glory years of cassettes.

    Dick’s Sporting Goods has leased space from Sears at some locations, but I’m not sure if they would do that in Houston if they ever decided to enter this market (Academy seems to have a real hold on the market here). Most of the prime malls here have big box shopping centers surrounding/near the malls that could open up space for a new tenant that is willing to pay big bucks for a lease. Dick’s does seem to like mall spaces more than other big sporting goods stores these days (the only Dick’s Sporting Goods that I’ve been to was at The Mall at Robinson in the Pittsburgh metro area), but I think they also have a lot of non-mall locations too. I wonder if Sears (and Dick’s) would be less willing to lease out stores that only have one mall entrance. That could be a potential issue at malls like Memorial City Mall, Willowbrook Mall, and Baybrook Mall. Sears is definitely looking to lease out space nationally though at well-performing malls and they seem okay with downsized stores so we’ll have to see if anything happens to the Houston Sears stores.

    I visited the Willowbrook Mall Sears recently and I noticed that the exterior door leading to the Sears/Beltone Hearing Aid Center got a new blue awning that has the current Sears logo on it. The old awning was green and didn't have any type of writing on it. It's not a huge difference, but it is interesting to see the current logo on the Willowbrook Sears. While I was visiting the store, I overheard a teenager (I think) talking to someone a bit older saying with some level of approval that "Sears has everything!" I'm not sure what the context of that statement was, but it's interesting to hear other shoppers (especially a young one) seemingly enjoy the variety of interesting departments that Sears has.

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    1. Maybe the tablets are just out there to create sales to boost the company stock while they develop better systems for the future. Maybe Sears has a deal with them that they can't refuse to sell the product under the Technics name.
      At this point Dick's has built stores all around Houston in most nearby major cities. For some reason they have bypassed Beaumont and Houston maybe because of Academy, but it seems strange they have ignored the 4th largest city in the US in favor of Kileen and Corpus Christi. Cabela's has also mostly ignored the Houston area, but now has plans for a League City location near the HEB shopping center on I-45.
      Sears is one of the few places in any mall where you can find tools, TV's, and lawn equipment. They just need to be able to compete with their clothing sections to get people into their stores that have been going to other retailers. People don't go to the mall for much of what Sears sells these days, they go there for clothes. People make a special trip out to Sears usually for tools and electronics.

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  5. Part III:

    I agree that RadioShack needs to get their online inventory system straighten out. There have been cases where I have gone to a store looking for a part that is said to be in stock only to find out that it isn’t. It’s pretty frustrating and it may be a major problem with their Ship 4 Free program. Speaking of RadioShack, they launched a new website this week. It’s quite different from the old one and I’m still getting used to it. I’m not sure yet if I like it more or less than the old website. We’ll see. I think 3D printing at home is still a few years off from being a viable option, but the thought is that some people now or in the near future will want to get 3D prints without having to have a 3D printer at home. RadioShack may offer 3D printing in the stores (like a Kinko’s) for those customers. That could be a viable business option for RadioShack for the next few years. Even if it isn’t, perhaps the novelty of it will bring some shoppers into the store for a look.

    I would classify MicroCenter as being a small national chain. They only have 25 stores even though they've been around for decades so it’s not like they are some big, sprawling corporation. Most cities that have a MicroCenter only have one location, but they do have multiple stores in a few big areas like Chicago and New York City. MicroCenter is privately owned so it’s not like Wall Street is pressuring them into expanding beyond what they can handle. MicroCenter has been successful in offering good service combined with good selection and prices competitive with the massively competitive online computer parts business. It’s rare for a business to hit on all of those, but MicroCenter has done it even with some of their high dollar locations. It’s pretty impressive and I think it says a lot in terms of stores staying within their means when it comes to expansion.

    Yes, I’m pretty skeptical of the $10 cassette converter on the Montgomery Ward website. It might work, but who knows if it is stereo and who knows what the playback quality is like. A lot of cheap portables have a lot of wow and flutter and poor frequency response. You definitely don’t want a cheap playback device if you’re digitalizing cassettes because as the old saying goes with converting stuff, “Garbage in, garbage out.” A lot of record and cassette digitizers are pretty low quality and I worry that people who don’t know much about what records and cassettes are capable of will get the wrong idea if they only use those cheap devices. I’m not sure how good some of the stereos are that Montgomery Ward sells. A lot of them are tempting, but then the quality may not be good. It would be great to have the ability to demo the products in a store before buying, but oh well I guess. The cassette converter aside, some of the prices on the Montgomery Ward website are very high. Some of the same products can be purchased at half the price pretty easily. I’m guessing that the current Montgomery Ward appeals to older, more rural customers who care more about shopping with someone they trust rather than shopping for a good price with a lot of selection. I could be way off on that though.

    I came across some interesting 1969 photos of Almeda Mall. I thought that you would like to see them. Perhaps they’ll help you when you make your Almeda Mall-Northwest Mall comparison post.

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    1. In store 3-d printing would be a good idea for people who just want to make a figure of something such as a special moment in their lives. I saw one of these machines for sale at the Microsoft store in the Galleria for thousands of dollars. I am sure the plastics the machine uses are expensive as well. With the financial problems Radio Shack has they might want to hold off of this idea until they can figure out how to make it quickly profitable.
      When it is time to replace my laptop I will have to check out Micro Center and see if they can compete on prices. My most recent laptop was purchased from the new Comp USA store about a year before the Bunker Hill store closed.
      Garbage in, Garbage out I have heard that phrase a lot. I have a $13 plug in to my phone that I can broadcast my music over the radio on channels that have no radio station. It works in some areas but the signal is very weak and if you don't position the device just right it will get a lot of static. The product works for what it is. I could probably spend $50 and get a really good one, but this is the only battery operated one I could find.
      Thanks for sending over the Almeda Mall photos. I had no idea that this blog existed and I will have to see more.

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  6. Part I:

    The Memorial City Mall Sears is probably the hottest property that Sears has in Houston right now. It’s a large store too so perhaps Sears could lease out a part of the store and still have enough room for a regular mid-sized Sears store. I’m not sure who exactly would go to Memorial City if an anchor spot opened up, but I’m sure someone will want to move in. The interesting thing at Willowbrook, Baybrook, and Deerbrook Malls (and even some others like West Oaks Mall) is that Sears has very prominently located stores at those malls. They are very visible and they are some of the easiest stores to get to at those malls. That probably increases the value of those stores. Some other stores, like JCPenney, often have more hidden stores. They’re still visible and easy to get to, but they are more hidden.

    Malls today have become fashion malls instead of places to buy all kinds of things like they used to be. That is unfortunate IMO. That does create an interesting situation though. On the one hand, people who go to the mall for fashion stuff (most of the mall shoppers these days) probably walk right past Sears given their fashion reputation. Conversely, those who want to go to the mall but don’t want to shop for fashions pretty much can only shop at Sears these days. The mall developers seem happy to turn their malls into fashion malls, but I think that it is a mistake to do that because the extreme fashion focus turns away a lot of potential shoppers. Also, there are people who get “dragged” to the mall and having a store like Sears gives those people an outlet to spend money on trips to the mall that they didn’t want to make.

    I’ve mentioned before that I’ve noticed really long check out lines at Wal-Mart in the last year or so. I had a really bad experience with that this past weekend. I was at a Wal-Mart that only had 2 or 3 checkouts open at about 6:30pm. The lines were extending into the clothing department. The self-checkout line was past the the frozen food freezers. I went there intending to buy a few items, but I decided to leave because I didn’t want to spend at least 30 minutes of my weekend waiting in a checkout line for a few items. I ended up going to Fiesta instead and they had at least 8 or 9 checkouts open and there wasn’t any long lines even though there were a number of shoppers. I probably defend Wal-Mart more than most people who comment on retail blogs, but the checkout wait times are now ridicilous (and seemingly getting worse) and it's something that Wal-Mart will have to address at some point I think. I remember being upset when Houston Kmarts only had one or two checkstands open during their last few years here, but Wal-Mart is basically doing the same thing now even though they probably have 3-4+ times more customers.

    Anyway, hopefully this is the year that Sears and Kmart can gain some momentum during the Christmas season. I’m not optimistic about Kmart, but maybe Sears will see improvement. I’m not sure if Sears has really improved anything outside of their online site or has upgraded their marketing in any way that would lead to an improvement, but I’ve been seeing good prices at Sears lately so hopefully the shoppers will notice some way. Target is running a free shipping promotion for Christmas that may drive sales, but that may also drive shoppers away from the stores since they can just buy online. That may decrease the number of buyers who make Christmastime impulse buys. Plus, Target’s website is a bit of a mess and that may give shoppers a bad impression.

    I’ve tried to look up information about the newer Texas City ex-Kmart, but I have not found much. Hopefully you’ll be able to find some information because it is an interesting topic. I think I read the Woolco rumor on HAIF, but maybe I read it somewhere else. It’s hard to remember because it's been a while.

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    1. Mall stores have changed to help keep their stores competitive against online businesses. Clothes and furniture are the two things that brick and mortar retailers will have the edge over online businesses for a while.
      Walmart checkout lines are usually a mess in nearly every store in the Northeast Houston area. I don't know if it is a management, staffing, or training issue. I have had so many bad checkout experiences that I usually just avoid going to Walmart stores.
      Sears and Kmart stores put out their decorations later this year and the stores as of last week did not have a lot of decorations for the holiday season. Layaway and car pickup of purchases should be their main advertising focus this year. Those are the two items that most of their competitors do not have yet. Walmart also has layaway but the lines are insane especially in December. I have not looked at Target's website in a long time so I will hae to check it out.

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  7. Part II:

    I heard the League City Cabela’s news. I think League City might be a good location for a store like Cabela’s. I’m not sure why Dick’s is seemingly avoiding Houston, but I suspect that Academy’s strength has something to do with it. We have other sporting goods stores here, but it seems like everyone shops at Academy or one of the mall shoe stores.

    I don't know if RadioShack can make money off 3D printing, but perhaps it would at least give them some creditability with electronics fans who have lost faith in the chain. Many think that it's just a cell phone store now. Perhaps RadioShack can use 3D printing or something like that to get some of those people back in the stores to see new products. Of course, they have to have good products to sell to make that work.

    MicroCenter is a good place to look for laptops. I think you’ll like what you see there assuming that things have not changed too dramatically since the relocation. MicroCenter has just about every major brand plus their own in-house WinBook brand. MicroCenter has a very lengthy monthly/bi-monthly ad that is worth checking out on their website if you’re in the market for computers or computer gear. I never shopped at the TigerDirect CompUSA so I can’t really say much about them, but I would say that MicroCenter is quite a bit better in almost every regard than the old CompUSA.

    Are you trying to use the FM transmitter to listen to things in your car? They sell cassette adaptors that turn a car cassette deck into a line input for things like cell phones, CD players, and MP3 players. Most stores sell them still and they’re under $20. Maybe you should try one of those. I would check the user reviews for them though as some brands seem to be better than others. I used a couple of those in my old car. The first one (a 1990s one) developed a dead channel, but the second one I had worked really well. I don’t remember which brand that one was though, but it may have been Maxell. The FM transmitters don’t always work well as you say. I’d certainly try some kind of alternative if you can.

    Yes, that blog is a real gem when it comes to vintage Almeda Mall information. This post has a lot of great images too. Some of the images/news bits are related to Northwest Mall too. Hopefully that will help you with your posts about the twin malls.

    Wow, you have a lot of Kmart photos to post. I’m looking forward to seeing them. Although this part of the country isn’t what I would consider to be the Kblogger belt for sure, we may end up having more stores photographed than other regions. That’s certainly an impressive feat on your part.

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    1. I am sure the news about Houston being the #1 city in the nation for development dollars spent in 2014 will help bring some of the retailers and restaurant chains who have passed us by. Maybe even Kmart will make a comeback in the area, we can only hope.
      I wonder how long Radio Shack will continue as they are. I can see Best Buy possibly making an offer to buy some of their mall locations, but the rest of the stores are going to be hard to sell and will close. Maybe Radio Shack can manage to survive as a much smaller company with their best locations staying open.
      The old Micro Center is already being demolished as I write this. The developers are not waiting for anything to get thing moving in the Houston area.
      The radio adapter actually sounds better than the cassette adapter. For some reason the cassette adapters I use don't sound good at all.
      I hope to get all of the Kmart stores in Louisiana and maybe one or two more Texas stores before I wrap things up with the blog. The good thing is that Houston and Texas are ever-changing and the blog will have material for a while to add to posts.

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    2. I hope belk comes to Houston there is definitely a market for them

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    3. I'm not sure what restaurants and retailers really need to come to Houston that have passed it by. I mean, Houston is missing a few deluxe retailers (the lack of Bloomingdale's in Texas puzzles me, frankly), but restaurants seem to be okay--Carl's Jr. is moving in, In-N-Out isn't here yet but I'm certain it will be by YO 2015, Del Taco is back after years of absence, Krispy Kreme and Dunkin are opening new stores, 7-Eleven is coming back after absence, El Pollo Loco is coming.

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    4. Belk is one of the stores that is so close to Houston, but still has remained out of the area. Lufkin and Nacogdoches both have Belk stores as well as the Dallas metro, and Waco but they have not moved into our area yet.

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    5. Del Taco may not last in Houston though. They only opened the one location on Westheimer in a terrible spot. I sent an email to Del Taco about future locations in the area and they replied that none are planned through 2015. Initially they planned several more within five years after expanding to Houston. We will see though, hopefully Del Taco and In and Out will at least make it to your area. Waco is likely the next spot for In and Out and San Antonio has two locations under construction. Checkers and Krispy Kreme both announced their return about a year ago, but nothing has happened yet with those chains either.

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  8. Part I:

    There has been a lot of Sears news to discuss. Perhaps the biggest piece of Sears news to come out lately is that Sears is considering forming a REIT with some of their better performing real estate and then leasing that space back from the REIT. This could lead to Sears doing even more subleasing or losing more good performing locations, but it's hard to say. Some Sears investors have been waiting for years for Lampert to do this so we'll see.

    Speaking of subleasing, Sears has submitted plans to redevelop their Aventura Mall store in Miami. The 192,000 sq. ft. store will be downsized to 20,000 sq. ft. (I'm guessing an independently owned Appliance and Mattress type store). The remaining space will be used to build an outdoor plaza with retail, restaurants, offices, and a hotel. The plans seem optimistic so who knows if they'll actually happen. I wonder what the mall owner thinks about the plans. Obviously these plans won't work everywhere, but I wonder what Sears/Seritage has up their sleeves for other locations.

    Sears has released some new sales figures showing that electronics are still a drag for Sears and Kmart. Sears said again that they want to focus less on TVs and more on connected living electronics. We'll see I guess. At least Sears isn't totally dismissing electronics, but we'll see if they can find a successful way to sell them. A related article from this week discusses how one large retailer (Sears) and a small NY electronics store are focusing less on TVs. It's an interesting read. The Sears part is interesting, but the part about the small store saving their business by focusing less on TV and more on Hi-Fi audio is interesting. Hopefully Sears and others will also drive a return to the Hi-Fi era.

    I think it is interesting that Sears waited to put out the Christmas stuff this year. Shopping at Sears during the late summer certainly seemed more normal this year than last. Kmart did run Layaway ads so hopefully they will still do well in that area. The in-car pickup option could be popular, but Sears probably needs to promote it more. Sears has matched Amazon's prices on a lot of things. They should promote that combined with saying that shipping is free to the stores and that items can be returned to the stores instead of having to deal with shipping stuff back. "Satisfaction Guaranteed" used to be a big deal for Sears so maybe they should promote that slogan in an e-tailing sense.

    I recently purchased a small furniture piece from Kmart's website and had it sent to Sears for free pick-up. Kmart had something that had the design we wanted (which not everyone has) at a price that was impossible to beat not even counting promotions. Thus, I decided to buy from Kmart even though returning the item would have been difficult if I needed to return it since Sears doesn't take Kmart returns and vice versa (Sears should fix this). The good news is that the product is exactly what I wanted so there is no need to return it and the in-store pickup procedure at Sears was seamless (except for the fact that the Sears website says that I have not picked up the item yet even though I did over a week ago. This isn't a problem for me as far as I can tell, but maybe it's a flaw in the system that Sears should fix for their own sake).

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    1. I will post a combined reply to the three comments down below.

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  9. Part II:

    Anyway, it's nice having a new Kmart item in the house for the first time in over a decade (I did purchase Kmart items while traveling in 2011, but those products were used up on the trip). It's not the same as actually shopping at a Kmart (though Kmart stores sell the item I got in the stores), but it's about as close as we're going to get to Kmart shopping in Houston. I really don't see Kmart opening new stores anywhere any time soon since they have not done so in over a decade.

    The Sears Grand/ex-Kmart in Solon (Cleveland), OH, that is now closing has been one of the more discussed Kmarts amongst Kbloggers. Well, the store is still producing headlines as an elderly woman drove her car through the wall of the store. The crash seems to have unearthed some vintage Kmart stripes or something if you look at the interior photo on that news story.

    I'm guessing that Wal-Mart cut back on staffing when the self-checkouts were installed, but the self-checkouts are slower than clerks in many cases. It seems like a major issue in multiple NW side stores so it's not just a NE Houston thing. I'll probably avoid Wal-Mart for a while because it's become frustrating to shop there now.

    I recently went to a RadioShack that had at least some of the new store design fixtures like the phone repair booth. The store was already a fairly new RadioShack anyway (from 2006 I think). The new design kind of makes the stores feel more spartan, but maybe the bare wall designs make the store feel bigger than they are. Best Buy was rumored to have some interest in RadioShack a couple of years ago, but those rumors went away. I don't know if Best Buy really needs RadioShack's assets to grow since they have their own mall concept. Plus, the growth of things like the Microsoft Store may further marginalize phone/tablet oriented mall stores. Anyway, I think RadioShack will have to close some stores and focus on profitable stores.

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  10. Part III:

    I'm surprised that you've had better luck with the FM transmitters than with cassette adapters, but maybe the adapters you've tried aren't very good. I'd look at the user reviews and see if you can get a good one. They also have wireless Bluetooth cassette adapters now and maybe those are higher quality. Perhaps you should check the settings on your stereo to see if anything is causing a problem with the adapter. You want to turn Dolby off and things like that.

    I've purchased a lot of equipment from the thrifts over the years. Some of them have been things that have been on my wish list for a long time, but rarely have I found things that I have a strong personal connection to. Well, the other day I found a very clean Hitachi-built RCA SelectaVision VKT300 VHS VCR from 1984. That's the same model as my very first VCR that was purchased new from Joske's in 1984. It was only like $6 so of course I brought it even though I wasn't sure if it totally worked. My original VKT300 developed tape transport issues in the very early 1990s that was probably belt related, but I couldn't diagnose the problem then so I got rid of it. These 1980s Hitachi VCRs have like 6 critical belts so they're known to have age related issues even though they are really solid otherwise. I discovered tape transport issues in my "new" VKT300 when I brought it home so I opened it up and 1 belt had turned into goo, another couple of belts were near gooey, and a couple more were stretched out. I replaced all but one of the belts with right fitting rubber bands and the VCR works like new now. I don't know how long the rubber band fix will work, but a full set of proper replacement belts are about $12 so maybe I should just pay for that. Anyway, what a thrill it is to play around with this machine. It's like a time machine (a heavy one at that, it's built like a tank). I'm really glad that I found this VCR. I'll have a lot of fun playing back 1980s tapes that were made with my prior VKT300.

    I'm really enjoying a lot of the recent posts so I hope you aren't planning on stopping the blog updates. The North Oaks Mall post was particularly special to me of course. Well, if nothing else, at least we'll get a lot of Kmart coverage which is great.

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    1. I have been catching up on the Sears news and it is a lot to take in. Several towns are trying to find ways to reuse former Sears stores and now the company is about to announce 100 more new closings on top of what has already been closed this year. The Pittsburgh Mills Sears Grand store is one of the stores currently going out of business. I wonder how much longer the store in Austin will last. I caught the article about the lady who drove into the wall of the Kmart, hopefully she is okay.
      I have not stepped foot in a Walmart Supercenter since August and don't plan on it anytime soon. Super Target other grocers, and other retailers have been my go to stores lately. I have been to way more Kmarts than Walmarts this year which may be the first time since the 1990's I can say that.
      The Radio Shack at Deerbrook has the phone repair service as well now and the employees seem more upbeat than they were a few months ago. We will see if it is enough to help stop the losses at the company.
      The VCR you bought looks similar to one I had many years ago. If I remember right the channel buttons had little cutouts of channel numbers you had to put it after programming the channels into the box.
      I may have to look into a bluetooth connection or better yet a cassette player with an audio input if they exist.
      I still have a bunch of articles in development even though I have slowed down in the past couple of months. I may do one new article and update an article every month but I will post more frequently as time allows.

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    2. I think if sears gets away from TV's and appliances I think it would be the end for sears.

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    3. It would really hurt the company if they got away from selling electronics. I think they need to downsize the electronics department or add a bunch of new products because the departments are looking more and more empty every year.

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  11. Part I:

    I'm glad that you're posting replies again. I was fearing that you had given up on the blog like many other retail bloggers. There's been a lot of national and Houston retail stories going on right now worth discussing. I'm certainly looking forward to the upcoming posts. I know you and your readers have posted a lot of comments (mostly Houston related) in the last couple of weeks so it'll probably take me some time to read through everything.

    There is certainly a lot of Sears news to digest lately. Sears released their Q3 results last week and the results were not good obviously. Same store sales at Kmart rose 0.5% and Sears sales dropped 0.7%. If electronics were not considered, sales would have been 2.8% better at Kmart and 1% better at Sears. Store closures may have artificially inflated the sales increases though (especially at Kmart since they’ve had so many more closures than Sears). Kmart shoppers who used to shop at closed stores are now shopping at the remaining stores so that is inflating same store sales a bit I’m guessing. Of course, some shoppers who shopped at closed stores aren’t shopping at Kmart/Sears anymore so there is always that factor as well.

    The Austin Sears Grand may still survive, but I guess it depends on a few things. I doubt the location is up for a lease renewal (if it isn’t owned by Sears) already so that is good for survival. Also, if the property isn’t highly valuable, Sears may not sell it as long as the store is at least breaking even with sales. I don’t know how far the next closest Sears is to that location, but that may help too.

    It is interesting that you have been to Kmarts more frequently than Wal-Marts this year. Although I always considered Kmart to be my favorite discount store back when we had them in Houston, I probably still went to Wal-Mart more than Kmart even in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I don’t know when was the last year that I went to Kmart more than Wal-Mart, but I would guess 1996 or so back when the Jones Rd. and FM 1960 Kmart was still open and perhaps before the Willowbrook Mall area Wal-Mart opened.

    As for Target, well, I think I’ve been there only two or three times so far in 2014. Of course, we don’t have Super Targets here on the NW side. I have not found their prices to be that spectacular these days and I had a disappointing experience there earlier this year when I found expired food on the shelves. The fallout from the data breach probably helped keep me away earlier in the year, but I guess that is fine now. I guess I really don’t go to discount stores much these days. I’m finding better deals (on better items) at places like Sears for some things and I’ve been able to get good deals (and/or a better shopping experience) at grocery stores, drug stores, and warehouse stores for other items. The Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market still seems like a decent option for food items. Their lines aren’t as bad (yet at least) as the Wal-Mart Supercenters.

    One interesting Target note is that I was flipping through their ad this weekend and I noticed that they are advertising cheap record players and they are also advertising LPs for sale on the Target website. Who thought we’d ever see that again even if it is online? IMO, Target’s music department was better than Kmart and Wal-Mart’s back in the 1980s. A lot of our music purchases were at Target and eventually Auchan as well as Auchan sold a lot of specialty CDs back in the day.

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    1. I had to take a break for a while to focus on some other things going on, but I am back for a while at least. I had 30 comments pending when I opened up my blog today, so it will take a couple of days to get my blog back up to speed.
      The recent Sears news has been mostly discouraging for the company with the increased store closings to take place soon, the layway problems at Kmart stores, and even more negative comments. There is some positive news though. The new connected electronics sections look neat and there is now a parts direct mini store inside of Deerbrook where the portrait studio was formerly located. If Sears can figure out a way to incorporate a few more mini stores inside of their department stores it would be cheaper than full store remodels and help modernize the stores. 2015 will be an interesting one for Sears and I will continue to keep up with the news.

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    2. Target seems to be on the decline lately. The credit card breach really hurt sales in the US and now they are closing all of their Canadian locations that were opened up not to long ago. It sounds like the previous CEO really hurt the company and it is probably going to take years to recover. I still prefer to shop at Target over Walmart although my Walmart visits increased in the past couple of months.

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  12. Part II:

    RadioShack probably doesn't have too many good weeks these days, but this past week was especially bad. First, some of RadioShack’s lenders are not happy with RadioShack’s deal with another lender and that is causing some major issues. Also, there was a story that went viral this week (on a sports blog of all places) about the tales of someone who worked as a RadioShack clerk around 10 years ago. That story must be a PR nightmare even if the working conditions have changed in recent times (I don’t know if they have or have not). Anyway, it seems good that employee morale is good at the moment. Perhaps the employees are optimistic about things like the cell phone repair stations.

    The interesting thing about Del Taco, Checker’s, and Krispy Kreme is that these businesses used to be in Houston in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s respectively. I guess they know what to expect from this market. It’s good that they are re-entering the market (in theory at least), but obviously they are measured in their entrance.

    As for Belk, perhaps they are afraid of the competition. Kohl’s has a major presence here in hot suburban neighborhoods and JCPenney built many new suburban stores in hot areas before their finances went south. That is not to mention how strong Dillard’s and Macy’s are here. Plus, there are other major contenders like Stein Mart, Ross, the TJ Maxx/Marshall's stores, Burke’s Outlet, and others. Belk can’t just roll into this market and expect people to run to their stores. They would have to spend a lot of money marketing and researching the needs of this market.

    On the topic of clothing stores, I found this very interesting Weiner’s ad from the 1990s. This one is interesting too. I wonder how they could have gone out of business with commercials like that!

    There are some aftermarket cassette decks that are still available for purchase. The Pioneer KEH-P2030 is probably the most popular model, but I don’t think that has a line input jack. Something like this Pyle deck does have a line-in jack, but there’s more than a good chance that it isn’t of good quality. Plus, it does not have a CD player if that is important to you.

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    1. Speaking of Radio Shack, the store at Deerbrook is closing soon. The store was cleared out with most of the good merchandise gone and only the less desirable products left for the sale. You also have to buy over $25 to get the discount which is strange. Maybe they have since changed the sale stipulations, but it is one of the strangest ways to close a store. I did read the above article you linked to your post, it was entertaining and I wonder why he stuck around so long if it was that bad.
      I am guessing the restaurants returning to the Houston area are going to be more cautious this time around. I really hope Krispy Kreme is not too far around the corner though.
      I have seen a few Belk commercials on cable TV recently, but I am not sure if they are purposely airing here in the Houston area. The recent quick decline in oil prices and large layoffs that will accompany this oil decline will make retailers nervous so it may be a while longer until we get a few new retailers here.
      Thanks for sending over the car stereo link, I will have to look into these units. I am not looking for anything special, since I am going to still keep my factory speakers, so this may be a good fit for my needs.

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  13. Part III:

    Yes, the RCA VKT300 VCR I got comes from a transitional period in between the early VCR era that had manual VHF and UHF tuning knobs like TVs from the era and the more modern VCRs that have full digital tuning. This means that each channel has to manually set. There’s a little tray that holds little numbers for each tuned channel so you know which channels have been set. The VCR I got does not have Houston TV channels on the little tray so maybe the original owners moved at some point. It really doesn’t matter now that analog TV is gone as long as I have channel 3 or 4 for a cable box or DTV converter.

    I’ve been watching a lot of my tapes from my original RCA VKT300. The interesting thing is that I have a few tapes from October-December 1984 that are obviously 30 years old now. It’s really interesting to see the commercials on those tapes. The commercials for defunct and forgotten businesses, like Kuppenheimer, are especially interesting. I found this commercial for a Gulfton area apartment on my tapes. That is a very famous commercial for the Colonial House (aka Venerial House) apartments with the VCR in the pool. Those apartments, which are now known as Lantern Village Apartments, went downhill fast due to the oil bust and led to the bad reputation of the Gulfton area.

    I checked the Kmart website for the 5 pack of Sony HF 90 minute cassettes that you purchased before. That product is listed as not being available online at the moment. I don’t know if that means that they are simply out of it online, if they aren’t stocking it anymore, or if it is only available in stores now. Hopefully they’ll continue to sell cassettes online and in-store.

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    1. I found this comment at the bottom of my spam pile for some reason, I think you may have resent it though. The commercial for the Gulfton apartments looks like a college party. I can see those buildings probably did not age well. I have seen many apartment complexes in our area that look similar and are in bad shape. I could watch vintage commercials for days at a time though, lots of memories from the past are out there.

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    2. Ah, yes, I remember this post. The Colonial House was designed to be like a giant college frat house. It was designed to attract the young professionals that were moving to Houston in packs to work in the oil and gas industry. Of course, the oil bust pretty much rendered that pointless. All of a sudden all those apartment complexes that were built way too large had to find tenants so they got whatever they could get. What was supposed to be party apartments ended up being housing for those down on their luck basically and the area continues to struggle to rebound completely.

      The story of apartment (and retail) over-construction isn't totally unheard of in Houston. We know about it on FM 1960 and in the Greenspoint areas amongst other places, but the Gulfton area really is the textbook case due to the timing of the oil bust and the over-the-top promotion of apartments like Colonial House. Somehow I think that area would have hit hard times even without the oil bust just due to the over-construction.

      On the topic of the Gulfton area in the early 1980s, there's an excellent article about the Bellaire and Hillcroft Fiesta Mart in the Nov. 1983 edition of Texas Monthly that is available to read here on page 5. It's really an interesting story about the early days of Fiesta. The Fiesta is still in the same location today. Of course, the Safeway across the street that they compare the Fiesta to is long since gone. I believe there is a Famsa there now. There may be an older shopping center style Walgreens in the Famsa shopping center, but I'm not sure if that is still there. There's some really interesting old department store ads in that issue too if you want to scroll through it.

      Vintage commercials are great. It's great watching them on YouTube obviously, but sometimes it's even better watching them on old tapes. There's a lot of obscure local commercials that will probably never make it on YouTube that are interesting and bring back a lot of memories. A lot of times the vintage commercials are more interesting than the programming itself. Personally, it's really neat being able to watch these tapes on the same model VCR that they were recorded on.

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    3. I have a little more time these days to tend to my blog, so I have been able to check my spam folder and post updates faster. I have over 10 articles worth of photos uploaded which is the most in a long time. Uploading the images is very time consuming, and I also make sure to edit any people or car license plate numbers out of my photos.
      They should have spaced out the apartment developments better also. If an apartment complex is in the middle of a decent neighborhood of homes it is less likely the place will go downhill. With the rows of apartment homes built in those areas, all it took was one to go downhill to take the rest with them. I lived in an area of East Houston once that was filled with run-down apartments, including mine. There were over 10 complexes in about a half-mile area and all were run down except one. The one that was decent was across the street next to a neighborhood with nice homes.
      I need to look at some of my old movies, who knows what I will find. Thanks for sending over the Texas Monthly copy, I will read over it.

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    4. I'm glad to hear that you have more time for the blog now. There has been a lot of new articles here lately which is almost unprecedented these days on retail blogs. The blog seems to be attracting a lot of viewers who are leaving good comments too which is great to see.

      It's hard to say if a lack of zoning causes this, but a lot of areas in Houston have an excessive amount of apartments in a closely packed area. This hasn't always led to disastrous results especially if there are strong neighborhoods anchoring the area as you say, but it often has in short order. A lot of developers seem to be looking for a quick buck by putting the apartments up without considering the long-term prospects for the properties or communities. Perhaps tax breaks has something to do with it, I don't know. The Gulfton area really struggled/struggles because not only are there a lot of apartment complexes, but there are a lot of large apartment complexes.

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    5. I have noticed that many of the retail blogs have really stalled out over the past 2 years. Some of the largest retail blogs were churning out articles are only putting out 5 or less a year now. Lately there has been a lot of changes in retail so I constantly have new material to go over.
      I think the lack of zoning has a lot to do with how Houston developed. There are a lot of apartment developments inside of 610 that are being torn down for new smarter developments. The new developments seem to be created with the intent of keeping people there long-term. Apartments have high turnover, and the companies that manage the properties in many cases do not invest enough money keeping the properties maintained. As the properties fall apart, the companies lose even more money as apartments stay vacant longer and people pay less to live there. The companies have to offer huge incentives to get anyone to move in, and the only way to make money is to skimp on maintenance.
      I have lived in good and bad complexes, but it is not a good feeling when the place you are living in is falling apart.

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  14. Part I:

    I'm glad that you you are still able to find some time for the blog. I know that a lot of other bloggers have really slowed down their postings or stopped altogether, but there's a lot of interesting retail stories left to discuss. The biggest story locally has been the fall in oil prices. This could be a disaster for the Houston area if this keeps up. Some people have already been laid off. Some marginal performing retailers in this area may have to leave and it may scare off potential newcomers. We'll have to see what develops.

    Interestingly enough, Sears has not been in the retail headlines as much this month as they have been in the past. That's probably a good thing. Other retailers like Target, JCPenney, and Macy's are making the headlines now with store closings and things like that. Some of the JCPenney and Macy's store closings are interesting. The only one of local significance is the closure of the small Brenham JCPenney in a shopping center that appears to have been formally anchored by a Wal-Mart.

    Anyway, it seems like Sears is pushing their Connected Solutions departments even more. TWICE had an exclusive article this week about how Sears is going to add Connected Solutions departments to 200 Sears stores and 300 to Kmart locations. It does not seem totally logical for them to be adding more to Kmarts than Sears, but we'll see. Maybe the Kmart ones will be a little different. The new president for consumer electronics and Connected Solutions at Sears had an interesting comment in that article. He says that Connected Solutions is refining their CE offerings and not replacing them. I'm glad to hear that. I'm glad that Sears is still planning on keeping a traditional electronics department along with the experimental cross-departmental stuff.

    I was reading something on the Internet around Christmastime about how some shoppers were noticing firesale prices on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, and PS4 games and accessories at Sears stores (and Kmart stores to a lesser extent). This caused a lot of excitement as things were being sold for unbelievable prices. There was some speculation that Sears/Kmart are going to stop selling games so they were just clearing out inventory, but then some of the items went back to regular prices. Who knows. Maybe they were just trying to get rid of excess inventory or maybe they are continuing to downsize the number of locations that will sell games. It would not surprise me though if Sears got rid of games completely though.

    It's nice to see Sears open the new PartsDirect departments in their stores. We'll have to see if any other stores get them aside from the N. Shepherd and Deerbrook Mall stores that we know have them already.

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    1. Sears appears to be getting rid of most of their video games in the stores. Kmart is probably following suit now, every store I have been to had mostly empty video game cases and it does not appear they are restocking them. I think they will continue to keep a few popular games and systems on hand though. The connected solutions department appears to have an Xbox shown in the picture so games probably will be still sold at the stores for now. They did have a very disproportionate amount of accessories and few games for each system. Sears had a bunch of tools for sale at 50-75% off during the Christmas season so I think they were just clearing out inventory.

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  15. Part II:

    It's interesting that you saw Belk ads here. Belk isn't a national retailer so I don't think that they would buy national ads (like Kmart), but maybe they brought ads in a large southern region. It's hard to say. Maybe they are trying to advertise a bit here to inform people who don't know about them and maybe the incite shoppers to demand a store here. I know some retailers have done that. I have not heard any rumors about Belk coming to Houston though and the oil situation will have an impact on expansion.

    It's interesting that you're starting to shop at Wal-Mart more again. I went to Wal-Mart late at night a few days back to pick up a couple of items (I wasn't sure if other stores were still open). I figured that the lines would not be long late at night, but I was wrong again. The Self-checkouts were closed and they only had 3 lines open and each had about a 20 minute wait. I almost put my items back, but I did decide to wait it out. Things are getting pretty bad at Wal-Mart, but it seems that their shoppers would rather buy there than go to Target. They're having a lot of issues now too as you say. Target Canada was a real fiasco. Canadians were eagerly awaiting Target from what I could tell, but they didn't merchandise the stores well at all and their prices were very high. It's a bit surprising to see Target give up on Canada so quickly, but it just seems like they weren't able to figure things out so they had to get out before they bleed more red ink.

    I needed to get a Target gift card for someone last month so I decided to visit the Meyerland Plaza Target since it's been ages since I've been to Meyerland (the shopping center was jammed packed even on a weekday evening, but what do you expect at a big-box mecca during the Christmas season). We don't have Kmarts here so I shopped at a former Kmart at least. Although the exterior does look a bit non-Targetlike, the store itself feels just like a regular Target inside. That was a rare recent visit to a Target, but who knows how often I'll shop at Targets in 2015. I really didn't make many visits to Target at all in 2014 and not all of them were great experiences either.

    I also went to the Meyerland JCPenney next door since I needed to look for a clothing item. I didn't visit the whole store, but what I saw was quite nice inside actually. I decided to buy something I saw at the Meyerland store a couple days later at the Willowbrook Mall JCPenney, but they didn't have it in-stock even though their website says that they did. I guess JCPenney needs to work on their inventory system too. Anyway, I then went to the Cypress freestanding JCPenney. Believe it or not, that was my first visit to one of the newer 2000s era freestanding/regular shopping center JCPenney stores. The store is very hard to navigate. It's designed like a maze. It's quite a bit harder to shop there than at a Kohl's for example even though the JCPenney had a tad more of an upscale look compared to a Kohl's (though it wasn't as nice as the Meyerland store). I don't know if all the 2000s era freestanding JCPenneys are like that, but I much prefer the layout of the traditional JCPenney stores. Oh well, at least they had what I wanted in stock.

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    1. I have not been to Meyerland in several years since Border's was closing. The JCPenney there is very similar in design to the Almeda/ Northwest locations. The store looks larger and appears to have a third floor. I have never been to one of the newer JCPenney locations built after 2005. It sounds like they were imitating Kohl's at this time.
      The waiting at Walmart is no surprise, I have been to stores where 20 minutes is a good wait. These days retailers cannot afford to make people wait, but Walmart has not learned their lesson after all these years. I continue to support Target unless the service begins to suffer, but the stores have so many items that I prefer.

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    2. The last time I was at 2000's JCP was about a year ago and it was the one in katy. The store was really weird. The checkouts were like something you would see at target or Ross. The store wasn't busy also which I wonder how it stays open it was a Saturday afternoon. The store layout didn't make sense , men's clothing was all the way in the front but then other things like suits, jewelry were all the way in the back with kids clothing in the middle of the two men sections. The new stores remind me of a fancier target or kohls. I was wondering how long do you think JCP will stay there as the lone retail . It will be 10 years in October and still nothing except a few restaurants and a movie theater.

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    3. JCPenney will probably last until the lease is up on the property or they have a new development to get a store added onto. JCPenney brought several freestanding stores to areas in Houston where they were anticipating more development. In Dickinson, Pearland, and Pasadena it worked out for them. In Katy and Conroe not so much, but JCPenney will survive with or without nearby retail.

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  16. Part III:

    There is a new report stating that RadioShack may file for bankruptcy next month. Hopefully the company will survive bankruptcy and nobody will buy the chain just to liquidate it. They would like to dump a lot of locations through bankruptcy and they may sell some leases to Sprint. Thanks for the update about the Deerbrook Mall RadioShack. I'm not surprised that it is closing. Some areas seem to be hanging on to their mall RadioShacks, but we've lost most of them in Houston. Perhaps RadioShack is not discounting smaller, low price items like batteries, repair parts, and stuff like that since they can be warehoused and sold at other stores. I know RadioShack is having supplier issues so it may make sense for them to hang on to some products to ensure an uninterrupted supply. Other things, like cameras, phones, and GPSes need to be sold off quickly before they become outdated. Who knows though.

    I recently made a trip to RadioShack to get some accessories for some things I got during the Christmas season. The store I went to received mild updates, but it did have the cell phone repair station. I was able to get some nice things for prices that are at or below online prices. It's interesting how prices can vary at RadioShack though. I was able to get a USB cable on clearance for <$5 I think, but the regular price was $30. They still had other similar USB cables for around $30. I know I've said this before, but it's possible to get good deals at RadioShack. OTOH, it's possible to get ripped off there too if you don't know what things normally sell for. But, anyway, I still find it to be a useful place to shop even if it isn't what it was.

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    1. Radio Shack can probably get their money back from cell phone providers easily. The phone displays were removed from Deerbrook, but the off brand accessories were still left for the sale. Radio Shack locations getting taken over by yet another unstable company does not sound like a good idea, but at least Radio Shack can get rid of them. It is definitely buyer beware at Radio Shack since many items are marked up way over other retailers.

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  17. Part IV:

    It's interesting that you posted about the cassette car stereos today because YouTube user VWestlife (who I've mentioned here before) posted a video just yesterday about a new Dual brand car cassette stereo that he purchased. He says that it's the only new one available today aside from a similar looking (but not performing) Pyle one, but I don't think that's actually true. Well, anyway, I don't know if you'd want a stereo with a manual tuning dial, but it does have a line-in jack. The cassette player is very, very basic, but I guess it does work. I don't know if I would recommend the product or not, but it is an interesting video to watch.

    I mentioned a few months back that Kmart is no longer listing the 5 pack of Sony HF 90 minute audio cassettes on their website. Now they are listing a 2 pack of Sony HF 60 minute cassettes for $4. The website indicates that the Killeen store has the 2-pack in the stores, but the Lufkin store does not. Perhaps the Lufkin store still has the 5 packs and they won't get the 2 packs until they sell out of the 5 packs. $2 per 60 minute cassette is a lot to pay for a run of the mill Type I cassette, but at least Kmart is still selling them. I wonder if Sony discontinued the 5 pack and now is only selling the 2 pack. It's hard to say.

    Have you had any interesting thrift store/flea market finds lately? I really haven't brought home much recently. I did find a working 1994ish Hitachi Hi-Fi VCR with remote for a very low price so I did pick that up. The video quality is quite good actually even though the menus are rather confusing. These mid-90s Hitachi VCRs are a lot more reliable than their 1980s VCRs (like the Hitachi-built 1984 RCA VKT300 that I found) due to less reliance on belts.

    I did find a couple of very interesting Sony Walkmans though for about $2 each at one thrift. Walkmen are hard to find at thrifts these days so I was surprised to see two that were probably donated by the same person. The most interesting one is a WM-F2 recordable Walkman from 1982. This is a rare high feature model that was very expensive when new. It may have been the first stereo Walkman recorder model along with the sister model that didn't have an FM tuner. The other Walkman is an auto-reverse Sports Walkman WM-F73 from 1986. Although not as fancy or rare as the WM-F2, this was probably an expensive model when new too. Both of these units are very clean, but neither work (the radio part works on both, but not the tape transports). I suspect that both have bad belts. Maybe I'll try to get some belts for these, but I'll have to see how hard it will be to reassemble these units. Some Walkmen are easier to work on than others, but I have a feeling these aren't going to be on the easier side. If nothing else, I have some wonderful museum pieces now for my collection. The Kmart Walkman woman would be so impressed.

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    1. On the topics of cassettes and also Radio Shack, the Deerbrook store has blank cassettes and demagnetizers for sale. I have found blank cassettes recently on clearance racks at chain drugstores. Walmart still has 2-packs in their stores as well. I guess the pack size from Maxwell will only be 2 from now on.
      I have not had much time to shop lately with the exception of Christmas and after Christmas purchases. The few places I have gone to have been malls, Walmart, or Target.
      You can always check out the parts direct website to see if they have parts for your walkmans to fix them up.

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  18. Part I:

    Sears had already reduced their video game selection quite a bit, but it seems that they may be reducing it even more. I think it makes sense for them to sell only a handful of the best selling games though. Gamers aren't shopping at Sears for the most part so maybe they can just keep a few games for casual gamers and for parents/grandparents wanting to buy their kids presents and things like that. It's a bit different for Kmart since Wal-Mart and Target have larger game selections, but perhaps the sales (or profits at least) just aren't there.

    Video game consoles are considered a big part of connected homes these days (which makes the Smart TV push look even less smart). Perhaps then Sears will still sell some consoles and games at Connected Solutions stores at least. On the topic of Connection Solutions, one of the pilot stores for that is at the Woodfield Mall Sears in Schaumberg, IL in the Chicago area. Actually, it's not far from Sears' current HQs in Hoffman Estates. Woodfield Mall is a massive mall that is massively popular. Homart was seemingly involved with the development of the mall and it is named after Robert E. Wood (former Montgomery Ward and Sears executive) and Marshall Field of obvious retail fame. Anyway, the Woodfield Mall Sears is a massive 416,000 sq. feet. If you think the Memorial City Mall Sears is big, imagine a store about twice the size. I can't even imagine what shopping in that Sears would be like. I wonder how they fill up the space. I'll definitely have to check it out if I'm in the Chicago area.

    Sears does have some regular clearance sales in various departments that have firesale type prices. I recently purchased a couple of electronic items that normally cost at least $30 each online even at the cheapest places for $5 something each at Sears. Some stores seem to have better clearance sales than others though at least in my experience. Sometimes you can find good deals on tools too as you've found. The Westwood Mall Sears had some open box tools on clearance during my visit, but I don't see that everywhere. Some of those prices were good, but some weren't all that great.

    The Meyerland Plaza JCPenney at one time looked just like the Northwest Mall/Almeda Mall JCPenney stores on the outside, but the Meyerland store was renovated at some point. I don't know when I last went to the NW Mall JCPenney (I don't think I ever went to the Almeda Penney's), but it was probably in the mid-90s so it's hard for me to remember exactly what it looked like or how it was laid out even though I went there quite a bit way back in the day. Anyway, the Meyerland store does have some of the newer JCPenney elements from the 2000s onwards that the NW Mall store wouldn't have had. It's a nice looking store and I'd say it looks a bit more upscale than the typical JCPenney.

    I see that I wasn't the only one who hadn't been to one of the newer freestanding JCPenney stores. I can't blame you for not going to those. For one, the Deerbrook Mall Penney's is pretty nice (unless they've wrecked it since my last visit in 2011-12 like they did to the 2nd floor of the Willowbrook Mall store). Of course, the layout (of the Cypress store at least) is just confusing. On top of that, there hasn't been a time in the last ~25 years where I went to JCPenney without feeling at least a little bit disappointed that the rest of the store is still missing. It would be a different story if the hardlines were still there, but oh well. I'm sure that JCPenney people would say that at least they are still alive unlike Montgomery Ward.

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    1. Well I recently had a chance to make it back to the Sears Grand store in Austin and they no longer have video games. I visited the Main street Sears and found the game case still being stocked, but downsized. The electronics department is also smaller at (Main street) with mattresses now taking up the space where the electronics department had the two small aisles. The funny thing is that both stores still had a small Christmas section still left a month after the holiday. I can't imagine a 400,000 square foot Sears, they must really have to stretch the inventory out to make it work. It seems that Sears is shrinking electronics departments again. I am not sure how they are going to do it in Kmart stores since most electronics departments are surrounded and will have to be modified significantly.
      On the topic of JCPenney stores I visited the Brenham store that is scheduled to be closed. It is still a mostly retro store with very few updates. The store is mostly clothing and jewelry and probably is less than 20,000 square feet in size. The shopping center where it is located has a lumber store in a former Walmart and a large empty grocery store which is next to the JCPenney. Most of the shopping in the area is located off of 290 and this center is off of business 290 away from the majority of the traffice. The Deerbrook JCPenney got the remodel and looks like most of the other post 2013 stores. I rarely go there these days and hardly ever find anything there for me.

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  19. Part II:

    There's still somethings I like about Target and I think their lines are much, much more reasonable than Wal-Mart, but their prices aren't always as competitive (especially on grocery items) with other stores. Plus, sometimes Wal-Mart has better selection. Anyway, I've found alternatives to the discount stores since neither one is really doing a good job IMO right now. Grocery and other stores can be competitive on a lot of items as long as you check for promotions. The grocery competition in Houston is fierce right now. The discount store competition, well, not so much. The good deals I get at Sears and elsewhere have replaced a lot of the need to shop at discount stores for smaller hardline items and housewares. I still like the idea of discount stores, but the options we have in Houston have been disappointing lately. Neither Target or Wal-Mart are far off so hopefully they can improve their weaknesses. They could gain a lot of my business back if they were just a little bit better in their weak areas (it's really one big weakness with the check-out lines at Wal-Mart).

    I'm not really sure why Sprint would want RadioShack's leases. Perhaps RadioShack still sells a lot of Sprint contracts so Sprint does not want to lose those opportunities even if RadioShack closes stores. RadioShack pushed Sprint hard back in the day, but I know they have other carriers now too.


    Did you buy anything from the RadioShack clearance sale? RadioShack has had 2-packs of Maxell UR 60 and 90 minute cassettes on sale on their website for $4.25 and $6.04 (I'm not sure if the store prices are the same). Those are more expensive than the 2-pack of Sony HF cassettes at Kmart even with the RadioShack ones being on sale and the Kmart ones being regular price. I think Maxell is still selling larger "bricks" of cassettes because Walgreens and CVS still list 5 and 7 packs of Maxell UR 90 minute cassettes respectively on their sites (CVS is cheaper at 7 for $10). It's harder to say about Sony because Kmart and Wal-Mart are both selling 2-packs now. Perhaps the stores are pushing 2-packs since they seem to sell for higher prices per cassette and maybe some buyers now would rather buy 2 cassettes instead of a whole brick. It's hard to say.

    I found some Sony and Maxell VHS cassettes in the clearance bins at Walgreens about a year and a half ago, but I have not seen audio cassettes there (I did look once during a visit to a Walgreens during the Christmas season). Are you finding audio cassettes now too? If so, I might need to take a look if the prices are good. I may even be interested if they have VHS cassettes assuming that the prices are right. On a related note, have you seen if Drug Emporiums sell cassettes on your visits to those stores?

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    1. Target is in a transitional period and they have not been as aggressive as in the past with gaining customers with low prices. Walmart is what they are, you take their service or you don't.
      Sprint is the Radio Shack of cell phone carriers. They are losing customers and their signal is still way behind every other carrier. They have been cutting prices trying to win back customers, but they have cut back on their network improvements. Now if they take Radio Shack leases they will have even more debt with a decreasing customer base. I only bought cell phone screen protectors, but I plan on going back if they are still there to get a better discount on some of the other items.
      I found the cassettes at Rite Aid and an antique store in Louisiana. I have not seen any cassettes at Drug Emporium stores, but I did not look for them either.

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  20. Part III:

    I checked the Sears PartsDirect website for belts for those Walkmen. I'm not even able to pull up the WM-F2 model on the site or the related WM-2 model (which didn't record). The WM-2 isn't particularly rare, but the WM-F2 like I have is pretty rare so I'm not surprised that it isn't in the database. As for the WM-F73 Sports Walkman, I did find some parts listed under the related WM-F63 model number, but I don't think they have the belt for it. I can probably measure the belts and see if I can get the right ones from some obscure sites I know of (or at least order a variety pack of Walkmen belts), but I'm a little worried about the disassembly of these Walkmen. The WM-F73 looks pretty easy to get into, but the WM-F2 looks like it might be much more difficult to disassemble/reassemble without a service manual. I can probably do it, but I have other working portable cassette players so it isn't totally necessary for me to fix these right away. I'd love to get these going again though. I could use an auto-reverse Walkman for the car (I don't want to have to flip tapes while driving) and the WM-F2 is just such a special model that I'd love to get it going. I always wanted a stereo Walkman recorder and I guess I have one now, but I just need to get it working. Well, at least the radios work on these.

    I have a Sony Walkman WM-F10 from the early-to-mid 1980s that I've had since it was new. It's considered to be a fairly special model as well due to it's compactness (you can read more about it on the WM-10 info page as it's the same thing minus the FM tuner that's on the F10). The device is actually the size of a cassette (though a bit thicker) and is supposedly the smallest Walkman ever even though it has Dolby and stuff like that. It may need a new belt too, but it has a slight issue in the battery compartment that needs to be fixed before I can worry about the belt. Anyway, I have some interesting Walkmen in my collection even if they don't fully work. I do have some not-so-special Walkmen that do work though.

    I've seen some regular cassette decks in the thrifts lately, but the prices have been sky high. I saw a very basic Service Merchandise brand Garrard dual cassette deck for $20 and a low end Kenwood dual cassette deck for $40 in the last few weeks. I didn't really want either deck even if they were cheap (though having a Service Merchandise house brand deck could have been interesting), but I definitely wasn't buying those at those prices. Hopefully the prices for cassette decks at the thrifts aren't spiking and we'll see some better quality decks for more reasonable prices in 2015. At least so far the supply of reasonably priced VCRs has been okay in my observation for anyone looking for one. They aren't as plentiful as they were a few years ago, but they are still out there and the prices are still reasonable.

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    1. I have my Walkman saved on my parts direct profile so I can easily find parts. It was quite difficult to find it the first time. You should probably be able to find replacement parts online off of Ebay or elsewhere. My model still has several decks for sale on Ebay so I can easily find a replacement or parts if needed.
      I still have yet to walk into a thrift since late Summer. I just have not had the time, I have been to a few antique stores but came up empty-handed there.

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  21. I also see memorial city cutting JCP if it closes down and replace it with something upscale. The wing from JCP and Macy's to Dillard's have the most upscale stores where as the wing between Target and sears have mid level stores

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    1. Nordstrom was rumored to open at the mall in the early 2000's. I am not sure why they never opened up after announcements had been made. I guess they wanted the Galleria to be their first store in Houston and then the mall filled up so they can't put a store there now.

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  22. Part I:

    It’s interesting that I mentioned the Woodfield Mall when I did because I read a news article the day after I posted that about how a Pac-Man themed restaurant will be opening up in warehouse space at the Woodfield Mall Sears. Perhaps Sears is/was using some of that 400,000+ sq. ft. space as a warehouse. It probably makes sense to do that. As for having a Pac-Man themed restaurant in the Sears building, well, that might help Sears’ reputation in terms of becoming “retro cool” or something like that.

    I’ve been meaning to visit the Main St. Sears lately. I’ll probably make it down there one of these days. I’m not surprised to hear that they have reduced the size of the electronics department there. It was pretty big, though perhaps not any larger than some of the other larger Sears like the Memorial City Mall Sears. Sears has been expanding their mattress and furniture departments at many stores so it makes sense that they would replace some of the electronic space with furniture. It’s nice to hear that they are still selling some video games at least. Perhaps there aren’t very many video game stores in the area so their sales are okay. I’m a little surprised that the Austin Sears Grand has removed video games completely, but it’s certainly not shocking as other stores have removed them completely too. Of course, that makes their Nintendo GameCube signage look even more outdated. Perhaps Connected Solutions departments will take over some floor space at some of these Sears and Kmart stores where electronics departments are being downsized.

    I’ve heard about the Brenham JCPenney before, but I’ve never visited it or seen photos of it. Hopefully you were able to get some photos of it. It might make for an interesting quick post. Has the closing sale started yet? The traffic patterns in Brenham and other cities like Hempstead changed a lot when the 290 freeway replaced the “old” 290 in the 1990s. I’m sure this, along with the desire for larger stores, pushed Wal-Mart out towards the freeway.

    I was thinking about Houston JCPenney stores and there really aren’t that many that still exist that used to be full-line stores with the hardlines back in the day. Most of those have closed. I guess there are still stores like the Meyerland Plaza and the San Jacinto Mall locations. Anyway, I don’t shop at JCPenney all that often these days either. They are one of the stores I consider when I look for clothing items, but there are a lot of stores on that list and it’s not like I shop for clothing a lot. I find that the quality/styling of clothing at JCPenney isn’t as good as it used to be some years ago, but I think it’s a little bit better than it was during the Ron Johnson era.

    On the topic of Sears electronics, I read a report today saying that Sears cut 100 jobs at their HQs. The report says that Sears let go of most of their consumer electronics buyers, but Sears is denying that. If it's true, I wonder what will happen. One thought is that Sears may cut their electronics departments even more (perhaps getting rif of them totally), but maybe Sears wants to hire new people who will take the electronics departments in a new direction. Perhaps Sears feels that they don't need as many buyers since the electronics departments are smaller. Who knows, but this is a potentially major development

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    1. Well I did a little more research on Sears/ Kmart and I found a few sources reporting that they are discontinuing video games in all stores. The remaining stores are selling off the rest of their games and removing the video game cases. Deerbrook removed their game case and had 3 games with a few odds and ends left on a clearance shelf. West Oaks still has the video game case but had about 10 games left with clearance stickers on the games. I guess the Main St. store filled up the case with the rest of their inventory to sell it off.
      The Brenham JCPenney was still operating as normal on my visit. I did not get any pictures of the store, but I may go back.
      The Sears job losses are telling, I would not be surprised if the smaller connected departments are their electronics departments in the future. I like the new technologies they are featuring with the smart lightbulbs and just about everything controlled by an app. I hate seeing job losses for any reason, but hopefully they can find jobs with a better company soon.

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  23. Part II:

    Calling Sprint the RadioShack of cell phone carriers is probably an accurate statement. Sprint is an oldish name in the telecom business, but they have seen better days. Sprint can be the cheapest, but a lot of times their service is spotty. I know this was years ago, but I had Sprint service in the early 2000s and it was absolutely terrible. I didn’t get service at home, work, and a lot of places in between. I switched to Cingular (which now operates as AT&T) after the contract was up and coverage improved remarkably. Anyway, I believe that Sprint is currently owned by a Japanese company so we’ll see if Sprint makes the right move if they buy out RadioShack locations. It could be a good move to get more retail locations (especially visible ones) since Sprint isn’t the first carrier that people think of, but OTOH, they may burn cash getting those retail locations if people don’t sign up for plans at them. I know that Gateway Computers got burned when they opened retail locations (Gateway County stores) at popular spots back in the late 1990s.

    On the topic of finding cassettes, a Kblogger (well, more of a Kroger blogger than a Kmart blogger, but still) posted a photo just a couple of days ago of the VHS and audio cassette selection at a Mississippi Kmart location last April. That Kmart still has several 5-pack bricks of Sony HF 90 minute cassettes. I wonder if they have the 2-packs yet or if they are still selling the bricks. The sale price on the Maxell VHS cassettes was quite good. I wish we had Kmarts here so I could buy them, but I don’t know if that price is now.

    I'm not really sure what brand(s) of VHS and audio cassettes Rite-Aid sells these days since we don't have them here. Did they have anything interesting?

    I plan on repairing the Walkmen that I found, but I may have to perform at least a little bit of exploratory surgery to see what the issues are and to measure the belts for replacements if that is the issue. I’ll probably take more risks with the WM-F73 since it looks much easier to work on and since it’s the less rare of the two. I definitely want to get the WM-F2 going too, but that is such a special model that I want to be extra careful with it. I don’t know how high these repairs are on my priority list right now though. The first thing that I’d like to repair is the RCA VKT300 VCR that I found a few months back. That VCR has personal significance to me so I’d like to get it going in tip-top shape. I replaced all the bad belts with rubber bands, but that is not a permanent fix. I need to get real belts for it so the repair will last.

    I revisited the same thrift that I found those Walkmen at and they had other cassette equipment this time. One was a beat up looking early 1980s GE stereo Walkman clone. It was only $2, but I decided to pass on it given the condition. They also had Panasonic, Sanyo, and Sony shoebox recorders from the 1970s probably. All were dirty and had some rust on the tape transports so I passed on those too, but at least they were interesting to look at. There's still some interesting finds at the thrifts. Maybe you'll be able to visit the thrifts again soon.

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    1. I visited the Radio Shack at Deerbrook again and the discounts are now on all of the items but still 25% except for some items. The stock is getting smaller so I am not sure how much more time the store will last.
      Rite-aid had the same brands that Walmart and Kmart carry, nothing interesting. They still have a generic cassette walkman for sale in the stores I visited. The cassette selection at that Kmart is much better than I have seen at any store recently. I wonder what they are going to do with all of the extra electronics space at Kmart stores. Video games, music cd's, dvd's, and so many other things are disappearing.
      Hopefully the walkman repairs will not take too much time.

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    2. The RadioShack on Eldridge and westhimer closes at 5 and has banners saying everthing is 75 percent off but there isn't a closing sale
      That store is only 7 years old

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    3. Some of the Radio Shack stores were converted to clearance stores and this sounds like one of them. I think this is a tactic to get the landlords to let them out of these store leases early.

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  24. Part I:

    It is sad to hear about the job losses at the Sears HQs. I think the electronics buyers had to deal with a lot of bad luck concerning the lack of demand for consumer electronics devices in general instead of bad decisions on their part (though I’m not saying that Sears/Kmart has had the perfect CE strategy either). Hopefully they’ll be able to rebound.

    I’m not really sure what to make of the electronics shakeup at Sears if the rumored electronics buyers lay-offs are correct. Perhaps Sears will just focus on Connected Solutions, but the other day the new Connected Solutions guy said that Connected Solutions will refine Sears’ electronics departments and not replace them. Maybe there is a change of plan, but then again, it’s not like every Sears and Kmart will have a Connected Solutions department (at least for a while) so I don’t know what the plan is. I know Sears has talked about getting away from trying to sell so many TVs since TV sales have been somewhat soft in recent years so maybe this has something to do with that. I hope the new buyers (if there are any, there may not be) will still put some emphasis on video, but will all consider selling Hi-Fi gear and stuff like that.

    The Connected Solutions stuff might be helpful too, but a lot of the stuff they want to sell are unproven products like smart watches. Fitness electronics are popular right now and it’s probably important for Sears to sell stuff like that given their pretty strong fitness departments. Some of those fitness products may disappear though as phones integrate those features. It probably makes sense for Sears to sell home automation stuff like the smart light bulbs. I don’t know if stuff like that will ever be popular, but it might have high profit margins so perhaps that can even things out. It’s important for Sears to keep up with things like smart appliances too even if they’re never high demand as it’ll help Sears keep their position in the appliance game. On the topic of Connected Solutions, TWICE has another new article about the departments.

    Thanks for the update about the state of video games at Houston Sears locations. I read one of those reports about Sears/Kmart dropping video games completely too. It’s a bit confusing though as Sears had firesale prices on games and accessories during the Christmas season, but then the prices seemingly returned to normal again. It was unclear then what exactly was going on. Maybe Sears is still liquidating the games, but perhaps they turned down the heat on the firesale. It’s hard to say. I’m not surprised that Sears is getting rid of video games though if it is indeed true, but it would be the end of an era for sure. I wonder if they may bring back some popular games just during the Christmas season.

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  25. Part II:

    I was looking at the Mall of the Mainland Sears Shop Your Way site and they did have a comment in there about the mall potentially reopening. I assume they read the same Galveston Daily News report that we did. The more interesting thing is that it appears that the store is opening an hour earlier than it used to. The store still closes at 8pm, but additional hours are always a good thing and a good sign too.

    Some Kmart stores are getting Connected Solutions departments so maybe that will take up some of the empty spaces in the Kmart electronics departments. I don’t know if Kmart removing electronics completely (or removing a significant part of what is left) is an option that is being considered, but if so, perhaps Kmart can move some housewares and other items to the demised electronics departments that were clogging up the hallways.

    Some Kmart stores have K-Dollar departments. Those might be a good idea to give their stores a unique department compared to Wal-Mart and Target stores. Maybe those can go into the electronics departments (or maybe a slice of them if electronics remain but are downsized).

    We've talked about hhgregg before. They released their 4Q 2014 results and they are very ugly. Hhregg has dropped some departments so maybe that explains some of the problems, but they probably wouldn't have dropped those departments if they were doing well. The future of the company isn't looking bright unless they have a significant turnaround.

    I guess it isn't too surprising that Rite-Aid sells the same Sony and Maxell audio/video cassettes that everyone else sells. Those are pretty much the only major names still selling cassettes along with the Memorex VHS cassettes that Wal-Mart sells and the Polaroid branded cassettes. That's interesting that Rite-Aid is still selling a Walkman-like portable cassette player. It's probably not the best quality, but at least it is something for those who don't have a portable cassette player.

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    1. I will combine my reply on the above 2 posts here.
      Sears has suffered from the lack of must-have electronics in recent years. They did not create any decent interactive displays like some of their competitors have to draw attention to their electronics departments. If they can get the connected solutions departments rolling quickly and in a very visible part of the store electronics sales will start improving.
      Video games were taken out probably because gamers want the biggest and best selection. Sears got away from offering a large video game selection several years ago. Console sales have also dropped off and the growth of Gamestop has forced Sears to abandon games altogether.
      Nearly every electronics retailer except for Best Buy is struggling right now. I have not seen a Kmart yet with the K Dollar section but we will see what happens as some of these stores consolidate their electronics sections.
      I am very surprised that Rite Aid survives in Louisiana. Many of their stores still have the K&B purple interiors that were in place for many years before Rite Aid acquired the stores in 1997. Very few of their stores get a steady business and the merchandise is expensive like at CVS.

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  26. There's a lot of retail news going on this week that it is probably worth an update. Of course, the biggest story is the news that RadioShack may be no more here very, very soon. One report has RadioShack selling about half their stores to Sprint and the other half closing. Of course, we've heard about Sprint's interest in RadioShack locations before. There's some discussion that the Sprint stores could be co-branded as RadioShacks. If so (or even otherwise), I wonder if Sprint would sell some or all of RadioShack's non-phone related products like audio gear and electronics parts.

    There's another report saying that Amazon is looking at buying RadioShack locations as part of a push to establish retail locations. I'm not so sure if I believe that there is much validity to that rumor. It would be a big risk for Amazon to get physical locations and I'm not so sure how many RadioShack locations are appealing to Amazon. It would probably make sense for Amazon to start from scratch if they wanted physical locations.

    It's pretty sad to hear that RadioShack will probably be gone within the next few weeks. I still shop at RadioShack as they still have a useful niche for me and they've meant a lot to me over the years. I'm hoping that they'll be able to survive in some form, but we'll see. I'm not optimistic right now, but who knows how accurate the media speculation is at the moment.

    The other big piece of news today is that Staples and Office Depot plan on merging. Of course, those two planned on merging in 1996, but the government shot down that proposal. The same thing might happen to them again given that Staples would be the only major office supply chain left since Office Depot purchased out OfficeMax recently. Some analysts say that Wal-Mart, Target, Amazon, and others provide more competition than what was the case 20 years ago, but it's not like Wal-Mart and Target didn't have office supplies in 1996. Plus, Staples and Office Depot/OfficeMax are major players in the corporate office supply contract business. That has to be considered as well. It seems like Office Depot is still trying to integrate OfficeMax and their stores together and settle on which locations will stay. It'll be even more complicated with Staples in the mix and it seems likely that even more stores will close/consolidate with another merger.

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    1. Radio Shack is on their death bed right now. I doubt Sprint will keep any Radio Shack items besides what will benefit their customers with phones. I can't say I shopped much at Radio Shack, but I liked to stop by from time to time. I am hoping that the Sprint stores will absorb as many jobs as they can from Radio Shack. Job losses are always very disappointing.
      One other thing about HHGregg, I can't believe they got out of the fitness equipment business. Fitness and health are such a major focus right now for many Americans. I don't think it is as big of a blunder as Circuit City leaving the appliance business, but it hurts.
      I don't think the merger will happen for Staples, but it will be an interesting story to follow.

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  27. Part I:

    Today has been a newsworthy day when it comes to RadioShack. Fortunately, the news seems to be more positive so far for us RadioShack shoppers than the media speculation before. RadioShack did finally end up filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The plan now is to close about half the stores and sell the other half to Standard General. Most, if not all, of the Standard General stores will have a Sprint store within a store taking up about a third of the stores. The rest of the stores will reportedly have traditional RadioShack merchandise. It seems that Sprint will have the opportunity to dominate storefront branding.

    The plans can change if another bidder arises during the bankruptcy process, but the plan seems to keep RadioShack around in at least some traditional form. Hopefully things work out. A decent chunk of RadioShack stores currently are dedicated to phones so it may not have such a huge difference anyway. I wonder if RadioShack will continue to operate their phone repair service since most of the remaining stores have the repair centers already.

    Here is a list of proposed locations that will close. I assume that these stores are liquidating and/or are clearance stores at the moment, but I have not yet visited a closing store. Most of the RadioShacks that I've shopped at in recent times (including 3-4 of the closest locations to me) are not on the list so that is a great thing for me. The only RadioShacks that I've shopped at in recent times that are on the closing list are the North Oaks and La Marque locations. It seems like most/all of the Houston mall locations are on the closing list. Interestingly enough, the Gessner store across from Memorial City Mall is closing as well.

    I think a much reduced store count may help the "new" RadioShack do better than the current one. Also, they can now focus on electronics and leave the phones to Sprint. Focusing back on electronics and hobbyists may help RadioShack carve out a niche. They will also continue to have storefronts to make their online store more convenient than ordering from other parts stores and Amazon. We'll have to see how the RadioShack situation goes from here because things can still change big time at this stage.

    I was very surprised to see that Hhgregg dropped fitness equipment too. I can only assume that they dropped them because sales were disappointing, but who knows. It may end up being a foolish decision ala Circuit City with appliances. Hhgregg seems to have a lot of departments with bad sales so they'll have to come up with something to stay alive. We'll see.

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    1. I heard the Deerbrook store is gone and I visited the San Jacinto Mall store this past weekend. The San Jacinto Mall store had already removed the cell phone racks and most of the merchandise left was hanging on the walls. It looked like a bunch of merchandise was already removed. The Humble store across from Deerbrook and the one in Atascocita are both closing. It looks like only one will remain open in the Northeast Houston area in Kingwood.

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    2. the one in west Houston is closing also

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    3. We are losing 22 stores total in the Houston area. It looks like the last remaining mall stores in our area are closing.

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  28. Part II:

    It seems like Sears bet the electronics farm on video a few years back. They obviously focused a lot on TVs and created one of the more impressive TV displays especially in their larger stores. Unfortunately, TV sales and profit margins are down from a few years ago so that isn't a winning strategy. Although Sears missed the boat on things like tablet sales a few years ago, sales/profit margins for those items are down too so even other electronics retailers are hurting big time. Hopefully Sears will stick with traditional electronics and will also have some luck with the Connected Solutions stuff too. One of the electronics items creating a buzz this year are the portable high-res music players like Pono and some of the new Sony Walkman players. Sears hasn't jumped on the bandwagon yet, but perhaps it's something they can emphasize with Connected Solutions. It's hard to say whether these products will be a hit or a miss as the reviews for them have been mixed. Plus, I'm not sure if people will want a standalone music player again even if they can tell a difference in quality (but they may not even be able to tell a difference).

    I visited the Main St. Sears this past week. That was my first visit to the store in about a year. As you mentioned earlier, the electronics department there has been downsized. It's no longer L shaped. The video games case was completely empty so they must have sold everything in it. Aside from that, the department was pretty well organized and stocked given the constraints of the reduced size. Video games and accessories took up a pretty good chunk of the electronics area that now has mattresses in it so perhaps they didn't have to get rid of a lot of other stuff in the downsize. Perhaps they don't have quite as many computer accessories as they used to either.

    It seems like the tool department had a lot of empty sections especially against the back wall near where they have the batteries and extension cords and stuff like that. I'm not really sure what was going on with that. It's hard to say for sure, but it kind of feels like the Main St. Sears has a smaller tool department than even smaller Sears stores like the Baybrook Mall Sears. I could be wrong about that though and maybe the department at the store is going through a transitional period at the moment. Obviously the lawn & garden department is going through a seasonal transition at the moment. The housewares departments on the top floor, OTOH, seemed to be stocked and organized quite well even compared to some other local Sears.

    I could be wrong about this, but it seems like the Main St. Sears is missing the price scanners that most other Sears have. I guess that isn't a huge deal, but I do like the price scanners. Nevertheless, I always enjoy my visits to the Main St. Sears. It's truly a special store with a unique feel even compared to other older Sears like the N. Shepherd store. One thing that I'm not sure about is if Sears owns the large parking lot that is in between the Sears and the Fiesta. There really isn't any signage that I could see on the lot saying whose it is. There is a smaller lot directly next to the Sears so I'm not sure if the bigger lot is theirs or not.

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    1. One thing about the Main St store that is unusual is the large amount of tools that are locked up in cases. I am sure it is because of theft, but it makes it harder to shop for tools at that location. They must have just cleared out the video game case and sent back the wii consoles they had in there three weeks ago.
      Another thing Sears could jump on is the Go-pro cameras that are becoming a big thing. They need to bring in more items soon or the electronics sections are going to be hurting even more. I have noticed that they have not been painting electronics sections in any more stores in the area since early last year. I am sure Sears is debating on whether they will keep the departments going of not.

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  29. Part III:

    I've visited the Mall of the Mainland Sears, Baybrook Mall Sears, and the Main St. Sears obviously in recent weeks. The Main St. Sears seemed to be completely free of Christmas items aside from the "More Merry" bag I received my purchase in. The Mall of the Mainland store seemed to clear Christmas stuff out earlier this year than last year. The only stuff I saw was a couple of stockings in the children's department. Oddly enough, the Baybrook store seemed to have the most Christmas stuff. I saw stockings there too, but they also had Christmas tree boxes of candy out at a couple of registers. They also still had Christmas themed displays in either the automotive or tools section (I forget which) where they put items that would make good gift items.

    I wonder if the Mall of the Mainland Sears decided to open earlier than before because of the World Gym. I'm sure a lot of people go to the gym in the mornings and maybe Sears is trying to take advantage of that.

    It's interesting how some Sears have departments and services that others don't. Some of those, like the Sears Authorized Driving Schools that some Houston Sears have, are operated by 3rd party companies so they only operate in certain regions. I came across a picture of the Coronado Center Sears in Albuquerque that has a watch/jewelery repair department. I wonder if that is owned by a 3rd party or if it is owned by Sears itself. I don't think I've seen that in Houston's modern Sears, but I could be wrong about that. I wonder what other obscure services Sears stores have in other areas.

    I've heard rumors that Kmart is converting some Super Kmarts into Kfresh stores. I wonder how the Kfresh concept is doing. Perhaps we'll see see it expand to other locations too. Kmarts may get some new touches with Connected Solutions and Kfresh if those concepts expand.

    Rite Aid seems to play the Kmart role amongst the big three drug store chains. Some of their stores have gone years without updates and some stores that they took over from other chains maintain their prior decor for better or for worse. Rite Aid has some remodeled take overs that look very nice though like this one and this one. I don't think I've been to a Rite Aid so I really can't comment on how the shopping experience compares to Walgreens or CVS (or Eckerd even), but I'll be sure to visit one whenever I can so I can compare the differences. I went to a drug store called Shoppers Drug Mart in Canada a few years ago and it seemed like it was a notch above our Walgreens and CVS. Regardless, I'm glad the US big 3 drug stores continue to sell audio/video cassettes. I brought a lot of my audio cassettes from Walgreens and Eckerd even back in the glory years of the medium.

    I have a feeling that businesses are going to be strongly opposed to the Staples-Office Depot merger. Companies sign exclusive purchasing agreements with places like Staples and OfficeMax depending on who offers the best deal. The places I've worked at in recent times have had exclusive contracts with Corporate Express (which was recently purchased by Staples), Office Depot, and OfficeMax. I'm sure companies don't want reduced competition in the bidding process. Perhaps regulators would be okay with a retail side merger, but I have a feeling that they won't like the idea of a corporate supply merger. I suppose Office Depot could sell/spin off their corporate supply business to a 3rd party and merge their retail side with Staples, but I'm not sure if that is an appealing option.

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    1. It would be good if Kmart expanded the Kfresh concept to other stores, but it may be their way of finishing off the last of the Super Kmart stores. Even a few Sears stores would be good locations for the Kfresh concept. I just hope that it does not become an afterthought like the expanded grocery sections became when Kmart stores were re-branded as Big Kmart stores.
      The remodeled Rite-Aid looks nice, I have not seen one that looks like that yet. Very few Rite-Aid stores that were K&B stores were remodeled. Basically all they did was slap new signage up inside and outside of the stores. Some of the stores still have the old purple shopping carts with Rite-Aid stickers covering up the K&B logo. I think Rite-Aid has been overextending themselves for years to look good for investors. They are now stuck with a bunch of aging mismatched stores that will drag the company down. I am sure they don't make the sales that other chains make, most locations are super slow at all times of the day on my visits.
      I would hope that the office chains do not merge. I think we need as much competition as possible and losing another big box chain will not help the economy at all.

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  30. Part I:

    I figured that the Deerbrook Mall RadioShack had closed even before bankruptcy because it wasn't on RadioShack's store finder and it wasn't on the list of proposed store closings. I did not realize at first that NE Houston was being hit as hard as they are by the closings. Say what you want to about the NE side, but that seems like a large enough area to justify more than one RadioShack.

    I've been noticing RadioShack's exodus from Houston malls for a couple of years now at least so I'm not surprised to see them close their remaining mall stores here. I wonder how many mall RadioShacks will stay in business nationally. Perhaps Sprint isn't too interested in mall stores since there are so many phone stores in the mall anyway. Perhaps the mall lease rates are just too high. Perhaps RadioShack does not want to stay open during all the hours they are required to be open at malls. It's hard to say.

    I've yet to visit one of the RadioShacks that are closing so I appreciate the updates about the liquidation sales. I did visit a non-closing RadioShack this week in my area and the store seemed oddly busy with customers given the time of day during my visit. The people who were there were at the back of the store looking for parts/connectors too. Maybe it was just a random thing, but perhaps electronics people are stocking up now just in case the Sprint-RadioShack stores don't sell as many parts or any at all.

    Anyway, I'm glad to hear that you got some photos of the San Jacinto and Deerbrook Mall RadioShacks. It's been a few years since I've been to a mall RadioShack and I may not be able to ever visit one again given all the closures at malls. It's probably worth getting some pictures of non-mall stores too (even ones that are staying open) as they will probably be remodeled if/when Sprint takes their place in those stores.

    it is disappointing that many tools are locked in the glass cases at the Main St. Sears. It really does take away from the shopping experience. I'm not sure if any other Sears are set up that way.

    I guess I have not noticed that the electronics departments at Sears have not been repainted recently like other departments, but the electronics departments are usually dark so I guess it's harder to notice. Then again, maybe Sears didn't repaint them since it is less visible. The questionable future of the departments are probably a factor as well. Perhaps the stores that will get Connected Solutions departments will get renovated.

    Speaking of Sears department designs, I came across some photos of the Sears at the Washington Square Mall in Indianapolis. The mall is yet another struggling DeBartolo built mall and the Sears closed in December 2014. Anyway, the Sears there had very odd department signage. I don't know if that was experimental design or what. It's very odd. It looks better in some departments than others, but I don't really like it for the most part. It seems like the store had a dentist's office too. That's interesting.

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    1. Deerbrook Radio Shack was still open in late January, but it was either a clearance store or it was closing. The signs in the store said clearance blowout, but I think they were just waiting to file for bankruptcy to close the store. I have been picking through my mall archives to put as many Radio Shack stores as I can find in my upcoming article.

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  31. Part II:

    Sears sells action cameras, but they seem to be committed to the Activeon brand instead of GoPro. I really don't know much about action cameras so I don't know how the two compare, but Sears could have an advantage if the Activeon cameras are good since they seem to be the main retailer for them. Then again, those looking for the GoPro brand may be disappointed if they go to a Sears store to buy one. Granted, I'm not sure if the action cam demographic and the Sears demographic really cross, but hopefully it's an area where Sears can sell some products.

    Hopefully Kmart is taking their Kfresh stores seriously. I can't imagine Kmart moving to add Kfresh to a large number of stores at once. They're probably picking the stores where they feel that they can sell groceries. At the same time, they may be wanting to cut costs at Super Kmart stores by replacing the full grocery departments with limited grocery departments. Kmart cheapened out on the pantry departments (amongst other things) of Big Kmarts back in the day. The coolers that they used for milk and things always looked out of place and downright goofy in some cases. Hopefully Kmart is putting more effort into their Kfresh stores. Perhaps they're only choosing their best managed stores at this point when it comes to Kfresh.

    There is a Kblogger who extensively provided photo coverage chronicling the demolition of the Jenison, MI, ex-Kmart. The store seemed to open at around the same time as the Texas City mansard slice Kmart, closed at around the same time, and then got demolished at almost the same time. Anyway, he seemed to take one of the famed large HVAC vents from the store during the demolition and I guess he has it in his house now. It's interesting to see how large it is up close. Those vents are in some ways the ultimate Kmart souvenir.

    Walgreens and CVS were involved in a real arms race a few years ago in terms of building new stores and acquiring other drug store chains. I guess Rite Aid felt that they had to keep pace. Rite Aid does well in some areas, but they seem to struggle in others. I know that they've had some accounting issues that have set them back a bit. Perhaps Rite Aid would be better off focusing on being a strong regional pharmacy instead of an over-extended national chain, but it's really hard to say. At least they are keeping some retro stores around for better or for worse.

    We've talked about smart TVs before and how they have major drawbacks. Well, those concerns were a really hot topics this week due to a couple of stores. One is that Samsung Smart TVs are playing Pepsi ads on locally stored video files being played on the TV. The bigger story concerns privacy and Samsung's use of voice commands. Of course, even if Samsung didn't do anything with the voice commands, there's still the problem that the TVs have microphones and cameras in some instances and the security of the TV's operating system often isn't very good and probably won't be updated enough (if at all) over time. I really wonder why anyone would want a "smart" TV, but then again, it's not like consumers are running to Best Buy, Sears, and Amazon just to upgrade their regular TVs to smart TVs. There are better ways to get "smart" features on TV sets.

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    1. The Sears store in the above post is very interesting, I have never seen a store with that signage. It is sad that it is now gone, I wonder if any other stores were fixed up like that one was.
      I made it to a few Sears stores over the past few days including Mall of the Mainland. The smaller electronics department at Mall of the Mainland would be a good size for the rest of the stores since so many products have disappeared in the last year or so from their product lines. I got some photos through the mall entrance glass of the small section of the mall that you can still see. I also visited the Palais Royal and the center area with the escalators. The developers did a good job fixing the store up and keeping the style of the interior mostly intact.
      I also made it to Pasadena Town Square and the electronics department there is so large most of the aisles are very space apart with very few items on display. The game case is still there, but empty. The Macy's shut down the second floor and moved all of their furniture to the first level where the Children's and part of the Men's department were. The Children's department moved to the middle of the first floor where Women's clothing was previously located. Champs moved to a new smaller location near the food court, but I did not see too many changes since my last visit. The Ventech office is open and according to the website, they are a refinery engineering company.
      Sears hopefully did not invest in the Beta/ HD DVD/ DIVX of the action camera companies, but we will see. I have probably walked past the cards for their action cameras at the store and did not notice they have action cameras now.
      I would love to have one of those A/C vents here at home. I guess we missed an opportunity to get one a few months ago when they demolished the Texas City Kmart. I did get your email, I will check out the pictures when I have a chance. I was able to get some pictures of the empty site on my visit to Texas City and got a good photo of the "In" sign as well.
      I am going to wait a little while longer now to purchase a new TV. They really need to get these bugs worked out before I will trust buying one of these new TV's.

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    2. that's sad that they closed the second floor .
      you should do an article about upstairs of old Foley's in San Jacinto , willowbrook , westoaks and all the old Foley's locations before they all fall apart. With the exception of willowbrook and westoaks since they both had new roof back in the early 2000's

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    3. San Jacinto is the last full old school second floor left in the area. West Oaks has probably about 25% closed off to the public now, but still has the retro look of the 1980's Foley's stores. The next time I make it to these stores, I will have to get some photos since they are going away.

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    4. The West Oaks Mall Macy's is pretty retro looking, but the 2nd floor of the Willowbrook Mall Macy's really isn't retro. It changed rather dramatically when the furniture moved to the former Montgomery Ward and electronics were eliminated. In fact, I'd say that the 1st floor is probably more retro than the 2nd floor. I'm not sure how well Macy's maintains their stores. I have not noticed major maintenance issues at most Macy's stores, but the Pasadena Town Square store is an major exception and the San Jacinto Mall store might be an exception as well. Hopefully Macy's won't let the 2nd floor of the Pasadena store rot now that it is closed. Who knows what the 2nd floor of the Willowbrook Macy's Mens store looks like. It may still look like Montgomery Ward up there.

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  32. Part III:

    I've come across some interesting finds in the thrifts this week. The same thrift where I brought those two Walkmen a few weeks back (they've had other portables too recently) had an early 1990s basic Sony Walkman this week. I tested it when I got home and unfortunately it seems to have bad belts too. I'm having bad luck with these lately, but this one seems to be easy to fix if I want to do it. They also had a Tozai portable stereo cassette player for a couple of dollars. I thought about buying it for a split second, but then I thought better of it. Who knows, maybe that one would have worked. I doubt it works well even if it does work.

    What's even more interesting is that I was at a thrift that had a late 1970s-very early 1980s Montgomery Ward Airline radio/turntable/cassette combo with speakers. The same thrift also had a 1984ish Sears VHS VCR. I almost never see Sears electronics in the thrifts and while Wards electronics aren't as rare, I rarely see their vintage stereo equipment in the thrifts. I wasn't particularly interested in buying either so I didn't buy them, but it was interesting seeing them anyway. I was looking at VHS movies an aisle over when someone else saw the Wards stereo system and the guy was amazed about the stereo and said something along the lines of "Montgomery Ward? Montgomery Ward! Wow!" He was playing around with it so I wonder if he brought it. I doubt the stereo is anything great, but hopefully it'll go to someone who appreciates Montgomery Ward and vintage audio equipment. That thrift also had a lot of audio cassettes including some very vintage and/or obscure brand used blank tapes that I purchased. I'm looking forward to testing those. They also had a bunch of sealed Eckerd brand Digitech cassettes. They're probably no better than Walgreens' ToneMasters from that era, but I brought most of what the thrift had so I could test them and add them to my collection if nothing else. There are some Eckerd Digitech cassettes with the "reel-to-reel" look, but these unfortunately aren't that fancy.

    On the topic of Montgomery Ward, there was an unfortunate situation at Willowbrook Mall this week where someone shot their relatives right outside the Macy's mens store (former Montgomery Ward) leading to one death and one person being seriously injured. Obviously it's a real shame for the family, but it's not good news for the mall either.

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    1. I am going to have to check out some of the thrifts you go to. I hardly go these days, but I need some new (to me) cassettes to listen to. A vintage Montgomery Ward stereo would be a good find, I was a big fan of Montgomery Ward and Service Merchandise before those chains went under.
      I read about the Willowbrook incident, it is an unfortunate situtation. I feel for the family that is going through such a tragedy. It will have an effect on sales there for a while.

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  33. Part I:

    The Indianapolis Washington Town Square Sears certainly did have odd department designs. I’ve never seen pictures of a Sears like that, but perhaps other Sears exist with that theme. I’m guessing the theme is from the early 2000s given that Sears’ old slogan of “The Good Life at a Great Price” is painted in one of the hallways. Given that, I wonder if the theme was designed by the same person who designed some of the oddball themes at The Great Indoors.

    I’m glad to hear that you’ve been able to visit the Mall of the Mainland recently. I was actually just thinking the other day that all Sears electronics departments (sans Connected Solutions) may end up looking like the current Mall of the Mainland Sears electronics department at some point if the electronics downsizing continues. I have not actually seen the Activeon action cameras at Sears, but I do know that they sell those cameras and a number of Activeon brand accessories. I’m guessing they are on the cards they are using, but perhaps they should build demos for them. I don’t know how the Activeon stuff compares to GoPro, but hopefully there will be some demand for it.

    I came across a story in the Houston Chronicle talking about how a Houston area rug salesman formed a venture with Sears that will allow the rug salesman to use the Sears name to sell rugs online under the Sears Rugs name. It’ll be interesting to see how that turns out. Perhaps the salesman should consider leasing some space at some Sears/Kmart stores in order to have a showroom. The salesman may be convinced that online is the way to go, but I think a lot of people will want to look at the rugs before they buy them. Sears has been adding more furniture to their stores so I think a rug department will go along with that. We purchased some Sears brand area rugs from the Greenspoint Mall Sears about 15 years ago when they had their own rug department and they’ve held up very well so far.

    I see that you've made some trips to some SE side retail spots. Have you had a chance to visit Almeda Mall since it has been retiled? I'm not sure if the work is done yet since it's been a few weeks since my last visit, but it's probably done now.

    The former Mall of the Mainland Macy’s has been spruced up quite nicely for the new tenants. The common area looks quite nice. It looks a little bit like what I’m sure the old Macy’s looked like, but it also looks a bit like a nice hotel lobby. The Palais Royal is one of the nicest modern Palais Royals I have seen. Of course, I’m sure the Macy’s elements have a lot to do with that. Was the Palais Royal entrance that goes to the common area open during your visit?

    I didn’t know that the 2nd floor at the Pasadena Town Square Macy’s closed, but I’m not surprised at all about that. The 2nd floor was in really bad shape during my visit last year. I’m glad that I visited the 2nd floor and saw the very vintage escalator area during my visit. I’m guessing that the 1st floor departments had to be downsized in order to accommodate the upstairs departments. Some of the departments were already smaller than other Macy’s to begin with. Hopefully the change isn’t going to hurt sales too much. I’m a little surprised that they are continuing to sell furniture. Some other smaller/downsized Macy’s have eliminated furniture.

    That’s interesting that Champs moved, but I guess it makes sense to be located where all the action is. I believe the old Champs had a vintage entrance, but I’m guessing that is gone now. Does Ventech have a mall entrance or is it still sealed to the rest of the mall? How is that wing doing compared to last year? I may make a visit to Pasadena Town Square at some point in the next few months just to see the changes.

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    1. I hope there are other Sears stores with the same signage. Every time I go to a new mall, which is not often I always check out the Sears store.
      Yes I went to Almeda mall, they really neutralized the place. The center court was still untouched on my visit, but it was blocked off. I did not snap any photos and I only stayed a few minutes. I left and went to Northwest to get a few more photos of that mall.
      Yes the common area door was open in Palais Royal. The lobby still has some of the jewelry department fixtures. I did not go upstairs, but I got several pictures of the common area, it looks like a mini-mall.
      The Macy's at Pasadena Town Square smelled new and the new furniture area was fixed up nicely. I guess they kept furniture because of how the store is set up. It is kind of strange how they put everything together, but maybe it is temporary.
      The old Champs sign is gone, most of the Macy's wing is now vacant and the old Anna's Linens is being used as storage for the furniture store near Macy's. Ventech has a mall entrance but it is behind the glass doors of the former Dillard's. They had the shutters down at the outside entrances so I am not sure if they open them for business. I visited the mall around 6pm on a weekday. I last visited the mall about 6 months ago and really did not notice any other changes. The food court only has vendors on one of the three sides now.

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  34. Part II:

    It sounds like the Pasadena Town Square Sears electronics department is starting to look like a mini Westwood Mall Sears electronics department. I wonder if Sears will remove the game cases or if they will put other things in them. I know that some other Sears have computers, tablets, and clearance cameras in glass cases. Of course, Sears would have plenty of room at the Pasadena store if they wanted to add a Connected Solutions department up there to complement the existing electronics department.

    Although it would be neat to get one of those vintage Kmart HVAC vents, I’m not sure if I really have a place to put one. Plus, I really don’t think it would fit in my car! Still, that would be the ultimate Kmart souvenir. It’s good to hear that you got some more photos of the Texas City ex-Kmart. Perhaps your pictures will be better than mine. I know my picture of the “In” sign in particular wasn’t so good. Were you able to get any photos of the ex-Woolco former Kmart? The striking Marathon workers may still be there so that might make it difficult to photograph that location at this moment.

    I’m sure that the TV manufacturers are hoping that people will either not know about the problems with smart TVs or that the customers won’t care. I’m sure that the manufacturers love harvesting user data so that they can sell targeted ads that are delivered on Smart TVs. Of course, why would a consumer want to pay more money for a Smart TV just to end up having to see ads? Hopefully the public will put pressure on the manufacturers to take privacy and security seriously. There’s no way I would buy a TV with the problems that today’s smart TVs have. I suppose I would make sure to keep my TV offline if I was ever forced to buy a Smart TV. Of course, if I keep the TV offline, it’s a real shame to have to pay extra for all the “smart” features that will never be used. It’s not a good situation for consumers right now unless they keep buying regular TVs.

    Some of the thrifts I go to have a lot of cassettes, but others have few or none at all. It’s really hard to say which will have what because one day one will have a lot, but then the next visit they’ll have none or vice versa. Some days I hit a real jackpot like I did that other day. The thrift was chock full of a lot of interesting cassettes. I’ve also seen quite a bit of cassette equipment lately, but I have not purchased a whole lot. I did briefly consider buying the Montgomery Ward stereo system, but I’m not sure how much I would have used it since I have better quality alternatives. Hopefully someone who can use a stereo like that or someone who would really appreciate it ended up buying it. I’m trying not to fill my collection with stuff I won’t use (especially if it is big) so I can keep room in my collection for stuff I can really use or want. I was a huge fan of Montgomery Ward (and Service Merchandise too) back in the day. I do have some Montgomery Ward Admiral house brand VCRs made by Sharp that are very useful mementos to me since they are good quality VCRs.

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    1. I have been to a few Sears stores where the game case was gone. I visited a Kmart last week in Louisiana that has already been on the blog, and they still had one game case about half full but the other game cases were empty. The other side of the aisle was also mostly empty where the game accessories were previously located. I was able to get a lot of photos which I will share with the blog. This store also still has a music section, but it was less than half full. The clothing departments now have the new signage that you saw at a different Kmart location.
      I did not see any workers in front of the old Woolco location, but I was more interested in seeing the other Kmart site. I got 4 photos of the In sign, but it was raining so I will pick the best one.
      I can see smart TV's becoming annoying like watching online videos. Turning on a channel and being forced to watch a commercial before you can see the show. I hope not, but Youtube and radio channels like TuneIn radio force commercials on you before you can see or listen to the channel.
      I went to the antique store next to Alco, but I still have yet to enter any thrifts since last year. I found some good items there but the price on the items was out of my range. They had a booth with lots of older stereo equipment, but it was expensive.

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  35. Part I:

    It's certainly worth checking out Sears stores when visiting malls because each store tends to be pretty unique even within eras. For example, the Baybrook, Willowbrook, and Deerbrook Mall Sears were all built within a few years of one another, but they all have a unique look inside and out. Most of the Houston stores have similar signage though, but I'm sure there are some odd ball stores out there in other markets.

    It's hard to explain why some Sears and Kmarts still have games, music, and videos when others don't. It'll be interesting to see your photos though to see what is going on. The games seem to be gone from the Sears I've visited in recent times though.

    I know that I'm probably in the minority, but I like the new look that Almeda Mall has with the new tiles. It's certainly not a unique look and a lot of the retroness of the mall is gone, but the new tiles really brightens up the mall and gives it a more modern look that the mall probably needs to stay competitive. Well, at least Pasadena Town Square will probably keep the retro look for a while along with San Jacinto Mall. We still have retro options. Plus, there is always the retro wing at Northwest Mall. The center court at Almeda Mall may be closed because the glass skylight thing might be leaking. I seem to remember seeing some water on the floor there the last time that I was there. Fox Properties seems to be doing a decent job maintaining the mall so I'm sure that it will be fixed at some point soon if that is the problem. I don't know if that area will be retiled or not, but it would be nice to keep a small part of retroness.

    It's good to hear that the downsized Pasadena Town Square Macy's has a good layout if nothing else. As I mentioned earlier, I wonder if Macy's will actually maintain the 2nd floor now that it is closed or if they'll let it rot. Perhaps Macy's felt that they needed furniture at the Pasadena store since the Almeda Mall store does not have furniture now. It's hard to say. It's interesting that the Macy's wing at Pasadena Town Square is losing stores. That's usually not the case at malls with Macy's. It seems like the areas near the food court and Sears are busier than the Macy's area though in my limited visits to the mall. The Sears seems busy at that mall and there is a lot more parking in that area than there is near the Macy's. The Sears at that mall really does have many advantages over the Macy's. Hopefully I'll be able to visit the mall soon to see the changes. I'm glad that I was able to see the 2nd floor of the Macy's while it still lasted.

    Earlier I mentioned that the Mall of the Mainland Sears changed their hours to open an hour earlier. I didn't realize then that the Mall of the Mainland Sears is actually the earliest opening Sears in the Houston area now. That's interesting. I wonder if they're hoping to attract some of the gym's early morning customers. Although the store closes earlier than most Sears, it is basically open the same number of hours as most stores.

    Thanks for the update on the Mall of the Mainland. We have not heard much about things there since the story about Jerome Karam came out in January. Hopefully things are still progressing there. The new space opened in the old Macy's looks very nice from what I can tell and during my visit to the new Palais Royal. I think it'll fit in well with the mall if it opens again, but we'll have to see what happens. I look forward to seeing the pictures that you got of the lobby and also of the Texas City ex-Kmart.

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    1. I have been getting pictures of any remaining game cases even if they are empty for the blog. Sears and Kmart were famous for video games especially Sears with the Atari consoles in the 1980's.
      I would be surprised if San Jacinto Mall is ever remodeled. The mall still has sections of the skylights boarded up from the hurricane damage a few years ago. On both of my recent visits, the old Mervyn's wing was opened up to walk through. The climate control was turned off in the wing so one visit was super hot and another visit super cold compared to the rest of the mall. They have touched up some sections of peeling paint on the painted skylights across the mall with a plain cream color. The strange thing is that the touched up sections are haphazardly painted with parts of the mural still left peeling.
      I did not see any activity going on in the old JCPenney at Mall of the Mainland, but seeing the refreshed former Macy's was really cool. It is very rare these days for a department store at a dead mall to get redeveloped into more retail. The Sears had a fair amount of customers on my visit. I will be doing an update with my pictures of the mall and a few of the Sears electronics department.

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  36. Part II:

    NickE, who has posted comments here before, made a visit recently to the Garden City, MI, Kmart (the first Kmart ever). He has some interesting photos of the place. I'm sure that you'd like to see them. I really don't like the open ceiling look of that store. It really does give the store a bargain basement look. Granted, department store bargain basements were one of the biggest competitors that early Kmarts had. It's also strange that the Garden Shop is connected to the clothing department. That's not really a natural flow, but it seems like the store was expanded at some point and maybe that was part of the expansion. Anyway, that store is hallowed ground for Kbloggers so it's interesting to see more photos of it.

    People may put up with seeing ads on YouTube and streaming audio services, but seeing ads on your own content on a TV that cost more for the smart features is a real insult. Added to that is the lesser known snooping that some smart TV companies are doing on their customer's data. Those are real insults and a real problem that must be solved before smart TVs can be taken seriously.

    Do you have any updates on the RadioShack closings? Most of the RadioShacks near me or that are on my path home are stores that aren't slated to close. Thus, I'm not really sure what is going on with the closing sales. Is anyone getting good deals at the closing stores? I'll probably need to visit a RadioShack soon, but I'll probably go to a store that isn't closing so I know they'll have what I'm looking for.

    Antique stores are probably the most expensive option between thrifts, flea markets, and antique stores. Stores that have sections just for vintage audio equipment probably know what they are worth more than thrifts and will probably want more money for the good stuff. Granted, it's a lot easier to find stuff there than it is playing the thrift store lottery. Nevertheless, I appreciate knowing that the antique store there has stereo gear. Maybe I'll check it out one day if I feel like spending some real money on vintage audio gear.

    I found some great vintage cassettes at the thrift that I was talking about earlier. One tape that I got is a Philips Type I cassette probably from the early 1970s. It's probably a foreign tape since Philips didn't use their own name in the US until much later on due to a name dispute with Philco. I also got a Panasonic demonstration tape from probably 1968 or 1969. One side has sample music and the other side is blank for recording. The metal clip holding the pressure pad is loose on the cassette, but it still plays. There is a slight channel imbalance in the tape that is probably caused by the skewed pressure pad, but I can probably fix that easily with some super glue. I've had to fix pressure pads on a couple of other thrift store cassettes I've purchased over the years. That tape is probably now the oldest tape that I have in my collection. It's quite a find. It actually came in an equally vintage Ampex blank tape box. It's a good thing that the tape wasn't a real Ampex though or else it probably would have shed like crazy. Ampex cassettes didn't have the best reputation for longevity. Granted, I also purchased a much newer Ampex tape (probably from the early 1990s) that had a Pearl Jam album recorded on it. That tape should be much more reliable than the old Ampex stuff. In fact, the tape is probably made by SKC or someone else like that since it is made in South Korea.

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    1. Thanks for sending over the Flickr photos of the first Kmart. I have read his blog several times and he has great posts on many retail relics.
      I only went to Radio Shack stores in the beginning of the closing sales. I noticed one Radio Shack that was not closing when the first stores started is now closing. I did not see any deals at that point except for the few Christmas items left over that were 75% off.
      There were some autographs and vintage video games I would have bought before the stereo equipment. They had a full circa 1985/1986 Nintendo complete in the box for $400. I was not sure if it was used or not, but I would suspect used for that price.
      I have had the same issue with pressure pads, I find crappy 25 cent tapes and use the pads to fix my good cassettes. That is quite a find, I am sure there are not many items besides records from that era that are still being sold at thrifts. Something like that I would think you could find at an antiques store.

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  37. Part I:

    Thanks for the update about the Mall of the Mainland Sears. It's good to hear that the store is seemingly doing well. I'm really looking forward to seeing your photos of the store and of the ex-Macy's even though I shop at that Sears fairly regularly.

    Sears was certainly one of the most recognizable retailers of video games in the pre-Nintendo days, but it was downhill from there. Perhaps Sears would have been better off putting the video games in the electronics department years earlier than they did, but maybe the end result would have been inevitable. It seems like it is hard for many retailers to make a lot of money off games so maybe it's just a lost cause for a small time player in gaming like Sears.

    I'm sure Kmart sold a ton of games over the years, but I'm not sure if Kmart was ever synonymous with gaming even during Kmart's glory days. Target and Wal-Mart even seemed to be bigger destinations for gaming even back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Kmart did seem to "up their game" quite a bit in the late 1990s when they started to sell used games for classic consoles (before they were considered classics), had a nearly full selection of new console games, and had a pretty large selection of PC games. I'm not even sure when Kmart stopped selling PC games and software. I don't think I ever brought gaming stuff at Kmart until the late 1990s, but a large chunk of my late 1990s gaming purchases were at Kmart. Anyway, I look forward to seeing the pictures.

    Haphazard repairs seem to define Triyar malls these days (maybe not Pasadena Town Square, but certainly the San Jacinto and Greenspoint Malls). Thanks for the updates. Was the Mervyn's wing closed for a while at San Jacinto Mall? It's interesting to hear that it is open. The Dillard's wing at Greenspoint was not climate controlled during a visit there a couple years ago so maybe that's how Triyar tries to control costs in lesser visited areas of their malls.

    I wonder if Triyar ever got the Ike insurance money they wanted. A full renovation of San Jacinto Mall, or anything close to full, seems unlikely anytime soon. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that Triyar maintains the mall so it doesn't fall apart even more. Maybe Triyar would consider a renovation if the insurance money comes through, but even that seems questionable.

    NickE is one of the most prolific retail bloggers/photographers right now. He seems to have upgraded his camera gear recently. He does mostly outdoor shots, but he does some interior shots as well. I'm not sure how he gets away with photographing the inside of stores with big cameras, but I'm sure it takes a lot of patience and skill. I've seen major news sites use his photos. Of course, your own blog seems to be doing pretty well these days too.

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    1. Video games are such a fickle market. It is hard to know what the next hit will be, we talked about the ET games a few weeks ago. Sears should have never moved their game departments to the children's clothing section of the store. I did not even know they still had games until I passed through the department and happened to notice they still had games. I usually bought games only on clearance and still found new in the box NES games there as recently as 1999.
      They were closing the Mervyn's wing when the school office was closed, but I went on a weekend and the corridor was wide open. I am glad to see some repair work going on at San Jacinto even though it is not much. It would take a large investment just for them to at least somewhat renovate the mall. I have not stopped in Greenspoint in about a year so I am not sure how things are going there.
      NickE is much more bold with taking a large camera into stores. I am as discreet as possible and only a handful of times have people caught me taking pics and of course gave me looks. I use my cell phone, but I used a decent digital camera for outside photos a few years ago.

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  38. Part II:

    The RadioShack closure list was supposed to be executed in three waves so some stores may have started their closure process earlier than others. Also, some landlords of in-demand shopping centers may be not renewing leases of RadioShacks that were intending on staying open due to the unknown future of the company. I've been wondering if there will be any remaining mall RadioShacks nationally, but maybe this is one. Oddly enough, the Chambersburg Mall in PA seems to be a dying mall whose Sears and JCPenney are already planning on leaving this year. Maybe the rent there is cheap.

    Wow, $400 for a used Nintendo in the box. I didn't know they were worth that much these days. I wonder if any of my consoles are worth anything. I'm guessing that my Panasonic FZ-1 3DO would be the most valuable, but maybe not. It's been a long time since I've used that 3DO so I don't know if it even still works.

    The pressure pad issue aside, the 1968/9 Panasonic cassette sounds pretty good. Obviously it is a bit nosier than tapes with newer formulations, but the recordings are nice and clear. There is music on the user recordable side of the tape, but the recording levels were set too high and the sound is a bit distorted. It very well could have been the original owner's first attempt at recording music on any type of device so rookie mistakes are understandable. I may record over it once I fix the pressure pad. It'll be fun to put modern music on a tape that is almost 50 years old. Those vintage tapes were a great find for about 50 cents each. I wonder what those tapes would go for at an antiques store. The used metal tapes that I found some time back at thrifts still sell for >$30 at times on eBay. The used "reel-to-reel" look Teac cassette I found at a thrift a couple years back is quite valuable on the used market too even though it is a rather unremarkable tape aside from the looks.

    The great thing about audio and video cassettes is that they can be easily repaired as long as the tape media itself isn't damaged. Even then the undamaged part of tape media can still be salvaged in many cases. One easy way to fix tapes with broken shell parts (like pressure pads) is to just take the tape out of the shell and put it into the shell of another tape. In the case of audio tapes, it's easier to do with cassettes with screwed shells, but it's possible even otherwise. Stores like RadioShack used to sell empty shells for repairs, but I don't know if anyone still sells those. Donor tapes from thrifts can be found for super cheap prices as you say. In the case of pressure pads, it's even easier as you say to just get a pad off another tape and super glue it on the original tape. The problem with the Panasonic tape isn't the pressure pad itself (though I've had tapes where that is the issue), but instead the metal piece that holds the pad. It should still be an easy fix with super glue, but it'll take a little more care to get it glued correctly.

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    1. The Shops at Houston Center Mall Radio Shack is still open and was not on the list for closure. I read that Gamestop is buying several stores to create their own used cell phone store concept.
      I would pay up to $200 for a NES with the whole box included but not $400. Your 3DO is probably worth at least $100 if it works. Game Over Games carries games for the 3DO if you can get it working and want to increase your collection.
      Putting new music on a very old tape is a cool idea. I like to put in an old tape to listen to, then switch it to one of my new tapes. The new music just blends in with the old and sounds great. I bought some small super slim pliers from Sears and they have made a world of difference with fixing cassettes. Before I had those I dropped a couple of pads on the floor and I will never find them again.

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  39. Part III:

    There's been a lot of relevant Sears news in the past couple of days so it's probably worth giving an update. Sears released their quarterly results. As usual, the results were not good. Same store sales at Kmart are down 2% and down 7% at Sears (down 4.6% excluding consumer electronics). The good news is that the net loss for the company is down by a pretty significant amount compared to this time last year.

    It seems that one area where Sears will focus their revitalization plan is the consumer electronics space. One plan is to implement vender-funded in store shops. Another plan is to sell 3rd party Marketplace items in the stores. Sears is saying that sales may decrease during the transition. I guess this is because Sears will be doing less selling themselves, but I guess their hope is that people will return to Sears to buy electronics from various vendors and then buy other actual Sears items in other departments. Plus, there may be royalties that Sears may collect from the vendors.

    The ideas could work, but I think Sears has to keep the same satisfaction guarantee on 3rd party electronics that they have on their own items. I also wonder if the 3rd parties are capable of providing inventory for all Sears stores on a timely basis. If not, the stores could have wide inconsistencies. It'll also be interesting to see how Sears plays the 3rd parties against one another to try to get the lowest price products in the store. I guess that this strategy would probably mean that any chance of Sears using their own brands in electronics would be pretty small.

    I think that there are small online type businesses that would like to sell things in a B&M setting. Sears may allow them to do that without all the expense and risk related to B&M retailing. The Marketplace concept may also give Sears a big advantage over other electronics competitors if it is done correctly and works well. We'll have to see how this story develops. It looks like Sears is seriously considering dumping their own electronics departments, but it seems that they still want a viable electronics departments in their stores through other means. Maybe these ideas, along with Connected Solutions, will do that. Hopefully Sears will continue to sell some retro style electronics one way or another like VCRs and boomboxes like they do now.

    Some media stories are saying that Sears plans on upgrading stores too. I don't know if that is accurate or if it is the media misreading Sears' statements. It may just be a natural thing that happens if/when the electronics departments shift vendors.

    On a related note, I visited the Mall of the Mainland Sears. The electronics department has changed dramatically since my last visit less than a month ago. The department is much smaller now. Vacuums and sewing has taken over a lot of what was left of the old department. I guess more mattresses will go where the vacuums used to be. They still have the TVs and camera cards on the wall along with 2 or 3 more aisles of smaller electronics/accessories. I guess this is the electronics department you saw on your last visit and photographed. I didn't realize how much it changed. Although the department is a lot smaller, it looks like they still have most of what they sold before though.

    There is some RadioShack news too. A phone store division of GameStop called Spring Mobile is buying 160+ closing RadioShack stores. I'm not sure if any of those are in Houston, but I guess we'll see.

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    1. I noticed the changes at the Mall of the Mainland Sears. That electronics department used to have several more aisles. The aisles they have are mostly full, but the department is so much smaller than at most other area Sears stores.
      The results are not surprising but at least it was not as bad as before. The Sears electronics departments are emptying out faster than they can move mattresses, vacuums, and sewing machines into the space. Sears will have to charge some decent rates to ensure any 3rd party ideas will create a profit for the company. I think having the store within a store concepts are needed and possibly some of the cost of these remodels can be passed onto the other companies. I think Sears realizes that getting rid of the electronics would be a mistake, but they continue to lose sales in that department.

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  40. Part I:

    It’ll be interesting to see how Sears handles the 3rd party vendors if they go down that route for the electronics departments. Perhaps they will charge the 3rd parties for using up space and/or charge royalties for each sale, but maybe they won’t go down that route. Perhaps instead they will just give up the space for free in exchange for the hope that electronics buyers will shop at the other departments where Sears actually sells their own stuff. Perhaps Sears will try to sell their own warranties, delivery, and installation options on 3rd party gear and try to make profits that way. Perhaps they will hope that 3rd party buyers will sign-up for and use their Sears cards for purchases. It’s hard to say.

    The store within a store concept is interesting. Best Buy had good results for their last quarter and we know they use the store within a store concept significantly. In fact, Sony recently announced that they are closing almost all of their retail stores in favor of store within a store concepts at select Best Buy, P.C. Ricard, and other smaller stores. The Sony closings, along with the RadioShack closings, are going to make malls even more barren when it comes to electronics. Of course, we’ll have to see if Sears goes with established brands (if they even want in Sears) or other, lesser known brands.

    Wow, I’m surprised that Sears still had NES games in 1999. It was a big mistake on Sears’ part to put the video games in the children’s departments. I can kind of see what they were thinking, but it was a mistake. The children’s departments have always been a strong performer for Sears and maybe they thought that putting games up there would strengthen both departments as compared to other stores that had games in the electronics departments. The problem is that games started to appeal more to older people over time, people expected games to be in electronics based on what other stores were doing, and a lot of times the kids aren’t at the store when parents and grandparents buy clothes from Sears so having the games up with the clothes wouldn't help.

    I recently visited the Willowbrook Mall Sears and made a purchase in the electronics department. Unlike the Mall of the Mainland Sears, that electronics department hasn’t been shrunk any in recent weeks except for the games. They still had a couple of games in the glass case by the register where they put clearance/open box items. They looked like popular games, but I don’t remember which ones they were exactly. They didn’t have clearance stickers or tags on them so I don’t know if they are clearing them out or what. I thought it was interesting that a young couple was in there looking for a TV and they were getting advice from the salesman about whether they should get a Smart TV or not. The salesman actually seemed to know some things about the TVs he was showing which is good. I’m not sure if they’d get that good of advice at Best Buy. I didn’t stick around to hear the whole conversation or to see if the couple brought anything, but it was interesting and promising to see a young, affluent looking couple shopping for a TV at Sears.

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    1. I wonder if Sears can get some of the Sony store within a store outlets. Sony is closing all but 2 of their outlets and they will open more departments like at Best Buy. The Galleria store will close.
      I bought several games and a virtual boy game system from Sears in the 90's once I realized they had games still.
      I also went to Willowbrook a few nights ago and walked through the electronics department. They have done a good job of keeping the department full unlike some of the other stores I have been to recently. I also visited the Randall's Flagship down the street for the first time.

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  41. Part II:

    I recently came across some recent photo galleries of Kmart stores in PA that include extensive coverage of the electronics departments. Unfortunately, there aren’t great shots of some of the vintage electronics gear that we’ve come to expect at Kmarts (though I’m sure they are in the stores), but there are images of game cases that are being cleared out. Anyway, I thought you would enjoy going through those photos. They are extensive. They even include photos of the restrooms and detailed photos of the vintage HVAC vents. Here is the York, PA, store, here is the Fruitville Pike store in Lancaster, PA, here is the East Towne Mall store in Lancaster, PA, that was a former green floored Grant City that will close this year, and here is the Willow Grove, PA, store.

    That’s a good catch about the The Shops at Houston Center RadioShack. As far as I can tell, that store has very limited hours compared to other RadioShacks though. They may open earlier, but I think they close a lot earlier too. I think one reason why RadioShack is dumping mall locations is because they don’t want to be required to stay open during all the hours the mall is open. They probably know that business is slow during certain hours.

    I recently went to a non-closing RadioShack to buy a couple of audio cassettes that I will use with the Sanyo-built RadioShack Optimus cassette deck I picked up from a thrift a handful of months ago. I paid an outrageous price for two Maxell UR cassettes (Made in Indonesia Panggung tapes) there considering what I can get those same tapes for elsewhere or in the thrifts, but at least I will have an “authentic” RadioShack homemade mix cassette.

    Thanks for the heads up about the 3DO games. I actually have a number of games for my 3DO including most of the “classic” 3DO games like Gex and the original The Need for Speed. I would be interested in seeing what the games sell for these days. My Panasonic FZ-1 3DO worked the last time I used it, but that was years ago honestly. Hopefully it still works. I probably won’t sell it though. Having that 3DO gives me some street cred with the vintage gamers that I run across because the other stuff I have aren’t particularly rare/desirable/valuable yet. The 3DO is pretty rare in any form and the FZ-1 is the Cadillac of 3DOs.

    It’s interesting to play around with these old cassettes and compare them to newer cassettes from various eras. It’s also interesting to hear what modern music sounds like on these older, nosier tapes. Sure, I could put it on a good Type II cassette or even one of my Type IV metals, but there is something about the sound of a good old vintage Type I ferric. Of course, even putting music on a newer Type I ferric can net wonderful results. It’s fun to play around with the recording settings to get the optimal sound quality. It’s certainly a lost art.

    I've recently come across a couple of working basic cassette decks from around 1983-4 in the thrifts. One was a Sanyo that was ~$8. It was tough to do, but I passed on it since I already have that 1983 Sanyo-made Sears Proformance dual cassette deck that we both saw at the Greenspoint Mall area Goodwill. That Sears deck is probably better than the other one anyway. I did buy a $7 Sharp RT-100 though. I've never owned a Sharp cassette deck other than the one I have in my Sharp bookshelf system I brought a few years back from Sears. I have not fully tried it out yet, but it plays back quite nicely for a low-end deck. The Dolby playback is a bit muddy, but that's not unusual for a lower end deck. I look forward to playing around with it more.

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    1. One thing that we had not talked about is the large section of plug in phones that many Kmart stores still have. Looking at one of the albums above reminded me about that section. The one album with photos of the bathroom was funny, they literally took a picture of almost every inch of the store. I wish I could have that much patience, I am usually in and out quickly. It looks like one of the Kmart electronics department is painted like a newer Sears electronics department.
      I need to make it back to some of the Radio Shacks soon, I am on a very limited budget right now, but I have still been able to make a few trips around the city for the blog. I found some music tapes at a few antique stores and unfortunately wound up losing the bands for my walkman. I did get a nice replacement of the same kind of walkman as a gift so I am using that now.
      I am cleaning out a few of my lesser used video games from my NES and Super NES to sell on Ebay. I might get a couple of bucks from each one, but the 3DO is a good one to have if you ever need cash. The system is hardly talked about in the mainstream, but there are several sites that still have active discussions about the system. I really have to get back to some thrift stores, so I can find a deal or two.

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  42. Part I:

    We'll have to see if Sony puts their store within a store concepts in Sears. Sony may not have a choice if they want a presence in malls unless someone like Macy's is willing to put major electronics back in their stores. Sears sells a number of Sony products like TVs, headphones, and mini stereo systems so there is a bit of a relationship there already. Sony is getting big into 4K TVs and content devices and some Sears have had prominent Samsung 4K displays for around a year now. In fact, a few months ago I was at a Sears and I overheard a couple of electronics employees standing next to the 4K display and saying that they hadn't sold one of those 4K TVs yet. Oh well, but I don't think people are going to rush out and buy 4K TVs regardless of the store. Anyway, we know that Sears and Kmart both sell Sony's newest cassette boombox, the CFD-S50. Although the Sony ICF-S10MK2 pocket radio has become more rare at Sears stores in recent times, I have noticed more Sony ICF-38 portable radios in the stores recently.

    Wow, a Virtual Boy. I remember the hype about those before they came out, but then they came out and they were a big disappointment. The graphics weren't what they should have been and a lot of people weren't even comfortable wearing them. Of course, Sega had their own failures at the same time with the Sega CD, 32X, and even the Saturn. Do you still have the Virtual Boy? It might be worth something.

    Yes, clearly that user had a lot of time to photograph those Kmarts. You don't photograph the restroom toilets at Kmarts, but that's not a bad thing probably! I wonder if that user got into the women's restrooms too. The odd thing is that the men's room (I guess) at the Willow Grove store seems to be the nicest area in the store. Some people say that one can tell the quality of a place by the state of their restrooms. Well, maybe that Kmart passes that test. That is also the Kmart that has the blue electronics department ala some Sears like the Willowbrook Mall Sears.

    I also noticed the large selection of cordless landline telephones in those Kmart albums. Most Sears stores have a decent selection of cordless phones too. I brought a couple of DECT cordless phones in 2008, but I have not shopped for one since so I don't know what other stores are selling. Cordless phones may seem a bit outdated these days, but there may still be a bit of a market for them. A lot of people still have POTS linelines and then there are those who have VoIP landlines which use the same phones. Some people get the cable bundles with VoIP phone service since it's cheaper that way. Anyway, I'm guessing a lot of people who use landline cordless phones just buy new phones instead of getting new batteries for them when they stop holding a charge so maybe they sell some phones that way. Plus, people probably drop and break the phones so some purchases may be made for that.

    Some cordless phones have multiple receivers and Bluetooth so that cell phone calls can be answered throughout the house. That's actually a good reason for someone to have cordless phones even if they don't have/use that type of phone service. Personally, I like to take my calls on a "big" phone if I can instead of pressing the cell phone to my face. The problem is that a lot of modern cordless phones are so small that they too are a bit difficult to handle. I brought a Uniden waterproof DECT cordless phone from Circuit City in 2008 (before the closing sales) solely because it's bigger and heavier so it's easier to handle. The DECT cordless phones work a lot better than the old 2.4/5.8 GHz phones. I still have a couple of basic corded phones too that are useful during power outages.

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    1. I think it would be cool if Macy's gets Sony stores. The Apple kiosks leave a lot to be desired and Macy's already has mini-stores such as the Finish Line and Locker Room by Lids stores.
      Yes I still have a Virtual Boy that works and nearly every game except Jack Brothers and a few rare titles from Japan. One of the games I have Waterworld is really rare and sells for around $100. I also have a Saturn that works and several games for that system. It beats the PS1 on graphics and gameplay, but Sony was better at marketing and won that console generation.
      One strange thing about many of the older Kmart stores I have visited is that they have new and recently refreshed restrooms. I am glad they invest in their restrooms because it is an area that can quickly become disgusting if not taken care of.
      I forgot all about the cable bundles that pretty much force people to add a phone line to get a good discount. I have not had a land phone for nearly a decade now, but most businesses still have a land line. I can see the use for phones that connect to bluetooth so you will not miss phone calls if you are not by your cell. Or if you break phones easily, a cheap cordless phone dropping is better than a cell phone that costs a ton to replace even with insurance.

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  43. Part II:

    I still have not been to a closing RadioShack, but I have walked past a couple of shopping center RadioShacks this week that have seemingly already closed even though the signs are still up and lit. I've been reading from forums and user comments on other national sites and it seems like some RadioShacks are liquidating differently than others. One person said that their store sold everything at 90% during the last couple of days and that they were able to get things like Sherwood receivers for ~$10. Another said that their store stopped liquidating at 70% and then the store shipped the remaining inventory off to a warehouse/other non-closing stores. Yet another person said that their store was charging $10 on the last day or two for people to take any items they could carry out of the store. Anyway, it seems like some people got super hot deals, but then some just got good deals, and others got so-so deals depending on what their stores were doing.

    It's good to hear that you were able to visit Willowbrook Mall. It's also interesting that you were able to visit the FM 1960 Flagship Randall's. Do you have any thoughts about the Randall's or Willowbrook Mall?

    It's unfortunate to hear that you are on a tight budget. Hopefully that is just a temporary thing. I know some people are hurting right now especially with the oil prices. Well, at least the gas prices are making it easier to drive to visit these shopping centers. It's probably a good idea to clear out items in your collection that you don't want in order to gain some cash.

    The 3DO isn't the best known system and it certainly isn't the most popular system, but it did have a decent number of games for it. Some of the games for it are pretty well known. I'm sure that helps when it comes to resale value. It's certainly a unique system with a unique story. Sometimes oddballs like that end up being hot items.

    That's a shame to hear that you lost the Walkman belts you brought. Hopefully you'll be able to find them, but at least you got another Walkman. I'd definitely check out the thrifts for cassettes because I've been having good luck getting tapes lately. Two or three of the thrifts I've been to lately had a lot of tapes on their shelves. Not all of it was good granted and I also went to a couple of thrifts that didn't have much of anything in terms of tapes, but all in all the findings have been good lately. I even brought a nice OMD pre-recorded cassette recorded on chrome tape that still had part of the shrinkwrap on it. I found a few other good cassette albums too for 50 cents or less in almost every case. I also picked up some sealed blank Sony cassettes (mostly run of the mill Type Is, but there is one CD-IT Type II with the holographic J-card) for about 30 cents each.

    There may be a push toward people restarting VHS movie collections. The Yale University library recently purchased many cassettes to add to their collection. Perhaps stuff like this will drive up the prices for VHS movies. Maybe not, but it's interesting that a major institution like Yale thinks that it is important to start collecting VHS cassettes.

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    1. Leave it to Radio Shack to mess up store liquidations. I guess they had a bigger inventory problem than we knew about since some stores did not have enough inventory to last more than a few weeks.
      The Randall's did not seem much different than other stores I have visited. The store actually has some vintage features which was cool, but it was not enough to be a WOW factor for me. One thing I noticed about Willowbrook is they removed the water fountains from the mall which is disappointing. I actually walked across the whole mall, visited the Sears, Men's Macy's, and a few other stores. The mall looks like it is doing well, but we will have to see how the recent high profile crimes will affect the mall. See the comment on my Kmart 2940 Veterans post from a Dillard's employee about the mall. I went in the last hour or so of the weeknight so I did not spend too much time there.
      The 3DO is one of the many systems that were not popular during their run, but have a strong fanbase. A lot of younger gamers like to collect vintage systems which drives the prices up. Also the systems break down over the years, and people are more likely to throw them away instead of fixing them up. A few of the popular vintage systems have replacement consoles you can buy that will play the games such as a Retron 5. To play the 3DO games you need a 3DO or a good emulator.
      I finally made it to a couple of thrifts the other night. I found some cassette tape holders that I needed and a few decent blank tapes. I also found a gamer chair but no tape decks or decent VCR's. There was a 20 inch TV with A/V hookups I was going to pick up but the volume was stuck on low. I tried the buttons and then I synced the TV to my smart remote app and it still did not work. It would have been a good pickup for $6, but I need sound. I found some good cassettes on my visits to Half Price Books this week. I picked up about 20 tapes between the Copperfield/ Veterans Memorial/ Humble locations. I guess people are Spring cleaning and letting go of their tapes.
      I see the direction that many universities think VHS tapes will go. For now there is no shortage of tapes available, but that may change in the next 5-10 years. I am holding onto my collection and there are many movies from the VHS era that are not on DVD. I still enjoy watching VHS movies and the nostalgia that each one brings back. I prefer the picture quality of DVD's, but I hate the fact that one scratch can kill a CD or DVD. VHS tapes can be dropped of left anywhere with a low risk of irreparable damage.

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  44. Part I:

    It's good to hear that Kmart is renovating their restrooms. A lot of people judge stores by their restrooms and fitting rooms. I rarely go to store restrooms so I can't really recall any Kmart restroom memories from the past. I've heard horror stories about Wal-Mart restrooms, but fortunately I have not had to go to one in recent times.

    Macy's seems to be the prototype for stores within a store along with Best Buy. The Willowbrook Mall main Macy's store has a Lush soap store that often exists at malls by themselves. Anyway, I don't know if Sony stores within a store at Macy's for TVs and home Hi-Fi would be wise, but it might be a good place to sell headphones, digital Walkmen, and stuff like that.

    I read a story saying that Nebraska Furniture Mart is opening a store in the DFW area. The 560k sq. ft store sells furniture obviously, but they also sell appliances, electronics, movies, and games. It sounds like an interesting store. It's like The Great Indoors on steroids. Maybe they'll consider a Houston store if the DFW store goes well, who knows. This may not be a good time to test the Texas market with oil prices being where they are, but the DFW market may be a bit more insulated from oil price rollercoaster rides.

    The Champions Forest Flagship Randall's isn't too special these days because Randall's took out a lot of the special features through renovations over the years. It's a shame, but it's still a nice store. Well, it's a much, much nicer looking store than the typical HEB if nothing else.

    I posted some comments about Willowbrook Mall in the other post. The mall removed most/all the fountains when they remodeled the "intersections" a couple years ago. The mall is doing well and I think it will continue to do so, but the mall certainly has some bad publicity to overcome.

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    1. Restrooms need much more attention than the regular store since many retailers don't have them cleaned well enough.
      It would be nice to see the larger stores to continue with their store within a store concepts. Many retailers in the 1950's and 1960's had similar concepts where a department was managed by another company.
      The Nebraska Furniture Mart looks really awesome, but I doubt they will come down here. Retailers love going to Dallas and skipping Houston altogether.

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  45. Part II:

    I never had a Sega Saturn, but I remember it well. It followed in the footsteps of other Sega failures, but I guess Sega had a lot more failures in the US than successes. The Sega Saturn is more advanced than the PSX in some ways, but some programmers found it much more difficult to utilize the Saturn's features than they did with the PSX. Sony obviously had a much better business plan too. The 3DO could have been successful too, but the price was way, way too high at first and it didn't have the unified marketing push that other consoles had. Also, some 3DO games took advantage of the CD's capability to store video and had lots of video scenes in the games, but I think those scenes were unpopular with a lot of gamers who just wanted to play games and not watch things.

    One of the things that cordless phone makers advertise is that the Bluetooth cordless phones are good for people who have cell service deadspots in their house. People can put their phones wherever the signal is the best and then use the cordless handset elsewhere. It's not a bad idea. My current phone works fine throughout my house, but that feature would have been nice years ago when I had Sprint because their service was terrible.

    I went to a Half Price Books to look at cassettes recently, but there was another customer parked at the cassette shelf digging through them for about 30 minutes. Thus, I never had a chance to even look at them. I seem to have bad luck at Half Price Books with that. I did look at the records, but I thought the prices were ridiculous for some of the albums. Maybe the prices were fair, but I expect better deals at Half Price Books.

    It's good to hear that you went thrifting again. I wonder what kind of blank tapes you found. I figured that you would have found some cassette holders in the thrifts as those seem to be pretty common there in my experience. CRT TVs are plentiful at the Goodwill stores so it's worthwhile to be picky about what you buy. $6 seems cheaper than what I usually see TVs going for, but there's no point getting something that doesn't work just because it's cheap. VCRs, especially good ones, are becoming harder to find at thrifts. They're still out there and you shouldn't have to look too hard to find one, but it's not as easy as it once was not long ago. At least the prices are still reasonable. I can see the prices going up as VCRs become harder to find and as collecting VHS becomes more popular.

    Cassettes are certainly more durable and repairable than CDs and DVDs. I don't have anything against CDs and DVDs, but there is no doubt that VHS was a big part of culture for many years both in terms of allowing movies to come home and in terms of the ability to record and archive. My self-recorded tapes off TV are great time capsules and I cherish them. The self-archiving aspect of audio and video is sadly fading out, but maybe it'll be revived again. Plus, there's stuff on VHS that isn't on anything else. I'm glad that libraries are archiving VHS tapes before it's too late to save the tapes from the landfills.

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    1. The Game Over Games store on 59 SW near Buffalo Speedway has a bunch of 3DO games, by the way. Sega always seemed to be a step or two behind the competition. Even their most popular system the Genesis never touched the numbers Nintendo achieved during that generation of consoles.
      Sprint customers need all the help they can get if they want to use their phones. Cell phone reception is not too bad with them though. The internet signal barely working anywhere was the reason I left.
      I have been to several Half Price Books south of I-10 that just have a terrible selection of products. All of the stores near us seem to keep decent amounts of tapes in stock and I rarely leave without finding something I like.
      I went thrifting earlier today and found two cassettes that I like which is something I have not had much luck with. I was looking for a TV, but the only good one with A/V jacks had one speaker blown. Oh well, I will keep looking.
      I remember a several years ago, many DVD archiving companies were trying to scare people into believing VHS tapes would only last 10 years. My home movies from the 1990's are still in great condition and play almost as good as when I recorded them. There are some VHS and 8MM that I have made copies of on DVD to save space and have a second copy.

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  46. I think JCP needs some designer brand stores to open in their store to stay viable for the next 10 years. they need to go back to early 90's campaigning where they were going upscale. look at this blue print for the westoaks JCP
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/64730129@N08/6727915907/in/set-72157627835319412
    notice the cosmetic counter in the front of the store. they look like macy's or dillard's set up. very interesting.

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    1. I agree with you that JCPenney needs to add more brand name mini-stores to their locations. I think JCPenney is stuck right now because they invested so much in the store remodels over the past 5 years, and they don't have any more money to invest.

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    2. Historically speaking, going upscale has been bad news for JCPenney. They tried going upscale in the mid-1980s and the returns were terrible. Ron Johnson tried to make the chain more upscale in more modern times (amongst many other changes he made) and the results were beyond terrible as we know. In both cases, it turned out that JCPenney shoppers didn't want trendy fashions, they wanted "middle America" fashions that were affordable (with sales), durable, and could be worn at work and places like that. The media and some investors may think otherwise, but most shoppers all in all don't want to look like some preppy 16 year old. Also, JCPenney has had a lot of success over the years with their house/exclusive brands like St. John's Bay, Arizona Jeans, and Claiborne even though Johnson tried to kill off some of those brands.

      Anyway, I think JCPenney would be best off competing against the likes of Kohl's. Thus, money would probably be better spent building more freestanding/shopping center stores in the types of places that Kohl's has been opening stores rather than trying to make another attempt at going upscale. JCPenney started doing this before Ron Johnson, but from my singular experience, the freestanding stores may need a much better layout. Of course, money has been tight at JCPenney so I don't know if they'll be able to do much of anything right now.

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    3. I think the stores should have been separated better instead of the mix of older and new products together. The store within a store concept that is there now, but the stores should have been separated into a different part of the store. I have not found any clothes at a JCPenney for a long time and that trend does not seem to be changing.

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  47. Part I:

    There is some Sears news to report. As we know, Sears subleased some space in some of their NE stores to European fashion store Primark. Well, now Sears has hired a Primark executive, who has other experience with other similar European fashion retailers, to run their apparel division. It's hard to say how this will work out. On the one hand, some of those cheap international fashion brands have done well here, but those types of fashions may not work well with the typical Sears customers. Plus, it may be harder to convince people that Sears is the fashion spot than it is to convince people that some European name is the place to go to. We'll see, but at least they are trying something that might be a good idea.

    I came across an interesting Kmart photo recently. There is a Kmart in NJ that has a sign with the current design near the entrance that indicates when the store opened. I don't know if that sign was a corporate idea or something the store manager printed up, but it is interesting for that store to acknowledge their history in the area. History is one of the few things Kmart has going for it (even if it is only a few weeks younger than Wal-Mart and Target) so it's interesting to see Kmart acknowledge their history in an area.

    A lot of discount stores had (and may still have) departments that were operated by 3rd parties. The old grocery stores Kmart and Target stores had in the 1960-70s were operated by 3rd parties. I've heard that Kmart's shoe departments were operated by a 3rd party for many years and I believe some discount stores had/have book departments operated by a 3rd party. Of course, the store within a store concepts that Best Buy and Macy's are using are a bit more obvious. I think those concepts may be a good idea, but it's really hard to say. They kind of make stores seem like mini malls.

    Maybe Nebraska Furniture Mart will come to Houston one day, but I would not count on it either. We have an Ikea (which started out as STOR) so at least we have that. Fry's and MicroCenter came to Houston and seemingly have success. There's certainly a big market for furniture and home furnishings in Houston when the oil industry is going well, but that may come and go as we've seen many times over.

    I found a link earlier this week that had a list of which RadioShack stores will be standalone stores and which will be Sprint store within a store locations if the sale to Standard General is completed, but now I can't find the link. It also listed which stores will be considered Sprint stores and which will be Standard General stores (not all the Sprint store within a store locations were listed as Sprint). I'm not sure what difference it makes if it is listed as a Sprint location or not if they both have the stores within a store. Maybe one will have Sprint branding while the others will have RadioShack branding. Anyway, one of the stores near me will be a standalone store so hopefully that store will retain a full stock of traditional electronics. I'll try to find the link and post it later if I can.

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    1. It seems that the Women's clothing sections have been constantly changing over the past year. Their fast fashion section has kinda disappeared but the seventeen section has expanded. Sears is getting some better clothing products from a few opinions I have recently heard.
      The Kmart store has a very plain electronics department, but it looks much better than a few recent stores I have been to. The Kmart shoe section has a bunch of Thom McAnn signage, so that may be the company running that department.
      The store within a store concept is limited to space, so it may be hard to find the right mix of products for each store. Having the option for in-store pickup from online purchases can help keep these departments viable where space is limited.
      I finally noticed Micro Center the other evening when driving down 59 Southwest. The front of the store has nice blue lighting and a huge sign that you can see from far away.
      I missed most of the Radio Shack closing sales since the store closings at many locations were finished quickly. Now any that were left are in the final 2 days, but I have no idea if any area stores that were closing are still open.

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  48. Part II:

    Are you sure that the Super NES had much better sales than the Sega Genesis? Maybe the SNES did better, but I didn't remember it being a blow out. The Genesis had a major advantage in that it came out sooner. It was also considered to be "cooler" than the SNES in many ways due to the edgy advertising and fast paced games that Sega had. The edgy advertising was certainly a hit in the edgy 1990s. Of course, just about everything Sega came out with in the US other than the Genesis was a bust. I had the Master System and the Dreamcast and saw both more or less fail even though they were good consoles (superior in the case of the Master System) with many good games. Perhaps Sega tried to push technology before it was ready. Sega usually was one of the first to release their console for a new generation, but maybe they would have been better off waiting to see what everyone was doing. Being early worked out for the Genesis, but I'm not so sure that it payed off with the Saturn. The Dreamcast probably would have struggled against the PS2 and the Xbox so maybe it was wise for Sega to come out with the Dreamcast early in order to try to squeeze out some between generation sales.

    I usually go to the North Oaks or Copperfield Half Price Books, but I have not been to the Copperfield store in a while. The North Oaks store has been very, very busy on my recent visits. They do have a number of cassettes, but I don't always get to look at them due to other customers. Sometimes it can be a challenge to look at the VHS movies if other customers are looking at the CDs above them, but I'm usually able to go through the movies. The selection of VHS movies at HPB really isn't better than it is at the thrifts, but they probably do have a better selection of audio cassettes since you won't have to sift through all the self-help and religious tapes. I used to visit the Westheimer and Rice Village HPB locations many years ago, but I have not been to those locations in probably 12-13 years. HPB around 2000 was a great place to shop due to them selling used PC software/games, but they stopped doing that eventually probably due to licensing issues probably. I did visit the Humble HPB a couple of years ago. It's a big store. I'd like to visit it again, but I don't go to the NE side very often as you know.

    Clearly some people spread lies about the reliability of tape based media in order to try to sell more DVDs and CDs. It's still a good idea to back up old tapes though, but I'd keep the tapes too because they may last longer than the DVD backups. It's worthwhile to re-burn the DVDs to new DVDs because burned DVDs can and do go bad after a while even if they are stored properly and aren't scratched. The good thing about DVDs is that they are pretty easy to re-burn with a computer. But, yes, most of my VHS tapes from the 1980s are still in excellent condition. Even the ones that had the leader snap off the reels can be fixed. Almost 100% of my old audio cassettes still play back perfectly fine today and some of those are from the early 1970s. Sometimes the pressure pads fall off, but that's an easy fix. Sometimes a scratched CD/DVD can be made to work again, but often times any little damage is game over for CDs/DVDs. Plus, I've seen CD-Rs/DVD+-Rs go unrecoverably bad after less than 10 years.

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    1. According to a Wikipedia the Genesis sold 9 million less consoles than the SNES, but Wikipedia is not always the most reliable source, lol. I really enjoyed most of the Sega consoles except for the Master System, a few friends back in the day had the console. I never found too many games that I enjoyed. The Dreamcast and Saturn had a lot of games that I really enjoy. I may invest in a Dreamcast one of these days, but they are expensive.
      I have made a few rounds to some thrifts the past week and finally found a 20 inch tube tv with good side speakers for 12.99. I found a few cassettes and one VHS movie. Each thrift I have went to did not have any audio cassette decks, and a few VCR's.
      I am hoping that SD card technology continues to get better so I can back up more data than currently available. A 128 GB would be nice, but not at an outrageous price. I have found several 16 GB SD cards for about 10 bucks or less at Sears lately. I hope the SD cards will work for many years since I have been using those to backup pictures.

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  49. Part III:

    I'm glad that you were able to find some audio cassettes in the thrifts. I'm a bit surprised that you've been having a hard time finding cassettes in the thrifts because these have been good times for me in terms of finding good cassettes at the thrifts. Some visits are better than others though. I've been making a lot of mix tapes lately. I did make that "Radio Shack Mix" that I was talking about doing earlier. The results were a bit mixed as would be expected given that the Radio Shack Optimus deck I used was the lowest end recording deck Radio Shack sold at the time in 1989-90. Most of the songs came out okay, but I'd say that the recording was a bit noiser and lacking in clarity compared to what I could have done with one of my better decks like the Luxman. Of course, the Luxman cost $650 in 1990 compared to $150 for the Radio Shack deck at that time so what do you expect I guess. Granted, I've made great sound tapes on inexpensive decks before so price isn't everything.

    I recorded another tape on a Korean made RCA tape from about 1998-2000 (made by Saehan I'm almost sure) on the RCA cassette deck I brought some time last year. I wasn't sure what to expect on that one since I've never used that RCA deck to record and I never used an RCA blank tape before, but the result was very good actually. Saehan is one of the companies still making tape (National Audio Company out of MO makes tapes using Saehan stock and can be brought online) and I'd like to try some of their more modern tapes to see if the results would be the same. I also made a tape on the Luxman using a ~1997 Sony HiFi tape (I guess Sony decided to use the HiFi name instead of HF for a couple of years). I used Sony HF type tapes for many years with a lot of success, but I never used that vintage before. The tape was surprisingly a bit difficult to bias correctly, but aside from that, the end result was very, very good.

    While I'm optimistic that the current Saehan made audio cassettes might be good quality, I am noticing that Sony HF tape is getting hard to find. It's not available online for shipping on the Kmart website and other websites like Amazon and B&H seem to be out of stock of it as well. Perhaps it has been discontinued, but maybe Sony is just changing suppliers. Who knows. I'm not sure if Walmart still has the Sonys in their stores, but they aren't on their website. The Maxells still seem to be available so hopefully that means that the Indonesia Panggung factory is still making tapes. Hopefully the retailers selling Sony tapes will sell Maxell or some other brand now. Also, the Toshiba and some of the other Funai built DVD-VCR combos seem to be out of stock at many retailers. I'm not sure what is going on with that. Hopefully there is just a temporary issue with inventory and they will return to the stores soon, but I'm not sure what is going on.

    As for better news, I was at a Target recently and they had a lot of packages of Sony VHS tapes. The prices were sky high compared to what Maxells can be purchased for elsewhere at places like Sears, but at least they had them. Interestingly, the tapes were made in Korea. I have not seen Sony tapes made there before. The Sony VHS tapes I brought from Walgreens about a year and a half ago were made in Mexico. Perhaps Sony is using Maxell's supplier in Korea (which may again be Saehan, but maybe SKC is still making VHS tape) for VHS tapes. The tapes did have Sony's name printed above the write-protect tab though like almost every Sony VHS tape I've seen since the 1980s. The bad news is that the checkout lines at Target on my weekend visit were almost as bad as what I've seen at Walmart recently. They only had two checkouts open (though a third did open eventually) and the overall wait time was at least 15 minutes.

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    1. I have not made any new tape recordings, I am still listening to the tapes I have found over the past few months. There are still a few I have yet to listen to because of time constraints.
      We do know that Sears has been having issues with in-store stock. I recently went to a Sears store in Louisiana that still had three game cases mostly empty, but most of the electronics section was empty except for about a third of the space. I am sure they were consolidating into that area, but all of the space was empty and I was able to get pictures of most of the section.
      I think the few stores that keep selling tapes and cassettes are going to keep consolidating inventory until it is gone for good.
      Target seems to be struggling recently and I wonder if the layoffs have affected the store staffing levels. Target has to worry about staffing levels because they cannot afford to lose more customers.

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  50. Part I:

    Thanks for the updates about Sears. The women's department isn't something I keep a close eye on so it's good to get some information from someone who knows more about it. Hopefully Sears can keep the momentum going with the clothing. The biggest problem Sears is going to have is convincing people that Sears is a fashion spot. If they can get shoppers back in the store, like they did with the "Come See The Softer Side of Sears" ads years ago, and combine that with good merchandise, they may have a shot.

    Hopefully we'll be able to see those photos you took of the Sears electronics department that seems to be in the midst of a downsize. There are reports of Sears having problems with suppliers, but I think the lack of stock in the electronics department might be because some stores are getting their electronics departments downsized yet again. Of course, we've seen this at the Main St. Sears in recent times and certainly at the Mall of the Mainland Sears. I wonder if something else will go into the cleared out electronics space. Perhaps it could be a Connected Solutions department, but it's more likely that furniture or microwaves/vacuums will go there in order to free up more space for major appliances.

    On the topic of Sears electronics departments, I came across an odd picture today. It seems that the Capital Mall Sears in Jefferson City, MO, has an electronics department that is separate from the Sears store itself and in a mall in-line space (granted, the space is right next to the Sears itself). The store has Sears Brand Central neon signage probably from the very late 1980s/very early 1990s. According to the mall's store directory, it seems that JCPenney there also has part of their store in an in-line mall store next to the anchor as well. I don't know much about the mall, but it's interesting that they are still using a very vintage typeface for the mall's logo. The directory still has RadioShack listed, but it seems that the RadioShack did close.

    I'll put my reply about JCPenney from the above post here. I'm also not so pleased with the men's fashions at JCPenney these days. The quality of the clothing isn't always great and the designs seem to be more appropriate for the boy's department rather than men's. I was pleased with their selection of men's dress shoes though during a recent visit. I did get a pair from there that looks very nice and was priced right. They have leather uppers, but I'm not sure how long the soles will last. We'll see. All in all, I think Sears has better quality and styles in their men's departments than JCPenney does right now aside from shoes and suits perhaps (though even there JCPenney's suit department is a far cry from what it was even about 10 years ago).

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    1. The Sears store I photographed had two rooms that used to have fully set up TV's and surround sound systems to try out. The electronics department is very similar to the Woodlands store except it is on the second floor.
      I hope they get a clearer photo of the Sears Brand Central logo, that is something I have not seen in years. The rest of the photo set had some very cool pictures including a closed Circuit City with signage.
      Speaking of Circuit City, the older Circuit City behind Almeda Mall is under construction. It looks like they cut sections out of the building for car bays or smaller storefronts. I was passing by and happened to notice this activity, but I did not stop.

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  51. Part II:

    It's not too often that Houston Kmart pictures get uploaded to the Internet these days, but I did find an interesting 2002 picture that was uploaded recently of a Kmart on Fondren that opened in an old Target. Kmart really didn't do much to hide the store's past. I really didn't know about this store before so I'm glad to see the picture of it now. I wonder why Target left that location to begin with. The building currently has been subdivded and has a CitiTrends, Melrose, dd's, and AutoZone in it. The CitiTrends still has a bit of a Target-like look to it.

    I did some research about Kmart's shoe department operations on Wikipedia and it seems that a company called Meldisco/Footstar, who owned the rights to Thom McAn, operated Kmart's shoe departments until 2008 when Sears took over the rights to the Thom McAn name and inventory. It's not totally clear, but I guess Sears/Kmart operates the Kmart shoe departments in-house now. Of course, the Thom McAn name was commonplace at malls at one time many years ago. I remember Kmart making a big deal about Thom McAn shoes being available there back in the late 1990s.

    I don't know what is going on with Target, but they need to get their act together. People aren't going to put up with long lines there. They'll just stick with Wal-Mart then. Perhaps the layoffs are hurting store operations. Either way, they need to get their act together. Their stores are still pretty clean looking and maintained, but they're becoming more and more like malaise era late 1990s Kmarts.

    There seems to be conflicting reports about RadioShack's bankruptcy proceedings. Some sources are saying that Standard General has the winning bid or is at least favored to get it (which is good because that will keep RadioShack stores alive), but Salus (who wants to liquidate RadioShack) seems to be making a fuss about things and there's reports that they could up their offer to try to get a winning bid. We'll see what happens, but hopefully Standard General can pull though here. I did find the link I talked about in my previous reply about which locations are slated to become Sprint stores within a store and which will be standalone RadioShacks if Standard General gets the stores.

    I have not seen any closing RadioShacks that are still liquidating. Perhaps some stores are still in the process of closing, but the ones I've seen have been closed for a couple of weeks now and some of them have already had their signage removed. I went to a non-closing RadioShack this past week and noticed that they had 3 employees working in the store instead of the one or two that I usually see. I wonder if RadioShack kept some employees at closing stores and moved them to non-closing stores. Who knows.

    I've yet to see the new MicroCenter, even from a distance, so it's good to hear that the store is visible. It's good that they made it visible because it would be hard for them to get the visibility that they had before with the old store. Hopefully I'll get to visit the store sometime soon, but we'll see.

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    1. Wow I had no idea that Kmart store existed. That is probably one of the only stores that were converted like that. Even seeing one of those former Target stores with that design these days is rare. Thanks for clarifying the shoe department structure at Kmart.
      It seems like Target is in a transition period, but will they be able to recover? The feel of many of the stores I have visited recently is that the quality seems to be going down on some of their products. Sales on many of the items I used to buy there have been cut back, so I don't buy as much there as I used to.
      Some closed Radio Shack stores still have signage up, so it is misleading until you look at the store and notice it is closed. I looked through the filing and did not see the Houston Center Mall store so it might be an independent store. On the Northeast side of town only Kingwood and Porter will have stores for now.

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  52. Part III:

    Oddly enough, I was in the NE side today, but I didn't visit any NE retailers that would be worthy of a mention. I did notice a few interesting things while traveling on FM 1960 W though. First, it seems that a new Circle K gas station was built at Kuykendahl in the former Fiesta shopping center (where the Checker's used to be many years ago). I remember Circle Ks being in this area in the 1980s (we used to rent VHS videos from them), but I have not seen one here since then. Seeing that store was certainly a surprising shot of nostalgia even though it was a brand new gas station. Hopefully the station will do well and won't fail like most things have at that intersection. The C-Store battle in Houston seems to be heating up big time. Also, there was a lot of work being done to the old Wal-Mart/NAM Thrift near Walters Road. I don't know what the plan is for the place, but we'll have to see what is going on.

    I tried to look up SNES/Genesis sales, but I keep getting different numbers at each site. I think some sites are comparing worldwide sales, others are looking at Japanese sales, and others are looking at US sales. Well, either way, perhaps the SNES did do quite a bit better. Still, I think the Genesis did pretty well and it was certainly Sega's best showing by far in the US. The Master System did not have the variety of publishers that the NES had and thus it didn't have the wide array of games and genres that the NES had. Characters like Alex Kidd and Wonderboy never generated the buzz that Mario and company had for sure, but the games were still good in comparison especially when it came to graphics and sound. The Master System did get some new games, like Sonic, towards the end of it's life (probably due to the similarity to the Game Gear which needed new games), but most people had already forgotten and written off the SMS by that point. The Dreamcast had many memorable games. I still have mine with several games and accessories. I don't know what a Dreamcast is worth these days, but I do see them in the thrifts every now and then. The Goodwill Computer Works store used to have them during my visits, but I have not been there in a couple of years I think.

    Both the SNES and Genesis were reliable consoles AFAIK, but I do wonder how much the Xbox 360 sales figures are inflated due to people buying replacement consoles for ones that broke. I know I had to replace my X360 once and now the replacement is acting flaky too (though it's still working). It seems like most consoles were pretty reliable (not counting simple things like NESes with dirty contacts), but the X360 is certainly one big exception.

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    1. There are a few other Circle K stores under construction in the area as well. I guess they did not want to let 7-11 steal all of the thunder when they return to Houston as well.
      The Dreamcast has a huge cult following and continues to go up in price so I would hold onto it. The Genesis still has a huge following as well, but the Saturn does not have a big following in the US. The Saturn even though I have one and enjoy it, never could compete in the US. I don't have any experience with Xbox products to comment about. I have never really found a reason to buy one. Nintendo has been my go to system since the early days after my Atari 2600.

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  53. Part IV:

    It does seem like there is consolidation in the manufacturing of cassettes. Hopefully the companies making tape now will continue to do so for years to come. I suppose that those who want new VHS tapes better like Korean tape. That said, I'm not sure if all the brands still selling VHS tapes are using the same grade tape and same shells as one another even if they are from the same suppliers. I may have to experiment with that one day, but the stores still selling Sony VHS tapes are wanting $18-20 for 4 T-120 tapes. That's a lot considering Sears sells 4 Maxell T-120s for $10 at regular price.

    Hopefully the stores that were selling Sony audio cassettes will sell Maxell or some other brand if the Sony have been discontinued. It's odd that Kmart sold the Sony audio tapes when they sell Maxell CDs, DVDs, CD cases, flash drives, and VHS tapes. Perhaps Sony offered a better price even with all that purchasing Sears does with Maxell. Who knows. Also, it seems that Funai's own brand VCR/DVD combos are still in stock at some stores so perhaps those are still being made. It's hard to say what is going on, I'll have to monitor the situation. If so, hopefully Sears and other stores will start selling the Funai brand VCRs. Sears was really pushing those Toshiba VCRs hard (and the Magnavox ones before that) so I hope they continue to sell them.

    The oldest SD cards I have are two Toshiba 512mb cards from 2004. I still use one of them fairly regularly and both still work. Those are the only two Toshiba branded cards I have, but I have a few other Toshiba made cards from other brands that work well too (as are my non-Toshiba SD cards). I really haven't had trouble with any of them, but SD cards/flash drives can go bad. I've seen some SD cards on sale/clearance at Sears lately so it might be a good time to stock up if you need some. I remember the Main St. Sears having a lot of SD cards on clearance during my visit a couple of months back. A lot of those are older, slower Class 4 speed cards, but the card speed shouldn't be as much of an issue if you're just using them to back up files versus using them in a camera to record HD video or something. I like the fact that my Samsung phone takes MicroSD cards, but I hear the new Galaxy S6 does not have an SD card slot or a user removable battery. What a shame. Hopefully Samsung will keep these features on their "lower" line phones and/or hopefully another company will keep the features on their phones.

    I have a Blu-Ray burner which makes copying/backing up large amounts of data pretty cheap. I don't know what Blu-Ray media is going for today as it's been a while since I've brought discs, but I think I paid about $1-1.50 per 25gb disc a couple of years ago. That's not bad. I probably could have paid less for other brands or for LTH discs, but I like the regular Verbatim/Mitsubishi BD-R discs. Blu-Ray computer drives have never become popular so the prices for discs has not fallen to dirt cheap levels like DVDs and CDs did, but it's still not too bad.

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    1. Don't worry about the long posts, one of the main reasons I stick with the blog is to read and respond to the comments. It looks like the larger sized retailers will probably be the first to abandon cassettes and places like CVS or Walgreens will still carry the cassettes. I think places like Big Lots will also continue to carry cassettes if the others abandon them. If Radio Shack still exists they will more than likely continue to carry cassettes as well. VHS still remains viable since most people did not upgrade to a DVD recorder. As on demand and Netflix continue to grow it will erode the rest of the blank VHS tape sales.
      I did not know the S6 will not let people upgrade the battery or mini SD card, what a disappointment. I have an S5 so I upgraded at the right time and it looks like I will have to keep this phone running as long as I possibly can. Hopefully Samsung will rethink this in the future or I will have to go with another brand.
      Are the prices low on Blu-Ray burners? If the cost is low I may have to invest in one. SD cards are great but I buy the 16gb models so it does not hold a lot of photos.

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  54. Part V:

    It's good to hear that you've found what you're looking for in the thrifts. What kind of TV did you end up getting? $13 isn't bad at all. Does it work well with your games? I too brought a couple of VHS movies a few weeks back, but I have not had time to watch them yet.

    I saw a lot of vintage audio gear in the thrifts this past week, but I didn't buy any of it. I saw a few receivers, but nothing exciting. The most interesting piece I came across was a Marantz dual cassette deck for ~$8. Marantz was and is one of the great names in high end audio, but that cassette deck was anything but high end. It's probably from the same era as that Sears Proformance cassette deck I have that we both saw (~1983), but the Sears deck seemingly is quite a bit better. Perhaps the sound quality of that Marantz deck belies the lack of features and build quality, but I decided to leave it as the playback deck did not work at all and the recording deck had visibly stretched out belts. It still worked, but it would not fast forward. I'd love to have a piece of Marantz audio gear in my collection (I'm sure it would have worked fine with new belts), but that thing is Marantz in name only even if it did fully work.

    I also found a thrift that had a couple of turntables. One was a JCPenney combo stereo that had a turntable, AM/FM, 8-track, and a dual cassette deck (one of which is slot loading like a car cassette player). It had the speakers and everything for $10, but the turnable was missing the stylus and the recording cassette well didn't work at all. I wish I could have tested the 8-track section, but I wouldn't have brought that anyway even if it did work. The same thrift had a BSR made ~1979 Radio Shack Realistic LAB-110 turntable for $10 that worked and was in excellent condition, but I passed on that too. Those BSR turntables are pretty low end and it's pretty big so I didn't really see the need for it. I'm sure someone brought that though by now and is enjoying it. I would have loved to bring home some Realistic gear, but I'd like to get something better/more special if I can.

    Anyway, my apologies for the extreme long-windedness of these replies. This is probably my longest reply ever!

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    1. I actually hit up some thrifts in the Southeast side earlier this week. I racked up a bunch of blank cassettes and some decent music ones as well. I saw lots of various audio equipment, but I am not in the market for anything right now. The coolest one I found was a TEAC sound 46 purple cassette, it was used but I knew it was a rarer find. I found a few other decent ones that sell for between $3 and $10 each on ebay. One thrift had bags of 8 loose late 2000's Maxell cassettes for $1.99 each so I picked up one. http://vintagecassettes.com/teac/teac_files/image7144.jpg
      I also visited a few thrifts on the Northside but came up empty except for two Sony blank cassettes. It is good that there is a lot of vintage equipment still out there if someone wants to fix it up.

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  55. Part I:

    There is quite a bit of retail news to report on. Perhaps the biggest retail news this week was that Standard General was granted the RadioShack stores they wanted and will keep the chain alive with Sprint. One interesting point is that Standard General does not yet have the intellectual property rights to things like the RadioShack name. Standard General will have some time to try to purchase the rights, but perhaps the company will have to change their name here soon. Perhaps someone else will buy the RadioShack name and form a company based off it while Standard General has to use a new name. We'll see. Standard General issued a sample store layout and is saying that they will cut down on products from ~4,000 to ~1,000. It'll be interesting to see what they continue to sell, but perhaps some of the more obscure items that RadioShack currently sells will be gone. Hopefully they will continue to sell parts and stuff like that. Perhaps the non-Sprint stores will sell more stuff (the planned standalone store in my area is actually bigger than most of the planned Sprint stores in the area). Standard General also seems to be committed to focusing on RadioShack's house brands rather than national brands. We'll have to see how things develop from here, but at least RadioShack will continue on in some form.

    Another big piece of news is that Sears will form a REIT with 254 stores. Another 12 stores will be transferred to GGP in a joint venture. I'm not sure which locations are amongst these that will change hands, but there's a pretty good chance that some Houston locations will be amongst them. We'll have to see. Hopefully Sears does not use these opportunities to sell off well performing stores.

    Amongst other news, TigerDirect is closing 31 of their 34 retail locations. These are the stores that used to be CompUSA stores until recently. The Houston store closed some time back so that isn't huge news here, but it's another electronics store that is just about going away.

    It's certainly strange to see the Sears Brand Central signage on a current Sears store. It would be nice to get a better picture of it, but at least we have some idea of what it looks like. I wonder if that external store has seen (or will see) a downsized electronics department. As for the Circuit City picture, I did see that earlier and I thought about posting it here. I figured that you'd enjoy that. As for the Almeda Mall area Circuit City, I wonder if it is being converted into some sort of distribution type center like the Almeda area Best down the road a tad. It's been at least a couple of months since I've been to either Almeda or Northwest Mall.

    I'm not aware of any Target stores in the Houston area with that type of design that are still open. That Kmart was a real oddball, I was really surprised when I saw the picture. I'm pretty sure that is the only ex-Target Kmart that I've seen. Houston certainly had some real oddball Kmarts.

    I'm finding Target to be increasingly a less and less useful store based on convenience, prices, and product quality. It really seems like they are coasting on the fact that they are not Walmart even though the shopping experience is increasingly becoming pretty similar. I wonder if the weaknesses of the "big 2" discounters will open the door for Kmart or other new chains to open up and steal market share. We'll see.

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    1. It would almost make sense for Standard General to eventually change the Radio Shack name and go with something more modern and have a fresh start. I would hate to see the Radio Shack name disappear, but I think the brand is too damaged.
      Willowbrook, Deerbrook, and Baybrook are GGP malls, I would not be surprised to see one of those stores affected by the transaction.
      The Tiger Direct store closures do not surprise me, the company did not really push these stores in the markets where they were located.
      Target pretty much took care of the last of the older locations in our area around 5 years ago. I remember the last one I saw was in Beaumont, but they refreshed that store I think in 2009.
      One thing I did not mention is that I made a pass by Mall of the Mainland also in the evening. They are really working on the property now, the whole interior of the former JCPenney has been stripped out. The Dillards and movies 12 buildings are being painted, and the landscaping is being cleared out significantly. Of course I passed through Sears, the inventory in the store appears to be thinning out significantly which does not look good. The electronics department is even smaller if you can believe that, vacuums have taken over even more space. I got some pictures on my last visit and on this visit to use as a comparison. A smoothie/supplement shop has opened in the former Macy's next to Palais Royal. I snapped a picture of the middle of the Macy's store going towards the mall entrance (there is a glass door with covers) and it looks like they walled off the end of the building where the mall entrance was. I could only see what my camera could see through the glass since I had to reach up to see over the covering. The side of the building facing Sears may be an option for a future mall entrance from the building, but you cannot see that side of the building since it is cut off from the gym corridor. I did not see any activity going on in the Sears corridor of the mall, but the directory sign is still lit up. Some of the lights on the inside of the mall are being kept on, if you look through the glass of the old bar, you can see some of the food court.

      Delete
  56. Part II:

    Believe it or not, I've never owned a Nintendo product. Ever. Some people find that hard to believe. I never was big in console gaming back in the day as I had a Commodore 64 and PCs in the 1980s. I preferred those gaming platforms over consoles (though I did have and enjoy the Master System). I had some 1990s and 2000s era consoles, but I've always been more of a PC gamer. I don't really game much these days, but I do have the Xbox 360. Unfortunately, the touch sensitive power and disc eject buttons on my X360-S tend to engage themselves and this tends to kick me out of the games while I'm in the middle of playing them. I've noticed that it helps to "pre-heat" the console by turning it on and letting it sit for about 20 minutes before I play. It seems silly to have to do all of this, but oh well I guess. I'm not sure if I'll ever get a current gen console. We'll see. I'd probably lean towards the PS4 if I did.

    My Samsung Android phone isn't particularly fancy. In fact, it's on the lower end of the product range. Having said that, most of the iPhone owners I know are jealous of the fact that I can easily transfer photos, music, and other files by just taking out the SD card. Samsung seems to be taking away a lot of the real advantages their phones had over iPhones without adding anything that people want. Samsung has been struggling a bit lately and I think those struggles will continue if this is the mindset that they have. Users like myself that are more concerned with utility rather than popularity contest phones will probably jump to the competition if this keeps up.

    I think I paid around $90 for my Pioneer external USB Blu-Ray burner a couple of years ago and MicroCenter seems to have some for around that price with a few models selling for even less than that (~$70). The media prices seem to have fallen a little bit too at least for regular 25GB BD-R discs, but the prices aren't too far off what I paid a few years ago. I'd still pay a little more to get quality discs and to avoid LTH discs.

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    1. It is never too late to get a Nintendo, lol. Recently Nintendo has been short producing products to bring attention to their company. Some of the new products such as Amiibo figures are being produced in very limited numbers to specific retailers creating high aftermarket prices. Look at the Gold Mario Amiibo Mario for sale only at Walmart and see if you can find one at a store. PC games are nice, I got into several games like Simcity and Civilization on the PC. I like the fact that you can easily add patches and other cheats on the PC games. You can probably do that now since online gaming is big on the consoles, but the newest I own is an original Wii system.
      Samsung is making a huge mistake by going with what several other phone manufacturers are doing. Samsung has been ahead of everyone the past few years with their technology and improvements, but this is taking a step back.
      I will have to look into getting one of the Blu-Ray writers in the future, 25GB is great. The quality you can record is also much better, DVD recordings look great also, but the extra space is needed. Photo backup takes a lot of data quickly.

      Delete
  57. Part III:

    Those Teac reel-to-reel looking cassettes are a real find. As you say, they are worth quite a bit on the used market even though they aren't particularly fancy cassettes compared to similar era tapes from Sony, Maxell, and TDK. I found a similar Teac CRC 60 cassette with Michael Jackson's Thriller album on it about a year ago and I'm glad I did. It's worth something, but even more importantly, it's a really cool looking cassette. I think one of those tapes are something that every cassette lover should have even if they don't use it.

    It sounds like you were able to load up on some blank cassettes. That's always a good thing. I wonder if those Maxells are Made in Indonesia or made elsewhere. The price you paid is pretty good. I think CVS sells 7 of those UR 90s for $10. That's about the best price you can get those for new in a store.

    I wonder what kind of vintage equipment you came across. The SE side, N side, and NW side thrifts are really the ones I visit these days. I went back to the thrift this week that had that Marantz dual cassette deck and they still had it on the shelf at a reduced price. I was surprised to still see it there. I had the common sense to pass on it the first time, but I was weak during the second visit and I brought it. I have not had much time to play around with it yet (I really need to open it up to see how bad the belts are and if anything else is wrong with it), but it is actually working better here than it was in the thrift. The playback well is still totally non-functional, but the recording well is playing back at a mostly steady state and REW and FF are both working (though FF is a bit slow). Perhaps actually giving it some use is freeing up the belts a bit. The audio playback quality is pretty "meh" and actually pretty bad with Dolby on. Non-Dolby encoded tapes seem to sound okay actually. I've only demagged the heads. I need to clean the heads/transport too and maybe check the azimuth. There could be other adjustments that I need to check. This will certainly be a project deck for me, but at least it does work and is usable even if I don't fix anything at all on it. Well, at least I now own a piece of Marantz equipment. This is a pretty sad example of Marantz gear even if it was in mint condition, but it is something.

    We'll have to see if RadioShack continues to sell cassettes with their strategy of reducing SKUs. Then again, with their plan to focus more on house brands, maybe RadioShack will sell tapes under their own name again. I doubt it, but who knows. Hopefully CVS and Walgreens will continue to support those who need/want cassettes. Drug stores have been my main source for audio cassettes since the 1980s so it is fitting if they are the last place to find them. Does Big Lots still sell audio or VHS cassettes? I brought some RCA VHS tapes from there in about 2007 or 2008, but I don't think I saw tapes there the last time I looked last year. Maybe they were there and I just didn't see them. I brought some TDK A90 audio cassettes (which are a real oddball model) from a 99 Cents Only store a little over a year ago, but even then some locations didn't have them. Who knows if they still sell any tapes.

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    1. I spent a good half a day digging through thrift stores, it was fun. I can't remember all that I saw, but the thrift on Spencer near Highway 3 had the most out of all of the thrifts I visited. The tapes look just like the one's I have seen in stores recently. I believe they are fairly new. The most important find for me was a cassette holder for the vehicle, I did not have a good holder and cassettes would roll across the floor.
      You have more patience than me in fixing cassette decks. I still did not find my Walkman belts from Sears, I may have possibly thrown the package away.
      Do you know what the best lubricant to use on the internal gears would be? I am thinking that I may be able to get my backup working with an only belt, but I need to grease the wheels.
      I have not been to a Big Lots since my trip to North Oaks Mall. They usually have stuff like that for sale. I saw some blank cassettes for sale at Fred's in Louisiana also. I think we will see that company come to Houston soon, they have expanded to the most of the Louisiana border and North Texas.

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  58. Part I:

    I agree that it might make sense for RadioShack to consider changing their name in order to get a bit of a fresh start. Then again, I'm sure Standard General isn't going to spend a ton of money on marketing given the discount they got the chain for so they may be better off using a recognizable name even if it has some taint with it. Either way, Standard General probably should buy the rights to the RadioShack name as long as the price is reasonable just to avoid any confusion if anyone else buys it. I could see someone buying the RadioShack name and starting a website store based off of it.

    Speaking of which, it'll be interesting to see what happens to the RadioShack website. I wonder if they'll continue to sell the items that the RadioShack stores will drop as part of their SKU reduction plan. I've never purchased anything off the RadioShack site, but they do have a lot more parts on there than the stores have even. It would be great if RadioShack published a catalog again to remind their shoppers of their full line of products without having to go through every item on their website. I won't hold my breath waiting for that one, but I used to flip through the Radio Shack catalog a ton back in the days when they published them. I recently got a B&H catalog in the mail and it was a bit like the old days of the RadioShack catalog.

    I was looking at the RadioShack store listing on their website and it seems like a lot of stores have cut back on their hours. Many stores are not open on Sundays and some seem to be open only Thursday-Saturday. I'm not sure what's up with that. Being open on Sunday is probably important for people who do DIY projects and repairs so they may want to reconsider those hours once things get back to normal again. Of course, I'm sure Sprint will want to be open 7 days a week.

    The Willowbrook and Baybrook Mall Sears are probably very strong performers at malls where there aren't any more available anchor pads so I could see those being possible locations for the GGP joint venture. The Deerbrook Mall store is probably a strong performer too and might be a good fit in the REIT (as would the other two Brook locations obviously if they aren't with GGP now). Hopefully we'll find out which properties are changing hands and hopefully it won't have a huge impact on store operations. I wonder if any Kmart locations will be in the REIT or if it'll mainly be Sears stores.

    I wonder what kind of cassettes Fred's sells. Fred's is another chain that has mainly focused on smaller markets, but maybe they'll give Houston a chance like Alco did. We need more options. There is a popular dollar type store in the UK called Poundland that sold name brand cassettes like Maxell in the past, but they recently changed to house brand cassettes. I wonder if that means that they are selling a lot of cassettes so it was justified to sell a house brand. I suppose it could go the other way too, but if they weren't selling a lot, they probably would have stopped selling cassettes. Supposedly the Poundland Signalex cassettes work pretty well. Maybe an American retailer can source cassettes from the same supplier.

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    1. Maybe they can call it Radio Sprint or Sprint Shack, lol. I guess Radio Shack is operating with a minimal budget until Standard General takes over which would explain the reduced hours. I think operating any stores like that would hurt the brand even further and people will see the hours and think the store is closed for good.
      I think Deerbrook is the most attractive because of the design of the store. Half of the store has exits on the first floor and the other half of the store has an exit on the second floor. Sears could easily consolidate the store into one level and bring in another anchor to the store. The first level has good visibility and would be the most desirable for a new retailer. Very few Kmart locations would be targeted for the REIT I would think, but you never know. A Kmart store in a smaller town could be subdivided and consolidated into a smaller store.
      I tried to see if I could find the type of cassettes Fred's sells, but I found only an AM/FM cassette radio from a company called Craig for $19.99. Hopefully more people will donate their blank cassettes, and we can continue to find odd cassettes in thrift stores.

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  59. Part II:

    Thanks for the Mall of the Mainland update. I drove by the mall recently on 1764 and noticed that the Dillard's was painted in similar colors as the former Macy's. I also saw a new sign on the new roadside sign, but I wasn't sure what it was for. I guess it's for the new supplements store. Perhaps Karam will take down the wall that was put up and open the ex-Macy's to the mall again once the mall opens. That would certainly make the most sense. We'll see. I may have to visit the Sears to see what is going on with the electronics department there. It was very small on my last visit so I can't even imagine how they shrunk it again. The directory near the Sears mall entrance has oddly enough always been on since the mall has closed. I don't know why they kept that lit. Anyway, at least progress is being made on the mall. I didn't realize that the Movies 12 was being painted too. Hopefully Karam will have success leasing out spaces in the mall and it'll reopen soon. If nothing else, hopefully we'll get an update soon.

    Maybe I'll get a Nintendo something or another one of these days. Nintendo has some fun games that one can just jump into and have a few minutes of fun. This is good because I don't have a lot of time for gaming these days. Nintendo's current consoles are not as strong for sports games as the other big 2 so that is a drawback. Unfortunately, most publishers have stopped making PC sports games so an Xbox or PS is necessary to play most sports games. My current computers are not up to date enough to play the most recent games, but they are good enough to play some of the text-based sports strategy games that I really like these days. I don't find enough time to play them, but they're really great. I was a big SimCity fan for many years (mainly the first one, 2000, and 3000), but the last one was really bad. I was informed about a new SimCity type game from another publisher, but I forgot the name. Supposedly it is pretty good. SimCity type games don't play well on consoles so it's best to have a PC for them. Of course, Civilization is a classic PC game too that is somewhat similar in nature to SimCity. I have an X360 game called Tropico (Tropico 3 or 4, I don't remember which I have) that is kind of like those games and is pretty fun. I think that game is also on PC.

    Modern consoles have software patches too for better or for worse. It seems like some publishers put out bad games and then fix them later on with patches. It would be better if they just put out good games to begin with.

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    1. It is also strange that the directory is still up, but not lit up in the small section of the mall in front of the Movies 12. I am pleased to see some work going on at the mall so quickly. I thought this mall was going to fade away, but it looks like a new chapter is beginning. I doubt the mall will ever be a major retail destination, but a nice mixed use development can happen there.
      The lack of sports games is a big issue with the Wii U. Only one Madden game came out for the system, and very few other sports games. Most of the sports games are generic games and are mixed with several other games on the same cart.
      I have Simcity, Simcity 2000, and Civilization for the SNES. Only Simcity runs fast, the other two games run very slow as you progress and add more things to the game. Civilization takes forever to take turns after you open up about half of the world.
      The game manufacturers have such strict timelines to release games and the tired developers miss things all of the time these days. One of the recent Madden games had a tiny football player glitch that is funny to watch.

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  60. Part III:

    It's funny that you bring up cassette deck lubricant because I opened up the Marantz dual cassette deck I brought and found that although the belts were marginal on the non-functional playback only well, the main problem was the capstan's lubrication. I took the transport apart and lubed it, but the belts got stretched out even more in the process of taking them off and back on and now they are too flabby to work. Oh well, at least I tried. It should work with new belts.

    The recording/play well is working rather well now. It seems like just using it some helped to free up the transport. Who knows how many years (or decades) the thing sat idle. I cleaned the transport and the audio quality improved some. It's not my best sounding deck for sure, but it's not bad either especially on non-Dolby tapes. The mechanical counter belt is very flabby so the counter is a bit flaky, but that's not a huge deal. I probably won't bother getting new belts for the playback well as long as the other well is working fine. I have other, better dual cassette decks if I needed to dub something anyway.

    As for which lubricants to use on your Walkman, well, it depends. Some Walkmen use nylon gears. Those don't need oil and putting oil on them might actually make things worse. If you have metal gears, I would use a light oil like sewing machine oil or hair clipper oil. If you need grease instead of oil, I'd recommend white lithium grease. One thing you don't want to use at all is WD-40. It'll dissolve plastic parts and do other damage. RadioShack sells a spray oil that I use that is much safer to use on electronics. That product can also clean dirty contacts. Just keep the oil away from the belts if you can because that can foul up the belts.

    I have a car cassette carry bag that I recently pulled out of a drawer after at least 15 years of non-use so I could transport some tapes and a Walkman. I've been wanting to visit those Pasadena area thrifts, but I have not been in the area in about a year or so. The thrift I got the Marantz from isn't far from Pasadena though.

    Maxell has used the same man in the chair red wrappers more or less for the UR cassettes since the late 1990s so it can be hard to tell the age of them purely by wrapper design. The oldest tapes with that wrapper seem to be made in Mexico, then they were coming from Korea, and the most recent ones are from Indonesia obviously. All of these are good quality (though they may differ slightly in recording attributes) so I wouldn't worry if you got an older or newer one. Anyway, I'm glad to hear you had fun thrifting. The thrifts have some real gems sometimes. I'm sure you'll do more thrifting here soon.

    BD-R discs make it a lot easier to backup HD video compared to DVD-Rs. It might be a good investment to buy a Blu-Ray burner to back up your computer/multimedia files. It certainly makes things a lot easier for me. Plus, they burn CDs and DVDs too so you can use those discs if you don't need to burn as much stuff.

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    1. Thanks for the cassette repair tip, my Walkman has plastic parts so I will use the lithium grease. I am glad to hear you figured out what is wrong with your new deck and you will be able to fix it. I am hoping the Walkman just needs grease, the internal parts at Sears cost way too much.

      The Maxell tapes are assembled in Korea with parts from Japan and the US. I did not find a date on the package. The other tapes I got are a DTII 60 super chrome used cassette here, an unopened Maxell XLII High Bias here, and an unopened Sony CDit II 94 Ultra slim cassette here. The purple TEAC reel cassette was the most valuable of the day, but the other ones are cool because of the variety.
      I agree that the upgrade in quality can make the Blu-Ray burner worth buying, but it would be a while before I make that investment.

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  61. Part I:

    I don't know what would be a good new name for RadioShack if a new name is selected, but Sprint Shack actually isn't too bad. Of course, I doubt they'd use that name since not all locations will have Sprint locations and there may be a time down the road where Standard General might want to switch from Sprint to another carrier. Also, the new owners of the RadioShack name (if it isn't Standard General/General Wireless) may not approve of a name that is similar to the RadioShack name. We'll see what happens. There's been so much history with the RadioShack name that it would be strange to call it by another name, but at least the chain is still alive. The alternative could have been a lot worse. I'm sure Standard General won't wait too long to decide whether to buy the name or not because they need to get new signage for many of the stores and I'm sure they don't want to have to do it twice. Perhaps Standard General already has a name in mind if they don't get the RadioShack name.

    RadioShack's new head seems to have some experience in the electronics industry. That's good. The previous CEO came from Walgreens and I thought he did a pretty good job all things considered, but we'll see what direction RadioShack takes now. I'm sure that some of the items that we've come to expect from RadioShack will be discontinued now, but hopefully they'll still have a lot of the useful items that can't be purchased (easily at least) elsewhere. I wonder if RadioShack will have a big clearance sale for the discontinued SKUs or if they'll just let those items sell off slowly. I also wonder if they'll still sell radios or not. If not, perhaps a name change really should be in order. I know they'll still focus on things like headphones and Bluetooth speakers.

    I looked at the RadioShack store hours again. It seems like many stores are still closed on Sundays, but the stores that were listed as being open on Thursday-Saturday are now being listed as being open the rest of the working week at least. Perhaps closing those stores down was a temporary thing until word came down that the Standard General sale was final. Hopefully shoppers didn't get the wrong impression during this interim time, but many of these stores will get new signage soon so hopefully that'll communicate that the chain is still open.

    I never expected the Mall of the Mainland to reopen when it closed last year. I thought for sure that it would never reopen as a retail mall. I started to wonder though when it was said that Karam was buying the JCPenney. I figured that maybe he'd just buy the whole mall if he has two anchor buildings. Well, fortunately, that is what happened. We'll have to see how things develop from here, but this is very exciting. It would be foolish for anyone to expect the mall to rival The Galleria or Baybrook Mall even, but hopefully it'll be a useful mall.

    The Deerbrook Mall Sears would be a good downsizing candidate since both Sears and the new tenant can get both exterior and mall entrances due to the multi-level nature of the mall. We'll have to see what develops now. I'd hate to lose local Sears stores or to see them downsized, but Sears does have some valuable properties here so it might make sense for them to try to get some value out of them.

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    1. I am not sure what will work to help out Radio Shack if anything can at this point. Splitting the stores with Sprint and going with better selling items is a start. Sprint is not exactly the most popular carrier at the moment so it might wind up being like a Sears/Kmart merger in a way.

      Hopefully Karam can get a bunch of store spaces filled in the mall, it would be disappointing if the mall opened up with only a handful of stores. Looking at the pictures from the Six Flags/Plaza Central Mall in Arlington, it looks like that mall will really struggle. The website for that mall also has not been updated and shows pictures from the mall before it closed the first time.

      The only thing about the Deerbrook Sears is the attached auto garage on the first floor. Would Sears keep the garae open and keep the escalators near that part of the store open as well?

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  62. Part II:

    The Craig stereo that Fred's is selling might be similar to the Memorex portable cassette player that Best Buy (and Fry's too I think) sells. I've seen the same thing rebadged as a Craig before. I think CVS may have sold them, but I guess they are sold out now. I've considered buying one of those Memorex cassette players, but I think the price is too high considering that some other e-tailers are selling a Jensen cassette player for about half the price. There are also some devices being sold online as USB cassette converters for about $20 that claim to have auto-reverse that could be used as a Walkman alternative. I'm sure the quality of all these devices are suspect, but they might be worth a try if the price is low enough.

    I suppose you could try to see if lubricating the gears will fix your Walkman. I'd try to clean the old lube off first before reapplying if there is any residue left, but it might be hard to do that in a Walkman. Also, I would not over-apply the grease because you don't want it really caked on there. Hopefully it'll work if you can't find those Sears belts that you ordered.

    Well, at least I have one piece of Marantz equipment now. It doesn't fully work, but it works well enough to be able to use it to record and playback tapes. I may try to record a tape on it, but we'll see. One of the good things about cassettes is that I can re-record over a tape on another deck if the original results don't come out as good as I wanted them.

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    1. The cassette player is actually a small table top model with one speaker. It looks like it is not very good, but for $20 I would not expect much.

      If worse comes to worse I may see if I can pick up yet another similar Walkman on Ebay and swap parts. The good thing with that model is the parts are easy to get to.

      Yeah that is a good reason to stick with tapes. I have never tried to re-write a CD, but working with cassettes is much easier. You can pause and record what you want from the songs much easier.

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  63. Part III:

    The DTII tapes you have are Digitech cassettes that were an Eckerd house brand. I've never seen them in the thrifts so that is a real find. Many thrifts don't sell used cassettes (though sometimes they do sneak their way on the shelves), but some do and it's easier to find some of those gems at those thrifts. I have some Digitech Type I cassettes that are very basic, but I don't have any of those Type IIs with the reel-to-reel look. I don't think they're good quality tapes (at least compared to other Type IIs), but they look cool and they are a nice piece of Eckerd's memorabilia.

    The Maxell XLII and Sony CD-IT Type IIs are both quality cassettes. The XLIIs are by far the most popular Type II cassettes I see in the thrifts and I have more of those than any other Type II cassette in my collection (even before I started thrifting). I know I have at least one sealed CD-IT (one with the holographic label) because I brought it recently at a SE side thrift along with a bunch of sealed Type I Sony HiFi tapes. I've never actually used one of those tapes before, but I know that many of them have weird cases that take some getting used to. Anyway, I don't know if your car cassette deck and Walkmen can play Type II cassettes (the Walkman probably should be able to), but your Vector Research deck should be able to record to them for sure and I bet you'll get really good results with them. It may be helpful to use those on tapes where you want less hiss without using Dolby.

    You for sure found some interesting cassettes in the thrifts. It's rare to find those reel-to-reel look cassettes in the thrifts (much less two models of them) and then two good Type II tapes on top of that. Plus, there are the Maxell URs too which should be good. I have some of those Korean URs. They may be as new as being 4-5 years old, but they could be a bit older than that. It really does not matter how old they are, they should work just fine. It'll be interesting to compare those to the Indonesian Sony HFs you have from Kmart because then you can compare how the Korean Maxells sound compare to the Panggung sourced Sony HF/current URs.

    Ebay is a good place to find pictures and values of old tapes. Other good sources of pictures of old cassettes are the Vintage Cassettes page and the C-90 page. Those sites will have a lot of overseas cassettes along with US market cassettes. I'm not sure if there is any kind of similar site for VHS/video tapes, but it would be nice if there was.

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    1. Eckerd was not known for quality products, I was always surprised at how they survived. I wonder the same thing about CVS these days, the product prices are outrageous. Both of my other tape decks can play type II tapes, but I have not tried a recording with one myself. I hopefully can find some with holographic labels. I am purchasing any blank or used tape I don't have in my collection at this point, so I might think about flipping some of the better ones on Ebay.

      I will check out the vintage cassette links you sent over at a later time, I bookmarked them.

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  64. Part I:

    The Sprint-RadioShack hookup certainly isn't a hookup of powerhouses. It might have been better if Standard General could have found a better partner, but I guess beggars can't be choosers. Oh well, perhaps having a unified partner will drive more traffic to the store than the mashup of providers that RadioShack had before.

    I was looking at the list of stores Standard General planned on acquiring that I posted earlier and I did see The Shops at Houston Center location on that list. Perhaps you missed it on there. The list of Houston stores looks mostly like the list of surviving stores after the liquidation so I don't think we'll be losing too many more stores on top of what we've already lost already. We'll have to see how things shake out though.

    Hopefully the Mall of the Mainland will have more success than the old Six Flags Mall with it's reopening. I can't really speak about the developers in Arlington, but Jerome Karam has done a good job with the mall so far. He's done a good job leasing out the ex-Macy's and I believe he hired a respected company to try to lease the JCPenney. He also seems to know that the facilities will have to look nice in order to gain shoppers and tenants so that is a positive over a lot of other marginal mall operators that just let properties rot. One of the complaints that store operators had before with the Mall of the Mainland is that management wanted too much money. Karam seems to know that he'll have to offer cheap rent. Those are the positives, the negative is that it's going to be difficult to lease out all that space given the mall's location and history. We'll see though. At least Karam can show potential tenants the success he's had with the Macy's so far.

    Sears has talked about spinning off their auto centers in the past (though I've not heard much about it recently). Given that, they may not be committed to auto centers as they were in the past so maybe they'd be willing to close the auto center and convert it to retail space. Who knows. I'm guessing Sears would remove the escalators if they totally leased out one floor to another retailer, but it's hard to say.

    I found Eckerd to be a superior store to Walgreens and CVS. They did sell some lousy "Tozai-like" electronics like Walgreens, but I found their pharmacy and photo developing to be much better than Walgreens and many other competitors. In fact, back in the day we used them and Kmart as our pharmacies of choice. I had some mediocre experiences with Walgreen's photo finishing back in the day, but I always had good results at Eckerd. Their System 2 and Ultralab 35 developing packages were pretty famous. I also thought that Eckerd's non-electronics house brand products were pretty good all things considered. They heavily advertised their house brands so they were pretty well known.

    I've had issues with CVS' photo finishing and pharmacies so I'm still a bit disappointed that we lost Eckerd and CVS stayed around. I prefer Walgreens now for the most part, but I think CVS sells cassettes for less. Both stores can be very expensive for certain products. It's like they have C-store prices on some items. Other items have competitive prices (like cassettes) and others have decent prices when on sale. Eckerd wasn't really any different on that front. The drug stores are useful for certain items, but you certainly wouldn't want to buy everything from them.

    I was recently at a Walgreens that had new flooring. I think the store had the white vinyl tiles before, but now it has concrete like vinyl tiles. The concrete vinyl tiles look better than the regular concrete floors that some stores have, but it's still kind of meh. I wonder if all/most Walgreens will get those floors.

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    1. I am glad to hear we will still have a Houston mall Radio Shack location. The Houston Center Mall has or had several retro stores such as Radio Shack and Waldenbooks. Now the mall is mostly a huge food court with a few shops with a medical clinic and gym. Maybe having phone specialists will help drive business to the Radio Shack stores, the old staff at most locations did not know about the phones.

      The best chance that the Mall of the Mainland had to be a premier retail mall was about 5 years ago before the Outlet Mall was planned. Another thing that hurt the mall was not having an entrance between the food court and near the old Dillard's when JCPenney closed. It was a long walk through a hallway that got emptier and emptier especially before that section of the mall was closed.

      I agree that Eckerds had a better photo service than the other pharmacies. They were the only pharmacy that had 1 hour 110 film development. I used a 110 camera for years, and I really loved my old camera. I had mixed results in their pharmacy though, usually they had a long wait at the stores I went to.

      I find it strange how Walgreens and CVS can continue to grow so fast. I just don't see how they can continue to expand and take sales away from stores just a few blocks down the street. I guess Walgreens is trying to revamp their stores again to a more modern look. It seems they revamp their stores more often than most retailers. There are still some CVS stores that look like Eckerd like the old Humble store.

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  65. Part II:

    I went to the Craig website and it looks like the cassette player you're talking about is this one. It's pretty basic and something like the Sony CFD-S50 boombox would be way, way better, but I guess it could be okay for someone's office or something. Maybe it would be okay for introducing kids to cassettes, but I'd try to get youngsters a good quality cassette player so they don't form bad opinions about cassettes caused by low quality players. Granted, you probably wouldn't want to give a kid a Nakamichi or something.

    I've not tried to see what Walkmen are going for on eBay outside of some of the non-working models that I've recently purchased from thrifts, but my understanding is that Walkmen are pretty expensive on the used market. Perhaps some models are less valuable than others though even if they work fine. It might be worthwhile to check out some non-Sony branded players too to see if those are going for dirt cheap. It might be possible to get a good quality Panasonic, RadioShack/Optimus, RCA, Aiwa, or some other brand player for dirt cheap since they aren't as famous/desirable. I don't always like Sony branded products, but Sony is my preferred brand of portable cassette player. Having said that, another brand may have made just as reliable (or more so even) players as Sony.

    I tried messing around with CD-RWs when I first got a CD-RW drive (I had older CD-R drives before that couldn't burn re-writable discs), but they were so unreliable that I stopped using them pretty soon after. I still have some new CD-RWs from 15+ years ago that I may never use. They may work well in some situations, but I wouldn't use them for long term storage. The good thing is that CD-Rs are cheap enough and more reliable so it may not be a huge deal if you waste a CD-R, but I do like the rewriteability of cassettes. Another problem that CD-RW discs have is that a lot of CD players. especially older ones, can't read their discs. CD-Rs have that problem too sometimes, but it's less of a problem. Cassettes can be more reliable in that sense.

    DVD-RAM discs were developed to make rewritable DVDs more reliable/useful than CD-RWs, but many devices never supported them so they never took off. Regular DVD-RW/DVD+RW discs are more popular, but they have some of the same constrains as CD-RWs. I recently purchased some Maxell DVD-RW discs on sale from Sears to try in my DVD recorders, but I have much more expensive DVD-RAM discs that I can use in those too. One of the frustrating things about DVD recorders is that sometimes they error out and then the whole disc is useless (if it's a - or + R) or the whole recording is lost if it's a re-writeable disc. VCRs don't have that problem so I find them to be much more reliable. It's part of the reason why I've mostly gone back to using VHS for recording. I also have an HD TV tuner for my computer that can record video, but it's not as simple or reliable to use the computer to record in my experience as it is using a VCR. I also have a fairly new antenna HD converter box that can record HD antenna channels to a USB flash drive using a scheduler, but I have not played around with it enough to judge it's reliability. I doubt it'll be as reliable as a VCR. The computer TV tuner and the flash drive recordings are much easier to transfer to the computer obviously than analog VCR recordings though.

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    1. The Craig player you linked above appears to be the same one they are selling at Fred's. That would be the kind of player like you said for an office or a kid.

      You can find Sony Walkman players that work going for around $20 for the most part. There are hundreds for sale at any given time. It is good for us right now because they are probably getting rid of their tapes also. I have been finding tapes at Half Price Books for several months now, but that well is beginning to run dry. I am also running out of space for new cassettes so it is good that I have not found any major finds lately.

      I learned the hard way earlier with my cassette recorder. I taped a full album only to find out the heads were not recording well. I ran a demagnetizer and used another recorder to make the tape. I will also clean the deck to see if it helps. If I could find some of those really nice VHS tapes to record with, I might think about making some recordings on VHS again. I have a decent DVD recorder combo unit that functions just like a VCR recorder. The only problem is all discs have to be finalized so I can use them on a DVD player.

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  66. Part III:

    Collecting cassettes is a fun hobby and you can make some money off of it by flipping valuable tapes if you can find them. The tapes are only going to become harder and/or more expensive in the thrifts so this is the time to stock up. The tapes with the most value are hard to find in the thrifts obviously though of course, but I've found some tapes that can make some decent money in the thrifts before like the TDK MA-X, Maxell MX-S, TDK SA-X, Maxell XLII-S, TDK AD, and the Teac reel-to-reel look cassette. Even some run of the mill sealed Type IIs like TDK SA and Maxell XLII might be or might become valuable. Some generations of tapes are more valuable than others though so it might take some homework if you want to flip tapes. I find that it also helps to study some of the tape lineups that manufacturers had back in the day in order to help spot valuable and/or high quality rare cassettes. For example, check out all the tapes TDK had on the market in 1990. I think there may be a couple of tapes TDK had then that aren't even listed. Tapes like the MA-XG and AR-X are super rare and quite valuable (especially the MA-XG, but the AR-X is one hell of a tape).

    I don't really intend on selling any of the tapes I find. I just like collecting tapes that I've never used before and I like trying out different tapes and different vintages of same tape lines to see how they differ. I usually try to keep one sealed tape of each kind of tape that I come across for my collection, but obviously I don't have sealed examples of tapes that I used way back in the day. I had no idea that I'd be collecting those one day. I have some oddballs that I brought new way back in the day. I'd love to find some metal tapes in the thrifts and also some high end Type I tapes. The Superferrics are wonderful performers and I think a lot of people underrated them back in the day and are just now finding out how good they are. Unfortunately, they are quite rare as I guess people back in the day brought Type II and IV tapes instead of Superferrics that cost the same.

    YouTube user Uxwbill has a video with the holographic Sony CD-IT cassette case on it on this video at the 9:45 mark. That whole video might be interesting to you if you like seeing blank cassettes and some run of the mill cassette decks. Uxwbill is an even bigger cassette deck hoarder than I am. I know he has one heck of a collection of mostly run of the mill cassette decks amongst other electronics. I also found this nice 1980 Maxell commercial that shows UD-XLI and UD-XLII tapes. It kind of shows how each tape was intended to be used. Of course, that was an era when Maxell was a bit of a boutique brand.

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    1. I will take a look at some of the cassettes and learn which ones are valuable. I could easily waste money on cassettes that are not valuable and be stuck with them. I had no idea that I would ever go back to cassettes when I gave away all of my tapes about 15 years ago. I have found several tapes to rebuild my collection that I had before and several new ones. A few of my old cassettes were rare and cannot be found these days for cheap.

      Thanks for sending over the videos I will check them out. It seems like cassettes are close to making a comeback, but hopefully companies will continue to make decent sounding walkman's and dual systems.

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  67. Part I:

    I don't think I've been to The Shops at Houston Center, but maybe I did some time back and I just don't remember it. Obviously downtown retail has not done well in Houston in modern times so I guess Houston Center is struggling a bit, but perhaps it has found a niche with the food court and the gym and stuff. There aren't a lot of shopping options in the area so maybe RadioShack can pick up some customers needing to pick up some headphones, batteries, or a flash drive in a hurry.

    I starting shopping at the Mall of the Mainland after they had already closed the eastern half of the mall. I figured that I'd never be able to see it in person (well, aside from the small part that is visible from the mall entrance between the Dillard's and JCPenney), but maybe now I will be able to. We'll see. Of course, it may be renovated to a point where it looks totally different. That part of the mall looked interesting based on your photos of the place though.

    I think the Mall of the Mainland was doomed long before Tanger opened up. Boxer tried to market the place, but that didn't work. I think the mall got a bad reputation with the locals based off the 1990s leasing disappointments and shoppers never really viewed it as a premier shopping destination like Baybrook Mall. Karam will have the same problems, but maybe he'll have more success if he markets the mall as a value orientated place or something instead of a Baybrook competitor. Almeda Mall has found a niche competing against Baybrook so maybe the Mall of the Mainland can too, but we'll see. At least the mall will have a pretty diverse mix of potential shoppers instead the narrow fashionista demographic that some malls have. The theater, gym, and Sears bring a lot of different type people to the mall.

    It did seem to me that Eckerd lost some of their customer service edge around the time that JCPenney brought them or maybe even a year or two before that. They were still a good drug store (probably still a tad better than Walgreens), but perhaps that small advantage wasn't enough to keep them viable against the deep pockets of Walgreens and CVS. I don't remember having long wait times for prescriptions at Eckerd's, but we probably stopped using them before the JCPenney buyout. That may have changed things. I'm pretty sure we used Kmart after Eckerd and we didn't have any problems at all with Kmart's pharmacy.

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    1. The Houston Center Mall does well with the day crowd and Greenstreet does well with the night crowd. Greenstreet is still mostly empty, but the bars and restaurants are doing well there at night. There are offices there as well, but the good lunch options are a few blocks away.

      It would be nice if Karam kept the mall the same on the inside, but that will probably not happen. It will probably cost less money to remove the neon than fix it. A new paint job inside will more than likely happen since the new owner has been painting the outside of the buildings. Who knows maybe they will just paint the walls and ceiling, keeping the postcards and fake storefronts. The mall was opened to be a high-end option for shoppers in Galveston County, but never lived up to the hype. The Galvez Mall was still viable when Mall of the Mainland opened, but that changed quickly.

      I am not sure what year JCPenney bought Eckerd, but it was most of the late 90's when I experienced the long pharmacy waits. It was not just at one location either, but the locations were in the New Orleans area.

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  68. Part II:

    I actually have my old 1980s Keystone 110 camera in a drawer right under the computer I'm typing this post on right now. I don't know why I still have it since I have not used it in about 20 years at least, but hey, at least it's there. I preferred 35mm to 110 due to 110 being pretty grainy, but 110 was very easy to use for sure. It certainly had it's purposes. Although we used the drug stores (and Kmart) a lot for film processing before the 1990s, we ended up using grocery stores and Sam's Club for a lot of our processing in the 1990s-early 2000s. I remember using Kroger's send off service more than a few times. They did a good job and the prices were usually quite a bit cheaper than the drug stores. I might be wrong about this, but I think Sam's and Wal-Mart switched to Fuji paper and chemicals while many others were using Kodak. I didn't have any issues with that though. In fact, I didn't start using Fuji film and audio cassettes until the late 1990s which was a real shame because both were quality products. I don't know why I waited so long, I had pretty decent results with Fuji VHS tape in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Fuji audio cassettes were cheaper than Maxells, for example, but they were still very good. I actually preferred Fuji's 35mm film to Kodak's once I started using it. Kodak film seemed a bit better for skintones, but Fujifilm had vibrant greens and blues (I also tried Agfa film in the very early 2000s, but I found it to be a bit too grainy). Fuji still makes 35mm film and I'd probably start with their film if I ever got back into film photography, but I'm not sure if that will happen. It might be fun to play around with film again.