Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Radio Shack stores from a few of the malls covered in this blog and others

As the remaining Radio Shack corporate stores that were taken over by Standard General are converted to Radio Shack/Sprint stores, we take a look back at some of the stores that made an appearance on the blog. Some of the photos and stores are new to the blog. Radio Shack started in 1921 and had over 7,000 locations at the peak of the company. Now there are over 1,700 company stores and around 700 franchises since the corporate 2015 bankruptcy.

Houston still has a mall Radio Shack location at the Shops at Houston Center Mall. A quick search does not show any other mall locations along the I-10 corridor from Houston to New Orleans. Are there any other mall locations left in Texas or Louisiana, if there are comment below.

Slidell Town Square Slidell La. now closed. Photos from August 2014.
Memorial City Mall Houston Tx. now closed. Photos from December 2014 before the closing was announced.
Deerbrook Mall Humble Tx. now closed. Photos from December and January 2015.
 January 2015 store closing sale.
Inside of the store, when the closing sale was going on.

One of the fixtures in the store.
San Jacinto Mall Baytown Tx. now closed. Photos from the February 2015 closing sale.


La Gran Plaza Mall Fort Worth Tx. still open as of August 2015. Photo from August of 2012.
Cortana Mall Baton Rouge La. now closed. Photos from January 2012.

Greenspoint Mall Houston Tx. now closed. Photo from 2009.
Wonderland of the Americas San Antonio Tx. now closed. Photos from September 2011.

I can't leave out a shopping center location. Houston Tx. Sawyer Heights Village closed in March 2015. Photo from March 2015.


193 comments:

  1. Thanks for these photos. I’m really enjoying looking at these RadioShack locations. It’s a shame that all the RadioShacks listed on this post are closed now, but at least we can have some visual remembrances of them. I remember you saying that the Memorial City Mall RadioShack moved to a new location shortly before it closed permanently. I can’t really say that I remember the old location, but the one in the picture looks a bit odd for a RadioShack.

    The Deerbrook Mall store, OTOH, looked quite nice. Did it always have that glass façade or was that a later renovation?

    The San Jacinto Mall location looked rather big for a mall RadioShack. Mall RadioShacks used to be about that size back in the day, but some of them got a little bit smaller as time went on. At least it seemed that way, the layouts of the stores may have made the stores look smaller. It must have been interesting to see the modern tech at RadioShack at that mall combined with all the vintage 1980s looking tile/brick work at the mall.

    The Wonderland of the Americas RadioShack was rather odd looking. The store looks more like a shopping center RadioShack than a mall RadioShack even ignoring that there was a RadioShack sign on the outside of the mall. I’m not too familiar with that mall though so I’m not sure if that is normal for that mall.

    Out of all of these RadioShacks, the Greenspoint Mall one is the only one that I remember shopping at. It’s good to see a picture of it here. I’m guessing the Slidell Town Square RadioShack you have listed is in LA and not TX.

    As far as current RadioShacks go, I went to a RadioShack that is also a Sprint store a month and a half ago or so and the store still looks like a RadioShack in there. I know they were saying during bankruptcy time that the stores would be rearranged when Sprint came in, but I guess that hasn’t happened yet. It may be interesting to photograph the evolution of RadioShack stores if there is an evolution.

    RadioShack/Standard General had a long clearance sale for a few months after the bankruptcy, but it looks like RadioShack has gone back to normal pricing now. It’s still a bit difficult to see what products or what direction Standard General’s RadioShack will take going forward. For now it looks a lot like the old RadioShack, but I’m sure that will evolve as time goes on. I hope Standard General will find some success and will be able to keep RadioShack going for many more decades, but we’ll see. It’ll certainly be a challenge for Standard General. Hopefully RadioShack will also continue to sell/return to selling products that appeal to electronics hobbyists/audio equipment fans like myself.

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    1. The Memorial City location in the above photos is the last location that had moved from down the hall. It was a very small store that looked like it was planned to be a temporary store. The mall probably worked out a deal with Radio Shack to move their store to reduce their lease payments.

      The Deerbrook location was originally located across the mall on the 2nd floor and moved in the 90's I think. I think this was the 3rd location in the mall because I believe they were also on the 2nd floor by Mervyn's. I think the above store is less than 10 years old.

      Yes the San Jacinto store was large. They had the products spread out which made the place look empty even in the 1st week of the closing sale.

      The Wonderland Mall has a lot of stores with exterior entrances such as Ross and a few other big box stores. There is/was a large big box center down the street that is completely closed and fenced off. Wonderland Mall has all retail on the 2nd floor with mostly offices on the 1st floor. A few years ago the mall was mostly empty, but things have changed and the mall has really improved.

      I went through most of my articles to get as many photos as possible for this article. Hopefully I can add more from blog contributors. Thanks for noticing my typo, I will fix that.

      I went to one a few weeks ago as well. I was disappointed to now find the part I was looking for. I had to order my part on ebay because none of the big stores even carried it.

      Radio Shack has to find a way to draw people back into their stores. The brand has taken a huge hit and a lot of people probably think they closed after seeing their local store close. If Sprint begins to do well again, it will help bring traffic to Radio Shack but will that translate into sales.

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  2. There was a radioshack on hilcroft and Richmond that recently close along with a radioshack that was only opened for 5 years that closed on westhimer and eldridge

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    1. Thanks for commenting, did you happen to get pictures of these locations? If you did I would be happy to add them to the blog, just send them over to southernmalls@gmail.com.
      Thanks for commenting.

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  3. Is this just my imagination, or was RadioShack the only chain that sold Sprint products/services back when Sprint was new in the early 90's? Sometime after 2000, Sprint got entangled with Nextel and got a new logo. I consider the Nextel merger to be the end of the "good old days" of Sprint, the days before smartphones replaced earlier cell phones.

    Texas and Louisiana are really interesting states to live in for RadioShack history buffs because lots of gas stations have RadioShack franchised stores in them. One such gas station is the Texaco truckstop in The Woodlands that used to be a Mobil. What's really strange is that Texaco (some time after selling most of its stations to Shell) returned to Houston once Mobil sold off its stations. Sort of ironically, Chevron now owns Texaco (and yes Texaco gas has Techron) even though Shell bought a huge chunk of Texaco assets.

    On the East Coast, Chevron/Texaco has completely disappeared in recent years. Strangely, Shell exited the Philadelphia market in the late 70's/early 80's by selling its stations to Texaco, so these stations ended up as Shell once again in the 2000s.

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    1. I think Radio Shack may have been the only retail chain to sell Sprint. Back then large retailers signed exclusive agreements with carriers to feature their products.

      Lots of Texaco and Chevron stations are being rebranded as Mobil stations, and lots of old Mobil stations are becoming Gulf stations. It is strange to see this happen after all of the changes when Shell took over the Texaco stations. Several new Texaco stations opened and now very few are still Texaco stations.

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    2. Sprint did have a relationship with RadioShack in the 1990s, but it really didn’t start until around 1997-1998 as far as I can tell. I’m not even sure if Sprint had cellular service prior to a few years before around that time. Sprint, like most telecommunications companies, was better known for their long distance landline service in the 1990s. As far as RadioShack’s relationship with Sprint goes, I’m not sure if it was an exclusive agreement or not. I had Sprint PCS wireless service in the very early 2000s, but I remember dealing with a company owned/affiliated Sprint store so they must have opened their own stores pretty early on.

      There is a website that has almost every RadioShack yearly catalog scanned. This is a good way to chronicle the history of RadioShack. From what I can tell, Sprint started to show up in the 1998 catalog so things may have started sometime in 1997. At that time, RadioShack had Sprint cell phone service and a large line of Sprint branded corded and cordless landline phones. If I remember correctly, RadioShack had a Sprint store-within-a-store concept in the late 1990s/early 2000s for phones along with other stores-within-a-store for other electronic items like RCA TVs/VCRs/DVD/Hi-Fi/satellite and Compaq computers.

      There was certainly a time where Sprint had a larger piece of the cell phone market share pie, but I don’t know if there was ever a “good old days” period with Sprint cell phone service. Their wireless coverage has always been terrible. I used Sprint in the early 2000s, but I got off them quickly because my phone didn’t work almost everywhere I went in north Houston. I switched to Southwestern Bell/Cingular service and that was much, much, much better. Supposedly Sprint’s service isn’t much better these days from what I hear and that is why they are forced to be very aggressive with their pricing.

      It’s interesting to see how gas station brands have come and gone in Houston and elsewhere. One thing leading to a lot of changes recently is that the major brands have sold their company owned gas stations to independent owners (some of which are large 3rd party operators themselves). These large and small third party operators will change brands if they can get a better deal somewhere else. I think there was a company that used the Mobil brand in Houston in the late 2000s, but they switched to Gulf (Cumberland Farms). Now some Chevron operators are switching to Mobil. There aren’t a ton of Texaco and Mobil stations in Houston compared to Chevron and Exxon respectively, but there are still a few of them.

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  4. Why does Cingular no longer exist? That brand was just as new as either the Sprint or Verizon brands, but was replaced with AT&T after only I think an eight-year run.

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    1. They were probably forced out of the market by aggressive competition. There were a bunch of cell phone companies started around this same time that did not make it. I am not sure of the exact reason, but I saw a lot of companies come and go.

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    2. There were a lot of telecommunication company mergers in the late 1990s and 2000s that led to name changes in the industry. Cingular originally was created by a joint venture between SBC (which was basically Southwestern Bell renamed with some other Baby Bells that SWBell purchased) and BellSouth. BellSouth eventually purchased the old AT&T's cell phone system. SBC eventually brought out the "old" AT&T in the mid-2000s (an odd situation where a combination of some Baby Bells brought out old Ma Bell some 20 years after the government mandated break-up of AT&T). SBC decided to use the AT&T name so the new/current AT&T is basically the continuation of Southwestern Bell. "New" AT&T eventually brought out BellSouth not long after their own merger. At this point, AT&T renamed Cingular to AT&T. I'm not really sure why they did it, but certainly the AT&T name had a lot more history than the Cingular name. Using one name also has better consistency with other AT&T products. That probably helps to sell bundles and stuff like that.

      Verizon itself was formed around 2000 with the mergers of BellAtlantic and GTE. Verizon had a joint venture with large UK cell phone provider Vodafone. T-Mobile basically started out as VoiceStream before Deutsche Telecom (the German telephone company) purchased the company and put their name on the service. Of course, you already know about the Sprint and Nextel merger.

      Both Verizon and AT&T have pretty good coverage in the Houston area. As far as I can tell, T-Mobile has decent coverage here especially in the highly developed areas. I can't really think of anyone I know who still uses Sprint, but I would not be surprised if their coverage is still pretty lousy here. SWBell/Cingular originally had a big advantage over the other companies as they had the old Houston Cellular network. Houston Cellular was a pretty big name back in the era of independent cell phone providers back in the analog AMPS days/early digital TDMA days before cell phones were popular.

      Does anyone remember the landline oriented phone stores that the phone companies had in the 1980s/1990s? I know we purchased some cordless phones from the AT&T stores at Willowbrook and Greenspoint Malls in the early-to-mid 1990s (I still have a receipt from the Greenspoint purchase, but the phone is long gone now). The SWBell store was an original tenant in the Conn's shopping center on the corner of FM 1960 and 249 right by Willowbrook Mall that opened in around 1994. Conn's moved to a new location across 1960 (into the former Sportstown USA/Bed, Bath, & Beyond in The Commons), but the SWBell store (now AT&T store) is still there after all these years. I'm guessing that they don't sell landline phones anymore, but Vtech still makes a large line of landline phones with the AT&T brand name.

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    3. Cingular, which was SouthwesternBell and BellSouth, bought out AT&T wireless and the rest of AT&T later. The Baby Bells swallowed up the Ma Bell so to speak.

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  5. There are rumors circulating that the dollar theater (which originally opened as AMC in 1976) at North Oaks Mall is closing next year. I have a strong feeling that if that happens, the hallway leading to the theater will become a state store, and the theater will be converted to a nightclub. Believe it or not nightclubs are sometimes used to revive struggling strip centers.

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    1. They have not updated that theater in a very long time so it does not surprise me. I had a chance one night to get photos of the entire section of the remaining mall corridor that will be posted on the blog in the near future.

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    2. I have not heard any rumors, but it would not be shocking if the theater did close. I’m not sure what will happen with the space if the theater moves out. It’ll be a hard spot to repurpose because most retailers will not want a spot where people have to walk through an entry way to get to the store itself. North Oaks definitely isn’t struggling as a shopping center though as the rest of the center seems to be doing very well. The parking lot is jammed packed at many times throughout the day. I can’t really see the center owners allowing a nightclub as the other tenants, like Staples and Hobby Lobby, would probably oppose to any such thing.

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    3. That is a good point, I am sure the larger big box stores have a say in what goes in the shopping center per their lease agreements.

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    4. I do think the LCB could have a lot of success with a store where the mall corridor to the theater currently is. And the famous Dixie Square Mall in Greater Chicago had a nightclub called Armand's that was later called City Life, which then moved to a new location downtown once the mall closed. Today there's a place called Klubb Karma across from the mall site.

      Also, I know of a grocery-anchored strip center in Pennsylvania with a nightclub in the basement called RS Club, as well as a nightclub at ground level called Bootleggers. There also is a grocery-anchored strip center in NJ with a bar in it but I forget the name.

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  6. I'm going to go ahead and put my replies from the Slidell Sears post here since that post is reaching the 200 reply barrier.

    It'll be interesting to see if Kmarts end up getting those portable cassette recorders. I'm not sure if the dates they have listed when you put in a Zip code indicate whether Kmart is receiving a shipment on that date or if it means that someone can order the item online and have it arrive as an in-store pickup at that date. I'm not sure if Walkman type player (a mono one at that) will bring in packs of new shoppers, but I'm sure that people will buy them. There is an interest in cassettes or else Walmart and Kmart would not have decided to sell them again. Plus, both stores still sell cassette recorder boomboxes so why not a Walkman type player too. We'll see.

    Speaking of cassette interest, Bloomberg recently published an article about National Audio Company. That is the company out of Springfield, MO, that I've talked about before that still makes Type I and Type II cassettes. The Type I cassettes use presumably new Saehan tape and the Type II cassettes are supposedly old BASF stock. Of course, as the video mentions, they make pre-recorded cassettes too. Hopefully the company will continue to thrive.

    I know we discussed cell phone history earlier in this post. I came across a Sears ad from 1991 that briefly mentions their cell phones at the time. Some people might enjoy seeing that for a laugh. They have some interesting other pieces of electronics in that ad though.

    I did recently make a Craftsman purchase, but I did it at a Sears Hardware store since they had the item on sale. That in itself isn't that interesting, but I again noticed that the store had registers using an old Sears screensaver from the mid-1990s. I've noticed that same thing at other Sears/Sears Hometown & Outlet Store stores. It looks like SHOS stores may get a new computer system separate from what Sears itself uses. It looks like some SHOS stores are getting redesigned appliance departments, but some stores are also closing.

    It's good to see that Target is still trying things. I don't think they're stores are maintained quite as well as they were a few years ago, but they are still miles ahead of what Kmart is doing. Perhaps these new efforts are signaling that Target is taking the condition of their stores more seriously now. Perhaps it just seems like the stores aren't kept quite up to the old standards because some of the stores that were still fairly new 5-10 years ago are now starting to get older. They're still nice stores though and I appreciate that they have not gone to concrete floors and/or open ceilings as far as I know. Of course, none of these redesigns matter if Target does not improve their pricing and checkout times as you say.

    Yeah, I don't really buy that Best Buy has price parity with Amazon. I checked a few items on both websites and Amazon was cheaper in every case. Of course, Best Buy does have price matching, but I'm guessing that's not what they meant by price parity. Perhaps the study used selective products knowing that Best Buy was more competitive in those categories. I'm sure somethings, like popular video games, are the same price just about everywhere.

    I don't really have any updates to report due to the reasons I mentioned earlier. I'm not visiting the thrifts and malls like I used to. It's good to hear that you found a lot of cassettes at Half Price Books though. I considered visiting a HPB store this weekend due to their sale, but I figured the stores would have been packed so I didn't. Oh well.

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    1. Well, for some odd reason this comment was flagged as spam but this time I caught it early.

      It did not specify if the Kmart tape player would be an in-store item or just an online store pickup. Either way I will see if they have any in stock on my next Kmart trip. Speaking of trips, I have lots of new photos of 3 Dallas Malls. Southwest Center/Red Bird Mall, Plaza Central/Six Flags Mall, and Valley View. Valley View is winding down as the developer plans to demolish the mall as early as 2016. Southwest Center Mall is doing okay, about half of the mall is full but two of the anchors there are closed. That mall is going into foreclosure. Plaza Central Mall is open, but only a small handful of shops have reopened. The whole mall is open to walk through, but there are huge sections of the mall with only a handful of shops. Most shops are also only open limited hours Thursday to Sunday.

      I hope the tape manufacturers will continue to make tapes for when the thrift stores start running out.

      I went to one Sears Hardware store recently that gave me one of the 1990's era shopping bags with my purchase you mentioned a while ago. I guess they get a discount on old Sears equipment and items.

      Target needs to improve all aspects of their business if they want to gain the confidence of the shoppers they lost after the credit card hack. I know they want to save money to make the quarterly results, but we have seen the results of neglecting a business to make profits.

      I noticed they checked 50 items out on the pricing parity article. I wonder if they priced things like Apple items and Cell phones which are the same price nearly everywhere. It is difficult to really judge pricing on such a small sample of items.

      The 20% off sale was a good thing. I actually picked up some blank cassettes also. I picked up 2 each of TDK Metal MA110 tapes from Japan (1990) and TDK Metal Bias MA110 best for CD tapes from Japan (Not dated) as well. I think the tapes may actually be identical except for the packaging and they have the same barcode numbers. I found these in Dallas for 80 cents each after the sale price. I probably should have picked up more because they had at least 30 on the shelves.

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  7. Part I:

    I’m not really sure why that post got flagged as Spam. Maybe it’s because I had a video link on it, but I’ve certainly posted links to videos before. Well, hopefully this post won’t get flagged because I have some video links on here too, but maybe you’ll see it if it does.

    I’m looking forward to seeing posts about those malls in Dallas if you make them. I’m not as familiar with the malls in Dallas as I am with the ones in Austin and even San Antonio. I really don’t go to the Dallas area very often. I don’t think I’ve been there since the late 1990s actually. I am familiar with a few of malls there that I’ve read about/seen on the Internet, but I know there are a lot more that I am not too familiar with.

    I think a store like Wal-Mart can get away with being lax on customer service to some extent because for many people, shopping means shopping at Wal-Mart and nowhere else. Obviously Wal-Mart has worked hard over the years to earn that level of loyalty, but very few other retailers have that level of respect. The only other retailer that I can think of that is on the same level is Amazon. Of course, even Amazon and Wal-Mart may lose their advantage if they get too lax with customer service and/or if they lose their pricing advantages.

    Target really isn’t a store that can get away with too much. There are some people who refuse to shop at Wal-Mart and so they may shop at Target by default instead, but even those shoppers could be lost to grocery stores if Target is off their game in terms of pricing. Hopefully Target will realize what made them so strong a few years ago and will return to being more competitive with their pricing and customer service, but we’ll see if that happens.

    Most, if not all, Sears Hardware stores are franchised so maybe the franchise owners are looking to save money by buying surplus Sears bags. Of course, I still see those old Sears bags with the ~2003 era logo on them at regular Sears stores every now and then, but they are starting to get a little bit more rare in my experience. I know that Sears Hardware stores used to have specific Sears Hardware bags back in the early 2000s, but now they (along with Sears Outlet) just use the same Sears Shop Your Way bags as the regular Sears stores. Kmart uses a very similar style bag as far as I know. The Sears bags are probably the least fancy bags you’ll see at a mall, but oh well I guess. Sears did have nicer bags in the pre-Lampert days. Sears has been using special bags during the holiday season recently, but sometimes those bags can linger on at stores for months afterward.

    Marc B, one thing to remember about that part of FM 1960 is that there are already a lot of nightclubs there and a lot of them have a bad reputation for crime. Sometimes bad reputations are unfair and unjustly earned, but that really isn't the case with some of those clubs. They really do have issues. That, combined with the fact that there are well-known family restaurant chains in that center to go along with Half Priced Books, which is open later than most retailers, means that I don't think a night club would ever work in that center unless the national chains move out first.

    Dixie Square Mall did have nightclubs, and I'm sure the area still has some, but that mall went downhill quickly after it was built so I'm sure the mall operators were desperate for any new tenants. Plus, that part of the Chicago area declined fast as well so it's not a surprise that it would have clubs, but that's not something most national chains want to be around. I'm sure there are some successful centers with nightclubs in them, but it's a pretty rare thing in my experience.

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    1. Now I make sure to check the spam folder when I check the comments because a few good comments for some reason are flagged.

      Dallas/FT Worth still has a lot of malls that I have never been to. I have only been there a handful of times even though it is less than 4 hours to get to. Downtown Dallas is so much nicer at night than Houston, several skyscrapers have LED lighting that changes colors. Here in Houston our downtown area hardly has any buildings that stand out at night and most turned off the decorative lighting at the top of the buildings several years ago.

      Walmart has done a great job advertising their low prices for many years. Amazon has also earned a reputation for low prices and fast shipping. Both companies have been fighting negative public relations perceptions about the treatment of their employees. Target has negative PR surrounding their data breach and perception of higher prices than Walmart. I think grocery stores like Kroger and HEB as poised to continue their strong growth at the expense of Walmart and Target in our area.

      I have held onto a few bags over the years from old defunct stores. My collection includes Foley's, Circuit City, K&B, Maison Blanche, and I have started also holding onto Sears and Kmart bags. Kmart bags are identical to Sears bags now except for the different logo. I have seen bags going for some $$'s on Ebay, but I don't know how many people actually buy them.

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  8. Part II:

    I know we’ve talked before about how many mall RadioShacks remain. I did find another one that seemingly still exists. It’s a RadioShack and Sprint combo at the Boone Mall in North Carolina. I guess the store must plan on sticking around since it’s a combo store.

    I came across an interesting Sears. It is the Marley Station Mall Sears in Glen Burnie, MD. It was built in 1997 and looks more or less like the Pasadena Town Square Sears on the outside. On the inside, however, it has a split drop ceiling and open ceiling. It looks like the tools/seasonal departments have an open ceiling and the rest of the store has a regular drop ceiling. I’m not sure if I like it compared to the standardized ceilings of the Pasadena Town Square store, but it’s an interesting look for sure. I’m not aware of any other Sears with a split ceiling like that.

    I came across an interesting article discussing how a handful of Macy’s stores will be testing Best Buy store-with-a-store departments selling mostly Samsung phones and wireless accessories. Macy’s has tried stuff like this with Apple vending machines and stuff, but it’ll be interesting to see how the hook up with Best Buy goes.

    I’ll put a quick reply here about the comment you made about vintage commercial jingles in the Circuit City post. It certainly does seem like a lot less effort is put into jingles these days than in the past. The companies that still have jingles often have bad ones as you say. A lot of companies just use regular pop songs in their commercials these days. Maybe marketers found that jingles weren’t effective, but I certainly think that some of them were memorable if nothing else. The Circuit City one was very memorable. The . “There’s More For Your Life at Sears” and the “Softer Side of Sears” jingles and themes were very memorable too IMO. Of course, a lot of mid-1980s jingles had a similar upbeat style to them like the “There’s More for Your Life” jingle.

    Whoa, you should have brought all of those TDK MA metal cassettes. You can easily get $5 each for a sealed TDK MA on the used market. In fact, you may be able to even get $10+ for them if you’re lucky. This link will help you determine which year your cassettes are from. I’m not sure if all MAs were made in Japan or if only the older ones were. TDK did have factories all over the place, but the MA was a higher end tape that perhaps was only made in Japan.

    In all my years of thrifting, I’ve never come across a sealed metal cassette. Perhaps I need to make a thrifting/Half Price Books trip to Dallas! I’ve found a couple of used ones though. Oddly enough, both were premium metals (TDK MA-X and Maxell MX-S) that are only one notch below the elusive super metals that are worth a ton like the TDK MA-R/MA-XG and the Maxell Metal Vertex. Probably the best sealed tapes I’ve found are top of the line Type IIs, TDK SA-X and Maxell XLII-S. I’ve never found a sealed Type I superferric either like a Maxell XLI/XLI-S or TDK AR/AR-X. Those might be even rarer than metal tapes at this point.

    The TDK MA was probably the most popular metal cassette in the marketplace. The similar level Maxell MX was popular as well. The MA and MX were basically entry level metal tapes, but they perform very well and are highly sought after cassettes these days due to their rarity. There is a place that still sell excess stock Sony Metal XR 60 minute cassettes, but those are the only metal cassettes that can be brought “new” these days.

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    1. I wonder if these remaining mall Radio Shack stores are corporate or franchised. It seemed like most mall stores were closed around the time of the corporate bankruptcy.

      That Sears store is interesting, I think the Sears in Austin at the Lakeline Mall has an open ceiling like the Marley Station Mall in the hardware area, but I may be wrong about that. I will see the next time I go to Austin since Highland Mall is no longer an option to visit.

      It is interesting that Macy's is partnering with Best Buy. I have seen their Finish Line and Lids Locker Room mini stores pop up in several Macy's stores including Deerbrook. Macy's announced today they are going to close 35-40 stores in 2016. I am sure we will see at least one close in the malls I have covered here in the blog. Hopefully none of our nearby malls will be affected.

      I don't know if it is because I listen to a lot of radio here in Houston or what, but the jingles here are very annoying. I guess that is what they want, but when I hear the same commercial 5 times commuting I want to rip my radio out and throw it out the window.

      The metal tapes are in the middle of the pictures, they are from the years 90-91 and 92-95. Something told me to get more since they had so many, but I was having trouble holding onto what I had grabbed at that point and had to search for a basket for my stuff. The Half Price store I found them at is their flagship store 5803 E Northwest Hwy. It is right off of Hwy 75, which is what I-45 turns into just past downtown. That store also had double what most Half Price Books stores have of pre-recorded tapes.

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  9. Part I:

    I’ve never intentionally collected retail bags, but I do have a number of old bags around the house. I know that I have quite a few Sears bags from the 1990s onward. I probably have some Montgomery Ward bags too, but I’m not sure if I still have them. I remember I had a Wards bag from about 1988 or so with some stuff in it in a closet for many years, but I don’t think that stuff is still there. That bag had the logos of many of the name brands that Wards was selling at the time (probably to differentiate themselves from Sears since they were mainly selling house brands prior to some changes in 1989). I know I still have some Foley’s bags and boxes. I probably have some Joske’s boxes too. I don’t know for sure now if I have any Kmart bags, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I do.

    I don’t know if I have any old Eckerd bags, but I do have a lot of old Walgreen’s bags from different years for some reason. I also have the old envelopes that retailers used for photo finishing from the 1970s all the way to the 2000s (I don’t think I’ve had any digital or film photos developed/printed at a retailer this decade). There’s some interesting stuff on those photo envelopes. I have a lot of them from Kmart, Target, Wal-Mart, Eckerd, Walgreens, Eagle, Fiesta, Kroger, FedMart, Fox Photo, Fotomat, and more.

    I’ve heard that there may be local ordinances in Houston that prohibit some of the fancy lighting and signs that Dallas’ skyscrapers have. I’m not sure about that though. I have little reason to visit Dallas (I don’t really go to Austin or San Antonio that frequently anymore either, but I’ve made a handful of visits to those places more recently than my last Dallas visit). Hopefully my New York Giants will take care of business against the Cowboys this week, but I’m not too optimistic.

    Most, if not all, mall RadioShacks that I’ve seen are corporate owned stores. I’m sure that there are exceptions, but those are probably located in very small malls in small towns. Perhaps any future new mall RadioShacks will be franchised, but it’s hard to say. The RadioShack that is in that picture is probably a corporate store since it has the Sprint co-branding.

    I’ve been to Lakeline Mall, but I went around the time that it opened back in the late 1990s. I don’t know if I went to the Sears there or not. I know I went to the Foley’s. That design is certainly interesting. It’s certainly possible that Sears replicated that design in other places other than at the Marley Station Mall. Perhaps Sears predicted that open ceilings would be popular, especially with hardware type stores like Home Depot, and decided to use that design.

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    1. A lot of vintage items go for money on Ebay. I try to pick up old retail items when I go to antique stores.

      Downtown Houston will not allow buildings over a certain height signs. The buildings can have lighting, but in 2008 many tower owners signed on to reduce electricity. Nearly every downtown tower shut their decorative lighting off and some will light up for special events or Christmas, but downtown is mostly dark.

      Sadly I am writing this comment after the game. I think New York will have a much better season after this game. They were so close and Dallas is a good team, it is not like it was Jacksonville or Oakland you lost to.

      Ok, I will have to see if there is a list of franchised stores. We may be able to find more mall locations still open.

      Lakeline is a bland mall, but the Sears there is different. The mall had a really cool food court with some 3-D designs of I think movie scenes. You can see some of what was left in my Lakeline article. They were renovating the mall so I am sure they probably removed it.

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  10. Part II:

    I came across an interesting video of a segment from a show that Bob Vila did showing people shopping for furniture at a Sears HomeLife store in what is probably the late 1990s. Of course, Bob Vila was a spokesman for Sears for many years. Anyway, it’s interesting seeing the HomeLife store. It certainly reminds me of the HomeLife store that we used to shop at near Greenspoint Mall.

    Macy’s has done a lot of store-with-a-store deals before. I know the Willowbrook Mall women’s store had a Lush cosmetics store in it before Lush got their own store within the mall itself. Many malls have Best Buy mobile stores in them already so I don’t know if this concept can be replicated everywhere even if the test is successful, but we’ll see. One problem Macy’s might have is that Best Buy isn’t exactly known for customer service like the department stores are, but Macy’s isn’t what they used to be in the customer service realm anyway.

    I read the article about the Macy’s closings. I’m sure some local malls have to be biting their fingernails. I would think that the San Jacinto Mall Macy’s would have a big question mark due to the redevelopment. Perhaps Macy’s would like the developers to buy the site out. Pasadena Town Square would have to be another question mark especially if the San Jacinto location stays open. Perhaps Greenspoint Mall is another question mark. We’ll have to see what happens.

    Houston radio is just annoying in general, but I guess the radio ads are more or less the same everywhere. It seems like radio ads have not evolved as much over the years as TV ads. I listened to some of my old radio cassettes from the 1980s and 1990s and the ads were pretty bad back then too.

    It’s a shame that the Dallas Half Price Books has a bigger selection of cassettes than the Houston locations. I don’t think I’ll go to Dallas just for those metal cassettes as I’m sure that they’re gone by now, but it is tempting! The 1990-92 formulation of the TDK MAs should be really good. The newer ones may have slightly lesser tape and shell quality, but it should still be really good and highly valuable. It definitely would have been worth it to buy all the tapes, but oh well. At least you got something.

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    1. I remember those days, now he is on the radio advertising Home Depot and going over project instructions. I hope nobody is trying to write down these tips while driving.

      Macy's has both a Lids Locker Room and Finish Line store at Deerbrook Mall. The mall also has both stores with the Lids store being right down the hall from Macy's.
      We will see how big the Best Buy expansion becomes, but I like the idea.

      I can see Greenspoint and Pasadena being expendable by Macy's. San Jacinto will be interesting to follow. Macy's will have to spend a lot of money to redo their store or open a new location there. San Jacinto is the only store out of the three that has not had any renovations with Macy's even though Greenspoint and Pasadena had renovations to move the products from the second floor down to the first so the second floor could be closed. San Jacinto could be closed off and demolished with the mall, we will see. I went to the San Jacinto Mall a few nights ago and got several photos. Hardly anybody was there which made it easy to get photos.

      I guess if you stay in any area for long enough you will begin to tire of the radio commercials.

      Yeah, I gave someone else an opportunity to make some $$. As you and I both know Half Price Books rarely sells blank cassettes. I probably would have found more music there, but I had to maneuver my way around a few other people on the aisle looking at music. I don't think I looked at all of the titles they had.

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  11. Part I:

    You’re right about vintage retail items going for big bucks on eBay. One day I somehow stumbled upon listings for vintage fast food napkins (like McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Burger King napkins from the 1970s) and they were going for like $5 per napkin. I don’t know if anyone buys those at those prices, but they’re certainly listed. I’ve never looked up the prices for vintage retail bags, but I’m sure some are selling for big time prices. Perhaps I should start a retail bag collection, but there’s no way I’m going to pay more than a few loose pennies a bag.

    I recently read an article about a franchised RadioShack store in Ohio that is changing their affiliation. According to the article, RadioShack dissolved all franchise agreements during the bankruptcy. I guess franchisees can still use the name and order RadioShack products, but perhaps there isn’t an official franchise operation now. It’s hard to say. Anyway, the store in the story is changing to become a Steren Electronics store. I’m not really familiar with them. I don’t think I’ve seen one of their stores. It seems like Steren makes cables and stuff though.

    I was looking at a recent RadioShack ad on their website and they are using a slightly different logo than the new one they have/had been using in the last couple of years. Instead of it saying “radioshack,” the ad says “RadioShack” like the phrasing they used in the ~1995-2013 logo. Perhaps they are using that logo now since there isn’t money to put new signs on all the stores, but I don’t know if that’s the case since the logo itself uses the newer style R in a circle still. Again, it’s hard to say what is going on.

    I did come across a photo of another mall RadioShack that is seemingly still open. This one is at the Westfield Montgomery Mall in MD. It’s kind of a surprise to see a RadioShack still at a strong mall like that because RadioShack dumped a lot of those locations at stronger malls even before the bankruptcy.

    I came across some interesting photos of the Kingsport, TN, Kmart. The store is an older Kmart that was seemingly converted into a Super Kmart and then converted back to a regular Kmart. That in itself is interesting. Perhaps the most interesting thing is the amateur looking signage in the electronics department. That’s very odd, but I’ve seen signage like that in other departments in photos of other Kmarts.

    That’s interesting that Lakeline Mall is being renovated. The mall would probably still be considered modern even though it’s nearly 20 years old now. Perhaps the mall wants to make sure that it remains in a competitive position. I don’t know if the 3D stuff remains after the renovation. Hopefully it does though.

    That’s interesting that the Deerbrook Mall Lids is right by the Macy’s that also has a Lids store. Perhaps that was poor planning on someone’s part. Macy’s must have some success with some of the store-with-a-store concepts or else I figure that they wouldn’t keep doing them, but I wonder how many of them are considered successful.

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    1. I guess the napkins could be framed and would make a nice vintage collectible. I have stickers that I framed from vintage stores, but it would be difficult to frame a plastic bag.

      I am sure more Radio Shack franchisees will separate themselves from the company. In some areas Radio Shack has a bad reputation and they will want a fresh start. I wonder if Radio Shack is going to bring an older logo back like JCPenney recently did. I wonder why they are still holding onto some mall stores, while they have closed so many across the USA. I guess maybe they are holding out waiting on a deal to buy the store out or they have a long lease that they could not get out of easily.

      That Kmart has very nice signage until you see the weird 3-D signs in the electronics department. All of the rest of the signage in the store looks like an update to what we see now in most stores. One thing I noticed is that they have large signage in stores now advertising their product sales.

      Lakeline was getting a renovation when I went there about 3 years ago. I am not sure how it looks now, but I am sure it has changed.

      I think the Lids store has a huge markup so they can afford to keep both stores open. Lids also has a hat store as well at Deerbrook Mall so really they have 3 stores. The Lids Locker Room and hat store have teams from all over the place. The Macy's Lids Locker Room store only has Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas team items.

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  12. Part II:

    I agree that the Greenspoint Mall and Pasadena Town Square Macy’s may be on the chopping block. It’s hard to say what Macy’s is going to do with the San Jacinto Mall location. One side of the argument is that the redevelopment will revitalize the area and will lead to a rebound in sales. OTOH, perhaps Macy’s does not see the Baytown market as being viable and they will try to get Fidelis to pay big bucks for the property as this might be their only chance to get a big payday by selling that property. Perhaps Macy’s will try to get a subsidy from Baytown or Fidelis to keep their presence at the center. Perhaps Macy’s will just tear down their current store and rebuild it from scratch if they get a subsidy.

    I look forward to seeing your pictures of San Jacinto Mall. It’s sad that it was so quiet, but I guess there is a reason why the mall is supposedly going to be redeveloped. It’s not like it’s a huge shocker. I was hoping to visit the mall this summer, but that never happened. Maybe I’ll still make it down there one of these days.

    I didn’t know that Bob Vila was doing ads for Home Depot these days. Yes, I certainly hope people weren’t writing down instructions while driving since many/most people listen to the radio in the car. Shows like that prove the usefulness of things like cassette recorders. Some phones/MP3 players have FM tuners that can record digitally, but usually they don’t have AM tuners. I suppose cassette recorders are the only option unless someone hooks up their AM tuner to something like a computer that records digitally.

    As for my New York Giants, well, what can I say. They certainly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Dallas. Oh well. Hopefully they will play well against Atlanta and will actually execute at the end of the game. The Giants are at best a marginal playoff team so they need every win that they can get. That’s what makes that loss so painful even though it’s still early.

    I’ve only been to a couple of thrifts in the past couple of weeks. One of them didn’t have much. The other had some nice prerecorded cassettes and a decent Pioneer-built RadioShack Optimus mid-1990s receiver at an okay price, but I didn’t buy anything. At least you got a couple of TDK MA cassettes, but I certainly would have hauled away the whole lot! Shopping for music at Half Price Books can be difficult if there are a lot of shoppers. There have been times where I was at the store for 30+ minutes and never had a chance to look at the cassettes because other shoppers were browsing through them or someone was blocking the cubbies that they are in on the CD shelf. The same thing is true with VHS movies too.

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    1. I am guessing we will know what stores are going to close right after Christmas, that is when they usually make those announcements. Sears/Kmart has been mostly quiet on store closings, but there have been several in the past month mostly Kmart stores.

      Hopefully I can make it down there a few more times to document the mall as it winds down. A few stores had already closed that were there on my previous visit. I am not sure if they closed because of business or because of the mall closing. I am also hoping to make it down there while the Service Merchandise and Montgomery Ward are being torn down to get shots of the interior once the first outer walls come down.

      97.5 plays the ads often. I am sure you can probably get the tips online as well, but to me it is strange to have him giving directions of how to fix something over the radio.

      I am rooting for you guys against Atlanta. I am sure they are going to be fired up to get a win at home this week.

      I wish Half Price Books would move the cassettes up to a higher shelf. Bending down for a while even with a stool is not comfortable. Or maybe I am getting old and cranky about bending over to look at the tapes. I went to a couple of thrifts and did not find anything. I guess it was my time to not find anything after finding about 20 items at the 2 half price books stores I visited in Dallas.

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  13. Part I:

    The RadioShack logo thing is quite odd. It might be like the JCPenney logo reversal, but in this case they have not fully reverted back to the old logo. I suppose that the company may have a lot of new executives after the bankruptcy and transition to Standard General and perhaps the new people liked some combination of the older logo and the newer logo. I don't really have any preference one way or another, but my favorite Radio Shack logo was the old bullet hole logo they used from the mid-70s to the mid-90s. Those were certainly great days for Radio Shack.

    The RadioShack name is certainly a tainted name for some shoppers. Others may assume that the chain totally went out of business. I can understand why some franchisees would want to move on with a new name, but OTOH, there really isn't another name that so clearly signifies a neighborhood electronics store like the RadioShack name. The store owners are certainly going to have to make some tough choices, but we'll see if Steren and others start to grow now.

    I'd imagine that some successful malls with high lease rates would like to get rid of RadioShack and put something sexier in those spots, but it's hard to say. Maybe that RadioShack in MD got a really good lease deal and they don't want to get rid of that. Perhaps the store has exceptional sales numbers. It's hard to say, but at least a few mall RadioShacks linger on even if there aren't many around here.

    It's good to see Kmart promote their sales. I think Sears is trying to push their online sales circulars instead of the newspaper ones, but they are still in the Houston Chronicle. Maybe Kmart is doing something similar.

    I can't explain the signage at that TN Kmart. It looks quite bad. The empty shelves/pegs below the signage isn't any better either. Speaking of which, here is a picture of another Kmart's electronics department where it looks like appliances and mattresses have taken over a lot of the old demised space. I guess we'll be seeing more of this at other Kmarts. The electronics signage at that store is in pretty rough shape too it appears.

    The markup on sports caps must be sky high based on the prices I've seen. I have not brought a sports cap in probably 20 years in part due to the prices.

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    1. Radio Shack's older logo that you linked is one that is very familiar to most of us, and the newer ones are more bland. I wonder if Radio Shack will get yet another logo update or if the company will have a different name in the near future. If Sprint begins to regain their customer base, the stores will continue to exist.

      Kmart has their flyers in the newspapers where they have stores. It seems like the stores in the New Orleans area have more products and different signage than the other stores in Louisiana. Most of the stores in the New Orleans area have the new apparel signage as well as the Sears Appliance departments. Even some of the stores even have hard liquor, wine, and beer for sale.

      I am surprised that the signage is still up even when the electronics departments shrink significantly. One of the stores I recently visited had three aisles on one side and two on the other side of the actual electronics section with electronics signage. The remaining electronics department at that store still had a lot of empty space and will probably need to shrink even more.

      The best time to get sports caps is at the end of the season if the team has a bad year. You can find some for as low as $5 in the off season if you get there at the right time.

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  14. Part II:

    Recent Kmart and Sears closings seem to happen in an under the radar fashion. I'm guessing a lot of the recent Kmart closings are situations where the store leases are up and Kmart is deciding not to renew the leases. We'll have to see what happens with Macy's though. I would not be surprised to see a Houston closure or two, but maybe nothing will happen here. We'll have to see.

    I guess it's not surprising to see the number of retailers start to shrink at San Jacinto Mall. Perhaps Fidelis is not extending leases now or maybe they've increased lease rates. Maybe retailers just see the writing on the wall and are moving on to other locations. It's hard to say. It'll be great to get more photos of the place as things start to happen.

    Speaking of redevelopments, it's my understanding that the Texas City HEB opened this past week. I have not been there (and I may never go there), but I guess that ex-Kmart property has finally been totally redeveloped. OTOH, I believe the newer ex-Kmart across the street is vacant now again since Marathon has moved out.

    I suppose someone could frame retail bags if they had a big enough wall. Framed napkins would be interesting, but it would probably get a lot of laughs from visitors. There's a person who has several Maxell cassettes framed on a wall. A lot of the frames have the whole line-up of Maxell cassettes from a particular era. It's certainly an interesting collection.

    We know about the Jensen portable cassette recorder that Kmart recently put on their website. Well, Fry's seems to be selling the same recorder at all three Houston stores and online. The difference is the Fry's one has the GPX name. It still seems to be a mono device as far as I can tell, but it's interesting to see stores start to sell it. I wonder who else will start selling it. It'll also be interesting to see how many different names end up getting slapped on that recorder. Anyway, all you have to do is go to Fry's to record Bob Vila to cassette if you want to. Granted, our Sony CFD-S50 boomboxes can do the same recording.

    I hope the Giants can take care of business against Atlanta. Hopefully they'll be motivated to move on from the Dallas game. They have the Redskins coming up the following Thursday so it'd be great if they could get a couple of wins in a short span. That'd certainly go a long way towards putting the Dallas game behind them.

    Yes, I agree that Half Price Books should find a higher place to put the VHS and audio cassettes. Not only are they hard to browse where they are, but they get blocked by people looking at the higher shelves. Some thrifts have their cassettes stacked down low too so I'm pretty used to having to stoop to go through them especially since they don't have the stools like HPB. You pretty much have to sit or kneel on the ground to go through things which is pretty bad since I'm usually in my work clothes when I thrift and also because I don't have the flexibility that I used to unfortunately. Oh well, at least I'm not alone in that regard.

    I have not done a lot of thrifting lately as you know, but I do plan on making a special thrifting trip or two in the next few weeks. I don't know if I'll find anything, but I'll certainly try to visit as many stores as possible to see what's out there.

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    1. I recently saw that a North Texas Sears will be closing in Wichita Falls. It looks like the store will be replaced quickly with another store, I am not sure if it is one of the REIT stores. Sears has hired some big names to run their appliance sales, so we will see if there is any improvement in those categories over the next few months.

      San Jacinto Mall is in dismal shape. I did not mention that the Marshalls has several missing ceiling tiles and items moved around the store away from leaks. The remaining section of the mall in the Montgomery Ward wing has peeling paint and stains from water damage.

      HEB will soon take over a chunk of the San Jacinto Mall property as well. I wonder if HEB is growing too quickly or if they are setting up a defense for all of the competition on the way to the area.

      I never thought of doing that, but it might be a good idea to showcase my cassettes and keep them in good condition. I found another replacement cassette player on Ebay, so I now have two good working Walkman players. It is good to know that I will be able to find replacement Walkman's if needed at a local store.

      At least the Giants took care of the Redskins. Atlanta has surprised a lot of people this season, but New York at this point has the best chance at the division.

      I am sure Half Price Books keeps the lower shelves filled with products they think are not good sellers. I usually see 8-tracks and clearance items on their lower shelves as well. I doubt there are many 8-track collectors out there these days, but you never know. 8-track tapes don't age well and I rarely see one in decent shape for sale.

      I have popped in a few thrift stores this past week, but I did not pick up anything. I am just about out of cassette storage space, and I finally listened to all of my cassettes at least once. One of the doors broke on my only functioning dual cassette deck so I may be in the market for a new one later this year.

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  15. Part I:

    I have a lot of updates since my last posts. As I mentioned earlier, I was planning on making a special thrifting trip or two last week. I did end up doing that and I visited a couple of malls as well. Well, I visited the Memorial City Mall Sears, but I didn't go to the mall itself. As for that Sears, it's basically the same as I remember it being during my last trip. Of course, that was a couple of years ago so my memory isn't the best. Did the exterior get a renovation recently? It looks different than how I remember it looking (it still has ~1994 signage). The store seems to blend in with the rest of the mall in that section. I don't know. The key hut seemed like a popular spot. There were at least 4 people squeezed in there when I walked by not including one other customer who walked out of the hut while I was walking up to it.

    As for West Oaks Mall, I guess it more or less looks like how it did during my last visit a couple of years ago. I didn't go to any of the anchors other than Sears, but we got an update about the Macy's in the Highland Mall post. I posted a quick reply to that post. I noticed that there is a newish electronics store there (I don't remember the name) that is kind of like a knock-off Apple store that sells tablets, phones, and laptops (non-Apple ones presumably). It's interesting to see a new mall electronics store that isn't run by Apple, Best Buy, Sony, or RadioShack.

    As for the West Oaks Sears, I did pay attention to a few things. I don't know when I last went to the electronics department there, but I did this time. The electronics department there is interesting because it actually feels like a dark room like what department stores like Joske's, Macy's, and Foley's had back when they sold electronics back in the day. As for the stock, well, it certainly looked like it was downsized at some point recently. That's not surprising. What is a bit surprising is that it looked like every pair of headphones and earphones they had were marked down. I can't imagine that they'd clear out all their headphones so I can't really explain that one. It does look like the furniture department has eaten up some of the space that used to contain housewares before. They still have the housewares, but they've moved a little bit it seems.

    Speaking of Kmart sales circulars, the West Oaks Sears had some sales sheets at the front of the mall entrance advertising their safety month sales. The ads had Kmart coupons on the bottom of them oddly enough. I did go into the hardware department and came across the smoke detectors and fire extinguishers that they were advertising. The smoke detectors in red boxes were so faded that they had turned pink. The ones in blister packs had packs that were heavily yellowed. I wonder how long those have been on the shelf. It must be at least 5 years, but maybe even 10+ years.

    I don't know what RadioShack will do. We heard that Sprint would put up new signage at their combo stores, but I have not seen that happen at any location yet. Perhaps it will happen in time. Maybe Sprint wants to test things before they commit to spending big bucks. We'll see.

    It's sad to hear about the state of San Jacinto Mall. It sounds like they might need to do a total demolition and rebuild of the non-anchor areas (and who knows about the anchors). Well, oh well. At least Triyar won't be around to let it rot on their watch. It'll be interesting to see how the open-air powercenter shapes up if it happens.

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    1. The Sears lot at Memorial City is the best place to park. I think they painted the store recently, but I am not sure how far back that happened.

      Does the store at West Oaks sell video games as well? There is a store in Deerbrook by the name of CEX that sells phones, tablets, video games, and all kinds of small electronics. Another comic book/video game store also opened at Deerbrook as well. Now there are 4 stores that sell video games in the mall which is strange for a mid-tier mall.

      I am going to have to check out the West Oaks store and pick up some cheap headphones. I can always use an extra pair or two. That electronics department has a much better design than many of the normal Sears stores. A lot of the hardware items are like that these days at Sears. I usually try to get the least worn out item on the shelf.

      The San Jacinto Mall project will probably start sometime after the Christmas season, I would guess. I wonder if they are going to close the whole mall for demolition or if they are going to keep a partial section of the mall open while they demolish the other parts. I hope if they do that, they give the affected stores the option to move into the remaining section of the mall until it is demolished.

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  16. Part II:

    I don't know if HEB will ever have the Houston store count that Kroger has, but it sounds like they are trying hard to catch up to Kroger. I'm not sure how that will turn out. Surely some locations will do well, but some surely won't. I suppose HEB going on an aggressive expansion here makes more sense than what Albertson's did 20 years ago as at least HEB has some sense that the Houston market will accept HEB stores. Granted, I'm not really a big HEB fan mainly due to the poor design and aesthetics of their stores.

    I did not hear about the Wichita Falls Sears. Thanks for the news. Hopefully that wasn't the community's only Sears or else their customers may have a long drive to find another one. Then again, I can't imagine that Wichita Falls would have a lot of Sears locations.

    I came across a couple of other interesting Kmart photos. Here is a Kmart in Louisville that has an L-shaped electronics department complete with lots of vintage signage. Part of the electronics space is being repurposed in the photo. Here is another Louisville Kmart on Tailorsville Rd. that has put up a giant sign covering the electronics department wall. I actually like that solution. No offense to the Walkman woman and her friends, but that looks much more modern.

    I guess I should have been shopping for Giants hats the last couple of years! Hopefully Giants caps will be very expensive at the end of the year. The near wins have been painful, but I think the Giants have played better than the other NFC East teams and they're only one game back. The Cowboys have injuries, but the Giants have a lot of big-time players who are out too. Some of these players will be coming back this week supposedly. I'm not going to hang up a Super Bowl banner yet just off a win against the Redskins, but hopefully they can keep up the winning ways.

    I've visited about 14 different thrifts and a couple of Half Price Books in the last week or so during my thrifting visits. I may make one more thrifting trip here soon before I go back on thrifting vacation for a quite a while. I certainly saw some interesting stuff even though I didn't buy a whole lot.

    It's sad to hear that your cassette deck door broke. Was that the Sharp or Vector Research deck? The good news is that I saw a lot of cassette decks in the thrifts. I didn't buy any because they were all low/lower end stuff, but they might be fine for your needs. I saw a Kenwood, a couple of Sonys, a Pioneer, and a Teac one. All were dual cassette decks. The Teac one was the most interesting because it had the owner's manual with the registration card filled in (I guess the previous owners filled it out and never mailed it in). I saw on there that it was brought at a Highland in IL in 1988. The model was similar to a Teac deck we brought from Service Merchandise in 1989, but I think ours was auto reverse. I almost brought that one since it appeared to work, but I figured that it wasn't worth the $15 they wanted. I wish I could tell you which thrift had what, but I've been to so many that I can't remember who had what. You might find something if you look around though especially on the NW and W sides since that's where I've been thrifting. Just be sure to test stuff out because I didn't try too many decks out. The Pioneer deck I saw had stuck buttons on it so that certainly would need some work.

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    1. HEB does have JJ Watt though, Kroger needs to get a Houston area sports spokesperson.

      Wichita Falls probably only has the one large Sears store, the population is listed at a little over 100,000. They also don't have a Kmart, but they still have a Kmart Drive probably where the former Kmart was located. Those Kmart stores are interesting, one looks like it is in a transition possibly for a Sears mattress and appliance department.

      Well, my team helped the Giants out this week by beating Dallas. I probably needed some heart pills after watching that game. The Giants look like the team to beat in that division, they made Buffalo look terrible at their stadium.

      It sounds like you had some productive free time recently and visited several stores. I think you are going to like this new work schedule better.

      It is the Vector deck that has the issue. I will probably look in a couple of weeks at some stores. There have been a lot of good deals at some grocery/retail stores lately so I have been stocking up on necessities.



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  17. Part III:

    I recently said that I've never seen sealed metal cassettes in the thrifts. Well, that has changed. I was at a thrift that had a 2 pack of late 1990s Made in Japan Maxell MX-S cassettes. I gladly paid the $4 price on them even though $2/tape is more than I've ever paid for a thrift store cassette. I saw the exact same thing selling for $36 on ebay today. The pack has the original price tag on it too, but I can't tell which store it's from. It does not say and I don't recognize it. The pack cost $10 back when it was new. Perhaps I should have invested in metal cassettes back then. Anyway, I have a slightly older MX-S tape that I found at a thrift used and it's an excellent cassette. It's the second highest level metal cassette that Maxell made.

    Another item that I've been looking for in the thrifts is a Toshiba V3 six head VHS VCR that they made in the mid-90s. Those were famous models when they were new due to their features and image quality. I have an RCA 4 head VCR made by Toshiba that has some of the V3 features and it's one of my favorite VCRs. Well, I found a working Toshiba six header with the remote for $12. The price was a tad high for a thrift store VCR, but I still jumped on it. This model is not one of the ultra-rare highest end models with Toshiba's digital noise reduction feature, but it still works well. I have no complaints. I'm still playing around with it, but I'm glad to have it in my VCR fleet.

    The final thrift store pick-up of note is a 1996 RadioShack Optimus Model 721 micro-sized bookshelf system with CD, AM/FM, and a cassette recorder. I paid $10 for it with the speakers and everything works. The cassette deck is running a bit fast. Normally that wouldn't be a hard fix, but I don't know how easy it'll be to correct that given the small size. Oh well, it's not too noticeable and the sound quality is pretty good especially given how dirty the heads and tape transport are. I wasn't expecting much given the size and the cheapness of the speakers, but it actually sounds pretty good. I think it'll sound even better with better speakers. I'll have to go to RadioShack and get some solderless RCA plugs so I can hook up some of my better speakers to it and try it out that way. I'll also have to spray the control knobs with some contact cleaner (which I already have from RadioShack) as they are a bit scratchy. The thing is tiny (it has the width and depth of an older Discman not counting the speakers) so it'll be a nice system to put in a bedroom or something. It's a good system for a place that can take something bigger than the Sony CFD-S50 boombox, but not something as big as as a regular shelf stereo or regular stereo components.

    There's a lot of interesting stuff that I saw that I didn't buy including a Kmart/White Westinghouse Hi-Fi VCR, the cassette decks that I mentioned, a few other audio equipment pieces, a pretty high end Marantz CD player, a bunch of fancy business model electronic word processing typewriters that a school district must have donated, and a couple of remote-less DVD recorders.

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    1. I am glad to see you found some good metal tapes and the VHS you were looking for at the thrift finally. One of the most frustrating things about retail stores is when they don't have what you are looking for.

      I think I saw a similar system at one of the thrifts in Pasadena a couple of months ago, but it was not a Radio Shack model. It was very small and had only one cassette player. I have seen a lot of typewriters for sale at thrift stores.

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  18. Part IV:

    As for Half Price Books, well, that was interesting. The North Oaks location actually has two shelfs with cassettes now. Maybe it was like this before and I didn't notice it. They have the normal cubby at the end of the CD rack and they had some cassettes and 8-tracks below the LP racks. They didn't "double stack" the normal cubby so I don't know if they had more cassettes than they used to, but it was easier to go through them since I didn't have to move cassettes to see the back rows. I did end up buying the famed Milli Vanilli cassette album for 50 cents. That is surprisingly rare. I've never seen it before in the thrifts. Also, the tape is recorded on BASF Professional II tape. The publisher even put BASF's logo on there and the tape model information. I've seen another publisher say that they used BASF chrome before, but I've never seen all the details on a prerecorded cassette. Anyway, the tape sounds really good.

    The Copperfield store sells cassettes for 75 cents. I didn't know that they charged more. Oh well. Maybe they sell better at that store. The Copperfield store had a Westinghouse Walkman-style battery powered USB cassette converter/player for $25. It looks similar to the auto-reverse ones I see on the Internet for about the same price, but the box didn't say anything about it being auto-reverse so I don't know if it's the same model. Well, anyway, that's another option if you want to try a new Walkman. I guess you brought a good used one instead though. I don't blame you for that. Anyway, I don't know if other HPBs have the same Westinghouse converter.

    I had actually never seen 8-tracks at HPB before my last couple of visits (well, in modern times at least). You're right that 8-track cartridges often need repairs to get them to work. I'm not really into 8-tracks due to their problems, but I'm sure there are people into them. It's a classic 1970s item, but I'd prefer to play around with 1970s cassettes instead. They're certainly more reliable and easier to fix if they need to be fixed.

    It'd be nice if HPB put the cassettes on a higher shelf, but as you say, they are where they are because they don't sell as well/as profitably probably. In fact, a few of the thrifts I went to didn't have cassettes at all even though they used to (maybe they were hiding somewhere). Perhaps they just don't have any to sell and they will sell them when they get more donated (VHS movies are still plentiful almost everywhere and I saw more decent VCRs at the thrifts than I saw a few months ago). The thrift that I got the Maxell MX-Ss from didn't have any cassettes at all aside from those. It was stuffed in a DVD rack of all places.

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    1. I never noticed the extra section at the North Oaks Half Price Books store, I will have to check it out on my next visit.

      Half Price Books has different pricing at every store, I have seen regular cassettes as high as $1.99 for a single cassette at their stores outside of Houston. Half Price Books is about as close as we will have for a music store though and I am glad they are doing well.
      I remember the In Living Color skit about the Milli Vanilli kit that was hilarious.

      Cassettes have been hit or miss at thrift stores. I have found them hiding in strange spots though. Even some of the Antique stores have cassettes hidden in furniture items and other strange places.

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  19. I don't know if this counts...but I think there's still one open at the former Twin City Mall in Monroe, LA. They closed the Pecanland Mall store here (recently I think), but the older Twin City store is still open. It's in the shopping center-strip mall part...since the interior of that mall has been closed for many years.

    Pecanland Mall I think was our last interior store.

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    1. Did the Twin City Mall Radio Shack also have a mall entrance at one time? I am not familiar with the layout of that property.

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  20. Part I:

    I ended up making another couple of interesting shopping trips last week in addition to the ones I already talked about. One was a trip to Greenspoint Mall. It had been a little over a year since I last visited the mall and I am happy to report that the mall is actually doing a little bit better it seems than it was during my last visit. The mall has a new clothing store in the former Oshman’s/Anna’s Linens spot. As a whole the lease rate seems to be pretty decent in the main corridors. Some of the anchor corridors, especially the one going to the Dillard’s, are pretty sparse. Most of the stores are lesser known chains or local stores, but at least the mall has tenants. It seemed like they had the A/C on in the whole mall this time and I didn’t see any buckets, but we have not had a lot of rain lately.

    I did visit the Greenspoint Macy’s for the first time in quite a while. Someone commented about the condition of the store in the Highland Mall post. My observations are pretty similar, but I didn’t notice anything about the in-store music. Parts of the store are looking really dated like the children’s department and The Cellar. The old parquet floor is still there in some spots. It’s definitely a throwback experience of sorts being in there, but the store is in pretty sad shape compared to the store’s glory years that I remember. I went to the Dillard’s too. It does not smell as bad as it did during my last visit in 2009. I guess it’s about what you’d expect from a clearance store.

    I also visited the Goodwill next to the mall in the old Circuit City. I did not know this, but I guess Goodwill moved their Computer Works store from Westheimer to that location. The store is pretty small now and they don’t have much, but I did notice that they had a couple of Commodore 64s in their original boxes for ~$30. One of them even had the original Kmart price tag on it from around 1984-85. I almost brought one, but the clerk did not know if they worked. I chickened out since I didn’t want to waste $30 on something that may not work, but I kind of wish that I did buy one (especially the Kmart one). I had a Commodore 64 back in the day and that was an important computer to me and to many people back in the day. I’m not even sure what a working C64 is worth these days.

    I did make a visit to a RadioShack as well to get the solderless RCA plugs for that 1996 Optimus stereo system. I have not played around with the stereo much yet, but I probably will soon. Anyway, the store I visited is not a Sprint store. I was there a few weeks ago, but it looks like they cleared out some of the racks in the front of the store. The end result is that the store looks kind of half empty now as everything is on the walls of the store or in the three little parts aisles in the back. I don’t know if this is how the store will look from now on out or if something else will be put there. Of course, Sprint RadioShacks may look more full. Anyway, I found what I was looking for (they are in the parts bin in the back) and I noticed that the date code for the plugs I got were from July 2015. That means that the stores have gotten at least some new inventory since the bankruptcy. That’s good to see especially since it is a part from the parts drawer. The package the plugs came in still had the old ~1995-2014 era logo on it though.

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    1. It is good that the buckets are gone from the floor at Greenspoint. I am surprised someone has not tripped on one and filed a claim for injuries. I gave up trying to count them ony last visit to the mall, but I would estimate at least 100 in different spots in the mall.

      I noticed the issue with the music a few months ago. The mall entrance side of the store did not have music and was so quiet you can hear every sound. It was almost like you were in there by yourself, there were hardly any customers that night.

      Spending $30 on computer parts without any guarantee is not good. You might as well buy some lottery tickets with that money.

      The only Radio Shack I have been to was in July. It was a Sprint/Radio Shack location. I have not needed anything from them lately.

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  21. Part II:

    The thrift I got the Optimus mini-stereo system from (which is located in a shopping center that used to have a Radio Shack in it many years ago) actually had another similarly sized Audiovox stereo system that was probably a few years newer. I didn’t really consider the Audiovox one though as I liked the idea of getting the RadioShack one. Once a year or two ago I saw a Soundesign stereo system from the late 1990s that looks a lot like the RadioShack one I brought. It may be the same thing with a different name on it. Who knows. I wanted to get that one just because of the functions it had for the size, but I think it was missing the speakers or something. I don’t remember exactly why I didn’t buy that one.

    Anyway, I found the manual for the Optimus system on the RadioShack website. The rated specs for the cassette deck and the CD player are pretty bad. I think the cassette deck frequency response maxes out at 8Khz and the CD at 14Khz, but to me it sounds like the manual might be underrating those by quite a bit. I’ll have to do some more testing to find out for sure. It’ll help when I plug some better speakers into it once I make some speaker cables with the RCA plugs I brought. I can even do some objective tests to get a scientific answer.

    I don’t remember seeing a CEX store at West Oaks Mall. I went to the mall’s website and it looks like the store I’m talking about is called Noitavonne Smart Electronics. They may have sold games, but I didn’t see them. It’s certainly not a big part of their operations if they do. That’s interesting that Deerbrook Mall got another gaming store. I’ve been seeing small gaming/comics shops opening up in small shopping centers lately. I guess it’s a new trend. I guess Deerbrook’s lease rates are affordable enough for less traditional retailers, but the mall still gets enough traffic to be attractive to bigger time fashion clients.

    It’s hard to say what will happen to San Jacinto Mall. I guess anyone who wants to see it needs to visit it soon to find out. Hopefully we’ll get more details soon.

    I did visit the Mall of the Mainland Sears recently. There really aren’t any updates to report about the store or the mall itself other than it seems like the church is working on the inside of the ex-Dillard’s. Everything seems to be just about the same as they were before. The Galveston Daily News had another update about the mall recently. They say that the local college is still looking at the old JCPenney, but who knows if anything will actually happen. Also, it sounds like a 45,000 sq. ft. antique mall might be coming to the mall.

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    1. Those specs don't sound very powerful, but the system was probably designed for light usage. Hopefully it tests better than you are anticipating.

      I think Deerbrook may have cut some rent deals to fill all of the spaces that emptied out at the end of last year. The mall may have all of the spaces filled or spoken for after having about 10 vacancies. I am glad to see a variety of stores besides ones only sell clothes or shoes.

      I hope the Antique Mall pans out, I will be there to check that one out. It would be easy for them to set up shop in the closed mall space. Lots of old department stores are getting a new life as an antique mall these days.

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  22. Part III:

    As for Sears itself, I will say that the Memorial City Mall Sears already had their Christmas stuff out when I visited it. I guess Sears is getting an early start again this year. I didn’t see anything at the West Oaks or Mall of the Mainland Sears, but I did notice that workers were moving stuff out of the seasonal section of the Mall of the Mainland store so I guess that will change soon.

    I guess getting an old hammer or screwdriver isn’t a huge deal (it might actually be a good thing if the old stuff was built better), but I think fire extinguishers and smoke detectors do go bad after a while. I wonder how old that stuff is and why they have not put them on a “fire” sale clearance. Sears seems to clear some stuff out very quickly, but other things linger on for years at regular price.

    Speaking of clearances, even though the West Oaks Sears had a lot of markdowns on headphones, I’m not sure if they had the best clearance deals I’ve seen on headphones at Sears. Each store is different and some don’t advertise which products are actually marked down. I got a good deal on some JVC headphones at the Main St. Sears some months back. JVC makes good headphones for the most part even if they aren't a sexy brand name like Beats. I got the JVC HAS-160 Flats model. They’re pretty cheap even at regular price, but they are known to have a very natural sound without the built-in adjusted equalization that boosts treble or bass like many other headphones including the expensive ones. That makes them good for monitoring cassette recordings using my 3 head cassette decks. Of course, if you want something with booming bass, you’ll want something else. Some stores also have good deals on Koss headphones right now. Some Koss models are really good, but some aren’t so you do have to do some research.

    I did come across another interesting Kmart electronics photo from the store in New Albany, IN. It looks like the store has repurposed the video game cabinets to be a BluRay/DVD movie cabinet. That’s kind of interesting.

    It might help Kroger if they got a local spokesperson. Then again, I remember when HEB had David Carr as their local spokesperson. That probably drove people away! I do appreciate the help the Saints gave the Giants this week. I guess you can’t feel too bad about the FG miss since they won the game anyway. The Giants seem to be playing the best football in the division right now and they are tied for first, but it’s still early.

    Wow, $1.99 is a lot for used cassettes. I can see prices spiking some though. NBC Nightly News recently had a story about the cassette “comeback.” It’s similar to the Bloomberg article about the National Audio Company, but obviously the NBC Nightly News is viewed a lot more. Hopefully the prices won’t go up too much because of the story. Half Price Books is still a good store and I like shopping there, but sometimes their pricing is out of line compared to what stuff can be had elsewhere. OTOH, sometimes their prices are in line with the thrift stores. The North Oaks store charges about what thrift stores charge for VHS and audio cassettes.

    I do like the new work schedule, but I don’t know how long it’ll last. Things always seem to change. I probably won’t go on a thrifting circuit during my free time all the time, but it’s something that I’d like to do every now and then. We’ll see how often I do it, but I may not visit a thrift again for another few weeks now. Anyway, the thrifts do have some interesting stuff right now based on my recent observations so this is a good time to go looking if you’re wanting something like a new cassette deck or VCR. Of course, luck can change quickly at thrift stores.

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    1. At least Sears is right along with just about everyone else for Christmas. Most stores have the Christmas aisle along with the Halloween/Harvest items. I would not trust an old fire extinguisher, but tools are a different story.

      I like deep bass so I have to research to find a good pair of headphones.

      It is good to see the old game cases being used again. I wonder if they will eventually be collectors items like the World of Nintendo game cases.

      David Carr is someone that Texans fans would probably like to forget, but they have not had much luck with quarterbacks over the years. The missed field goal was for the best, but it did not feel like it when the miss happened.

      I had a chance to check out the North Oaks Half Price Books today. The cassette section is much larger than before and I hope they are able to keep it filled. I have a lot of cassettes in my collection now so I am not too concerned if prices go up soon. The prices on just about everything keeps going up especially at the grocery store. 25 and 50 cent increases on just about everything really adds up.

      I am sure it becomes overwhelming to visit a bunch of thrifts in the same day. The most I went to was 7 and I was running out of patience after so much digging.



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  23. Part I:

    You’re right that the Home Depot buckets at Greenspoint Mall were tripping hazards considering that some of them where right in the middle of walkways. Then again, I guess the buckets are less risky than having rain water collecting on the tile floor. I’m not sure if Triyar actually fixed the roof or if the buckets were gone because we have not had a lot of rain. It’s hard to say until someone visits the mall during/after rain showers.

    Speaking of Greenspoint floors, I was walking in the corridor near the old Montgomery Ward when I stepped and fell into the floor a little bit. One of the tiles was loose and it tipped up when I stepped in it. I guess they’ll have to duct tape that tile down like they have with some of the other tiles.

    There were a decent number of shoppers at the Greenspoint Macy’s when I was there, but it was a Friday evening I think. That’s probably a good time for the mall. The number of shoppers there wasn’t huge, but it was okay. I’ve seen worse. The store has a clearance store feel to it even though it isn’t. It’s kind of sad, but I guess at least there is a vintage feel to it. The way they blocked off the 2nd floor is pretty cheap looking. I think they just put sheets or something to block off the 2nd floor open walls. The whole store kind of had a pretty sad vibe to it in terms of looks. The Dillard’s to some extent still feels more upscale even with the very limited lighting and lack of retail standard upkeep.

    I guess RadioShack is a store most people don’t go to very frequently unless they need something. It’ll be interesting to see how they fill up their stores (if they do) in the future. I’m really curious to see what products they’ll have going forward. At least it seems like they’ll keep some of their parts collection.

    I did find pictures of a RadioShack-Sprint store in New Jersey that undergoing a remodeling. Here’s another angle. It’s hard to say what the finished product will look like, but I guess that is a sneak peek of what is coming down the line. The Sprint area in that store looks pretty small. It’s also interesting that the RadioShack and Sprint stores have different hours.

    Perhaps other stores have set up Christmas aisles already and I have not noticed. I’ve seen the Halloween stuff, but I guess that is to be expected. It seems like Sears and Sam’s Club are the two stores who put out the Christmas stuff the earliest (aside from craft stores I guess). Perhaps the Sears stores that cleared out their summer seasonal stuff the earliest put up the Christmas stuff first, but it’s hard to say what they do.

    I noticed that a Sears store had a 2 pack of Maxell T-120 VHS cassettes for something like $13. The 2 pack is something new I think. They used to have a 4 pack for $10 I think. Obviously the price has spiked considerably. Hopefully people will still buy new cassettes at that price. It’s funny (or sad) how VHS tape prices are now about what they were back in the early 1980s.

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    1. That floor needs to be fixed up, I am sure that some of the leaks have hurt the condition of the floor. At this point they need to consolidate as many stores as possible to close off sections of the mall and make repairs on the remaining open sections of the mall. Hopefully the floor did not injure your ankle or worse.
      Greenspoint is hurting and the lack of maintenance throughout the mall is hurting the property. I wonder how the second floors of Dillard's and Macy's look these days.

      The Sprint stores probably have to close a bit earlier to take care of the last minute customers. From what I can remember each transaction with Sprint took a very long time and there was always a long line waiting.

      The price increase is not good at all. I guess the cassettes are becoming more of a special order and cost more to produce since they are less in demand.

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  24. Part II:

    This Kmart seems to have the perfect signage for Sears stores who need to clear out excess old inventory! Some of the vintage N64, PSX, and PS2 type signage that Kmart stores still had up on their game cases until this year might be worth a little bit. It’s hard to say I guess. Maybe that was Kmart’s plan all along!

    Yes, there seems to be price inflation on many new and used items. Maybe CD prices will go down if tape and record prices go up, but we’ll see. I’m glad that you were able to visit the North Oaks Half Price Books. I guess they must still have the dual cassette rack set up like I saw during my last visit.

    Going on a thrifting circuit can be tiring, but I guess it depends on what part of town I’m in and how much luck I’m having at finding things. There’s a lot of thrift stores in the Willowbrook Mall/FM 1960 area now so I can visit many different thrifts there without spending a ton of time driving around. OTOH, there are parts of town with just a few thrifts. Thrifting at those locations can be tiresome especially if you’re not finding much. I tried to visit a lot of the thrifts in my area during my last thrifting spree, but I also visited some on the west side that I have not been to in a couple of years.

    Yeah, it’ll be interesting to see how that RadioShack Optimus system really performs. On paper, the system is even weaker than our Sony CFD-S50 boomboxes (the CD frequency response on the Sony is 20-20,000 Hz which is normal for a CD player and the cassette high end is rated to top off at 10KHz, but I think it’s at about 12KHz during my actual testing). To my ears, however, the cassette deck sounds fuller on the Optimus deck. I don’t know, I’ll have to clean the tape transport and give it a good testing to find out for sure.

    JVC does make a line of headphones that some Sears sells with increased bass. I think it’s called the XX line or something. I’m not sure. The Nakamichi headphones I got from Sears about a year ago have a lot of bass/midrange, but it comes at the expense of sounding a bit muddy. Anyway, I wanted more accurate headphones for use with monitoring audio when recording to my 3 head cassette decks so I could actually hear what was going on the tape instead of guessing by using inaccurate headphones. There’s a lot of headphones with heavy bass so you should have plenty of options to choose from.

    I certainly did not want to waste a lot of money on items that don’t work. It’s kind of disappointing to see how small the Goodwill Computer Works store has become, but at least it has a good location now. It’s a good retail add for the Greenspoint area and a fitting use of an old Circuit City.

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    1. The Kmart above has a cafe with tables, I wonder how many stores still have those counter service cafes still going.

      Yes the Half Price Books still had the dual cassette rack. I was finally able to make it to a couple of thrift stores recently at the old FM 1960 Venture location near I-45. The Epic Thrift trip did not start out promising until I found 4 good tapes in the Book section at the front of the store. I would have walked away with more tapes, but a couple of them I had already. At the Goodwill, I found a 7 pack of unopened Maxell cassettes for about $3. I would rather pay the $3 than $15 at Rite-Aid. Electronics were lacking at the Goodwill.

      Keep me posted on the tests for your new systems. I would be frustrated as well if my Goodwill items did not work. The few items that I have bought mostly work, but I have had a few duds over the past year.

      I have my work cut out for me on the headphones, maybe I can bring in my Walkman for a test on some of the open equipment.

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  25. Part I:

    I did not injure myself on the loose tile at Greenspoint Mall, but it did startle me for sure. Someone else could get hurt so I hope they fix it. Although the mall was in better condition that it was in some of my other more recent visits, it still has a long way to go I guess. Speaking of the area near the old Montgomery Ward mall entrance, I noticed how dusty and dirty the blocked off lunch booths are in that spot near the old Wards (I don‘t even know why they have booths there, was there an eatery there that I don‘t remember?). They really should clean that up. The food court is in much better condition, but someone seeing that may not want to make the trip to the food court after seeing that.

    The first floor of the Greenspoint Macy’s isn’t the prettiest thing, I can’t even imagine what the 2nd floor looks like now. Sears gets a lot of flak for the condition of some of their stores, but some Macy’s seem to be maintained even worse than some Kmarts. It’s pretty sad. Dillard’s seems to put more effort into upkeep (at their regular stores at least), but I can’t imagine that the 2nd floor of their Greenspoint store is in much better shape either. Who knows what the ex-Sears and Montgomery Wards look like either. The Montgomery Ward floor might actually look more modern than the open part of the Macy’s even though Wards has not been open in ~15 years.

    There are still some Kmarts with sit-down Little Caesar’s and Kcafes, but those are somewhat rare these days. One newer thing is to have Kmarts with either walk-up only or sit-down Nathan’s Famous hot dog/hamburger stands. Here’s an example at the Williamsport, PA, Kmart that used to be a Grant City. That store is really odd in that the Nathan’s has an exterior entrance as well as a store entrance.

    Some months back I put a link to a YouTube channel of someone named Mark Davis who used to work at an IL Kmart who published videos about his time at Kmart. One video had a 1990 walkthrough of his Kmart store and another video discussed his collection of old in-store Kmart music cassettes. He also has other videos about vintage VCRs, stereos, and video game consoles. Anyway, his collection of Kmart cassettes somehow went viral this week and was discussed on several mainstream blogs. That’s pretty odd, but kind of interesting as well.

    It seems that Sears is stepping up their commitment to Connected Solutions. It seems that Sears purchased the technology behind WallyHome, a networked attached device that detects leaks in a house. Sears may be closing stores and not opening new ones, but they are buying technology items. We’ll have to see if this helps them sell some unique products that other stores don’t have.

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    1. The former restaurant near the old Wards was CiCi's pizza, I am not sure what was there before that place. It closed sometime around 5 years ago.

      I would be interested in the condition of the former Wards and the second floor of the former Sears. I am sure the Sears has began to decay since they boarded up the windows. The Wards still had climate control up until fairly recently.

      Thanks for sending over the Kmart link. It is amazing how nearly every Kmart has significant differences from one another. Walmart and Target stores for the most part have very few differences from store to store. I read one of the articles about the Kmart cassettes. Finally the media catches up to those of us in the know about how cool Kmart is.

      Sears has a chance to establish the stores as the leader in the home wifi gadgets. I hope they can pull it off and find several other items that will keep them relevant.

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  26. Part II:

    A story came out this past week saying that Martha Stewart was close to buying Kmart years ago before Lampert got involved. That would have been odd. I wonder how that would have worked out. I’m sure KMartha stores would have been a lot fancier looking than Lampert’s Kmarts.

    Walmart made some news this week with a big stock price drop after they predicted a profit drop. It looks like they are investing in some things though, but we’ll see how that works out. I don’t know if their e-commerce investments will work out any better than it has for Sears, but at least Sears has some company when it comes to stock woes.

    I read an article this week saying that Urban Outfitters will start to sell cassettes and cassette players online and in select stores. None of those stores are in this area though. Well, anyway, at least new cassettes are returning to more retailers.

    $3 for 7 Maxell cassettes isn’t bad considering that thrifts usually sell cassettes for 50 cents each in this area. Where are those Maxells made? CVS sells7 Maxell UR 90s for $10.99. That’s a lot cheaper than RiteAid, but it’s a dollar more than what CVS was selling them for a couple of months ago. Oh well.

    I remember Target selling Sony VHS tapes for a sky high price a few months ago. I remembered thinking then that Sears was really cheap for VHS cassettes by comparison (Wal-Mart sells Memorex VHS tapes for less than Target, but more than what Sears sold those 4 packs for), but I guess Sears got the message and decided to jack up their prices. Maybe they didn’t have a choice if Maxell raised the prices. It’s hard to say. I wonder what Kmart is charging for VHS cassettes these days. I wonder if the prices are spiking because the demand is lowering so it costs more to make cassettes or if demand is increasing causing stores to raise prices since they know people will still buy them. It’s hard to say, but hopefully stores will continue to sell them even if prices are high.

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    1. Several retailers are having issues these days. We are probably close to a new recession. Grocery stores on the other hand are doing a much better job of adding relevant products and competitive pricing.

      Thanks for letting me know about Urban Outfitters carrying cassettes. Hopefully some good recent artists will begin to produce new tapes.

      The Maxell cassettes were made in Indonesia. They are all wrapped up, but one has a cracked case.

      Speaking of Target, their electronics department continues to shrink. More books and seasonal items are encroaching on the space formally filled with electronics, dvd's, and cd's. If cassettes become fashionable again, I am sure Target will jump on the bandwagon. I still have not seen any LP's there so they are behind the times.

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  27. Part III:

    I have not done a lot of thrifting since my mega thrifting trips of a few weeks ago, but I did have a very productive visit to a SE side Goodwill. They had a lot of cassettes. In fact, they had so many that they had them in 4 different spots throughout the store. I’ve never seen that before. Most of the prerecorded ones weren’t interesting, but they also had a lot of sealed blank cassettes. They had about 15 Made in Korea Maxell UR 90s, a 3 pack of Memorex dB 90s from the mid 1980s, a Memorex dBS 60 from the early 1990s, a Fuji DR-I 60 from the early 1990s, a Sony HF from the very late 1990s/early 2000s, 3 Walgreens’ ToneMasters, a TDK D from the early 2000s, and some no-name “3 in a bag” cassettes. I ended up buying 3 or 4 of the Maxells, a couple of the ToneMasters (just for laughs for the most part), the Memorex dB pack and dBS, the Fuji, and the Sony. I ended up paying less than $6 for ~12 cassettes. Granted, none of the cassettes are like the Maxell MX-Ses that I found a few weeks back, but that’s still a pretty good deal considering that some of the tapes are aren’t common in the thrifts.

    The same thrift also had a lot of camcorders. Amongst the ones I saw were a pretty nice RCA VHS one from the late 1980s, a JVC VHS one, and some sort of Sony camcorder (probably Hi8) from the late 1990s/early 2000s. I wish I had more time to check them out, but I was thrifting on a work break and I had to get back. I didn’t buy any of them and I don’t think I would have even if I had more time (though I did want to look at that Sony), but it would have been neat to play around with them if nothing else.

    I actually went to the I-45 and FM 1960 Epic Thrift (along with the Goodwill a couple of stores down) a few weeks ago. That’s an odd thrift store. They didn’t have a lot of electronics on my visit aside from some TVs, CD players, and some computer parts that were probably priced higher than what they would be if they were purchased new. I know they have books up front, but I didn’t know that they had cassettes up there. I guess I didn’t see them or something. I’ll have to look more closely next time. Were they priced reasonably?

    I played around with the Optimus stereo system some more. I actually did some scientific testing and I found that the CD player is indeed seriously underrated. It seems like a 20 Hz-20KHz CD player according to my testing instead of stopping at 14KHz. My testing of the cassette deck was mixed bag. I cleaned the heads and the tape transport. That fixed a bit of a channel imbalance that the deck had before, but it still sounds a little bit off. The deck also seems to struggle with rewinding/fast forwarding at times. Perhaps the belts are in worse condition than I thought. It does still work, and it might be better than the ratings, but it needs a little bit more work before I‘ll be happy with it. Oh well, at least the rest of it seems to work better than it’s rated for on paper. I’ll continue to work on it and report my findings.

    You should probably take your Walkman to test headphones at a store that has demos. Some people may find it odd, but at least you don’t have to worry about the store using test music that is biased towards higher markup headphones. Buying headphones is difficult because there are so many factors to look at depending on your wants and needs. Also, price does not indicate quality on most headphones. A lot of expensive headphones do not sound better and aren’t built better than sub-$100 headphones. Then again, a lot of cheaper, known brand headphones are poor in terms of sound and build quality too. Also, user reviews are kind of useless with headphones since a lot of people say their headphones sound great without testing them against other headphones.

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    1. Sounds like you had a good find on your last thrifting adventure.

      The cassettes at Epic Thrift are 69 cents. The special tag which was purple for the day was 50% off. One of my 4 cassettes was a purple tag. They had a few VHS and DVD movies. They had a good amount of CD's but I did not look through them.

      Thanks for the update on your project. I got lucky last week when my lost Walkman belts turned up. Unfortunately I purchased yet another similar Walkman. I will probably donate the Craig player since I can now fix my other backup Walkman.

      Since the Walkman's I own have the mega bass function, bass is very important. I will probably bring my walkman in and bring one rock and one rap tape so I can hear the different styles of music on the tests. It does not bother me that I will get attention with the Walkman. I actually look forward to the reactions of the salespeople.

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  28. Part I:

    I remember that Greenspoint Mall had a CiCi’s Pizza now that you mention it. It seems odd that the mall kept that small portion of the CiCi’s somewhat open to the rest of the mall. As for the Greenspoint Montgomery Ward, yeah, it looks like it’s still in decent condition in the pictures you had. Who knows about the Sears though. I’m not sure how well Sears maintains their closed properties. I can’t imagine that it’s super great given the way Sears maintains some open Kmarts.

    Yes, it’s so odd to see so many stories about the Kmart cassettes on fairly mainstream blogs and websites. Surely a lot of people have memories from the “Attention Kmart Shoppers…” and Blue Light Special era of Kmart since Kmart was the main discount store back then. Then again, a lot of people may have negative memories of Kmart from back then since discount shopping wasn’t as mainstream back then as it is now. Plus, some people might have biased views about Kmart based on the condition of some of their current stores.

    There are some major inconsistencies with Kmart stores. The age of the stores probably has something to do with it. A lot of Kmarts have not been renovated since the Big Kmart era. That leads to inconsistencies. Plus, there are stores with 1960s- 90s construction designs. All those stores probably have different layouts. On top of that, Kmart has a decent number of stores that were formerly something else like Grant City or Venture. Those stores are going to look different. Kmart seemed to keep some of the features of the prior tenants like the green floors at ex-Grants locations. Of course, that Williamsport Kmart in the pictures is very nice looking for an ex-Grant City location. A lot of those stores look quite bad these days.

    Sears launched some new programs today. The one about shopping for appliances online and then setting up an in-store meeting is interesting. That might give them a big edge over Lowe’s and Home Depot. Surely a lot of appliance buyers do their research online before they buy in a store. We’ll have to see how these programs work.

    I recently drove by a couple of Sprint-RadioShacks at night after closing time. I noticed that both had glowing signs in them that look like the ones that Sprint put up in that store in New Jersey that I linked to earlier. I guess some local stores have been renovated. Interestingly, both stores still had the old outdoor signage with the old RadioShack logo and without any Sprint signage. I wonder if the new signage is still to come or if RadioShack is keeping the old signage If so, that might explain why they are now using a hybrid old and new logo on their ads.

    The grocery stores have been trying to steal shoppers away from the discount stores. I know that I do more shopping for regular items at grocery stores than I used to. One thing Walmart has done to counter that is to price match grocery items. I know some people who do all/most their grocery shopping at Walmart because of that, but perhaps Walmart will need to do more to stay on top.

    There have been some unfortunate accidents this week where people drove into retail stores. Locally, someone drove through the Gulfgate HEB and killed a shopper. A Kmart in CO was hit by a minivan. Nobody was killed there, but a few people were hurt. It’s pretty amazing that a van was able to drive through a brick-walled store and the damage to the van was so little compared to the damage to the store. That looks like a 1960s/early 1970s billboard facade Kmart that has new signage and the newer bright paint inside. Hopefully Kmart can fix that store up quickly.

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    1. I would think Sears probably does not perform any maintenance on their closed properties. It is a shame that nearly all Kmart stores have not been updated since the late 90's and early 2000's. It would be nice to see a Kmart go through a full remodel. Even the older stores that were updated in the Big K era really did not get a full remodel. As you can see, the ceilings in most stores is a yellowish/white color mixture.

      I saw the article about Sears appliance counseling. Sears has some nice in-store books with tv's and another one with connected solutions products. I picked up a copy of each book to add to my collection of Sears memorabilia.

      I will let you know if I see any stores with a combined Radio Shack Sprint sign. I did not see any on my mini-trip to Dallas.

      Grocery stores are really taking market share away from discounters. Kroger currently has 47 quarters of same store sales growth and they continue to evolve. I personally go to Kroger more often than any other store.

      It seems like there have been a lot of these type of accidents in the news lately. I am not sure what companies can do to prevent these incidents besides adding concrete barriers and removing parking next to the buildings. It is sad that you always have to be on the lookout, but it is how the world is today.

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  29. Part II:

    It’s interesting that you bring up Target and music sales today because I was just reading a Billboard Magazine article from about 10 years ago about how Kmart and Walmart use/used 3rdparty “rackers” who supplied music inventory for those stores. OTOH, Target had an in-house music buying operation. It seemed like Walmart was happy with their 3rd parties, but Kmart was looking at their options. I’m not sure how that turned out and if Kmart and Walmart still have 3rd parties or if they buy direct. I also wonder if 3rd parties are used/were used with music and video games.

    Target always seemed to have the best music departments out of the “big 3” discount stores. Perhaps the in-house operations explains that. I’ve seen the new renovated electronics departments that some Targets have now. It wouldn’t surprise me if those departments are smaller now. Target seems to give cell phones a lot of floor space in the electronics departments now.

    I did see something in a Target newspaper ad around last Christmas about them having records online. I don’t know if they have any in the store, but perhaps they’ll add them soon if they don’t. It’ll be nice if they start selling prerecorded cassettes again too now that Urban Outfitters has gotten the ball rolling on that. It’ll also be nice if they sell blank cassettes again too since I have not seen blank audio cassettes at Target since around 2011-12 when they had 10 packs of TDK D 60s. I think Kmart and Walmart are one step ahead of them on that front. Kmart and Walmart wouldn’t go through the trouble to find new cassette suppliers unless they were a profitable item.

    Thanks for the information about Epic. 69 cents for cassettes is on the higher side for thrifts in the area, but it’s not unreasonable either. I guess you got a good discount at least. It’s good that you got Indonesian made Maxells. The Indonesian Panggung-made Maxells seem superior to the Korean Maxells that I found, but they’re both pretty good. The tapes you have must be at least somewhat recent.

    I’ve been wanting to record a new mixtape for a few weeks now in order to play around with my decks and blank tape stash, but I can’t come up with a complete track listing of music I want to record to fill up a tape. I’ll have to keep thinking of music that I’d like to record.

    I’m glad that you found your Walkman belts from Sears. You can never have enough working Walkmen around. Plus, some models are worth a lot so it might be worth fixing up what you can. There’s probably no point in keeping the Craig around if you have better options unless you want a cheap-o player to use under circumstances where you don’t want to risk a good Walkman.

    I worked on the Optimus player a little further. I actually opened the thing up and took a look inside. It’s built pretty well inside actually. I’m thinking now that the belt is actually okay, but the piano key manual tape transport controls might be misaligned or something and that is causing the issues that the tape deck is having. Those piano key controls are notoriously difficult to repair in many cases so I’ll have to see if there’s anything I can to do it. The tape deck issues have dimmed my optimism about the unit a little bit even though the CD player and AM/FM tuner work well.

    Some people will probably think that your Walkman is cool, but some will have no idea what it is! Hopefully you’ll have good luck demoing headphones. It can be difficult to find the right pair especially if you’re willing to pay a decent amount for a set.

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    1. I don't think Kmart stores are still getting any new music CD's. I may be wrong, but I have not seen any new 2015 music on the shelves. Walmart has kept a fully stocked music section while Target stores seem to struggle with empty space. Target is beginning to bring in the connected solutions type of products to fill space in the electronics area. They have some of the same products that Sears has for sale, but I am not sure if there is a difference in price.

      We have found a lot of blank cassettes at the thrift stores and other places lately.

      Hopefully you will not have too much work ahead of you on the Optimus player.

      I tested out some demo headphones the other day. I may have found some for less than $100 with the kind of bass that I was looking for. I need to do my homework and see if they will be worth the money. I did not bring in my Walkman for the test, but there were several displays at Best Buy to try out.

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  30. Part I:

    There has been some Kmart news in the last week. It seems that Kmart has decided to bring back the Blue Light Specials yet again. Kmart keeps bringing it back and then stopping it, but maybe this time it will stick. It looks like the stores are already getting the Blue Light carts. These seem a little bit more authentic than the ones Kmart was using in the early 2000s. It’s funny that they are doing this now just as we finished discussing how “Attention Kmart Shoppers…” and the Blue Light Specials still resonate with the public when discussing those Kmart cassettes. Maybe Kmart was secretly behind that guy’s videos getting publicity. It seemed like good timing.

    In other Kmart news, it looks like Kmarts are getting new signs that they are putting up throughout the store. They seem like they might just last for a season or two, but it’s interesting anyway.

    Some Kmarts have been renovated more than others. It’s odd to see pictures of Kmart closings and to see some stores with a lot of renovations that are closing while stores that have not been touched since the Big Kmart push stay as is. Oh well. The Big Kmart redesigns were not even that good back in 1997. You’re right that a lot of Kmarts need to have their ceiling tiles cleaned or replaced. A lot of them are very dirty, but I remember that being the case even in the 1980s.

    That’s interesting that Kmart isn’t stocking new music. Perhaps they plan on selling just older music or maybe they’ll discontinue the music departments too once the current stock sells out. We’ll have to see. Target has been trying their own Connected Solutions type departments, but I really have not seen one yet. We’ll have to see if either Target or Sears are successful with them.

    I came across an interesting short article about how Kmart used to sell building supplies during a short time period before they got involved with Builders Square. It’s interesting to look at that ad.

    I have seen the catalogs for garden equipment and stuff like that, but I have not seen a Sears catalog for electronics. I’ll have to see if I can find one the next time I’m in a Sears electronics department. It would be interesting to collect one of those as a Sears souvenir and as a memento to see the state of electronics in 2015. It looks like some of the SYWR promotions that Sears offered in the summer have dried up so I’m not visiting Sears stores as frequently as I was then, but I’m sure that I will stop at one here soon. If nothing else, they’ll probably start the promotions again as we get closer to Black Thanksgiving.

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    1. I read an article about the blue light specials returning earlier today. Hopefully they will have some good deals when they bring those back. If I make it down to a store in the near future I will get some photos if possible.

      I wonder if any Kmart stores will get a major remodel. It seems like all they have been doing is replacing signage in the stores.

      I have a few booklets that Sears has put out recently. I also have a Circuit City book from their last Christmas in business. You never know when some of these retailers are about to fold. Rite Aid stores are the next to disappear. Walgreens is probably going to eventually get the approval to acquire the company. Walgreens will redesign and rebrand the stores so the old K&B stores will finally get updated.

      In other unrelated news, ground breaking has occurred at the new anchor spot at Deerbrook Mall. For now the mall is not saying who the anchor will be, but the store is going to be 80,000 square feet in size. It is one of 5 new stores from an un-named company expanding to Houston. I heard a rumor a while ago that it was going to be a Dick's Sporting Goods, but their average store size is 40,000 square feet. Once I find out what is going up I will post it in the comments.

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  31. Part II:

    I seem to shop at Kroger more than any other grocer as well (including Wal-Mart). I probably shop there a little bit more frequently than I used to in previous years, but we’ve always shopped at Kroger pretty frequently. Kroger doesn’t really seem to excel in any area, but they really aren’t deficient in any area either. That, combined with all the locations they have, makes them a frequent shopping spot for many including myself I’m sure. Thanks for the information about their financials. That’s a pretty impressive streak that they’re on. Kroger has been pretty aggressive in “modernizing” their stores lately so maybe that will help keep them on top in addition to the new general merchandise departments that they’ve been adding. Granted, I’m not a fan of all the redesigns (especially the ones where they’ve gone to concrete floors), but some of them look pretty good.

    The big retail news this past week is that Walgreens is buying Rite-Aid. According to this story, Walgreens may have to shed some stores in order to get approval, but that probably won’t have much impact in Houston. It might have an impact in markets that have both stores. In that case, I’m sure Walgreens would just close a lot of the Rite-Aids that are near Walgreens instead of renovating them. Well, I guess this means that maybe there will be one fewer place to buy new cassettes.

    I have not played around with the Optimus system much lately, but I did play around with some other Hi-Fi stereo equipment that I have that I have not used in a while. That was a bit of an adventure. I hooked up those Infinity Sterling Circuit City speakers I got from a thrift a couple years ago that I have not used in a while to my mid-1990s Kenwood receiver that I’ve had since it was new. I got through about a 2-3 hour listening session of FM radio, records, and a CD at a moderate volume when something went wrong with one of the speakers. It started buzzing like something was vibrating inside it. I’ll have to take it apart sometime to see if it’s something fixable, but I don’t think it’s the foam/rubber surround as that looks okay from the outside at least. It’s still okay at low volumes, but what’s the point in having good speakers if I have to keep it down. Well, I only paid $8 for those speakers a couple of years ago so I won’t complain if I can’t fix them, but they sound pretty good so I hope I can get them going again. Ah, the joys of vintage electronics I guess (though those speakers are only 19-23 years old). The funny thing is that I was just about to finish my listening session. I went through an entire CD, but I decided to listen to the first track again before I finished and that’s when the trouble started. Oh well, I guess it was bound to happen at some point.

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    1. There are several areas where Kroger could expand to, so they should continue their growth. The New Orleans area would be perfect for Kroger, most of the chains there are local and over-priced. Winn Dixie, Robert, and Rouses are priced very high. Walmart is one of the only low priced options there.

      Speaking of grocery stores, I visited a Randall's store recently. It seems like since Albertson's took over the specials are not as good as before. The store was much slower than on my last visit and had lots of dairy and cold items on clearance that were close to expiring. Based on my visit, I would probably not frequent the store if I lived close by. There were hardly any customers during my visit on a Sunday evening.

      Sorry to hear about your speaker trouble. I have blown out speakers by turning up the volume too much, but luckily not from normal use. I guess the materials were not ready to be used again after all those years.

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  32. Part III:

    That’s good to hear that you’ve started your headphone search. Hopefully you’ll find something at a reasonable cost. I hear good things about Audio-Technica and Sennheiser headphones at the ~$100 price point. Grado headphones have a good reputation at that price point too and I think they are US made if that interests you, but I don’t know if stores like Best Buy sell them. A drawback to Grados is that they are “open” headphones so they leak noise to the outside. That might not be good if you want to keep the room quiet while you listen. JVC makes good headphones even if they aren’t the coolest looking and their XX line supposedly has stronger bass. You may want to check those out. Koss also makes good headphones, but some of their models are better than others. Well, hopefully you’ll find something that sounds good to you, is durable, and is priced right. That can be hard to find, but you may have better luck finding bass heavy headphones than I do trying to find neutral headphones given that most people want extra bass (I don’t mind the extra bass as long as it does not muddy the sound for normal playback listening, but headphones with extra anything aren’t great for recording/monitoring since it’s hard to tell what’s actually going on with the recording).

    I’ve only made one thrifting visit since the last thrift I went to where I got all those Type I blank audio cassettes a few weeks back, but the recent visit I made was a remarkably similar visit to the last thrift I went to. The thrift I went to recently had 16 Made in Korea Maxell UR 90s wrapped into 4 packs that sold for 99 cents. I ended up picking up 3 of the 4 packs. 25 cents per tape is hard to pass up even if the Korean Maxell URs aren’t my favorite Maxell cassettes. They have a very nice warm sound to them while still maintaining good bass, but they are hissier than the Indonesian URs in my experience. Well, anyway, I can find a good use for them especially when recording music where I can keep the recording levels high to overpower the hiss and want a warm, analog type sound.

    I actually wonder if the Goodwill I found those tapes at a few weeks ago sent some tapes to the Goodwill I shopped at most recently because that thrift had a bunch of Korean Maxell UR 90s too (at a higher price which is why I didn’t buy so many the first time). They’re both on the SE side so maybe. It’s just odd to see so many Maxell tapes in the thrifts, but I guess you’ve found some too on the North side.

    Have you seen some blank cassettes in the thrifts/regular stores lately aside from the Maxell URs you brought a few weeks back? If so, I wonder what kind of cassettes you’re seeing. Things go in waves at the thrifts. Maybe this is blank tape season. We’ll see how long it lasts and if I can find something other than Maxell URs. I don’t do much thrifting these days, but I do plan on visiting at least a couple of thrifts this weekend.

    I did see some new Maxell UR 90s at a Walgreens a couple of weeks ago. It was interesting because some of the packs had stickers on them saying that they were to be sold at Walgreens only and it should be reported if they are seen being sold at other stores. I’m not really sure why Walgreens is being so aggressive about that. Do they have an exclusive deal with Maxell or something for 5 packs? Maybe other retailers are buying tapes at Walgreens and then selling them for higher prices? Who knows.

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    1. Thanks for giving me some other headphone options, I will take a look at some of those models.

      The only blsnk tapes I have found recently were the Maxell UR's and the metal tapes at the Half Price Books. I have not been going to thrifts or Half Price Book stores very much these past 2 months.

      I was just at a Walgreens store today, I should have looked to see if they had tapes. I also stopped by one of the Urban Outfitters stores today and saw their decent record section. No tapes yet, but hopefully that will change soon.

      In other news,

      Krispy Kreme on Westheimer finally opened today. The wait is over an hour for the donuts so it will be a few weeks before I stop by. The Highway 6 location opens November 17th. Hopefully they will deliver to grocery stores soon so we don't have to wait at a store. I had some last month so I can wait a while to get them here.

      And,

      Checkers on Mangum opened at the end of last month and they stay open until 3am on some nights. I will have to check the place out but not at 3am.

      And Finally,

      Del Taco is closing all corporate Texas locations. Only 1 Del Taco franchise in Fort Worth will stay open. The Houston Del Taco location closed last May. Del Taco initially announced they were going to build 40 locations here in Houston.

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  33. Part I:

    The news about the Deerbrook Mall anchor pad is pretty intriguing.‭ ‬I’m pretty sure that it is a Dick’s Sporting Goods given that they are‭ ‬opening an‭ ‬83,000‭ ‬sq.‭ ‬ft.‭ ‬store at The Woodlands Mall‭.‭ ‬Keep us updated on the progress.‭ ‬I wonder where else Dick’s is opening stores here.‭ ‬Sporting goods stores aren’t tremendously useful to me these days‭ (‬though I recently discovered that Academy is a good source for cheap CR2025‭ ‬button cell lithium batteries of all things.‭ ‬I brought a‭ ‬6‭ ‬pack there of their own brand of Chinese made batteries for less than what most stores charge for‭ ‬1‭ ‬battery,‭ ‬but we’ll see if they last as long as the more expensive batteries‭)‬,‭ ‬but it’ll be interesting to have another option.‭ ‬We’ll have to see how Academy and The Sports Authority survive‭ (‬plus others like REI,‭ ‬Bass Pro Shops,‭ ‬Cabela’s,‭ ‬Gander Mountain,‭ ‬and whatever other similar stores exist in this area‭)‬.‭ ‬I’m sure Academy will be fine,‭ ‬but who knows about The Sports Authority as we’ve discussed before.‭ ‬

    Thanks for the fast food updates.‭ ‬I figured that the Checker’s on Mangum had opened by now,‭ ‬but thanks for confirming it and letting me know the hours.‭ ‬It’s on my way home so I’ll probably stop by there one of these days.‭ ‬I doubt there are a lot of fast food shoppers on Mangum at‭ ‬3am.‭ ‬I’m not surprised to hear about Del Taco’s Texas fiasco given their‭ ‬2nd failure in Houston.‭ ‬Perhaps they would have done better this time around if they had opened more stores as they planned,‭ ‬but that never worked out for whatever reason.‭ ‬As for Krispy Kreme,‭ ‬I did hear about their reopening here.‭ ‬I know they have a lot of fans,‭ ‬but I find their donuts to be too sweet for my liking so I probably won’t be lining up for them.‭ ‬I may try them again if they are sold in the grocery stores again as you say and are a decent price.‭

    I doubt the Blue Light Specials will be a huge hit for Kmart,‭ ‬but maybe it’ll be popular enough to actually stick around.‭ ‬I doubt people are going to wait around all day at a Kmart just to find out if socks are‭ ‬50%‭ ‬off,‭ ‬but you never know I guess.‭ ‬I doubt it costs a lot to do it so they might as well try it.‭

    There have been some Kmarts that have been extensively remodeled in the‭ ‬2000s,‭ ‬but there aren’t too many of them.‭ ‬Here is an example‭ of a store in Florida.‭ ‬It is currently undergoing a closing sale,‭ ‬but the outside and inside of the store received major renovations during the‭ ‬2000s.‭ ‬The entire front facade was remodeled.‭ ‬There are still some vintage aspects left like the big HVAC vents,‭ ‬but otherwise it looks pretty modern for a Kmart.‭

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    1. Finally the "future anchor sites" at the two Northside malls are being filled. I wonder if these stores are going to have two floors since they are larger than an average Dick's store. I visited a two story Bass Pro shop that was probably around 80,000 square feet. I would not be surprised if Baybrook will get one of the other stores planned for the area.

      It is good news that some franchises that left Houston are coming back. I wonder why Del Taco did not expand like they were planning. I guess the franchisee was not as financially sound as they thought.

      Kmart bringing back their blue light special has already generated some buzz. I guess they thought about it while they were listening to the copies of the Kmart cassettes that are online.

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  34. Part II:

    That Circuit City book must be‭ ‬a‭ ‬pretty nice memento.‭ ‬I used to have some vintage catalogs like a‭ ‬1995‭ ‬Service Merchandise catalog,‭ ‬some Radio Shack catalogs from the early-to-mid‭ ‬1990s,‭ ‬and some computer catalogs from the‭ ‬1990s,‭ ‬but I think all of those are gone now.‭ ‬The Radio Shack catalogs are online now so I’m not too sad about losing those,‭ ‬but the Service Merchandise catalog would have been very interesting to keep since it not only is a memento of the store,‭ ‬but it also shows the state of electronics in that era.‭ ‬I used to have some Best and Houston Jewelry‭ (‬back when they were a store like Service Merchandise‭) ‬catalogs too,‭ ‬but those are long gone now sadly.‭ ‬I probably had some old Sears,‭ ‬Montgomery Ward,‭ ‬and JCPenney catalogs too,‭ ‬but I can’t remember them specifically.‭ ‬Some of those have been put online.‭ ‬

    It’ll be interesting to see what Walgreens does to the various Rite-Aid stores.‭ ‬Many Rite-Aids are very vintage looking inside whether they have old Rite-Aid interiors or the interiors of other drugstores that Rite-Aid has purchased like K&B and Eckerd stores in some regions.‭ ‬I would imagine that many old Rite-Aids will be closed if they are near original Walgreens stores.‭ ‬It’ll be interesting to see if Walgreens renovates the stores they keep.‭ ‬It’ll also be interesting to see if Walgreens keeps the GNC departments and stuff like that.‭ ‬I wonder if there is any chance that Walgreens might keep the Rite-Aid name in a few markets,‭ ‬but I kind of doubt it.‭ ‬Well,‭ ‬anyway,‭ ‬it’s another retailer that will be eliminated even if it does not have any significant impact in Houston.

    It’ll be interesting to see how Kroger expands from here on out.‭ ‬There are some markets that used to have Kroger stores before Kroger pulled out of those markets.‭ ‬Pittsburgh comes to mind.‭ ‬Giant Eagle is very popular in Pittsburgh so that might be a tough market for them to reenter,‭ ‬but a place like New Orleans might be a logical choice if the competition isn’t stiff outside of Wal-Mart.‭ ‬I am kind of amazed when I go to other cities at how few grocery stores they have.‭ ‬That was my experience during my last visit to New Orleans many years ago.‭ ‬Then again,‭ ‬there are areas of Houston that don’t have a lot of grocery stores either.‭ ‬For example,‭ ‬I believe there are only three grocery stores‭ (‬Randall’s on‭ ‬34th,‭ ‬Joe V’s on‭ ‬43rd,‭ ‬and Walmart near Tidwell‭) ‬directly on the long stretch of‭ ‬290‭ ‬from the‭ ‬610‭ ‬Loop to the Randall‭’‬s and HEB on Barker‭ ‬Cypress Road.‭ ‬There used to be other grocers there,‭ ‬but‭ ‬some have closed.‭ ‬Granted,‭ ‬maybe the freeways aren’t the best places to find grocery stores.‭

    I’m not too surprised to hear about your bad experience at a Randall’s.‭ ‬Your experience sounds like the experiences I had at a couple of Randall’s a few years ago that ended up closing shortly after my shopping trips.‭ ‬I wonder if the store you went to might be in danger of closing soon.‭ ‬The stores that I’ve been to that are still around seem to be better,‭ ‬but I’ve still seen the clearance dairy stuff and some expired/close to expiring food at regular price on a couple of occasions‭ (‬granted,‭ ‬I’ve seen the same thing at HEB too‭)‬.‭ ‬It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been to a Randall’s,‭ ‬but hopefully the merger isn’t hurting them and Safeway.‭ ‬All warts aside,‭ ‬I like shopping at the few remaining Randall’s in the area and I think their pricing is better than it used to be,‭ ‬especially if you use their online coupons,‭ ‬unless things have taken a far dive for the worst here very recently.‭ ‬I’ll try to go to a Randall’s here soon to get an update.‭

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    1. Seeing the catalogs online is nice, but having a paper copy to me is always better. I have seen copies going for around $50+ on Ebay.

      I am sure many Rite Aid employees will be glad to see their old stores renovated. Some of the newer Rite Aid stores also look old and faded compared to CVS and Walgreens stores. Rite Aid is probably getting to the point where Sears and Kmart was 5 years ago. Old stores that need investment, but they did not want to spend the money. The K&B stores interior fixtures and purple colors are at least 20 years old.

      New Orleans had a glut of grocery stores around 2000 that cannibalized each other, then several folded. Schweggmann's failure was huge and hit the market hard. Many of those stores never reopened leaving several food deserts in the city. Schweggmann's had taken over Natonal Supermarkets a few years before closing and had to close several National stores. Albertson's, Delchamps, A&P, Sav-A-Center (also an A&P brand) all left the area over the span of about 10 years. Winn Dixie also closed stores but took a few stores from the other closed grocers. If Kroger does expand to this area they will have to be really careful to not make the same mistakes that other corporations made.

      Alberston's pricing has taken over at Randalls stores. I am surprised that Albertsons has not switched over to their shoppers card at the Randalls location. I wonder if they plan on re-branding the stores that they will keep. I don't know if you have read about the mess in the Western US with the Haggen stores. It is a big mess created by the Safeway/Albertsons merger.

      Delete
  35. Part III:

    I went to two Walgreens recently that were very close to one another.‭ ‬One had lots of cassettes out for sale,‭ ‬but the other one did not have any as far as I could tell‭ (‬they didn’t have VHS cassettes either‭)‬.‭ ‬Maybe they put them in another aisle.‭ ‬I was just looking very quickly while I waited for someone else to find what they were looking for so I didn’t really investigate things much.‭ ‬I’m pretty sure that the‭ ‬5‭ ‬pack of Maxell UR‭ ‬90s are still a current item for them,‭ ‬but I guess we’ll see.‭ ‬CVS is a bit odd as they list both a‭ ‬7‭ ‬pack of UR‭ ‬90s and an‭ ‬8‭ ‬pack of UR‭ ‬60s as being in-store items,‭ ‬but I’ve never seen the UR‭ ‬60s in the stores and they don’t list it as being in stock at stores near here even though it’s been on the site for‭ ‬a few‭ ‬months now.‭ ‬I’m wondering if they’re waiting to sell those after the UR‭ ‬90s sell out or if the UR‭ ‬90s are a restocked item.‭ ‬They did raise the prices on the UR‭ ‬90s recently by a dollar so they certainly aren’t a clearance item,‭ ‬but CVS‭’ ‬price for cassettes is still the cheapest around AFAIK.‭ ‬They have some VHS cassettes that are listed on their site as being available in the store even though they aren’t too‭ ‬so I don’t know what’s up with that.‭

    None of the Urban Outfitters that have prerecorded cassettes seem to be in this region.‭ ‬I’m not sure how they picked the stores,‭ ‬but I guess we’ll have to wait.‭ ‬We’ll see what happens.‭ ‬I wonder if Barnes‭ & ‬Noble and others will sell cassettes soon too.‭ ‬I guess we’ll have to wait and see.‭ ‬I wonder if any of the recent cassettes have music that I would like on them.‭

    I’m not really sure why the speaker failed.‭ ‬I still have not taken the woofer out to see if it is anything that I can fix.‭ ‬I don’t know if that is high on my priority list,‭ ‬but I’ll probably get around to it eventually.‭ ‬Perhaps the speakers needed to be‭ “‬warmed up‭” ‬after spending a lot of time in the closet,‭ ‬but I don’t know.‭ ‬Maybe something degraded after sitting around for a while.‭ ‬Plus,‭ ‬who knows how hard these speakers were driven before I got them.‭ ‬It’s hard to tell,‭ ‬but I’m sure I’ll find out more when I take the woofer out and look at it.‭

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    1. It seems like drugstores seem to keep products longer than the big box stores. I have found several products at Walgreens that have been cancelled by Walmart and Target. I always wondered why that has been the case when Walgreens is less than 20% the size of an average Walmart.

      The only artist that I recognized on the list of Urban Outfitters cassettes is Method Man. I think the rest of their offerings are new bands that I have not heard of. I am sure they will expand their offerings if the test does well.

      Good luck with the speaker, hopefully it works out for you.

      Delete
  36. Part I:

    Yes, the addition of two new anchors at Northside malls is an exciting thing. Who knows where else Dick's will add stores. Perhaps the new Baybrook Mall outdoor extension will get a Dick's too, but I have not heard anything. Speaking of which, the outdoor expansion should be opening soon.

    I've only been to one Dick's Sporting Goods store. That was at The Mall at Robinson in the Pittsburgh area. I believe that store was two stories, but I don't remember for sure. It was pretty big though and it had a lot of room to walk around in. Dick's might be overly optimistic by building such big stores in a competitive area (especially at a mall like The Woodlands Mall where I'm sure the lease/land price will be very expensive), but we'll have to see how they do. They won't be the only new sporting goods store in town with the Cabela's still under construction in League City.

    I think I went to the Katy Mills Bass Pro Shop when the mall first opened, but I really don't remember anything about it. I went to the flagship Bass Pro Shop in Springfield, MO, in the 1990s. That was a massive store. It was more like a museum than a store though. It's 500k sq. ft. according to Wikipedia.

    I have not been to the Checkers yet on Mangum, but I did drive by it the other day. They were doing decent business it seemed. I'm sure that I will eat there one of these days. It's hard to say what went wrong with the Del Taco situation, but it seems like something did not work out with the franchisee as you say. We'll see if Checkers has more success.

    I was driving by Almeda Mall the other day and it looked like they were redoing the exterior entrances to the mall. The old ones weren't exactly dated looking so I'm not sure why they decided to renovate them, but we'll see how that turns out. I have not been inside Almeda or Northwest Malls in a few months so I wonder what is going on at those malls.

    I was at the Mall of the Mainland Sears recently. There really aren't any updates about the mall to speak of other than that the gates covering the doors at the ex-Dillard's have been opened up now. I guess they must be renovating the inside for the church. I'm still hearing rumors that the local college is interested in the ex-JCPenney, but I don't think anything has been resolved there yet.

    As for the Sears itself, it was business as usual I guess. I did look through the mall entrance to see if anything has been done to the visible part of the mall. It looks like they moved the planters out of that area and cleaned up the fallen plant debris, but the wall is still up. The Sears seemed a little bit better stocked than usual, but maybe that's because they had a lot of Christmas seasonal stuff out. I know that you've brought some clearance memory cards/flash drives from Sears, but I found a stellar deal on 32gb SD cards for ~$3. I obviously brought what they had at seeing that price! That was great. Those will be nice stocking stuffers if nothing else. They also had a 4 pack of Maxell T-120 VHS tapes marked down for ~$4. That's a lot better than the new 2 packs at $13 that Sears sells now so I brought one of those. The Mall of the Mainland store didn't have any of the 2 packs so I wonder if they'll sell them eventually. The electronics department didn't seem to shrink any further than last time, but there really isn't much to shrink at this point unless they get rid of it totally.

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    1. I think Dicks' will do well at the Woodlands Mall. Their competitive advantage is nice clean open aired stores. Academy is becoming the Walmart of sporting goods stores and many locations are so busy and crowded that it becomes a hassle to get in and out quickly. I have not been to a Cabela's store so I will be happy to check out the new one in League City. Bass Pro Shops is more of a tourist destination, I hardly see people buying items in my trips to the two locations I have been to.

      Thanks for the updates on Checkers, Almeda, and Mall of the Mainland. I hope the other Sears stores have deals like the ones you found soon.

      Delete
  37. Part II:

    Rite-Aid pretty much is the Kmart of the drug store trio. They do have some nice locations, but many of them are stuck in the early 1990s or 1980s even just like Kmart. It is odd that the drugstores have kept some of the retro products around longer than most other stores. Granted, drugstores have always been one of the most popular places to buy audio cassettes even for me back in the day, but it's still odd given their small sizes as you say. Perhaps they're more pragmatic about selling what sells. Granted, Walmart is too and we've seen them commit to selling cassettes and cassette equipment even if it's very basic stuff.

    Wow, New Orleans had to suffer from the trio if Albertson's, Winn-Dixie, and A&P. That's not exactly the trio of winners right there. Kroger could have beaten those in their sleep so I don't know why they didn't enter the market. Schweggmann's seemed like it must have been one heck of a store at one time, but my sole experience at one of their stores in Metarie in 1999 was pathetic. I don't think the store was technically closing, but yet many (if not most) of the shelves were bare. It was a pretty sad sight actually, but it was the only grocery store we could find so we had to settle for whatever we could find in the store that wasn't expired. It certainly topped the Piggly Wiggly that I shopped at in Hot Springs, AR, as being the worst grocery store that I've ever been to.

    Although I've had some bad grocery experiences outside of Houston, I've seen some markets with limited competition that actually had better looking grocery stores than what we have. Perhaps the prices weren't as good as what we have, but the stores looked better and were laid out better. An example of that are the Giant Eagle and Acme stores I went to in Akron, OH (the Acme there is a different company from the Acme stores in the NE). The checkouts at the Giant Eagle were super slow, but aside from that, both of those stores were nicer than what we have at most of our grocery stores. Perhaps Houston grocers are so focused on prices and maybe selection that they neglect other aspects of the store. I don't know, but it is an interesting observation.

    I still have not visited Randall's in a while, but I'm sure that I will soon. I'll note my observations. I did look at their recent ad and it had something that I've not seen before about Randall's being Houston's grocery store since 1966 (or something like that). Based on that, I don't think Randall's will change their name. Both Safeway and Albertson's have tainted names in this market. Albertson's is tainted because of their more recent failure and reputation for high prices. Safeway has a reputation for failure, but that was some time back. However, there is a lot of anti-California bias here and I think Safeway would (and does) get backlash from that. Hopefully Randall's prices aren't bad again now, but if not, I'd rather shop at Randall's over HEB regardless of where they are from. I went to a HEB recently and their stores have worse aesthetic appeal than Walmart. That's saying something. I guess HEB is now selling stuff online so there is always that option.

    It was announced this week that Blink 182 will have a limited release of albums on cassette. It's interesting to see another major band issue stuff on cassette. We'll see where this leads, but that's interesting.

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    1. I am interested to see what will happen to the Rtie Aid locations in Louisiana once the deal goes through.

      I almost forgot about Piggly Wiggly in the New Orleans area, they have a handful of stores there as well. Most of those stores are in the outskirts of the city though. Schweggmann's ran into trouble in the mid 90's and sold out. The company that acquired the chain destroyed what was left of the company and had supplier problems as you saw in the 90's. I always wondered why the New Orleans area never had Kroger or a better chain in the area.

      How was the trip to Akron? I have never really traveled into the Northern US, but Cleveland and Akron are famous for some really dead malls.

      I also don't think Albertsons will change any Randall's store names, but who knows maybe they will open some new Albertson's stores in the area. The Albertson's stores in Louisiana are very dated and have not been significantly renovated since they were opened.

      I will have to check out the Blink 182 release, they had some decent songs back in the day. I think it is funny that the article goes into detail about the history of cassettes like they were popular 100 years ago.

      Delete
  38. Part III:

    A story came out this week that caught a lot of attention. It seems that Sony announced that they would discontinue making Betamax cassettes in 2016. Honestly, I didn't even know that they were still making Betamax cassettes. Maybe there were some professional users still or maybe people in Japan were still using them. Well, anyway, I think it's safe to say officially that VHS has won now! Well, that is unless Maxell and whoever else still makes VHS tapes stops making them first, but I don't think that's going to happen.

    I did get some thrifting in last week and I did come across some interesting stuff. I went to the Epic Thrift again and I saw their audio and VHS cassettes. They had some good prerecorded audio cassettes and I did buy one. They also had a very interesting Sanyo-built 1987 Sears linear stereo VHS VCR with Dolby B. As you know, it's extremely rare for me to find Sears branded electronics in the thrifts. The VCR had nice audio peak meters on it, but for whatever reason it didn't have adjustable input levels. I guess the peak meters were just cosmetic then. I may have purchased it anyway if it had adjustable input level (assuming that the VCR worked, I didn't test it), but I don't have a use for a linear stereo VCR since Hi-Fi stereo is vastly better and more compatible so I left it on the shelf. That VCR would have been fun to play around with though. Plus, who knows when I'll see another decent piece of Sears equiptment, but I guess I always have the Sears Proformance double cassette deck.

    I did get something to play around with at another thrift though. I came across a Goodwill that had a lot of audio equipment. They had a Sony A/V receiver, some decent Technics floorstanding speakers, a couple of nice vintage Denon CD players (one of which appeared to be discarded property of the City of Los Angeles of all things based on the sticker on the back, I'm not really sure why the city needed a higher end CD player), and a basic Technics cassette deck from the late 1980s. I didn't buy any of that though, but I might have brought the Technics cassette deck if it had a power cord. It was missing. I could have brought a replacement probably, but that would cost more than what the deck was worth probably so I left it. Who knows if it even worked and I wouldn't have been able to test it.

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    1. I did not know Beta cassettes were still in production, they were probably very pricey. I guess VHS is officially the winner, lol.

      I have popped into a couple of thrifts in the past week. Besides some shirts, I picked up a couple of Sony HF 90 blank cassettes for 79 cents. I am making some recordings from my mp3 on the phone to the Sony boombox I picked up from Sears. The recordings that came out were decent. I turned up the media volume on the phone to the max for the recordings.

      One of the thrift stores had a bunch of VHS players, but nothing special that I could tell.

      Delete
  39. Part IV:

    Anyway, they did also have a 1988 Denon DR-M10HR cassette deck. It worked too. The price was a bit high at $17, but it was 30% off so I decided to get it. I'm starting to build a fleet of these Denon cassette decks it seems which is pretty odd because I didn't think Denon cassette decks were all that popular given their high price. It's not nearly as fancy as my Denon DRM-800 as this is a 2 head deck, but it does have HX Pro unlike my Denon DR-M11. It's similar to the DR-M11 otherwise though. The DR-M11 has a more detailed display/meters, a backlit tape well, and an output level control (the latter of which would have been nice as these Denon decks seem to output sound louder than other decks which makes digitizing music harder because it tends to clip even with my computer's input levels set all the way down).

    Anyway, it sounds and works well as you'd expect from Denon. I cleaned it up and demagnitized it (it's not quite as mint as my other Denons on the outside, but the tape well was totally mint aside from some build up on the capstan that I was able to clean easily). I finally came up with some music to record just to I could test it by making a mixtape (on a Korean Maxell UR 90 since I've acquired so many of those recently) and it sounds really good. I'm still playing around with it, but I'm happy to get another really good cassette deck for my collection.

    I was happy with the performance of the deck with the Maxell cassette. It biased very easily which is nice since biasing a tape is harder on a 2 head deck than on a 3 head deck. These Maxell tapes, along with the newer Indonesian tapes, have a nice balance of highs and strong bass. The Korean tapes are more hissy than the Indonesian ones in my experience, but oh well. They do have a nice, warm analog sound to them. I captured the music I recorded to the tape on my computer and did a spectrum analysis compared to the digital source file and the tape was able to capture everything in the digital file up to about 18000Hz which is truly amazing for a basic cassette from the 2000s. It was certainly a good showing for the cassette deck and the cassette.

    Speaking of those Made in Korea Maxell URs, I went back to the thrift where I picked up 12 of those and they had even more of those on the shelf than what I left a couple of weeks back. I don't know where all these Korean Maxells are coming from in the thrifts. A SE side Goodwill must have received a truck full of them. I didn't buy any since I have so many of them, but they also had a handful of mid-2000s Made in Mexico Sony HF 60s and a couple of late model TDK D90s. I did buy those. So, anyway, blank audio cassettes have been plentiful in the thrifts for me lately. It would be nice if some of them were premium tapes, but they're still good tapes nonetheless.

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    1. The Denon deck looks very nice, I have not seen any decks in my past few thrift visits outside of a Sony desktop player in poor condition.

      I have been trying to repair one of my backup Walkman players since I found my belts. I forgot that the headphone jack had popped off and I have been trying to re-attach it. I finally had it when I realized that a spring popped out so I had to open the Walkman back up and broke it again. I will try to fix it again another day. The new band works great but it does not have any sound for now.

      I passed up another 7-pack of blank Maxell cassettes as well at a thrift. I am out of space at my place and I have at least 40 blank cassettes unsealed that I need to use.

      Delete
  40. Part I:

    You’re quite right to say that Academy has become the Wal-Mart of sporting goods.‭ ‬The lines were very long when I went to buy those button cell batteries that I was talking about earlier,‭ ‬but they had a lot of checkouts open so it didn’t take that long.‭ ‬The Woodlands Mall shoppers might be able to support a more upscale store like Dick’s,‭ ‬but we’ll have to see how it goes.‭ ‬Stores like Foot Locker and Champs do really good business at malls‭ (‬just look and see what bags you see shoppers carrying around,‭ ‬it seems like shoe store bags are almost as popular as bags from the anchors‭) ‬so maybe Dick’s can bite into that.‭ ‬To that extent,‭ ‬I think Dick’s is more focused on shoes and sports apparel than stores like Academy that also have a lot of fishing/hunting gear.‭ ‬I think Dick’s sells some outdoor/camping stuff too,‭ ‬but it might not be their area of strength.‭ ‬I think Dick’s is more like The Sports Authority than anyone else,‭ ‬but I think‭ ‬I think The Sports Authority will struggle against Dick’s unless their lower price locations give them an edge‭ (‬granted,‭ ‬The Sports Authority has some pretty prime locations as well‭)‬.

    Some of the best deals I’ve seen at Sears stores,‭ ‬especially on electronics,‭ ‬have been at the Mall of the Mainland location.‭ The Nakamichi headphones I got there for ~$3, the Sony boombox, and the aforementioned SD cards I got come to mind. ‬Maybe they’ve been downsizing that department more than the other stores,‭ ‬but I don’t know.‭ ‬I see good deals in other departments too.‭ It helps that that store marks their stuff better than many other Sears. ‬It’s a nice store to shop at even if they don’t have the selection of the other Sears.‭ ‬The Sears stores from the‭ ‬1990s do look pretty nice for the most part.‭

    Perhaps that explains the problems I saw at the Schweggman’s I went to.‭ ‬Piggly Wiggly has a pretty poor reputation too.‭ ‬It’s pretty hard to believe that Kroger is afraid of that type of competition so there must be other reasons why they have not entered the area.‭

    The Piggly Wiggly I went to in Hot Springs looked like it was operating out of a barn,‭ ‬but at least it was fully stocked as far as I could tell.‭ ‬That visit was‭ ‬19‭ ‬years ago so it’s hard to remember all the details.‭ ‬There was another grocery store in Hot Springs that we shopped at.‭ ‬I believe it is/was called Price Chopper.‭ ‬It wasn’t the fanciest grocery store around,‭ ‬but it was much nicer than the Piggly Wiggly.‭ ‬I don’t remember seeing any Wal-Marts in‭ ‬Hot Springs which is kind of odd given Wal-Mart’s strength in Arkansas.‭ ‬Perhaps they’re all over the place now.‭ ‬I did go to the Hot Springs Mall and got a free souvenir coffee mug from the information desk that I still have and display.‭ ‬I also remember being a bit amazed by the Lowe’s there‭ (‬from the outside at least‭) ‬since they didn’t come to the Houston area for another year or so.‭

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    1. Speaking of the sporting goods competition in the area, I can now confirm Dick's is going into Deerbrook Mall. I was at the mall earlier around closing time and they were posting signs on both floors advertising the new sporting goods store. It might be a two level store that is going up, but for now all I know is that the old parking lot has been torn up.

      I did not find any really good deals at the Deerbrook Sears, but the connected solutions displays have gotten nicer. It looks like they have filled out each display fully and it has really helped to increase the size of the electronics section. Some Sears stores like at the San Jacinto Mall have removed shelves to open up the electronics section more, but it looks empty compared to
      how the department was before.

      I have not been inside of a Piggly Wiggly that I can recall, but I have seen several locations in my travels of Louisiana.

      Delete
  41. Part II:

    I enjoyed my visit to Akron.‭ ‬My hotel was on a major retail corridor anchored by the Summit Mall so I got to visit and see a lot of different stores.‭ ‬This was a few years ago now,‭ ‬but I’m sure it hasn’t changed much.‭ ‬The corridor kind of reminded me of a mini-FM‭ ‬1960‭ (‬well,‭ ‬the parts around Deerbrook and Willowbrook Malls at least‭)‬.‭ ‬The Summit Mall is the most successful mall in the area which is odd since it is a rare DeBartolo success.‭ ‬The mall itself isn’t anything special aside from some oddball things.‭ ‬For one,‭ ‬the mall had some kind of studio in it in the food court for one of the local TV channels.‭ ‬That was odd.‭ ‬Also,‭ ‬Akron is known as being the tire‭ & ‬rubber center of the US as Goodyear is based there and Firestone used to be and still has a lot of offices there.‭ ‬Thus,‭ ‬perhaps not surprisingly so,‭ ‬the mall has Goodyear and Firestone service centers with mall entrances.‭ ‬Firestone has some mall shops in the parking lots of malls in Houston‭ (‬which used to be former JCPenney auto centers,‭ ‬I think the Almeda Mall location may be the only operating one now though‭)‬,‭ ‬but they certainly don’t have mall entrances and the garages aren’t a part of the malls itself.‭ ‬I believe the mall also had a Cleveland Indians store as well.

    I didn’t go to the famed Rolling Acres dead mall in Akron.‭ ‬In fact,‭ ‬it may have been closed by then,‭ ‬but it’s certainly one of the most famous dead malls.‭ ‬The Randall Park Mall in Cleveland is also one of the most famous dead malls,‭ ‬but I didn’t do much retail stuff when I was in Cleveland.‭ ‬The rust belt area is to some extent what you’d expect it to be.‭ ‬There’s a lot of abandoned or heavily underutilized commercial and industrial buildings in the area.‭ ‬Pittsburgh was an exception to this as it was doing very well it seemed.‭ ‬I went to Buffalo,‭ ‬Niagara Falls,‭ ‬the very northern tip of West Virginia,‭ ‬and Erie also and there was a lot of abandoned stuff there.‭ ‬Nevertheless,‭ ‬it’s a nice area to visit and there are a lot of natural things to see if you’re into that stuff.‭ ‬Also,‭ ‬I visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton,‭ which is right ‬near Akron,‭ ‬and needless to say that is a great visit for football fans.‭ ‬I wish I could have gone to the Millcreek Mall in Erie as it is supposedly one of the largest malls in the US,‭ ‬but I didn’t get a chance to see it when I was in Erie.‭

    RadioShack is doing something quite different this year.‭ ‬They are having their Black Friday sale on Wednesday.‭ ‬That might be a good idea,‭ ‬but unfortunately the deals in their ad aren’t very special IMO aside from the battery sale maybe.‭ ‬I’m not sure if they’ll get much of a response,‭ ‬but it might be more because of the sales rather than when the sale is.‭ ‬We’ll see,‭ ‬but hopefully it’ll work out well for them.‭ ‬It seems like Black Friday has lost it’s meaning with the sales starting days,‭ ‬or even weeks,‭ ‬before Friday.‭ ‬Every retailer wants to be the first retailer that people do their holiday shopping at.‭ ‬To that extent,‭ ‬I think Kmart might be on the right track by opening early on Thanksgiving even if they get bashed in the media for it.‭

    I can only assume that the people still using Betamax tapes are in Japan or are professional users who can afford to pay more for tapes.‭ ‬I know of some people who considered the Beta vs.‭ ‬VHS battle to be a religious type battle,‭ ‬but I’m guessing those people switched to VHS or digital alternatives a long time ago.‭ ‬I think Beta’s alleged technical superiority is a bit overrated especially in the US.‭ ‬European Beta fans may have more of a point given the differences in their analog TV specs,‭ ‬but even there VHS won decidedly so oh well.‭ ‬Besides,‭ ‬a recording format can be clearly much better in terms of quality,‭ ‬but what good is it if a tape can’t even hold a sports game or a televised movie.‭ ‬VHS was assured of being the winner based on that alone.‭

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    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences, one of these days I will have to make it up to the Northern US. I have not traveled outside of about a 6 hour radius of the Houston area in over 10 years.

      You are right, the Thanksgiving/Black Friday sales are not as special as before. Many of the deals are not that great and the hassle of going to stores and waiting in long lines is too much for most people. I will also personally not go to stores on Thanksgiving. I think retailers need to close and give the employees a paid day off.

      I am sure some people are mad about the Beta format completely going away, but it was coming.

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  42. Part III:

    Hopefully you’ll be able to get your Walkman going again.‭ ‬Do you think that the headphone jack will need to be resoldered back or will you be able to repair it without that‭? ‬Well,‭ ‬anyway,‭ ‬at least the belt is working well.‭ ‬I actually almost recording something onto a Sony tape using the Sony boombox this weekend myself.‭ ‬I was thinking about making a‭ “‬radio time capsule‭” ‬by recording the songs and commercials on the radio now so I can look back on it a few years down the road,‭ ‬but I noticed that the station that I normally listen to had switched to Christmas music.‭ ‬Oh well,‭ ‬I guess I’ll have to wait until after Christmas to do it now.‭ ‬I think I may just record the music digitally or to a VHS tape so I can get more musicon there.‭ ‬I also want to do a TV time capsule and maybe I can do it on the same VHS cassette.

    Anyway,‭ ‬it’s good to hear that your recordings came out well.‭ ‬The Sony does not have the best frequency response for tapes,‭ ‬but it’s probably good enough for MP3s especially if they are lower bitrate MP3s.‭ Did the recording have a nice analog sound compared to the MP3s?

    I haven’t done enough recordings on the Sony boombox to know quite how well the auto level control on it works,‭ ‬but in my limited testing it seems like the auto level control keeps the levels pretty high‭ (‬by comparison,‭ ‬my late‭ ‬1980s GE boombox records at least‭ ‬3‭ ‬dB lower‭)‬.‭ ‬So,‭ ‬anyway,‭ ‬you may not need to keep the phone at full volume to get a loud recording depending on how loud the phone is,‭ ‬but it probably won’t hurt anything unless you hear distortion‭ (‬the audio circuitry on some phones is pretty poor and may audibly distort at‭ ‬100%‭ ‬volume‭) ‬or if you think the auto level control isn’t working well and is recording too hot.‭

    I have been playing around with my Denon decks and that DR-M10HR does indeed look and sound quite nice.‭ ‬I kind of wish that it had the nicer VFD meters like my other Denons though in addition to wishing for the output volume control.‭ ‬The LEDs on the meters kind of bleed light over into the LEDs next to them so sometimes it's hard to get an accurate level reading.‭ ‬Plus,‭ ‬it doesn’t have the resolution of the other meters.‭ ‬It’s not a big deal and it’s not really any worse than the average cassette deck from the later‭ ‬1980s (my Luxman does not have the light bleeding problem, but it has worse resolution and that's a $650 deck compared to the ~$300 Denon from the same time period),‭ ‬but I guess my other Denons have me pretty spoiled.‭ ‬Aside from that,‭ ‬the deck is certainly one of the best ones in my fleet.‭

    I see that you’ve been finding blank cassettes at the thrifts as well.‭ I don’t know where all these Maxells are coming from in the thrifts, but it looks like we’re both finding them even if we don’t want any more at the moment. ‬I have not done much thrifting at all lately since I got that Denon deck.‭ ‬Maybe I’ll do some thrifting this week,‭ ‬but I don’t know.‭ ‬We’ll see.‭ ‬I have been playing around with my thrift store gear more lately which I think is a good thing.‭ ‬There’s no point in spending a lot of time finding stuff if I don’t get a chance to use it.‭ ‬I’ve had a lot of fun playing around with some of the stuff I’ve found.‭ ‬Some of it is stuff I got a year or two ago and never really spent much time with.

    I probably have more room for blank cassettes,‭ ‬but I want to organize my stuff better.‭ ‬Right now I have blank audio and video cassettes in like‭ ‬10‭ ‬different drawers and boxes and it’s hard to find what I’m looking for if I want something specific.‭ ‬I’m thinking of buying some of those large plastic stackable bins and getting one for blank audio cassettes,‭ ‬one for blank video cassettes,‭ ‬and one for collectable sealed blank cassettes that I don’t intend on recording on.‭ ‬I may also get a tub or two for some cables and other stuff that is piling up.‭ ‬Hopefully that will help.‭ ‬

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    1. I will need to solder the headphone jack again. It had broken off originally and the one I replaced it with was not working right. The sound on my car stereo with the Sony boombox tape was a little flat so I will see if I can do anything to record better next time. I think the volume control may have messed up one side of the tape. I taped one half at normal volume and the other at max volume to see what would happen.

      Buying a bunch of items becomes overwhelming at times. It took me several months to catch up with my new tapes that I bought over the past year. I have not found many pre-recorded tapes that I like lately.

      I organized all of my movies, video games, and wires about a year ago. I just recently fixed up my tapes and organized them by genre. I have room for maybe 2 or 3 more cassettes before I run out of storage space.

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  43. Part I:

    I wonder where Dick’s Sporting Goods is going to open their other local locations aside from Deerbrook and The Woodlands Malls.‭ ‬Baybrook Mall is a possibility we mentioned earlier.‭ ‬I don’t think Willowbrook Mall is an option though because I don’t think there is available anchor space there.‭ ‬Maybe they’ll open a non-mall store in one of the area shopping centers,‭ ‬but it would probably have to be a smaller store in that case.‭ ‬Who knows about the other local GGP mall,‭ ‬First Colony Mall.‭

    I’ve made a couple of visits to the Willowbrook Mall Sears in recent weeks and the parking lot around the food court is still blocked off.‭ ‬I guess they’re still working on renovating the food court,‭ ‬but I’m not sure what’s going on.‭ ‬You would have figured that they would have tried to have it done by now.‭ ‬I have not been inside the mall in a few months now.‭ ‬Maybe I’ll make a visit to the mall itself sometime soon to see the progress of the renovations.‭ ‬The Sears store itself has not changed much in recent times as far as I can tell.

    There is some major Mall of the Mainland news that came through today.‭ ‬It seems that the local college‭ ‬‬may indeed buy‭ the ex-JCPenney since the college board approved it.‭ ‬If so,‭ ‬all of the anchors will be spoken for assuming that Cinemark retains their Movies‭ ‬12‭ ‬theater.‭ ‬None of the new anchor tenants are traditional retailers‭ (‬or retailers at all‭) ‬aside from Palais Royal’s move to part of the ex-Foley’s and the nutrition store by the gym,‭ ‬but at least it’s something.‭

    Of course,‭ ‬I guess the million dollar question is if the interior corridor of the mall itself will reopen now that the anchors or occupied or if the non-retail nature of the anchors means that the mall won’t reopen.‭ ‬We’ll have to keep an eye on it.‭ ‬If the mall does not reopen,‭ ‬I wonder if Karam will try to convert some of the mall space into room for new retailers/tenants if there is interest.‭ ‬I also wonder now where the trampoline center will go if that is still part of the plan.‭ ‬It might be in the old food court as you speculated earlier.‭ ‬

    I don’t travel nearly as much as I used to either.‭ ‬I’d love to be able to visit more places,‭ ‬but I guess it’ll have to wait for now.‭ ‬I think I might be able to go somewhere in‭ ‬2016.‭ ‬Hopefully I’ll be able to see some interesting retail sights.‭ ‬I enjoyed my visit to the rust belt/Northeast and I would certainly like to visit the area again soon to see some areas that I missed on my last visit.‭ ‬There’s some very interesting malls,‭ ‬both ones doing well and not,‭ ‬in that part of the country.‭

    I don’t intend on shopping on Thanksgiving or Black Friday this year,‭ ‬but I have not seen all the ads so maybe something will intrigue me at a store that won’t be busy.‭ ‬Last year Sears Hardware had a good sale on some tools and I did some Thanksgiving night shopping there,‭ ‬but there was no line at all so it wasn’t a problem.‭ ‬As far as the employees go,‭ ‬I hope the stores pay them extra money and/or give them a choice of whether they want to work that day or not.‭ ‬I’m sure there’s a lot of employees that want to spend time with family,‭ ‬but I’m sure there’s others who want to work to make more holiday money.‭ ‬We have some interns where I work who also work retail jobs and most of them are looking forward to getting the extra Black Friday pay at their stores.‭

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    1. Katy Mills is also another possibility, there is an empty anchor pad site near the Outdoor World.

      I have not been near Willowbrook for quite some time. Maybe it is time to pass by, but on a weeknight since there will be a bunch of shoppers on the weekends this time of year.

      Mall of the Mainland is shaping up to be a very diverse property. Retail, college, church, gym, cinema, trampoline park, and possibly food. The property will be alive again and hopefully the interior mall will come back to life even if it is for non-retail uses.

      Long distance travel is probably not going to happen in my future for a while. One of these days I will make it happen.

      I made a quick stop on Friday morning to get a couple of sale items, it was no hassle at all. I did not see huge lines outside of stores on Thursday like I did in the past. I don't think stores should open on Thursday and hopefully things will change. Most employees are forced to work or face consequences for missing out on holidays.

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    2. I was at Willowbrook Mall last weekend and while i was inside the food court i saw this huge advertisement on the wall and it is officially confirmed now that Dick’s Sporting Goods is coming to Willowbrook Mall in the fall of 2016. So it looks like Willowbrook Mall maybe doing a lot more renovating around the mall besides the food court.

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    3. Dick's sporting goods must be getting some great deals to build at these malls. Now we have 3 out of 5 sites confirmed. Glad to hear Willowbrook is still doing well despite some of the recent crime at the mall.

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    4. Thanks for the information.‭ ‬I guess I did miss out on some important stuff by not visiting the food court.‭ ‬Anyway,‭ ‬I did some more searching around on the web and it looks like Dick’s Sporting Goods is coming to all of the Houston-area GGP malls‭ (‬First Colony Mall and Baybrook Mall in addition to Willowbrook,‭ ‬Deerbrook,‭ ‬and The Woodlands Malls‭)‬.‭

      I’m really concerned about the Willowbrook Mall situation though.‭ ‬The mall does not have any remaining anchor pads as far as I know.‭ ‬At least all the obvious spots are spoken for.‭ ‬I don’t know where the Dick’s store will go then.‭ ‬My obvious fear is that the Sears spot will be sub-divided or completely sold off and closed.‭ ‬Hopefully this will not happen as Sears is a much more useful and interesting store to me than a sporting goods store.‭ ‬Sears has sporting goods too after all.‭ ‬Hopefully we’ll hear more news soon because I’m certainly going to be concerned until then.‭ ‬I’ve been fearing losing the Willowbrook Sears,‭ ‬or even a part of it,‭ ‬ever since the news about the Nordstrom Rack construction.‭

      I suppose other options may include building the store in the parking lot and have it not be connected to the mall itself.‭ ‬I’m not sure how likely that is though.‭ ‬Perhaps there’s some extra space by the Nordstrom Rack store,‭ ‬but I don’t think there is considering that the other Dick’s stores that we know about are much larger than Nordstrom Rack.‭ ‬Maybe they’ll re-configure the food court area and put another anchor pad there,‭ ‬but that would be a very tight fit especially in terms of parking.‭ ‬Well,‭ ‬we’ll see I guess.

      Hopefully the Baybrook Mall Sears isn't under threat either. I'd imagine that GGP provisioned some room for an anchor or two with the new outdoor wing that has already opened.

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    5. It will be interesting to see where the Willowbrook and First Colony stores go. First Colony may still have room in the outdoor connection to the mall. Hopefully Sears will not give up too much space to Dick's if they are going to rent out space to them. Sears is shrinking inventory so much that it might be best to downsize large stores for Sears to survive.

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  44. Part II:

    I once came across a very nice Sony Beta Hi-Fi VCR in a thrift,‭ ‬but it wasn’t all that cheap so I passed on it.‭ ‬I don’t have any Beta tapes so it’s a pretty useless format to me and I don’t want to start collecting something new.‭ ‬I’d just use my S-VHS VCR if I want analog video at a higher quality since it’ll be far superior anyway.‭ ‬S-VHS tapes aren’t super common either,‭ ‬but they’re easier to find than Beta cassettes at this point even though I think S-VHS tapes have not been made in years.‭ ‬I do have some S-VHS blank cassettes though if I need them.‭ ‬Anyway,‭ ‬my S-VHS VCR is a S-VHS ET deck that is capable of recording S-VHS video to regular high-grade VHS cassettes so I don’t even need to worry about using S-VHS cassettes.‭

    Speaking of VHS,‭ ‬I did pull that really fancy‭ ‬1987‭ ‬Made by Panasonic GE Hi-Fi‭ ‬VCR that I got a couple of years ago out of storage.‭ ‬This is the one that has picture-in-picture,‭ ‬adjustable sound level,‭ ‬a headphone jack with separate volume control,‭ ‬stereo microphone jacks,‭ ‬and other rare high-end features for a VCR.‭ ‬It has bad‭ ‬capacitors on the power supply board‭ (‬a known problem with Panasonic-built VCRs from that era‭)‬,‭ ‬but‭ ‬it still works and works pretty well if it’s allowed to run for‭ ‬15-20‭ ‬minutes first.‭ ‬I don’t know if it’ll continue to run okay like that with the bad capacitors as time go by,‭ ‬but we’ll see I guess.‭ ‬Capacitors can always be replaced and I think some parts stores sell pre-made Panasonic power supply boards since it’s a common problem.‭ ‬Anyway,‭ ‬I did some preliminary audio recording tests on it and it worked quite well for that with the adjustable levels and such.‭ ‬I didn’t notice any additional noise on the audio caused by the bad capacitors,‭ ‬but the video quality may have some noise‭ (‬I need to play the tape on another VCR to see if the video noise is just on playback or if it’s a recorded thing too‭)‬.‭ ‬Some of the features of that VCR continue to amaze me.‭ ‬That VCR was a rare beast indeed and I’m really glad I found it in the thrift even if it needs a little work.‭ ‬

    Yeah,‭ ‬that jack problem sounded like a soldering job.‭ ‬Hopefully you’ll have success working on it.‭ ‬I’m not too surprised that the tape from the boombox sounds a little flat.‭ ‬The Sony boombox seems to roll off the treble at about‭ ‬11-12KHz.‭ ‬Lower bitrate MP3s and FM radio tend to roll off at‭ ‬15KHz so there might be a noticeable difference.‭ ‬One thing you can try to do is to boost the treble on the equalizer on your phone’s MP3‭ ‬player to see if you can get a brighter sounding recording.‭ ‬It’ll take some experimentation and it still may not come out the way you want it,‭ ‬but it’s worth trying.‭ ‬You can try boosting the treble on the‭ ‬10KHz range if you have adjustment for that,‭ ‬but you may want to boost the upper midrange too since that might be more noticeable.‭ ‬You may want to reduce some of the lower/mid midrange to reduce some muddiness,‭ ‬but that takes some experimentation like I said and each song may warrant different adjustments.‭

    Of course,‭ ‬given the low quality sound output on many phones,‭ ‬it’s possible that the low quality sound might be coming out of the phone itself‭ (‬or is an issue with the MP3s‭) ‬and isn’t really anything to do with the tape,‭ ‬but I guess you’ll know that based on how the MP3s sound on the phone.‭ ‬If that’s a problem,‭ ‬you’ll certainly need to play around with the equalizer.‭ ‬How did the recording differ when you had the phone at full volume as compared to a lower volume‭? ‬Did it keep the levels around the same or was the louder setting louder on the tape too‭?

    I don’t buy a lot of pre-recorded tapes,‭ ‬but even I sometimes go through some of my stuff and realize that I brought a tape from a thrift that I didn’t even know I had.‭ ‬Well,‭ ‬hopefully I’ll be able to organize my stuff better now‭ ‬and give each item more attention‭ ‬so that won’t happen.‭

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    1. I don't think I have watched any S-VHS movies either. Beta, Laserdisc, S-VHS, and HD-DVD are all formats that I have never owned or seen. I probably have missed out on some movies, but most have probably been on VHS, DVD, or Blu-ray also.

      If I see a Panasonic player in the future, I will make sure to check it out. Hopefully you can keep it going without having to buy replacement parts.

      The higher volume recording came out a little better but still somewhat flat. I will adjust the equalizer on the phone before I write it off, thanks for the tip.

      I might get another tape holder if I can find one. It has been several months since I found one and I will probably find more music in the future.

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  45. Part I:

    Katy Mills would probably be a good option for Dick's Sporting Goods. Well, I'm sure they'll have at least one store in the Katy area if nothing else unless they put something in the Memorial City Mall area and leave it at that. We'll see, I'm sure we're going to hear a lot more about Dick's Houston plans here soon enough. We'll see where the stores open up if nothing else.

    I was just at Willowbrook Mall yesterday, but I just went to Sears again and did not go into the mall itself. I'll do that one of these days. I don't know if going to Willowbrook on a weekday is a winning move as you'll have to deal with a lot of 1960 traffic on workdays unless you do it at a good time or take some sort of alternate route. You may be better off going on a weekend, but certainly don't wait too late or you'll run into the peak holiday shopping weekends.

    I did not do any shopping on Black Thursday or Friday. It's good to hear that the crowds weren't as crazy as they used to be. I think some retailers have eliminated doorbusters and that may have eliminated the queuing and may vary the times where customers come to the store. Plus, a lot of people have already done their shopping now with the stores starting big sales days before Thanksgiving week. Finally, it seems like the sales aren't as special as they used to be.

    I was at a Wal-Mart recently and noticed something new there that is very annoying. I was looking at several different items, mostly in the hardware and housewares departments, and the products are put on shelves with totally wrong price tags. It's a real guessing game what the price of certain items are. To make matters worse, the price scanners aren't as easy to find as they are at other stores like Target, Kohl's, and Sears. Maybe it's just a problem with that particular store (or maybe just those departments at that store, the grocery section seemed much better), but that's something that'll drive me to shop at other stores. Houston's Kmarts had the same problem in the Big Kmart era before they left town, but this may have been even worse than what I saw at Kmarts back in the day. Hopefully they can get things straightened up. The check-out lines were short if nothing else at least.

    It looks like my Mall of the Mainland link did not work on my previous post. Sorry about that. It was on the Galveston Daily News website so it's not like there was much to read anyway without a subscription. My understanding is that the college will put their nursing and health programs in the ex-JCPenney. I guess it'll be similar then to the nursing colleges at Northwest and West Oaks Malls. I don't know about West Oaks, but I know the nursing students do eat at the NW Mall food court though so maybe a food court at the Mall of the Mainland can be justified again. We'll see about that.

    Anyway, Karam deserves a lot of credit for getting the mall anchors re-populated. A lot of people, myself included, thought that the mall was a lost cause. Hopefully the indoor part of the mall will reopen at some point as you say. There's a lot of things at the mall which will attract potential shoppers so maybe retailers will want in. It's a shame this didn't happen before the mall closed because then maybe the mall never would have closed, but better late than never I guess. I'm sure Sears and Palais Royal are glad that they struck though the really lean years at the mall. Maybe things will go up now.

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    1. You are right, FM 1960 is not a good route on weekdays. Going after 7pm is probably the best time, but you will not have much time to visit the mall if you head out that late.

      I am not a fan of crowds and the deals are just not worth the hassle. There is no guarantee you will get the item you are looking for. If you do get it, some jerk might take it out of your hands.

      One of my old friends worked at a Super Kmart and she joked about how they never matched the price tags with the items. I guess they were too lazy to keep up with the changes. Walmart management seems to be making several mistakes that keep hurting the company. Getting the checkout issues corrected is a good start, but stock issues, and missing price tags is going to frustrate people.

      The new college at West Oaks is not connected to the mall, so I don't think it has helped bring more traffic into the mall. It is a good walk from the entrance of the college to the food court. The food court is not doing well anymore and has only 6 food/snack outlets now. There are a couple more snack spots in the mall, but you can drive less than 5 minutes away for better food options.

      Keep me posted on the Mall of the Mainland updates. It is still too early to call the redevelopment a success but it seems to be on the right track.

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  46. Part II:

    It crossed my mind this week that this year will mark the 15th anniversary of Montgomery Ward's closing. In some ways it seems like it happened a lot longer ago, but it is what it is. I thought I'd post some memorable Wards Christmas commercials just to remember them by. I've posted all of these before, but it's worth another look. Here is a 1986 VCR commercial. Here is a 1982 Black Friday ad. Finally, here's a 1996 Electric Ave. ad featuring some great electronics.

    There's a good chance that any VCR you find from the 1980s will be made by Panasonic. They were one of the more reliable brands from back then (for example, their mechanisms weren't nearly as belt dependent as Hitachi VCRs from the 1980s) aside from maladies like the capacitor problem. Even then, it's a problem that crept up after many years. On top of that, Panasonic built VCRs for many popular brands like GE, RCA, Quasar, Magnavox, JCPenney, and others. Not all VCRs from those brands are Panasonic, but many are. Panasonic built VCRs are kind of easy to spot because they have their manufacturing date printed on the back unlike most other brands.

    Of course, most VCRs aren't going to be equipped like the 1987 GE one I have. It's about as top of the line of a consumer VCR as one can get from that era that isn't S-VHS. I guess the manufacturers realized that most people weren't going to spend big bucks for things like VCR-based picture-in-picture and adjustable audio levels so those things disappeared from top of the line VCRs. The thing as very nice touches like a geared control panel that operates like it's motorized. I'm not sure how much a VCR like this would have cost when new, but I think the equivalent Panasonic model would have been the PV-4780. Information on that model (and my GE one for that matter) is hard to come by probably due their rarity, but according to this 1987 Popular Science magazine issue, the PV-4780's MSRP was a whopping $1,150. I don't know what that is exactly in 2015 dollars, but it's probably at least $2,000! Needless to say, it is a rare beast and I'm glad I came across it even if it needs a little work to get it in peak condition.

    I'm pretty sure that any movies that were on those formats were also on VHS and/or DVD so you're probably not missing out on anything. The only exception might be some interactive/educational/business type LaserDiscs that took advantage of the ability to go to a specific point on the disc.

    I'm not really sure why S-VHS never took off. It was an excellent format that had the video quality advantages of LaserDisc with the ability to play regular VHS tapes and record in high quality too (which were the knocks on LaserDisc). I guess it was just too expensive and regular VHS was good enough for most people given the state of TV technology at the time. Perhaps DVD would have had a harder time getting acceptance if S-VHS became the norm, but I guess we'll never know. I'm guessing the electronics industry would have pushed the same lies about VHS/S-VHS tapes degrading and so forth to try to get people to buy DVD players.

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    1. Thanks for sending over the Montgomery Wards videos, and breaking down the Panasonic VHS brands.

      A $2000.00 VCR is very expensive. You can get a very nice TV now for that price. Most people who invested in those VCR's were probably buying on credit cards. That was a large investment for just a VCR.

      VHS tapes are much more reliable than the movie companies made you believe. I know we already discussed this point a while back, but it is still funny.

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  47. Part III:

    Let me know what happens when you experiment with your boombox recordings. I'll probably try to play around with recording to my Sony boombox at some point too, but you might get around to it before I do.

    I find the cassette holders quite frequently at the thrifts (Goodwills especially). They're rarely with the electronics though. They're usually on top of the clothing shelves (usually the men's ones) or near the lamps and stuff like that. I'm sure you'll find some if you go to enough thrifts, but I guess there's dry spells for everything.

    I did visit one thrift recently and I found more blank audio cassettes. They weren't Maxells though. They were newer style Walgreens ToneMaster 60 minute cassettes made in China. I'm sure they're just as bad, if not worse, than the older ToneMasters that I'm more familiar with, but I had to get a few for my collection if nothing else. Maybe I'll experiment with recording to one of them, but obviously my expectations won't be high.

    I was on Kmart's website the other day and I noticed that they want $4.99 for the 2 pack of Maxell UR 90 cassettes now. I think it was $3.99 before. I wonder if Wal-Mart still wants $3.99 for the Onn cassettes or if they've raised their prices too. I'll have to check the next time I'm at a Wal-Mart. Anyway, I wonder if Maxell raised their prices or if they're selling so well that they raised the prices. At least the price spike wasn't as bad as the spike in Maxell VHS cassette prices.

    I was looking at the latest RadioShack ad and I notice that they have their Concert Class headphones again (and on sale right now). I thought they were discontinued after the bankruptcy, but maybe they revised them a little and brought them back. I'm not sure if they're the same as the pre-bankruptcy Concert Class headphones, but if so, those are pretty good headphones for the money. They were more balanced than super bassy from what I read, but I think they were still pretty powerful with the bass.

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    1. I am probably going to try the Sharp player on my next recording so I can adjust the equalizer to make better recordings.

      I will keep looking for the tape holders and if I can pick up 2, I will. I have been to 10 thrifts in the past few months and did not find a single holder. The Walgreens cassettes have a good vintage appeal, but who knows how the quality will be.

      I guess the 2 pack of blank cassettes sells good at the Kmart stores to warrant a price increase so quickly after they came back out. I have not been to a Kmart for a few months now so I am not sure if all of the nearby stores have them in stock yet. I have uploaded all of my Kmart photos to the blog so you will see the remaining Louisiana stores soon.

      Thanks for the tip on the Radio Shack headphones. Maybe I can try them out one of these days. It is funny that their similar items on the webpage has a $7.99 pair of Radio Shack headphones and a pair of $379.00 Beats headphones. I wonder if that means the quality is as good as the $7.99 or $379.00 headphones.

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  48. Part I:

    I was recently on FM‭ ‬1960‭ ‬on a weekday at around‭ ‬2‭ ‬or‭ ‬3‭ ‬and the traffic was super bad around Willowbrook Mall.‭ ‬It wasn’t too bad after the Wal-Mart on Cutten,‭ ‬but before that it was quite backed up.‭ ‬It’s better on the weekends around those times,‭ ‬but then you’ll run into a lot of traffic within the mall itself around these times.‭ ‬Perhaps traffic isn’t too bad on the weekdays in the late morning/early afternoon.‭ ‬That might be a good time if you have the option of being out then.

    I refer to the late‭ ‬1990s/early‭ ‬2000s Kmart as the malaise era for Kmart.‭ ‬The malaise may have existed for many years after that (heck, it probably exists now to some degree),‭ ‬but I can’t really speak for it in the same detail since I stopped shopping at Kmart regularly after they left town obviously.‭ ‬I guess your friend’s experience of working there was pretty similar.‭ ‬It seems like Wal-Mart is having their own malaise problems to some degree too.‭ ‬Hopefully they’ll be able to fix the problems like they did with the long checkout problems about a year ago.‭ ‬It’s funny that you mention Wal-Mart’s inventory problems because they were out of a couple of items that I was looking at and I probably would have purchased at least one of them if they were in stock.‭

    I have not been personally interested in Black Friday doorbuster deals in at least‭ ‬15‭ ‬years since the advertised items are generally of low quality and sometimes the prices aren’t even all that special‭ (‬not to mention not wanting to deal with the unruly crowds‭)‬,‭ ‬but I did do some Black Thursday/Friday shopping in the last‭ ‬3-4‭ ‬years prior to this one as family has asked me to escort them.‭ ‬I guess I had to say yes.‭ ‬The best‭ “‬doorbuster‭” ‬experience was probably at Sears.‭ ‬They organized things well as they had the people wanting electronics in one line outside the electronics entrance,‭ ‬they had another line in front of the tools entrance,‭ ‬and then they had a line at the third entrance for people wanting everything else.‭ ‬The first two lines were quite long.‭ ‬I was in the‭ “‬everything else‭” ‬line,‭ ‬which was by far the shortest,‭ ‬so it wasn’t a big problem.‭ ‬The stuff we were looking for was upstairs anyway whereas the biggest crowds were downstairs.‭ ‬The worst experience was probably at Target that same year‭ (‬2012‭ ‬I think‭) ‬because we waited‭ ‬4‭ ‬hours in the line and we happened to get the last product of what we went there for.‭ ‬Good thing we weren’t a minute later or something.‭ ‬I had an experience at Kohl’s one year that was almost as bad.‭

    Thanks for the information about West Oaks Mall.‭ ‬I have not visited many malls in the past‭ ‬3-4‭ ‬months,‭ ‬but West Oaks was one of them.‭ ‬The food court seemed kind of dead.‭ ‬I guess that explains part of it.‭ ‬The Northwest Mall food court must do decent business to have as many vendors as they do given the probable lack of shoppers.‭ ‬I’m sure the nearby HISD HQs probably provide a lot of lunch customers at NW Mall.

    I should mention that the Galveston Daily News article that didn’t work correctly earlier did mention that the college has a‭ ‬90‭ ‬day window to back out of the deal if any issues pop up,‭ ‬but the college seems excited about the deal so I guess it’ll probably happen.‭ ‬We’ll see how that goes.‭

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    1. Thanks for the tip on the Willowbrook area traffic. I may try to go early during the week probably after January rolls around.

      I know Walmart is trying to fix their inventory issues as well, but productivity needs to be addressed. Most of my recent trips to Walmart have been during the overnight shift and the aisles are full of products with very few people stocking. It looks like they fill the middle aisles with pallets and stock what they can and put up the remaining pallets before 6 am. Kmart's biggest issue right now has to be filling up a store with fewer product lines to place on the shelves especially in the electronics section. The toy, clothing, baby, and housewares items always seem to be fully stocked, but the rest of the departments are hit or miss depending on the location.

      I went to Walmart one year for one item that broke after about a month. I waited in line to check out for an hour and 15 minutes in the line to get the item. At Target another year, I waited 45 minutes in line outside of the store and was in and out in 10 minutes with my item. The PSP that I bought worked for several years. Other than that I have avoided the after Thanksgiving rush until the evening or days later.

      I was disappointed in the West Oaks food court. I would have eaten there on my visit since I was hungry, but nothing there was appetizing. The signs are still up for the failed Toby Keith Grill and Bar that is also at the food court.

      I wonder if the college is going to take the anchor and adjoining mall space. I am hoping a part of the former mall is reopened to the public, but a college will not be open to the public. Either way the mall property will not sit there and rot like many closed malls across the US.

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  49. Part II:

    VCRs were very expensive in the‭ ‬1980s.‭ ‬I don’t think most people remember how much they cost back then.‭ ‬A lot of people brought them from furniture and electronic stores that had in-house financing,‭ ‬but I’m sure credit cards were used for many.‭ ‬I’m sure you remember when VCRs and stereo gear were huge home theft targets.‭ ‬Obviously you can understand why given the prices.‭ ‬Most people didn’t buy fancy ones that cost the equivalent of‭ ‬$2,000,‭ ‬but more regular Hi-Fi VCRs weren’t rare at that time and probably cost the equivalent‭ ‬of‭ ‬$500-800‭ ‬in modern dollars.‭ ‬Of course,‭ ‬VCRs at that time were well-built‭ (‬though perhaps not reliable as later ones‭) ‬and contained a lot of technology that was expensive to make.‭ ‬The integrated nature of modern electronics‭ ‬allowed for lower prices.‭

    It’s funny‭ (‬though sad too for sure‭) ‬to see the electronics industry spread lies in order to try to sell new products to replace old ones that otherwise work fine.‭ ‬A funny example of this is when CDs came out and the companies were bashing records.‭ ‬Now the electronics companies love records again now that they’ve realized that they can sell them for‭ ‬3-5x the price of CDs‭ (‬back then the CDs were the ones selling at high prices‭) ‬and can sell turntables at high prices to people who threw perfectly good turntables out‭ ‬25‭ ‬years ago because they were told they were obsolete.‭ ‬Obviously the record labels are loving it too.‭ ‬The companies aren’t outwardly bashing CDs this time as the real enemy for them are phones connected to digital downloads and streaming‭ (‬though they do bash CDs when trying to sell high-res digital format gear‭)‬.‭ ‬They’d like to sell CDs too,‭ ‬but they’re not helping their own cause by releasing poorly mastered CDs‭ (‬and records‭) ‬that don’t live up to the potential of the format.‭

    The Sharp cassette deck probably has better recording quality than the Sony boombox.‭ ‬I’m not sure if the Sharp deck has auto level control or manual,‭ ‬but manual will certainly give you more control over the recording level if nothing else.‭ ‬It’ll be fun to play around with it.‭ ‬I’m interested in knowing the results.‭ ‬You might as well record the music the way you like it.‭ ‬That’s one of the great advantages of mixtapes.‭

    Well,‭ ‬it’s safe to say that the‭ ‬$379‭ ‬Beats headphones will seriously underperform given the price.‭ ‬The Concert Class headphones,‭ ‬at least the older ones that I’m more familiar with,‭ ‬may very well outperform the Beats in sound quality except for the Beats probably having over-emphasized bass.‭ ‬I don’t know much about the‭ ‬$7.99‭ ‬ones‭ (‬I believe that is a sale price too‭)‬,‭ ‬but I’m sure those are basic headphones.‭ ‬Still,‭ ‬some basic headphones work very well especially given the price.‭ ‬My JVC Flats are an example of that.‭

    RadioShack used to have manuals and product spec sheets to look at on their website,‭ ‬but that’s not available now on the new General Wireless website.‭ ‬That’s a shame,‭ ‬hopefully it’ll come back because it’s hard to know what to expect from their products otherwise‭ (‬especially the house brands‭)‬.‭ ‬I am curious to know the specs of the‭ “‬new‭” ‬Concert Class headphones to see if they are similar to the old ones.‭ ‬They could very well be the same headphones with different logos on them,‭ ‬but it’s hard to say.‭

    I’d keep looking for the cases in the thrifts.‭ ‬I’m sure you’ll find them eventually.‭ ‬Dry spells do happen especially when you’re looking for something specific it seems.‭

    I look forward to seeing more of your Kmart photos.‭ ‬Each Kmart seems to offer unique oddballs and antiques.‭ ‬As for the cassette prices,‭ ‬hopefully the price increase is a sign of good sales,‭ ‬but hopefully the higher prices won’t lead to a sales dip that will cause the retailers to stop selling cassettes without remembering that they raised the prices.‭ ‬We’ll see.‭ ‬I’m sure the profit margins on those are high now so hopefully that’s enough incentive to keep them around.‭

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    1. I remember also when there were several independent home electronics repair businesses. People are quick to throw away working electronics these days because technology is rapidly changing. Could you imagine 20 years ago that you would change a phone or computer about every two years. Every investment I made in electronics was made with the intent of lasting a minimum of 5 years before any issues would pop up.

      It is amazing that movie and record companies have no new ideas and rehash old ideas and movies to make a buck these days.

      I have looked at so many headphones over the past few weeks and I have not been able to settle on one. I will probably check out the Radio Shack headphones before I decide on one. I should bring my Walkman into the store when I go, to surprise the employees. Radio Shack can use all the help they can get to bring the brand back to life, hopefully the loss of the spec sheets is temporary.

      That is how it goes, I would not look online for a case because of shipping costs. I will just hope to see one in the next few visits.

      I did finally make it down to a Kmart earlier this month. I did not see the blue light special, but they had signs advertising that is was back. I walked across the store twice looking for a blue light display but I did not find one. The biggest changes are in the electronics department. Two aisles have been removed and home goods, appliances, and mattresses have taken over the space. The rest of the department has been consolidated and the checkout counter was moved to the corner of the department. The aisles are now open like normal aisles instead of just one opening to the electronics department.

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  50. Part I:

    There's been a lot of retail news these past few days. One headline that probably didn't surprise anyone is that Sears released new quarterly results and they were bad. There's nothing really surprising here. Electronics and apparel are still struggling at Sears and Kmart, but mattresses and appliances are on the upswing at Kmart. I guess Kmart must be feeling justified for downsizing electronics and putting more appliances and mattresses in it's place. The lowered results for electronics is perhaps expected given the deemphasis on that area, but apparel is still given as much space as it used to so that has to be disappointing. Sears seems to be blaming warmer weather for poor sales, but it seems like we hear that every fall.

    One of the interesting things Sears said with this quarterly report is that they'll continue to focus on the best performing stores. Hopefully that means they won't sell of parts of strong stores like the Willowbrook Mall location, but I wonder if there is a hidden implication for weaker performing Sears stores. For sure I'd expect weaker Kmarts to close like they have been especially if they have leases up for renewal.

    In other retail news, it seems like the Staples-Office Depot merger is in serious doubt now with the FTC looking to block the move. The concern is that the combined company would have a near monopoly on corporate supply contracts. I had a feeling this would happen. The retail side of these companies is kind of minor compared to their contract businesses. I'm sure shopping center operators will be happy if the merger is off, but we'll have to wait to see what happens.

    I believe that Walmart recently gave their employees raises, but they might have reduced staffing to compensate for that. It's hard to say, but they need to ensure that stores have items on the shelves (and have the right price tags) or else people will be forced to shop elsewhere even if they want to shop at Walmart. I've only been at Walmart late at night once in the last 15 years or so, but it is interesting to see how they stock the store overnight.

    It sounds like your Black Friday experiences have been better than mine. I've had some experiences at some stores that weren't bad (Macy's Men's store, Sears Hardware, Bed, Bath, & Beyond come to mind), but it's just something I'd rather avoid now.

    I noticed the Toby Keith's signage at the West Oaks Mall food court too. Outdated signs aside, the food court there does look nice, but it's pretty dead there in my experience and perhaps thusly so there isn't a great deal of variety there. It's a shame, but it is what it is. I wonder if the location of the food court hinders the eateries. I guess it's near the center of the mall if you count the outdoor part, but it's on the edge of the indoor part of the mall given the current configuration. A lot of mall shoppers may never even go to that part of the mall.

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    1. One thing that is hurting the perception of Sears is the constant doom and gloom articles about the company. I read one this past week that used mostly photos of Sears stores at dead malls and even a back storage room that was closed to the public to show how the company was declining. I know the financials are not good right now, but the company is still alive.

      I am glad to see the merger did not happen with the office stores. It would be similar to if Walgreens (Rite Aid) and CVS merged. Only small drugstores would be the competitors.

      They have to find a balance, the stores were already struggling to keep shelves full, they cannot afford to cut more labor hours to make up for the pay raises. The employees were brought up to $9 an hour and they will go up to $10 sometime next year.

      I would rather watch the Youtube videos of crazy shoppers than be in the stores with them. I would rather pay a few bucks more to get the item without all of the stress. Also as you mentioned many of the Doorbusters are terrible products that will break easily.

      That part of the mall definitely suffers due to the lack of a good anchor. When Mervyn's and Steve and Barry's anchored that section of the mall it was struggling as well. Most of the shoppers probably only go from Dillard's to Macy's and skip the rest of the mall.

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  51. Part II:

    I'm also very curious to know if the indoor part of the Mall of the Mainland will reopen now that all the anchors are filled with mostly non-retail operations. The college won't be open to the public like a store would be, but they may offer advising/events for potential students and stuff like that. The same college has a cosmetology department in the La Marque outlet mall that has a salon, but apparently that location will stay where it is and will expand as well.

    I'm actually a little bit surprised that the college would open an off-campus center so close to the main campus, but I guess they got a good deal and it'll allow them to expand the health programs in a way that might be cheaper than building something on the main campus. Hopefully the college and the church will lead to some retail traffic that may cause the mall to reopen, but I think Karam and the community has to be pretty happy with what is happening at the Mall of the Mainland either way. We'll have to see if Cinemark stays now.

    I'm not sure how Kmart is operating the Blue Light Specials these days, but maybe they only do it for a few hours a day. I think that's how classic Blue Light Specials were done. The reconfiguration of the electronics departments is interesting, but opening things up might be a good idea to try to get more shoppers into those departments.

    One interesting observation I've had about Sears stores this year is that they seem to be better stocked this holiday season than they were before. I don't know if Kmarts are the same way. Anyway, I know both stores must be struggling to fill the stores with all the department eliminations/downsizing. Perhaps they'll just throw more appliances and furniture in the Kmarts until the growth stops. I know Kmart has been slowly putting more Kfresh departments in stores, but it might be a while before they ever get a decent percentage of stores renovated with Kfresh.

    I recently came across a picture of a former Kmart in PA that is now an outlet store for the Boscov's department store chain. Anyway, I know I've complained before about how Kmart doesn't clean their big HVAC vents often enough, but I don't think I can complain about Kmart now seeing how dirty those vents are at the Boscov's. Yikes.

    Hopefully you'll have good results from your headphone research. Headphones are hard to shop for because you have to get something that sounds good to you with the music you like. Then, on top of that, you have to get something that is comfortable, provides enough isolation for your needs, and is built well enough for your needs. Hopefully you'll be able to find something without compromising too much. I don't know if RadioShack stores have headphones out to demo or not. I think that was something they were wanting to do with their prototype stores before the bankruptcy, but I don't know if they ever implemented that at any Houston stores. Anyway, it's probably something worth checking out. I don't know what the RadioShack employees will think of the Walkman. There may still be some old timers at some stores that will enjoy seeing a product from the glory years. Well, if nothing else, you can keep the Walkman woman company at Kmart!

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    1. I am sure that the deals for space at the mall are super cheap. Maybe the leases are for next to nothing and go up every year during the term. Either way what they are doing to rebuild the mall is working.

      Kmart probably limits the blue light special like you mentioned. I wonder how many notifications on your Kmart app from the blue light special you will get before you delete the app. I am sure most of the items would probably not be of interest to most customers.

      Kmart has a decent amount of stock. The Christmas aisles this year and last year at all of the stores I visited were full. Some stores still had clearance Christmas stuff in late January.
      Some of the Kmart stores that don't have the Sears appliance and mattress section yet will probably get one to help bring more stock into the stores especially since sales are growing in those areas.

      I wish they had more pictures of that Boscov's store. That is one of the many regional department store chains I have not been to.

      The Walkman lady might be at Half Price Books or Urban Outfitters these days. Speaking of Kmart they had a bunch of clearance headphones, but I did not have my Walkman to test them. Several boxes were open so I am sure they would have let me try them out. I will let you know what headphones I eventually settle on.

      I will answer your last reply at a later time.

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  52. Part III:

    You're certainly right about the entertainment industry trying to reheat yesterday's ideas to try to squeeze some more bucks out of fans. I guess this is the perfect time for a comment like that with the new Star Wars movie getting all the attention. It's a shame, but I guess people are buying into it so they'll do what makes money. The record companies trying to sell LP albums for $25-$35+ just a few years after telling people to throw away their old LPs for CDs is flat out embarrassing, but I guess they're making money off it. Unfortunately, I've been reading that some (though certainly not all) of these $35 LPs are mastered just about as poorly as the CDs are these days. Some studios have actually improved their CD mastering in the last couple of years, but it's still inconsistent. Perhaps the companies are intentionally keeping CDs and LPs low quality now so they can try to sell the same music to the same people at high prices yet again if/when high-res downloads takes off. I guess they don't have a choice. CDs are capable of producing music that are audibly the same quality as high-res given the limitations of human hearing, but that can artificially try to create the market.

    In some ways the need to buy new electronics every year or two has been subsiding in some areas. Smartphones and tablets don't seem to be progressing as much as they used to and having the latest phone isn't as "cool" as it used to be so I think a lot of people aren't upgrading as much. Then again, T-mobile and Sprint are advertising plans with frequent phone updates so that might help to move new phones even if people aren't strongly desiring new ones.

    Intel has made some tremendous strides with their new computer processors in recent years, but even Core2 processors from 8-9 years ago are good enough for most common tasks even today so there isn't a great desire for people to buy new computers like they used to. It seems like people buy new computers now because they brought cheap laptops that fall apart quickly or because their computers get malware that slow them down. They could be cleaned off, but I guess people figure it's just easier to get new ones given the relatively low prices of computers today. The fact that Microsoft is giving away Windows 10 upgrades for free right now probably isn't helping to sell new computers either. Also, because of the free upgrades I guess, a lot of stores/manufacturers never even bothered clearing out their old Windows 7/8.1 computers and are selling them as is at regular price since people can just upgrade for free. Of course, I think stores will continue to restock Windows 7 computers for at least a while since a lot of people don't want Windows 8/8.1 and 10.

    I have not done a lot of thrifting lately, but I was at the Texas City Goodwill recently and they had a few cassette cases on the shelf. One of them was in it's box, but I'm not sure if it was new or not. Someone was looking at them so they may have brought them. I'm not sure. You could probably get the boxes for cheap on Ebay, but I'd worry that they won't be shipped right and that they'd break in transit. Plus, shipping on that might be more expensive than the product itself as you say.

    I did some test recording on my Sony CFD-S50 boombox to see if playing around with the EQ will net better recordings. I didn't put a lot of time into it, but I noticed that the high end wasn't as much of a problem as I thought it'd be. Instead, the low end bass was missing more than the treble it seemed at least with the music I was using for the test. Perhaps you may have to adjust the EQ more to get more bass as well as treble. Hopefully you'll get good results doing that if you continue to record using the Sony instead of your other cassette decks. I'll report my findings if/when I do more test recordings.

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    1. I guess the best movies and music are from the past. In the race to get products out fast, quality standards are not as stringent as in the past. I would be angry if I paid a premium for a record only to get a terrible sounding remake.

      One thing cell phone providers keeps doing is updating phones to newer operating systems which slows down performance and hurts battery life. People get fed up once the phones slow down from bloatware and upgrade. I know HTC and Samsung phones have this problem.

      I bet thrift stores are very busy these days like most retailers this time of year.

      Thanks for sharing your experiments with the Sony Boombox. I am pleased to have a decent way to listen to my music outside. Now if I can figure out how to make good recordings it will be even better.

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  53. Part I:

    You’re certainly right that the perceptions about Sears dying off isn’t helping the overall perception about Sears.‭ ‬It seems like commentators like Brian Sozzi have made a career for themselves just by predicting doom and gloom for Sears.‭ ‬ Also,‭ ‬with all the store closings,‭ ‬there may be people that just assume that all Kmarts and Sears are closing if there isn’t another store in the area that the shoppers are familiar with.‭

    I suppose that the office store merger could happen still,‭ ‬but it seems unlikely given the expected resistance from the FTC.‭ ‬We’ll see,‭ ‬but it seems like Office Depot stores are safe for now.‭ ‬The office store merger would be even worse than the Walgreens-Rite Aid merger because at least there is still CVS as a competitor in that market.‭ ‬If Staples buys Office Depot,‭ ‬there won’t be any direct competition at all especially as far as corporate contracts go.

    I do not have any retail apps on my phone.‭ ‬It’s bad enough when I get e-mails from the stores.‭ ‬Sometimes there are good deals in the e-mails,‭ ‬but a lot of times there aren’t.‭ ‬I don’t know if Sears or Kmart have apps that are worth getting,‭ ‬but I doubt I’ll be installing them anytime soon.‭ ‬If nothing else,‭ ‬I don’t want them wasting my data and battery life.‭

    Some stores seem to have Sears branded appliance and mattress departments,‭ ‬but some of them don’t.‭ ‬I wonder if Kmart will ever get the Sears branding in those departments universally.‭ ‬It would probably help show that the products Kmart are selling are quality products as I’m sure Sears has a better reputation for quality than Kmart and not everyone knows that they are the same company.‭

    I don’t think that person took any pictures of inside the Boscov’s Outlet.‭ ‬I’m not sure what their stores look like.‭ ‬It would be interesting to see what’s going on in there.‭ ‬Boscov’s was one of the last department stores to still keep appliances and electronics,‭ ‬but they eliminated those departments a year or two ago unfortunately.‭

    I recently revisited the Wal-Mart that had the issues a few weeks ago.‭ ‬Things are still as bad as they were before,‭ ‬but at least they had one of the items I was looking for in stock that they didn’t have before.‭ ‬I also looked at the Onn cassettes and they’re still selling them for‭ ‬$3.99.‭ ‬I guess they’re cheaper for cassettes now than Kmart,‭ ‬but the Kmart Maxells are of better quality so it kind of makes sense I guess.

    I also recently visited a Best Buy store for the first time in several months.‭ ‬I was a little bit disappointed in the selection of music that they had.‭ ‬I guess I’m not surprised,‭ ‬but perhaps a store like Barnes‭ & ‬Noble has more these days.‭ ‬I don’t know,‭ ‬that’s just a guess.‭ ‬I have not checked to see what B&N has,‭ ‬but maybe I will one of these days.‭ ‬Also,‭ ‬I was looking for an ink cartridge and they had the same problem that Walmart has in regards to not having the price tags corresponding to the items on the shelf.‭ ‬That was frustrating,‭ ‬but at least the cartridge I brought rang for less than what I was expecting it to be.‭ ‬I guess I’ll take that trade off,‭ ‬but I don’t know why retailers are slacking off in that regard.‭ ‬I’m sure some are better than others though.‭ ‬I really have not noticed this problem at Sears stores so at least they have that going for them.‭

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    1. Sears and Kmart stores are making small changes to improve their stores. I visited a Kmart store this past week and noticed some decent changes to the store and a small selection of the connected solutions products. They still have a long way to go, but changes are slowly happening.

      Since so many chains have consoldated over the years it will make any further consolidations difficult.

      I have read many mixed reviews on these apps, so I keep them off of my phone.

      All of the Kmart stores in the metro New Orleans area have the Sears department, even the stores that are near a Sears location. I was hoping to see all Sears and Kmart stores with crossover departments.

      Boscov's stores seem to have a vintage look, but I am not sure if all stores look that way. They have several stores at old and fading malls that I have seen on other blogs.

      I went to a Walmart that was recently renovated to their latest look. The electronics department has a central area where they have smart products displayed like in an apple store. The rest of the store has a plain black and white color scheme. For now it appears the price tags match the products. They had the Onn cassettes so they are part of the future product lines. I also visited a Target store that had a renovated electronics department with a technology bar.

      Barnes and Noble has a much larger music selection than Best Buy. They have a large vinyl selection as well. It seems like Best Buy is having problems filling store space. Even their video game sections have lots of shelves with few games. I have been to a few Best Buy stores over the past year.

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  54. Part II:

    One thing to keep in mind about headphones is that they do need to be broken in a little bit.‭ ‬Generally speaking,‭ ‬headphones will sound better after being broken in,‭ ‬but there may be some models where the opposite can happen‭ (‬I guess the definition of better depends on the listener‭)‬.‭ ‬There may be some headphones that don’t sound too much different after being broken in‭ (‬the Nakamichi headphones I have had more of a difference than the JVC ones‭)‬.‭ ‬So,‭ ‬anyway,‭ ‬it may not be the best comparison to test something right out of the box to a store demo that has been used.‭ ‬Of course,‭ ‬it’s still better than not testing them at all and you should be able to get some kind of decent idea about what they sound like.‭

    I know what you’re saying about updates that make phones/tablets less usable.‭ ‬There’s an iPad that I maintain that now has worse battery life with the newer updates than it did out of the box with the older operating systems.‭ ‬Of course,‭ ‬the updates do have new features too and better security,‭ ‬but it would be nice if those came without the drawbacks.‭ ‬Sometimes the updates have new features that can be disabled that bring back the prior performance levels,‭ ‬but not everyone knows how to disable all the features.‭

    I have a feeling that the record companies are assuming that‭ ‬many/most people are buying LPs just for show or that people will be playing them on inferior equipment so that people won’t notice the bad quality.‭ ‬They might be right about that.‭ ‬It’s a shame that many people will form‭ (‬or formed many years ago‭) ‬bad opinions about records and cassettes based on the results of bad equipment.‭

    I know I’ve read articles about cassette sales where some people buy them just to have a physical product,‭ ‬but then they download the MP3s of the music to actually listen to them‭ (‬of course,‭ ‬it would help a lot if people could buy quality cassette players these days‭)‬.‭ ‬In fact,‭ ‬Amazon will automatically let customers download MP3s of songs on a CD when they buy the CD from them on most discs.‭ ‬Sometimes people use that to listen to songs before the CD arrives,‭ ‬but I’m sure there’s people who buy the CD since it’s cheaper than buying all the tracks in an album as downloads separately and then never even open the CD.‭ ‬Maybe they then store the CD away somewhere or sell the CDs or something.

    The thrifts are usually busier when school is out of session.‭ ‬Based on that,‭ ‬I figure the thrifts will be busy here soon if they aren’t already.‭ ‬I had a good visit to a thrift recently. They had some interesting professional high grade VHS blanks that I picked up including a couple of Maxell models I've never seen and a very nice pro S-VHS Fuji cassette that comes in a plastic box like a rental tape. On top of that, they had a lot good pre-recorded audio cassettes including a couple of sealed cassettes from an singer I like. They still have their $10 price tags from Sound Warehouse on them. They also had Jean Michel Jarre's Rendez-Vous album which was made for a very famous concert he did in downtown Houston that attracted a crowd of over a million people. That concert is part of Houston lore and the tape is a must have keepsake.

    The Sony boombox does sound good given the size.‭ ‬Obviously it won’t replace a Hi-Fi system in a living room or something,‭ ‬but it’s good to take on the road.‭ ‬The frequency response of the cassette deck isn’t the best compared to some other cassette boomboxes I’ve used or a full-sized component cassette deck obviously,‭ ‬but it does not play/record with a lot of excessive noise or wow and flutter.‭ ‬I think the AM/FM tuners,‭ ‬especially the FM tuner,‭ ‬is the best part of the Sony boombox.‭ ‬I get a stronger signal on that than I do with just about any other radio that I have including my expensive‭ ‬1970s and‭ ‬1990s Hi-Fi stereo receivers.‭ ‬

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    1. Hopefully I can find a few more places to test out headphones before making my decision. Getting a pair of used headphones would be a good way to see how they hold up.

      Every update I get on my phone requires me to find out which apps need to be shut off. Performance always gets worse after updates.

      I guess the best way to get music would be to download songs one by one. Then you would never find the hidden gems you get by listening to the whole album. I did not know about the deal that Amazon has with CD's. It is sad that music companies are wasting an opportunity to boost physical music sales by putting out cheap recordings for a high price. There are only so many people out there who are collecting the records. They will need to get the passive music listeners to buy and collect vintage music or the fad will go away again.

      I am tapped out financially for a while so I will probably avoid thrifts for some time. Those are some good thrift store finds.

      For $40 or less the Boombox is a good buy. I will probably experiment more before I write off the recorder. Maybe I will broadcast the mp3 over the radio using an FM transmitter to see if the recording is better.

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  55. Part I:

    It's good to hear about the updates at Kmart stores. I have seen some promising things in photos I've seen too, but it's good to hear some positive reports from someone who has visited actual stores recently. Hopefully the Kmart and Sears stores that survive this period will get some money invested into them.

    I was recently at the Willowbrook Mall Sears and the electronics department there still does not have as much of the Connected Solutions stuff as some other stores I've seen in person or in photos. It's a bit odd, but the Willowbrook store seems to have more "traditional" electronics than other Sears. Perhaps that stuff is more profitable at the Willowbrook store. It's hard to say why some Sears (and probably Kmart too) stores have pretty different products in their electronics departments even given similar sizes and demographics. I wonder how the Kmart Connected Solutions departments differ from the Sears ones.

    Speaking of Willowbrook Mall, I was there recently and it looks like they have even more of the food court area blocked off than they did before. Maybe I am wrong about that though. It seems like an odd thing to do during the holiday period. It was dark outside so I didn't get to see much, but maybe they're building a new wing off/near the food court that will contain the Dick's Sporting Goods. I'll try to keep an eye on the situation, but it's quite odd. Hopefully the mall can expand without it costing the mall all or part of the Sears store.

    Back to Kmart/Sears for a moment, I'm not so sure if there would be much benefit to having Kmart departments in Sears stores, but I can certainly see a benefit to the opposite. Hopefully Kmart will improve the appearance of the mattress/appliance departments by adding Sears signage. It'll certainly help to move more white goods than the Walkman woman and her band of 1990s tech friends I dare to say.

    Boscov's seems like an interesting department store. They're probably the closest thing to an upscale Sears as there is these days. Plus, neon still lives on at some of their stores. They even have toy departments. I know you say some Sears still have seasonal toy departments (or at least they did in recent times), but it's not something I've seen for many years at Sears stores. Here's some more lighting oddities at Boscov's that have gone away at most department stores.

    I don't think I've seen an updated Walmart electronics department, but I have seen the Target ones at some stores. It's an interesting trend in electronics stores. I don't know if it'll work, but at least they're trying something I guess. I know Target and Wal-Mart are trying to push cell phone plans and stuff now so maybe they need room for that and something that will make the experience similar to what one would get at a cell phone provider dealer like Sprint RadioShacks and/or an Apple/Microsoft Store. It's good to hear that the Onn cassettes are living "onn" as time goes by.

    Thanks for the information about Barnes & Noble. I looked at their website and it seems like the two stores near me do not have expanded vinyl departments. Still, I'm sure they have a decent amount of CDs and records. I will have to check it out one of these days.

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    1. Thankfully it seems like the Sears stores at Willowbrook, Baybrook, and hopefully Deerbrook will not be candidates for store changes anytime soon. The only store I can see as a possibility at the Deerbrook Sears is H&M.

      I am still surprised that the Lufkin Kmart remains open. It is right across the street from a Sears at the mall. Target and a Walmart Supercenter are also within a mile of the store. The store is at a prime location at one of the busiest intersections in the area, but there is so much competition in the area with many of the major big box chains right there.

      The Boscov's stores are indeed very retro and hopefully I will be able to visit one that is untouched. We have lost several retro stores here recently including the downtown and galleria Macy's stores with retro 70's and 80's features. At least Sears still has two older stores that have many of the retro features, but the neon and mirrored ceilings is hard to find in department stores these days.

      The Walmart I went to in Livingston was actually shut down for several months to fix underground plumbing issues. There are several conspiracy theories surrounding the closure, but the store looks brand new on the inside now.

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  56. Part II:

    It's a shame that the music and gaming sections at Best Buy stores are seemingly shrinking (and perhaps video too). I would have figured that Best Buy would have been my go-to place for music (aside from Fry's of course), but I guess B&N might be the place now. It seems like Best Buy has been playing around with store-within-a-stores and their premium Pacific and Magnolia departments that the other stuff has kind of fallen through the cracks. I really don't like the layout of their current stores either. It's hard to find things and there really isn't a logical flow to the stores.

    I'd be interested to hear your opinions about the headphones you've been trying out. I wouldn't trust user reviews about sound quality, but they might provide helpful information about comfort and durability. Of course, everyone has different shaped heads and some people are more careful than others so they still might not be totally helpful, but I think that stuff is less subjective than sound quality reviews.

    Speaking of headphone reviews, I have not been watching vintage retail commercials as much as I used to in past years (especially around this time of the year), but I did find this 1984 Sears commercial that I did not see online before. The part with the guy testing headphones on a brand new Panasonic/Technics built Sears Proformance CD player (that was the first year that CD players were out) and being amazed is very interesting to see. You can also tell that CD players were brand new at that time because they didn't even know what to call it. They called it LaserDisc, which had already been out for a few years by then and was probably better known than the Compact Disc name, but obviously it's a totally different thing. Granted, I guess CDs are a laser-read disc so maybe the name works in that sense. Anyway, I wonder how many people got their first taste of digital music at Sears or Montgomery Ward and were amazed by it. I know that commercials over-hype things sometimes, but I bet a lot of people really did have that reaction when hearing CDs for the first time especially if they were used to hearing lower end turntables and cassette decks.

    I doubt the FM transmitter will improve things, but it's worth a shot. I'd be interested to know how that works out. You could also try burning your MP3s to a CD-R or CD-RW and then recording to tape off the built-in CD player. The CFD-S50 supports MP3 discs so you can just burn the MP3s to a disc directly and play them back, but you could also convert it to a regular CD music disc. Another option that might work well is to hook up your computer to the line-in jack on the boombox. You can then use any number of free media players with equalization settings to adjust the music and then play it while you record to tape (many modern computers have equalization settings on the sound card driver that could be adjusted even without a special program, but I prefer using it in a program). Some computer sound cards don't have the best quality due to electrical noise from the computer and such, but I know my desktop for example has pretty clean sound out of the line out jack. It'll probably be an upgrade over a phone either way.

    I try to have as few programs running on my phone as possible. In fact, I really don't have a lot of programs installed on my phone aside from some of the stock Google apps (many of which I could uninstall since I don't use them), a browser I like, a couple of media players, and a calculator program. I'm pretty lucky in that phone didn't come with a lot of garbage pre-installed. I also try to turn off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and even data when I'm at home or work since I'll never browse the web on my phone since I'm always near a PC at those locations. My battery life is pretty good as a result. Of course, I also try to close programs out frequently.

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    1. Best Buy is focusing on smart technology now more than ever and becoming less of a one stop shop for electronics.

      The commercial for Sears was comical especially the suit department. It is amazing how much things have changed since those days.

      I still have some CD's so I will experiment with those on the boombox as well. I have made some good recordings on my other tape deck with the transmitter so hopefully it will work on the boombox as well.

      I will probably stay on the same generation phone that I have for a while unless it breaks. I don't like the changes that newer phones have such as no SD slots and batteries that are difficult to remove. Eventually my phone will be obsolete but for now it is great.

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  57. Part III:

    I recently read an article about Adele's new album and how she got a lot of people to buy CDs of her album by not releasing any of her songs to streaming services (or most of them at least) except for one song. I'm not an Adele fan and I've heard some people say that the mastering on the CD was not done well unfortunately (though that shouldn't be a surprise) so it's not something that I care about, but I guess popular artists can still get people to buy CDs if they want to (I think it's on LP too). Maybe they'll "fix" the mastering in 3-4 years and then issue a remaster to try to get people to buy the same CD again. Sometimes you have to think that they do this intentionally for stuff like that.

    But, yeah, it's probably cheaper to buy single tracks online rather than buy a whole album either through downloads or via CD. Then again, most downloads are still lower quality than CDs. Plus, the prices of CDs have come down so much lately, even for most popular new releases, that it might make more sense to buy the CD not even counting the quality discussion if one wants more than two or three songs on an album. Of course, as you say, getting the album can unearth some gems. Then again, there's a lot of garbage filler material on a lot of albums as well so it goes both ways. I'm kind of partial to good compilation albums, whether they be with a single artist or with different artists within a genre, as a way of collecting music and finding gems that I have not heard before or have forgotten about.

    I did some more thrifting and found some more interesting odds and ends. I found a couple of TDK CD Bass 120 minute cassettes. I have a few of these, as well as their Type II TDK CD Power siblings, but I have not used them yet. Typically 120 minute tapes aren't the best quality and they can jam easily in some decks, but they can be useful for some mixes. Another interesting find is a 1997 Toshiba demo DVD that was intended to be an in-store demo disc that was to be played by stores. I guess it was designed to inform people about DVD as Toshiba was one of the creators of the format. I'm not sure how it ended up at a thrift, but it has demo clips showing what DVD can do. It also has some technical information and some diagnostic patterns. It's kind of a neat souvenir from the earliest days of DVDs. I wonder what store used this DVD as a demo in 1997 and how it ended up at a thrift almost 20 years later.

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    1. They have that Adele CD on displays at most of the big box discounters these days. I wondered what the fuss was about the release of the album. It is a rare sight these days to see such a heavily promoted album.

      I would rather get a whole album and be the judge of the tracks. There are so many artists out there that unfortunately have one popular song that sounds different that the rest of the album. Sometimes that works out favorably and other times it winds up not being good. Collective Soul is one band that comes to mind as having two good songs and the rest of the album is terrible.

      Did the demo DVD also have a loop of the Michael McDonald Ain't no Mountain high enough like in the 40 year old virgin movie? That is what I always seem to think of when I think of one of the DVD demo disks.

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  58. Part IV:

    It seems like I've been finding a lot of audio equipment in the thrifts during my less frequent visits recently so there is certainly some stuff out there. I brought a pretty basic passive KLH subwoofer at a thrift that I paid $5 for. I've been looking for a subwoofer for my Design Acoustics PS-3 bookshelf speakers and I figured it was worth a try for $5 even though the sub is pretty beat up looking. The subwoofer originally sold with a pretty cheap surround speaker set in the early 2000s. Anyway, I went to RadioShack and got some speaker wire so I could hook everything up and I tried it with both my 1970s Pioneer and 1990s Kenwood receivers. Even though it's basic, it sounds pretty good especially with the Kenwood receiver. The Pioneer tends to over-emphasize the lows compared to the Kenwood, even with loudness turned off, which makes the bass coming out of the subwoofer sound excessively bloated and less detailed. Perhaps it was designed that way to compensate for the lower quality of speakers in the 1970s, I don't know, but it worked quite well on the Kenwood. The Design Acoustic speakers are really good and probably deserve a better sub than this, but I think it'll work for now.

    Here's a short note about my RadioShack visit. It was my first visit to a store with a dedicated spot for Sprint. This particular store has been in it's shopping center for probably at least 25 years so it's pretty big, but I have not visited it in about 12 years so it's hard for me to say what changes have been made recently. The store has one really big and narrow aisle in the back with the parts and stuff instead of the three small aisles typically seen in similar era RadioShacks, but it may end up being the same space either way. Anyway, the store was pretty well stocked and the wire I brought has a November 2015 date code on it so they're obviously getting new stock of traditional RadioShack stuff which is a good sign. They still have a pretty good selection of speaker wire if nothing else.

    I did also see a couple of interesting Technics cassette decks in the thrifts that are both higher end siblings to the two Technics cassette decks I already have. One was a mid-1990s RS-TR575 dual cassette deck that adds recording in both wells and auto calibration to the RS-TR373 that I have. I was interested in it because of the auto calibration, but I passed on it because they wanted $20 for it and they didn't have any tapes to test it on. The 373 is okay sounding, but it's not really near the better decks in my collection and the build quality on it isn't the best. I'm not really sure if the 575 upgraded any of that. I would have brought it if it had Dolby S and/or dbx, but it didn't have either. The other deck I found is a RS-M224 from ~1983 that is a higher model to the RS-M205 that I have. It's an interesting looking deck in a good way IMO and the M205 (which is more plain looking) I have is one of the best sounding decks (at least on playback) that I have even though it's one of the most basic and cheaper ones, but they wanted a whopping $25 for it and it really only adds Dolby C compared to my M205 which isn't really something I desire. Anyway, I probably would have brought both of those if they were cheaper, but that's the way it goes I guess. I hope the high prices aren't signaling a trend that cassette decks will be more expensive in the thrifts, but it might just be a coincidence.

    Anyway, I also saw two or three JVC 1990s era A-V receivers too during my recent thrift visits and maybe another one from a different brand (maybe Sony). I think I've seen more 1990s era receivers lately than I used to even though the pricing is about the same as before. Again, that may just be a coincidence.

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    1. It sounds like the thrifts are starting to fill up again with audio equipment. I wonder if this is the time of year that they have a hard time selling electronics since many people buy new stuff for Christmas. I would not be surprised if around $20 becomes the normal price for audio decks at the thrift stores.

      That setup sounds similar to the Houston Center Radio Shack store. They just have an open floor plan with small shelving aisles in the store.

      On a different note, I have visited Micro Center a few more times since finally making it down there earlier this year. They have some really good prices and sales on SD cards, batteries, and other items. I keep forgetting to check out their headphones though since I have needed some computer parts from them lately. Their prices on sale items beats nearly every other retailer for the same items.

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  59. Part I:

    I made another trip to the Willowbrook Mall Sears, this time during the day, and I saw a little bit more of what is going on near the food court. There is certainly something going on there, but I can't tell yet for sure that it is an expansion of the area for Dick's Sporting Goods. I certainly hope that is the plan and that the Sears will be left alone. The Sears store was quite busy during my visit as you could imagine at this time of the year. It's always interesting to see a Sears store kind of buzzing like that.

    The Baybrook Mall Sears seems safe for now given the new expansion area of the mall, but it is part of the new Seritage REIT so it could always be downsized. Speaking of Baybrook, I have not been to the new outdoor wing yet (now is certainly not the time to go there), but I heard a review from someone who went there and they were very impressed by it. They think it's a lot better than the design of the Tanger Outlet outdoor mall in Texas City and has a bit of an indoor feel to it. I don't know if/when I'll go down there to see it, but it might be on my list of things to do. I'd like to check out San Jacinto Mall too in case it is indeed torn down/closed/redeveloped, but that may have to wait for a while if it ever happens.

    I don't know if Deerbrook Mall is on H&M's radar, but hopefully the Sears will be okay there. Deerbrook Mall is in kind of an odd position where it would not be a surprise if a top notch retailer wanted in there, but it also wouldn't be a surprise if they pass on the mall. Maybe the opening of Dick's Sporting Goods will lead to a domino effect of other retailers wanting in. We'll see, but maybe they can carve out a new wing there like what might be happening at Willowbrook Mall.

    I believe the Memorial City Mall Sears is also in the REIT. It wouldn't surprise me at all if that store is downsized and subdivided, but that store at least has some space to spare since it's one of the bigger Sears in the area.

    The North Shepherd Sears is certainly a retro store, but it really does not look all that retro inside. There are some retro features inside for sure, but they're more like smaller details. Obviously the most retro feature there is the road sign. The Main St. Sears is certainly retro in almost every way. I drove by it on 59 a few weeks ago and they actually had the neon sign on at night past closing time. Well, kind of. The side facing the SB lanes was almost completely burned out. The other side was in better shape. There really aren't other fancy retro touches at that Sears though aside from the roof sign like a Boscov's would have.

    Some of the remaining Texas Kmarts are real head scratchers. The Lufkin Kmart is one of them for the reasons you listed. It's not like it's in an area away from competitors like some of the other Texas Kmarts and it's next to a Sears. There are some South Texas Kmarts with the same situation. I can only assume that those stores are profitable though or else they would have closed a long time ago. I'm not sure what would make Lufkin more loyal to Kmart though than other Texas areas.

    I've heard about some of these Wal-Marts that mysteriously closed due to "plumbing problems." There are some government conspiracies about them, but if there is a conspiracy, the most probable one is that some of these stores had issues with employees unionizing or something. Maybe these stores really did have massive plumbing problems, who knows. I've been wanting to go to one of these newer Houston area Walmarts (like the one near Telephone Rd. or the newer one on 249 and West Rd.) to see what a newer store looks like, but I have not been able to do that yet.

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    1. Sears stores had surprisingly late hours this year during the final weeks of the Christmas shopping season. It was nice being able to visit a Kmart store that normally closes at 9 pm at 10:30 pm.

      Thanks for the updates on Baybrook and Willowbrook. Baybrook Mall is always busy, and I am sure it is a big hassle to go there this time of year. It sounds like Baybrook will not let the Tanger Outlets take any business away. The fact that the Tanger Outlets did not expand as originally planned does not look good for the future of the property.

      The only place where Deerbrook could possibly expand would be the entrance near Barnes and Noble. This is the biggest piece of property left that can fit another retailer. Speaking of Deerbrook they had a hoverboard or whatever they are called fire yesterday in the middle of the mall that made national news. I would not be surprised if these are banned from sale in the near future.

      Many of the older Sears stores have had their retro features covered up or removed like the old escalators.

      I know the Lufkin area is the main shopping district for several miles. Nacogdoches which has a similar population does not have Kmart, Target, Best Buy, or a decent mall to shop at like Lufkin. I know Nacogdoches is more of a college town/historic district than Lufkin but the difference in retail is huge.

      The new design is very plain in comparision to the 2010 era remodels that are in most stores. I don't know if the design is an experiment or if that will be the next remodel package for Walmart.

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  60. Part II:

    I did get a chance to visit Northwest Mall recently. There really aren't a lot of changes to note. The biggest thing is that the Labor Day Sale at the NW Mall Macy's has finally ended. The mall put up one of their posters over that sign. Also, the children's clothing store that opened up near the food court closed down, but the Posh children's event center has opened up a 2nd center in that spot. I guess that Posh thing is doing well if they've expanded within the mall already.

    I have not been to the new Micro Center yet. What do you think about the location and the design of the store? Micro Center is for a remarkable store in terms of pricing and selection. Their prices are often better than even the biggest online computer part stores. I'm not sure how they do it given that they have some pretty high dollar locations, but I guess their business model works. Fry's used to be somewhat competitive with them, but now even Fry's can't touch them. I read some computer websites and the user comments on them show that a lot of people who don't have a Micro Center in town are very jealous of those who do. I don't know about now, but their service used to be better than most other electronics stores too which is remarkable given their low prices.

    That was a funny and memorable commercial. The suit departments at Sears are long gone for sure. They have some suit separates, but that's it. Heck, even the fishing departments are gone unless they still exist at some stores. I guess we're lucky to still have at least a little bit of an electronics department. That guy would be quite a hipster model if he still had that Harris Tweed jacket, those Cons shoes, and those headphones. But, anyway, even if those departments are gone or much downsized, at least Sears is one of the few places a guy can shop at in the mall.

    I guess I've lost some interest in watching old commercials this year compared to the last few years, but seeing that Sears ad has rekindled some interest in looking up old commercials. I guess those "There's more for your life at Sears" ads will do that to you. I'm sure I'll find some other new interesting ones this year if I look. I did record some stuff off TV recently to a VHS cassette to make a "TV time capsule" if nothing else.

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    1. I wonder if the blog had something to do with the mall management replacing the Labor Day sale signs. It is going to be difficult for Northwest to gain any new stores until the plans for the property are revealed.

      The Micro Center location is a big hassle to get to. The road construction is finished but they put up a concrete curb that makes it nearly impossible to turn left into the driveway. Maybe there is a better way to get there from Westpark, but I don't know. The prices are great though and they have a full electronics selection including TV's and Video games.

      Watching the commercials of the past will be even better in another 20 years as the gap in technology from now to then increases. In 20 years CD's and DVD's will probably be forgotten with Blu-Ray in the bargain bins. With 5g and faster internet speeds coming soon people will probably mostly ditch physical movies.

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  61. Part III:

    I don't think there is any Michael McDonald on the DVD, but there's a lot of cheesy stuff on here even by 1990s standards. The DVD is made in Japan and the videos on there must have been directed by the Japanese too because clearly they didn't quite understand everything that was going on here at the time. The DVD must not be from Circuit City because it does not have any laughable DIVX reference on it, but I don't think Toshiba made DIVX DVD players anyway. They must have known a loser when they saw one.

    I'm not sure if I should be admitting this, but I actually have some Collective Soul songs on some of my mixtapes that I've made in the last year or so. I think they have more than a couple of memorable songs, but they may have come out on multiple albums. There's certainly a lot of filler songs on albums today. I think people who buy/brought CDs expected at least 60-80 minutes of music on their CDs since it could hold that much, which is a lot more than most records had, and so artists had to come up with a lot of garbage to put on the discs. Heck, there were a lot of filler songs on LPs even back in the day. I've seen some albums that had at least 3 or 4 remixes of one song on them. You might expect something like that on a single, but it's just filler when it's on an album.

    I agree that it's very disappointing that Samsung and some other manufacturers have taken some popular features out of their latest phones. Most of these new phones don't have useful upgrades over older phones, even ones older than yours, so it makes sense to hang on to what you have until it stops operating well or until useful new features come out. Even then, I'd still look for a phone that has a removable battery and especially an SD card slot. My phone isn't fancy, but at least it has that stuff. I can't imagine buying a smartphone that doesn't have that stuff.

    You might be right in saying that this is a hard time for thrifts to move electronics. Usually those receivers fly off the shelves, but maybe people are getting good deals on new ones so they aren't buying the old ones as fast. It's hard to say. I'd imagine that VCRs sell pretty well at this time of the year as people have time to watch old movies and they may also want to watch old home videos and stuff like that. I've seen some VCRs in the thrifts on my recent visits, but it's not like they are as plentiful as I sometimes see them. Anyway, I hope that the cassette deck prices aren't spiking, but I would not be surprised either. If they do, hopefully people will be less quick to buy them and maybe I'll have a better chance of getting something good since I'm not really visiting the thrifts as often as I used to so my chance of "hitting the cassette deck" lottery isn't as good as it used to be.

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    1. Most of those demo videos have some good laughs. Divx was the beginning of the end for Circuit City, sadly we will never see these stores pop up again like the Comp USA stores that came back briefly.

      That is probably why I sent that tape back for donations. Way too much filler for what I was expecting. I may not have any time to experiment with recordings for a couple of months, my busy season at work is approaching. I will probably go several days without checking up on the blog and retail news, so I apologize in advance for any delays in responses.

      Samsung has at least admitted their mistake with the S6 phones and they will bring back the removable battery/sd card with the S7.

      There are a few thrifts that price electronics much higher than they should be and don't offer to let you return those items if they are defective. I hope that once I am back at thrifting that I can find what I am looking for at a decent price.

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  62. Part I:

    It was nice to see Sears extend their hours for the holidays. I know that it helped me at least once to be able to shop late for gifts after getting off work late. I think Sears, at least some stores, stayed open late last year too, but maybe they didn't start the holiday hours as early as they did this year. Hopefully it's something they'll do next year too.

    I recently did some comparison shopping on a couple of products (one houseware, one clothing accessory) at Sears, JCPenney, and Kohl's. In both instances, Sears was the cheapest of the three on the same products with Kohl's being the most expensive on both. I didn't factor in coupons, but all three stores have coupons so I think Sears still would have been the cheapest or at least not more expensive. Given that, it's a little confusing to see why Sears is perceived to be more expensive than Kohl's.

    I heard about the fire at Deerbrook Mall. It was interesting to see Deerbrook in the headlines. I think there was a restaurant fire around this time last year there (or maybe that was in 2013, it's hard to keep track). Anyway, some retailers have stopped selling those scooters (I can't really call them hoverboards since they don't hover) so I wouldn't be surprised if malls start banning the sales of them. There was an incident at Willowbrook Mall earlier this year where the cops had to taze someone (or something like that) who didn't stop riding those scooters after they were told to stop.

    I read the article about Tanger selling off the expansion land they had around the Texas City outlets. You're right, that's probably not a good sign for how business is going down there. Then again, maybe they got a good deal on the sale. Of course, it's hardly shocking to see the mall struggle if that is indeed what is happening. I guess Tanger felt that the fifth time was the charm after seeing four other Galveston County malls struggle/go out of business.

    Based on what I've heard, it sounds like Baybrook Mall has done enough to keep their crown as the destination shopping spot on the SE side. There's a lot of road construction still going on around there that is making access more difficult, but the new stuff might be just enough to keep the crowds coming in during the construction. Of course, Almeda Mall is still doing some renovations too so it's good to see them keep trying to keep/gain shoppers. I'll try to make it over there one of these days to see if they've made any other interior renovations since my last visit towards the end of the summer.

    I made a mistake about the Northwest Mall Macy's sign. It wasn't for Labor Day, it was for President's Day. Oh well, close enough I guess. Perhaps someone read your blog and decided that they needed to cover up that sign. You never know. They should have known to do that years ago, but maybe Macy's didn't want their store touched or something. It's hard to say. 290 construction around the Mangum/Dacoma exit is pretty serious right now with the feeder roads and the on/exit ramps around there closed frequently for construction. Hopefully that will be over with soon and things will return to normal for that area, but then there is the whole issue with Hempstead Highway. Hopefully there will be some answers for NW Mall soon. At least it's still hanging in there after all that has happened in the last few years especially with the construction.

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    1. My schedule this year worked out better for me to visit the stores right before Christmas. I went to a few stores last year, but I did not take advantage of late hours.

      It does not surprise me that Sears is cheaper on many items. I had an excellent coupon that I used for $20 off of a $50 purchase of any items including clearance. I had a very limited amount of time to use it, but I am glad that I caught it.

      With certain area malls remaining popular with shoppers it is no surprise that incidents continue to happen. The two wheel segways should be banned until they can correct the battery problems. The one that caught fire at Deerbrook was not even being used, it was still in a box. I have walked by that same kiosk several times and now I will be more cautious if I see one of those for sale.

      The development has been slow to show up near the outlets unlike the 290 premium outlets area. People from that area