Thursday, February 18, 2016

Updates and extra images

Here are some mini-updates and extras for my readers until the next full post comes out. Some of these images were taken with the intent of creating a full article and others are not sufficient for a full blog post. 

Alexandria Mall 2015 extra images.

A much better photo of the Sears entrance.
A couple of empty store fronts near Sears.

Spring Deauville Mall 2015 mini-update.

The former Designer Depot and mall corridor have been renovated and reopened as the Spring Reception Hall. Check out the site for the new business here, they really improved the inside of the former mall. There is still one untouched corridor of the mall next to the Ace Mart that you can see through the glass doors. 
Fiesta Parker Rd and I-69 2013 extra images.

Here are a few close ups of the signage to the store. Classic neon and chasing lights still going strong after all of these years. 

K&B/Rite Aid Lake Charles 2015 extra images.

If the deal to purchase Rite Aid closes, this store will be remodeled or closed. 
Check out the items listed on the aisle marker, you can actually find nearly everything on the sign including video tapes and audio tapes.
Pasadena Town Square Mall 2015 mini update.

The mall is still struggling to fill spaces and has lost several stores over the past two years. Some of the businesses taking spaces are only open limited hours. 
The former Dillard's is now being used by a company named Ventech.
The updated mall directory with Ventech and the newer Sears logo.
A photo of the food court entrance with the retro sign and lights.
Pierre Bossier Mall 2015 extra image.

The huge Sears entrance really stands out at this end of the mall.
PlazAmericas Mall 2015 extra images.

The Houston Trade Center development
Foley's labelscar starting to show. 
Hollywood Video Deer Park 2015.

This might be the last location in the Houston area with the signage still in place.
Northshore Square Mall 2015 mini update.

Big changes are in store for Northshore Square Mall. The mall will be torn down with only the former Sears, JCPenney, and Dillard's clearance store remaining. A new big box center will be built roughly where the mall currently stands.

This Dillard's closed shortly after this photo was taken. The other Dillard's store at the mall was downgraded to a clearance store after a new Dillard's store opened a few miles away.
The former Sears anchor.

Sears, the food court entrance, and Burlington.
Burlington
Southland Mall 2014 extra images.

An intact K&B storefront inside of a mall. Very few large drugstores remain in malls these days.
The K&B shades of purple are still on display after all of these years.
 Southpark Mall 2015 mini update.

More renovations have occurred since my last visit. The former Montgomery Ward entrance is now covered up.
The JCPenney court.
The Stage labelscar shows at an angle.
Looking towards the former Dillard's.
From Stage to the JCPenney court.
The former JCPenney entrance. As you can see from this photo the ceilings have been renovated and look much better, new paint and new ceiling tiles all across the mall.
Looking towards the exit near JCPenney.
University Mall 2015 extra photos.

One of the few remaining Peanut Shack stores in operation. These stores were at many major malls in the 1960's-1980's.
A view of the center court, an antique shop opened in the former Beall's anchor.
Greenspoint Mall 2014 mini update.

The mall has not changed much, roughly the same amount of stores are open in the mall with the exception of the food court. Tilt, Wendy's and a few other food outlets closed over the past two years.
The Dillard's corridor looking towards the food court.
Former Electronics Boutique.
The Macy's corridor.
Buckets for the rain.
The front of Macy's.
More buckets.


The former Sears wing. now mostly closed off to the public.
Dillard's wing.
Food court.
Greenspoint Montgomery Ward 2014.
Peeking through the glass windows, we can see that the store is still in decent condition.






194 comments:

  1. Thanks for the updates. These are some very interesting photos. Although Montgomery Ward had a reputation for retro looking stores, the pictures of the interior of the Greenspoint Mall store shows an interior that still looks pretty modern even though it's been about 20 years since those stores were renovated and even though the store has been abandoned mostly for most of those 20 years. Anyway, it's good to see that the store is still in good shape. It may actually be in better shape than the mall itself. We'll see if that Greenspoint stuff on Wikipedia is accurate. If so, the building may actually see new life.

    As for Greenspoint Mall itself, I visited the mall sometime last year. The mall seemed to be doing decent business all things considered. I don't remember anything specific about my visit other than the sad state of the flooring (amongst other things), but at least the mall had decent traffic.

    It's interesting to see the updated mall directory at Pasadena Town Square with the current Sears logo. Sears may be the highest performing anchor at that mall so I guess it makes sense to give them some attention. Of course, that is the newest Sears in the Houston area and one of the best looking ones. Perhaps the mall itself will see more tenants if San Jacinto Mall is redeveloped as planned. Maybe not, but we'll see. It may end up being the last remaining 1980s looking mall with the possible redevelopment of San Jacinto Mall and the recent renovations at Almeda Mall.

    I'm not familiar with the shopping center that ex-Hollywood Video is in at Deer Park, but it is clearly a former Safeway building. Anyway, it's interesting to see the Hollywood Video name still up somewhere. Oddly enough, I don't think I ever went to a Hollywood Video when they were in business.

    It's pretty amazing to see that Peanut Shack here in this decade. I wonder if it's still open. Anyway, there's a lot of real throwbacks with that store including the wood paneling and the Coca-Cola menu board. That whole mall has a very retro feel though.

    The Lake Charles Rite Aid photos are very interesting. That store is certainly a real throwback and, as you say, will probably be renovated or closed if/when Walgreens completes their merger with Rite Aid. It's great to still see Video & Audio tapes on sign boards (I think I also saw this at a local CVS recently too) and some tapes on the rack.

    I'm a little surprised that Sears decided to tile that whole wall, but I guess that was during better times for the chain. The white tile facade isn't the fanciest looking thing, but at least it is a pretty consistent look across malls. I kind of preferred the type of facade the Mall of Mainland mall entrance had/has, but it still looks okay I guess.

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    1. I was surprised at how good the Wards store has been kept up. The flea market in Pasadena that was a Wards store is in worse shape than this store.

      Greenspoint is stable but without major improvements to the property the building will become unsafe.

      It has actually already been almost a year since visiting Pasadena Town Square, I wonder how things are now.

      There is another former Hollywood Video near Gulfgate that is a beauty supply place I think that actually uses the Hollywood part of the sign as part of the business name. Some of the Movie Exchange stores are former Hollywood Video stores that still have the same interior paint, signage, and shelving units from Hollywood.
      I did not stop to peek inside but it is probably still mostlyiI was surprised at how good the Wards store has been kept up. The flea market in Pasadena that was a Wards store is in worse shape than this store.

      Greenspoint is stable but without major improvements to the property the building will become unsafe.

      It has actually already been almost a year since visiting Pasadena Town Square, I wonder how things are now.

      There is another former Hollywood Video near Gulfgate that is a beauty supply place I think that actually uses the Hollywood part of the sign as part of the business name.

      The Peanut Shack was still in business over the Summer. It definitely stands out especially with an original wood paneled store front.

      The Rite Aid in Lake Charles hardly has any business from my experiences there. It will probably not survive if Walgreens takes over.

      I guess Sears wanted to match the other department stores at the mall. The Sears in Port Arthur has a very similar entrance.

      In other news Sports Authority is close to bankruptcy and will close all Texas stores. We have talked about the fierce sporting goods retail battles with Dick's entering the market. For a short while Academy will have the market mostly to themselves.

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  2. Is the H-E-B in Deer Park (next to the former Hollywood Video) a former Safeway?

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    1. It could be, it is hard to tell it has been so long since I saw one.

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    2. I can’t say for sure what that building used to be, but it clearly looks like it used to be a Safeway. There are several ex-Safeways in Houston that still retain the Safeway look on the outside. They’re pretty recognizable with the pebble stone walls and the Spanish tile type facade.

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    3. yes it was a safeway. It looks like the Bellaire and Gessner location

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  3. I went to the Pasadena Town Square last sometime last year. It was probably in the late spring or the early summer, but I don't remember for sure. Anyway, I found an article indicating that the mall was sold some months back to Guardian Equity. Guardian has done some renovations to the exterior according to the article and they say they are going to do some things inside as well. I'm not sure if that means a full renovation like Almeda Mall or just some small refreshing. It might be worth checking out the mall again soon to see the changes. Hopefully the new owners will do a better job than Triyar did. We'll also have to see if the mall remains a real retro 1980s spot.

    It's also interesting that Triyar has sold off two malls recently. It looks like they are trying to sell Greenspoint Mall too which is interesting. We'll have to see what comes out of that. That link also indicates that Brazos Mall has been sold recently as well. I guess we've missed out on a lot of news.

    I did not know about The Sports Authority’s troubles, but I’m not at all surprised to hear about it. Dick’s Sporting Goods is doing well as far as I can tell and Academy is continuing their slow expansion outside their typical base. Perhaps Dick’s and Academy will increase the speed of their expansion if The Sports Authority closes some/all stores.

    I have not seen the beauty store near Gulfgate that you are talking about, but I may have to keep an eye on it. It’s certainly interesting when a store uses the previous tenant’s logos and interiors. Food Town, for example, kept Food Lion’s interior at the Jones and West store. The traces of Food Lion signage was finally painted over a couple years ago. The Krispy Krunchy chicken and tacos store at the Almeda Mall food court also reused part of the old Taco Bell signage that used to be at the mall.

    I was at a local dollar store a month or two back and I noticed that they had some Rite Aid branded products in the store. That was interesting to see. Maybe I should have brought a bag of Rite Aid cotton balls or something as a souvenir in case the name goes away with the merger. Of course, it wouldn’t really be much of a souvenir as far as I’m concerned because I’ve never actually shopped at a Rite Aid.

    I’ve seen other Sears stores that have the white tiles all the way up to the top, but it still kind of surprises me that they spent the money to do all of that even if those were better days for Sears. Perhaps they did that to be in compliance with the mall’s guidelines or something as you say. I did come across a picture of another mall that has a full wall white tile Sears mall entrance. This one is at the Valley Mall in Maryland. What’s interesting is that the store used to be a Montgomery Ward and someone posted a picture of the entrance as both a Wards and as Sears. Sears did a good job converting that to make it look like any other Sears.

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    1. I really missed out on that news, Pasadena Town Square seems to only get coverage in the Pasadena paper for some reason. We will see how the transition goes, as recently as 5 years ago the mall was in much better shape. The Brazos Mall as of last Spring was nearly full and doing much better than my visit about a year before.

      Greenspoint is going to be a tough mall to sell, but I also thought the same of Northwest and that mall sold rather quickly. Speaking of Northwest I had a chance to visit this past week. The GNC closed and a couple of businesses opened near the Southwest exit of the mall.

      The Sports Authority is in a very bad position right now. Hopefully the company can survive but it sounds a lot like the Circuit City bankruptcy.

      I am sure there are a lot of businesses that recycle signage for their logos. It is funny when they try to match different types of fonts to complete their logo.

      I will have to see if the Rite Aid/Walgreens merger happens. If so I expect to see a lot of Louisiana Rite Aid stores closing. Rite Aid only renovated or replaced about half of the K&B stores they acquired. Even some of their replacement stores are in bad shape with old fading signage and a dingy feel.

      The Sears in Port Arthur has nearly the same storefront as the one at Pierre Bossier Mall in the picture. Check out the Central Mall article http://southernretail.blogspot.com/2011/05/central-mall-port-arthur-texas.html

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  4. Part I:

    I'm going to combine my replies from the RadioShack post and this post here since the RadioShack post is getting close to the 200 reply limit.

    Kmart does seem to be pushing for more younger shoppers with their famed TV ads from the last couple of years and some of the new store signage that they've put up. I guess everyone wants to get younger shoppers, but it probably makes even more sense for Sears and Kmart to do that since they're more aggressive about moving their shoppers from in-store shopping to online shopping.

    According to this article, the closeout items that Kmart will be selling will be sold through Blue Light Specials. That makes sense I think. It'll be easier to communicate that Blue Light Special goods don't have warranties and such than to have that stuff out on the regular sales floor. We'll have to see if this might stimulate the Blue Light Specials enough to keep them around this time.

    I can see the upsides and the downsides to having closeout items in a separate section of the store. One side is that it makes it clear where the best deals are and it makes it clear which items have different return policies and such, but OTOH, it may keep the deal-seekers out of the rest of the store where the profit margins might be better. Kmart may not have the greatest reputation for customer service, but their reputation is probably high enough in that regard not to risk their reputation by selling non-warrantied items right along with regular items.

    A lot of times Sears stores have store-specific clearance items that aren't in the ads. Sometimes the clearance prices aren't even marked on the shelves, but some stores are better about marking their clearance items than others. I've gotten some great deals on things at Sears (like the Sony boombox), but I guess you have to visit the right stores and be willing to scan items to see if they're on sale even if it does not say so. I did buy a flashlight from Sears this Christmas season and got a pretty good deal on it, but I think that was just a regular sale that was in the newspaper ads.

    It'll be interesting to see what happens with Houston area Sports Authority locations if they do indeed close stores here. Many of them are in prime locations, but the soft economy locally may mean that those spots will stay vacant longer. The Willowbrook Mall area location is a bit interesting since it's not right by the mall, but it's also a freestanding building. I think there would be interest in it by other retailers, but it might take a while to fill it. Dick's Sporting Goods probably could have gotten that spot for much less than what they're paying for a spot right at Willowbrook Mall, but I guess they can't go back and redo that now.

    The remodeling may help Pasadena Town Square depending on how much remodeling they have done/will do. The closure of the mall part of San Jacinto Mall may help Pasadena Town Square if that does happen as planned though, but the soft economy won't help. The mall's new owners seem to specialize in Hispanic serving malls so maybe we'll see more Hispanic serving retailers/services take up residence in the mall.

    Greenspoint Mall will indeed be a tough sell. The mall could be partially redeveloped into office space, but that does not seem too likely to happen right now given the problems with the oil and gas industry right now. We'll see though, I don't think anyone expected Northwest Mall to sell as quickly as it did as you say so we'll see.

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    1. Kmart is really pushing the blue light special, but in my 4 trips to stores since implementing this program I have never heard the announcement or seen an active display. Usually the light is at the front of the store, only once did I see it elsewhere but it was not near any product.

      Sears clearance items are hit and miss. Sometimes they put up signs advertising the clearance area, but I have seen clearance items moved but the signs stay in the same place.

      The Sports Authority is closing all of their Texas stores. The sales are not very good, well at least the first week was not. I went to one of the stores and they had moved out most of their popular merchandise. All that was left was clearance clothing and stuff that would not sell outside of the Texas for the most part. The items that were not clearance were not marked down at all. Dick's will have an opportunity for other locations in the Sports Authority locations now if they choose.

      San Jacinto Mall is still sitting there without any new activity. New shopping centers are popping up just down the street so they need to do something soon before the other developers snap up the good shops for their developments. Many of the shopping centers just down Garth Road already have many of the stores that are usually in healthy malls. Some of those stores were in the mall at one time as well.

      A Greenspoint redevelopment will probably not happen within the next 10 years at least. The inner loop and just outside seems to have the most activity leaving the area between the inner loop and the beltway in a state of decline. The only exception is the West area near the Galleria which is still booming.

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  5. Part II:

    That's unfortunate to hear about Northwest Mall GNC closing. That was one of their few major chain stores. It's usually not a good sign when GNC throws in the towel at a mall since they're generally one of the last holdouts. Then again, that's good to hear about the new businesses moving in. I'd really like to visit NW Mall again soon, but unfortunately I don't have much of a chance to visit it like I used to.

    The Circuit City website is interesting, thanks for the link. Some of the stuff they have on there, like the Star Wars robot and the drone, are exactly the things that RadioShack has put on their website. There are some unique items too like the coffee maker that RadioShack does not have, but Circuit City really is looking like it will be another RadioShack plus a little bit more. We'll see how it goes though. It's interesting that they put up classic Circuit City commercials on their website though.

    It is unfortunate, but not surprising, to hear about the Hastings closings. Hopefully other retailers will try to pick up the slack like the one in Beaumont, but we'll see how successful they are. For now it seems like Half Price Books is taking advantage of their near monopoly situation (granted, they certainly have competition in the used video game market).

    I have not read the rumors about Conn's taking over hhgregg, but that would be an interesting merger. Conn's kind of teeters between doing well and not depending on the quarter so a bad buyout of a struggling chain could really hurt them, but it could also make them a national force. I wonder if Conn's would keep their name, use hhgregg's name, or operate the stores separately.

    The pictures of Central Mall are interesting because it looks like the Sears mall entrance is maintained better than the Target one. Granted, it looks like the mall entrance for Target is not a primary entrance and is just something at the side of the store. Also, the Sears and JCPenney stores there both have a kind of similar look them on the outside.

    I came across some pictures of the South County Center mall in the St. Louis area. The mall itself isn't that interesting, but the anchors are very interesting. That's probably the newest mall Sears that I've seen. It was built in 2001, but it has a typical mid-1990s+ Sears design to it. What's interesting is that at least one side of the store has a 'Home Appliance Showroom' sign on the outside. I've never seen that before. Also, it looks like the escalators have glass walls around them, but it's kind of hard to tell. It's hard to tell from the pictures unless you zoom in close, but the outside facade of the JCPenney has artwork on it featuring the old 'Funky P' Penney's logo from the early 1970s. Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, is the dome thing in the Macy's. I've never seen anything quite like that. The whole store looks very retro on the outside. The mall's Dillard's looks very plain in comparison to those other interesting anchors.

    I know of a lot of people who use DirecTV just because of NFL Sunday Ticket. Perhaps satellite and TV over IP companies will be required to support 3rd party boxes as well, but I'm not sure about that. The nature of satellite boxes are already a bit different than cable boxes. Anyway, I'm sure the electronics manufacturers and stores are really hoping that they can sell new products to customers if the laws are changed.

    Congrats on the blog going over 500,000 visits. That's certainly a big accomplishment. I'm sure there's a lot more visits to come.

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    1. There are not many chain stores left at Northwest. Palais Royal, Image, LPatricia, Champs, Foot Locker, Footaction, Thirsty's, Dreyer's, and I think that is all. Even chains like the Underground Station which usually stick around have left.

      I am keeping track of the Circuit City developments. I will let you know when I hear more. Sadly The Plain Vanilla Shell website has been down for a week and I am not sure if it is coming back.

      Hastings stores look tired these days. Some of the newer stores look decent, but most of their older stores have not been renovated in some time. I read somewhere that the company is closing stores that do not meet their financial goals for a short period of time of around 6 months. If that is true it does not give managers much time to turn around the business.

      I can see Conn's changing all of the names to their name plate. HHGregg seems to be a damaged brand and they will want to keep the family name going.

      The Central Mall Target was added on almost as an afterthought. The mall entrance does not have any checkouts, the checkouts are located on the other side of the store. Most mall locations I have visited have checkouts near the mall entrance. I wonder how they control shoplifters there?

      I took me a minute to locate the old JCPenney artwork. It is nice that they did not change that over the years. The Macy's is strange indeed, I wonder what it was previously. The Sears is a major contrast to the other mall anchors, but it looks really nice.

      Direct TV has deep pockets and they have gone all in on the Sunday ticket. I wonder how long they can support this feature before the NFL wants more money and another supplier outbids them.

      Hopefully it will make a million within the next couple of years. The blog really started out slowly and over the past 3 years traffic has really picked up. April 24th will be the 7th anniversary of the blog. The million mark would be nice to hit around the 10th anniversary.

      I have uploaded my Plaza Central Mall, West Hill Mall update, Sears Midtown, and Sears Shepherd photos for the next blog updates.

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  6. I found a article saying someone brought the rights to the Foley's trademark and wants to open retail again as a department store.
    http://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/retail/article/Trademark-ruling-could-signal-a-return-of-sorts-6865579.php

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    1. Great find, hopefully we will see a store or two open back up in the area.

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    2. That’s interesting, thanks for the link. Here’s a free version of the article. It sounds like the owners will try an online store first with the names they’ve collected and then maybe try some physical locations. I’m not sure how much retail experience the owners have. They may be hoping that Macy’s or some other retailer will buy the names from them at a high price.

      The Montgomery Ward name was brought by an established online and mail order catalog business and continues to exist. Perhaps the owners of the Foley’s name should consider partnering with an established catalog/online business to try to perfect their business model.

      I would imagine that it would be difficult to open department stores today with all the competition and the low margins on clothing. It would be nice to see a new “Foley’s,” but I’m not sure if we’ll ever see it. There aren’t very many good mall locations for them in Houston right now unless they were willing to open up at a struggling mall like Greenspoint Mall. Of course, they might be looking for more of a junior anchor sized building. It’s hard to say. They may be better off going into shopping centers near prime malls rather than sub-par malls.

      There are a lot of former Foley’s shoppers who aren’t happy with the quality of Macy’s stores. I’m sure this is true elsewhere as well where other regional department stores exist. Perhaps there is room for the owners to carve out a niche of a store that’s somewhere between a Dillard’s and a Macy’s, but that will certainly be a difficult task. We’ll see what happens though.

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    3. Bringing Foley's back to the market would be a difficult task. They would probably need to market to a higher end clientele than before to have a chance to survive. Macy's also owns most of the best former Foley's stores. Memorial City would be an option if Sears sells their location. Well I guess any Sears location would be a target for Foley's if they ever open physical stores again.

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  7. Part I:

    It is hard to say how those Blue Light Specials operate these days. I have not read any of the Kbloggers commenting about the new ones. In all the years that I shopped at Kmart back in the day, I only saw Blue Light Specials 2 or 3 times that I can remember. I don’t think I saw “live” Blue Light Specials when they tried them again in the early 2000s. It’s possible that the announcements and such are done early in the day at times where most working people do not shop.

    It’s usually pretty easy to find clothing clearance items at Sears, but other departments may not have specific clearance areas. A lot of times the tool departments will have a special area, but it’s more visible at some stores than others. The Westwood Mall Sears had a large tool clearance area that was very visible during my visit a couple of years ago. The Mall of the Mainland Sears usually has a clearance table near the tool checkouts. OTOH, I don’t even know if the Willowbrook Mall Sears has a tool clearance area. The Mall of the Mainland Sears actually had some clearance tools out on display next to the entryway during my last visit.

    Sometimes the other departments do have a clearance area, but not all clearance items are there. With housewares, electronics, and other departments, the clearance items are often out with the regular items. You may see a pink or green sticker indicating a clearance price, but a lot of times clearance items aren’t even marked at all. Some stores are better at marking clearance items than others. The Mall of the Mainland store comes to mind as one that is better than most. Anyway, a lot of times you just have to scan items that you might be interested in to see if one might secretly be on sale/clearance.

    I didn’t realize that the closing sales at Sports Authority have already started, thanks for the update. I drove by the Willowbrook Mall area store this morning and didn't see any closing signage on the outside. I doubt I’ll even bother with visiting them to see what they have at the closing sale. I really don’t have any need for what they sell. It was pretty amazing to go to those stores when they first opened as Oshman’s SuperSports stores in the mid 1990s, but there’s not too much amazing about them these days as far as I can tell. You’re right that some Sports Authority locations not located near a GGP mall might be attractive to Dick’s Sporting Goods.

    I think that the developers behind San Jacinto Mall may have a hard time getting prime retailers for the redevelopment since, as you say, most of the prime businesses that would want in the Baytown area already have locations near the mall. Perhaps they can get some new businesses to come in or get some to relocate back to the mall area. We’ll have to see.

    I think the Greenspoint area’s best hopes for a revival is to convert at least part of the mall into commercial office space. Unfortunately, the problems with the oil and gas industry are certainly not going to spur on much development right now. You might be right about the 10 year timeframe. The Greenspoint area is kind of stuck in the middle as you say. It’s not far enough from the city to be trendy with the suburban crowd, but it’s too far from the city for the urban crowd.

    At least Northwest Mall has the shoe stores and Palais Royal as recognizable anchors. The ability of that mall to survive with so few national tenants is pretty amazing. Hopefully some of these retailers will return to the mall when 290 construction winds down (assuming that the mall isn’t redeveloped), but we’ll see.

    It seems like Plain Vanilla Shell has gone down just as I’ve learned about it. Oh well, at least I saw at least a little bit of it.

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    1. Maybe I will try out the Kmart app to see how many blue light specials one of the nearby stores runs.

      The Deerbrook Sears has a sidewalk sale with women's and children's clearance clothing and a limited supply of clearance tools. It was a strange combo of items, but their flyers on a different door brought it to my attention.

      The Sports Authority stores don't have the large closing signs that most businesses usually have. I will need to visit one soon to see how things are progressing. A few of the Sports Authority stores are in newer locations. Dick's Sporting Goods is interested in some of the locations and will probably bid on some of the leases.

      A lot of the retail developments in the Houston area are probably going to be put on hold due to the sluggish economy. If the San Jacinto Mall project does not see any progression in the next year, I am not sure if it will gain traction this time around.

      Greenspoint Mall probably still generates a decent amount of revenue for the mall owners to make a slight profit. The physical condition of the mall will eventually need to be addressed.

      Northwest Mall was a little difficult to get to on my last visit. The exit that I normally took is gone and I wound up going all the way to Woodway since the freeway was reconfigured. I can see people getting mad and just going to the Galleria if this happens to them.

      Plain Vanilla Shell is back up and running. It was down for nearly 2 weeks. Another publication I recently found is the Chain Store Age which has a lot of news from retail chains all over the US.

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  8. Part II:

    I have actually seen pictures of a mall Kmart or two that have mall entrances away from the checkouts. I tried to search for those pictures, but I can’t find them right now. I don’t know how they control shoplifting. Do they have a loss prevention person stationed near there? Maybe they have a lot of monitored cameras there? Who knows.

    I found a picture of the South County Center mall JCPenney that shows a better picture of the artwork. Perhaps they have painted the facade brown in the time since the photos were taken. It’s really neat. The Macy’s was apparently a Famous-Barr store before. Although the mall seems quite a bit more successful than Pasadena Town Square, it is similar to PTS in that the Sears is the newest and perhaps fanciest anchor at the mall.

    AT&T recently brought out DirecTV so their deep pockets may get deeper. Then again, perhaps AT&T will offer NFL Sunday Ticket on their other TV services like Uverse. It’s hard to say. I know the NFL is trying to sign Internet broadcasters (they tried that with Yahoo broadcasting one of the London games last year) so that might be a big shift in the way people watch NFL football.

    I’m looking forward to seeing the new posts. The Main St. and N. Shepherd Sears photos should be particularly interesting because I have not been to either store in a few months now (it’s probably been about a year since I’ve been to the N. Shepherd store). It’ll be nice to see some new images of the places. I think it’s quite well possible that you will get a million hits before the 10th anniversary. There aren’t many blogs that get that kind of traffic so that will be quite an accomplishment.

    I still have not found much in the thrifts lately, but I did pick up a pre-recorded classical cassette, a couple of Maxell UR 120 minute made in Mexico blank cassettes, and a Best Buy Insignia portable CD/MP3-CD/FM player. The CD player is a current model that Best Buy sells for $39 and it gets pretty good reviews. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to test it in the store so it was a gamble purchase that ended up being a total loss as it didn't work at all when I brought it home. That's a bummer, but oh well I guess. I've had terrible luck buying untested portable CD and cassette players in the thrifts over the years.

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    1. The Kmart stores in the two mini malls on the Westbank of New Orleans had the checkouts near the mall entrance from what I can remember. You had to go into the mall to enter the store. I don't remember the configuration of the Lakeside Mall Kmart that closed sometime in the late 80's early 90's and was replaced by the newer Metairie store.

      Speaking of Kmart I had a chance to visit the Longview location and get some pictures last week. Most of the store was still open to walk around in, but a few areas were barricaded off. The store is scheduled to close tomorrow on the 13th. The mall in Longview has a Dick's Sporting Goods under construction in a former Beall's anchor spot.

      Thanks for sending over the pictures of the JCPenney and Macy's, that mall is very retro except for the Sears.

      The NFL is going to fight to get their money for the television rights. It would be nice to have other free options to watch games when regular television forces you to watch the Cowboys or Texans.

      I still need to make a trip down to Almeda Mall one of these days to finish off my long postponed article. I will probably finish the Sears articles before that one since I have all of the info nearly ready to go.

      I found a couple of generic early 90's Sony cassettes at a thrift earlier this week. Other than that, I still have yet to see any cassette players or cassette tape holders. With thrift stores becoming such a big business you would think that you can at least get a 24 hour return policy implemented.

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  9. Here's a quick update. Pasadena Town Square may now be called Plaza Paseo. I went to the Pasadena Town Square website and it redirected me to a new website called Plaza Paseo. I have not heard anything about this, but I guess this is one of the things Guardian Equity wanted to do to make the mall more Hispanic serving.

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    1. I will need to pass by in the future to see if they changed the signs. This is an interesting development so we will see what happens there now.

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  10. Part I:

    It seems like Sears, at least some locations, have been pretty aggressive about putting out clearance items in prime areas this year. The sidewalk sale at the Deerbrook Mall Sears is interesting. Did they have clearance items out on the corridors or something? Or did they have something outside? Or in the mall entrance itself? I’ve seen a picture of a Sears in Ohio a couple of years ago that actually put a lot of clearance items out in the mall itself.

    I took a quick trip to the Willowbrook Mall Sears recently and they had some odd clearance items out near the appliances and electronics. For example, they had a bath faucet on sale. I don’t even think that regular Sears still sell faucets. Maybe it was an online returned item or something someone returned that was brought at a Sears Hardware, but I didn’t think that regular Sears took Sears Hardware items as returns. Who knows. The Mall of the Mainland Sears during my last visit had a bunch of men’s clothing on clearance out on the race track near the department in addition to the regular clearance racks they always have in the department itself.

    I drove by the Willowbrook Mall area Sports Authority a couple of days ago and they still don’t have any kind of closing signage up on the outside of the store. This may be the quietest store closing sale I’ve ever seen. Perhaps they are not discounting the whole store or something so they aren’t wanting to make a big deal about it. I could see Dick’s Sporting Goods trying to get some Sports Authority locations located away from GGP malls. The one in League City for example is only a few years old, but that might be too close to their upcoming Baybrook Mall store.

    The leasing rate at Greenspoint Mall, at least based on what I saw during my last visit, is still okay given the size of the mall. Granted, the tenants mostly are small businesses and C/D level chains, but it’s something. I’m not sure if developers would have any interest in keeping retail at that location if someone ever decided to put a lot of money into that property, but I suppose a small mall/shopping center with the right mix of discount type stores might work. It would probably have to be something like the Northline Mall redevelopment though.

    That was a long detour to get to Northwest Mall. I usually go to the mall from the North Loop by taking the new 290 exit ramp and then taking the Mangum/Dacoma exit on that ramp. It’s not really any worse getting to it than it was before from that direction aside from the fact that the Hempstead exit is now gone (perhaps it’ll come back at some point, but I don’t know). Getting to the mall from eastbound 290 or from the West Loop is probably trickier than before though. Choosing between Northwest Mall and The Galleria is like choosing between a Kia or a Bentley, but it might actually be easier to get to The Galleria these days for many as odd as it sounds.

    I’ve seen pictures of malls with Kmarts where shoppers have to enter though the mall to get to the Kmart. That's probably a good thing for both the mall's traffic and the Kmart in terms of loss prevention. Some of these malls even had outdoor mall entrances with the Kmart facade. I guess that’s the most logical way to do it. The only malled discount stores I’ve been to are the former North Oaks Mall Target and the Memorial City Mall Target. I don’t remember how the MCM Target is set up, but the North Oaks Target had the mall entrance near the customer service desk which was near the registers/regular entrance. I wonder if the theater at North Oaks had problems with people buying popcorn and soda at Target for less and then trying to sneak it in. I know I went to the MCM Target to eat at their cafe some years ago because I figured they’d be cheaper than the sometimes overpriced food court options at the mall.

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    1. The items were outside in front of the package pickup entrance. The items were far away from the nearest register which was strange. I guess they are trying to lure people into the least busy entrance to the store.

      I wonder if the sink is a leftover item from the Great Indoors liquidation?

      The Sports Authority going out of business sale is strange. I guess they have not worked out the terms of the sale yet so they are not deeply discounting until approval from the court.

      Big box would have to be what saves Greenspont if it is redeveloped, but they have had difficulty attracting new stores. Nearly 10 years ago the back of the mall was going to be redeveloped but that never happened. Well I guess the movie theater happened but the rest never did.

      I always used the Hempstead exit from 610 to get to Northwest which is what messed me up. I guess you need to drive around town fairly often to keep up with the changes these days.

      Target a MCM has the registers centered between the two entrances/exits. I have not been to a mall Kmart store for over 20 years at least so it would be a real treat to finally visit one again.

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  11. Part II:

    Well, I guess this is it for the Longview Kmart. That’s sad, but at least you were able to visit it one last time. I suppose Dick’s Sporting Goods is making a big expansion in Texas that might get even bigger with The Sports Authority leaving. I wonder how the construction is going at the Houston malls. Here’s an update about Willowbrook Mall.

    I’m not sure what is going on at Pasadena Town Square/Plaza Paseo. I’d like to visit the mall to see what’s going on, but I don’t get many chances to go visiting malls like I used to. Hopefully you’ll be able to get a report on the changes. As for Almeda Mall, there’s been a lot of changes to the mall since the last article you did on it so that’ll be interesting to report. I wonder if you still plan on doing the Almeda/NW Mall comparison post, but you’ll probably have to get all new photos of Almeda with all the changes. That would be a really neat article though. I’m not sure what is happening at San Jacinto Mall, but the soft economy might help keep the mall around as is a little longer than expected as you say.

    Generally speaking, the Giants come on TV here in Houston pretty frequently. They usually get a number of national games plus the non-national Cowboys game is almost always on. I guess the Saints get a few games locally too since they pretty much are the secondary NFC team in this region after the Cowboys. It would be nice to get all the Giants games on TV, but I really don’t want to pay extra for that. Maybe I would feel differently if they had more success on the field than what they have had recently.

    Are those Sony cassettes regular HF/HiFi cassettes? If so, they should work really well. I’ve been a pretty big fan of those back in the day and still today. Sony did sell some cheaper tapes in the early 1990s, the EF and Super EFs, but they weren’t as popular and I don’t know that much about them even though I used a couple of them back in the day and still have the recordings. Maybe I should play around with those. I think those EF series tapes perhaps weren't intended for the US market, but perhaps someone like MacFrugal's or dollar stores got them as closeouts or something. The EFs that I've seen all have Sony Europe information on the back of them, but I don't remember what store I got those Super EFs from back in the day. I did see a thrift that had several cassette boxes on sale in a stack, but I think they were mostly VHS ones. I didn’t really pay attention to it unfortunately.

    The thrift that I brought that broken CD player from tests their electronics better than most thrifts (many don’t test at all) so I may have not even brought it from other thrifts, but I guess I had too much trust in that thrift. Oh well, at least it wasn’t major money. I think thrifts would stop selling electronics if they had to take returns since so many things don’t work or people don’t quite understand how vintage electronics work and then will want a return. I’m ok with the way things work as long as the thrifts keep the prices reasonable.

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    1. I was glad to have been able to see the Longview Kmart one last time.

      Dick's is going to be a competitor for Academy. Hopefully they will carry some team gear from outside of the area and not just Texas teams.

      I mostly have the Almeda/Northwest article completed with just the updated Almeda photos missing. I guess when I make that trip, Pasadena will be a stop as well.

      The prime time games are usually great match-ups. Most teams get a Monday night game on ESPN and all teams get a Thursday night game now. The Sunday ticket gets the viewer an extra 8 games or so a year but the price is crazy. Verizon carries games as well but usually you can only see a game or two at a time.

      They are type Sony 1 HF60 tapes assembled in Mexico. I may try these out first when I finally start recording again.

      The same thrift I got the Sony cassettes from also had 20 remote controls to various items not in the store. It was strange to see remotes just out for sale, but I guess they were lost from donations.

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  12. Part III:

    I saw more in my recent trips to the thrifts than I have in a while. One thrift had a Pioneer CT-W606DR cassette deck for $10, but I already have that model so I didn’t buy it or check it to see if it worked. I did get a couple of Type II cassettes though. One is a sealed Sony CD-IT and the other is a used oval Maxell XLII 100 from the late 1980s/early 1990s. That era of Maxell cassettes is considered to be a golden era for Maxell (plus, that’s the time I started to buy Maxells new) so it’s nice to have the cassette. The tape has some badly recorded Journey music on it. I’m not sure what the previous owner did to get the recording so bad, but I’m sure the tape will sound good if I record over it.

    I also saw a Numark graphic equalizer from the late 1970s/early 1980s. It was a pretty basic model with a pretty limited band selector. I might have brought it since I never see equalizers in the thrifts for whatever reason, but it didn’t have a price on it and I was short on time since I was on break from work. Oh well.

    I did make a recording recently using a mid-2000s TDK “Superior” D 90 cassette on my JVC TD-W318 cassette deck that must have been a Sears floormodel or something originally since it has a Sears tag on it. I brought that from a thrift in a former Kmart 3 years ago this month, but I never recorded using it even though it has auto biasing. I’m in the process of re-digitizing some of the recordings I made so I’m assessing the quality of the recording. The auto biasing on the JVC deck worked really well. I checked it and the bias setting it found for the tape is spot on. The JVC deck also has a pretty good meter display that makes it pretty easy to record to the right levels. That’s one positive feature that separates this deck from the aforementioned Pioneer CT-W606DR that competed with this deck in the mid-to-late 1990s.

    This TDK D, which has Korean made tape and is made in Thailand, worked a lot better than the late 1990s/early 2000s TDK D that I last used that had all sorts of channel imbalance problems. It has a pretty neutral sound and it can be recorded pretty hot. To that extent, it’s kind of like vintage TDK Ds. It even looks a little bit like a vintage TDK D from the late 1980s albeit with a much cheaper quality shell. I’m not sure if the tape in here is made to TDKs specs or if it’s just regular Korean SKC or Saehan tape, but it does not perform quite like other Korean tapes I’ve used from what I can tell including the mid-2000s Maxell URs that have much better shells, but are otherwise fairly “meh” sounding tapes. Anyway, the recording quality seems very good from what I can tell so far. One song has a slightly distorted bass segment. I can’t really tell why that happened because that part of the song wasn’t that too loud IMO, but perhaps this tape isn’t the best at handling really strong bass. So far so good otherwise.

    I mentioned a link about a Willowbrook Mall update in Part II of these replies, but I forgot to post the link. Here's the link. Sorry about that.

    It’s good to hear that Plain Vanilla Shell is back. I am familiar with Chain Store Age. I think that’s a respected publication. I don’t read it all the time, but I have read some of their articles.

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    1. Someones loss is your gain with the Maxell cassette. It sounds like things may pick up in the thrift stores again. I will need to go again at my earliest chance.

      I am going to need a better tape deck to reach the level of recordings that you have been making. I still have a lot to learn about making recordings.

      It looks like Willowbrook is going strong and I will wait and see the finished product before my verdict on the renovation. The Dick's at Deerbrook is still mostly just undergoing foundation work.

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  13. Part I:

    Perhaps the Deerbrook Mall Sears is trying to get people picking up online orders to buy some bargains in the store as well. It's hard to say. I'm not that familiar with that part of the Deerbrook Sears. The faucet at the Willowbrook Mall Sears looked to be more Kmart than The Great Indoors, but who knows. It could have been old inventory from the Town & Country/Memorial City area store, but perhaps it could have been inventory from the closing Longview Kmart.

    I wonder how the Greenspoint Mall theater is doing. It's interesting that Northline Mall got a near theater shortly before it closed as well, but I guess the Greenspoint theater will last a lot longer as there aren't any plans for Greenspoint yet. Big box retail didn't do well in the Greenspoint area even when the mall was still considered a prime mall. The Commons across from the mall struggled and didn't last long before it was converted into a data center. The Target (now a Burlington I think) near the mall didn't last all that long either. Things like the Fry's and such slightly south of the mall towards West Rd. have certainly faired better though. I think something with Ross type stores could work ala Northline, but even that might be a bit of a struggle. I wonder how the Greenspoint Goodwill is doing. It's one of the more interesting looking Goodwills in the city and it has the Computer Works store there as well.

    The only Dick's Sporting Goods store I've been to was at the Mall at Robinson in the Pittsburgh area in 2011. I don't remember how much team stuff they had, but a Pittsburgh store might not be a good test of that since the locals there are much more behind their local teams than we are. The nearby Super Kmart had a whole department of Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins gear in front near the checkouts. Anyway, Academy will be a tough competitor for Dick's, but maybe not so much in reverse since Academy has a huge edge with their fishing, hunting, and general outdoor stuff. The mall shoe stores may suffer, but I guess they're probably used to competing against Dick's at other malls around the country.

    It'll be interesting to put both pre and post renovation pictures of Almeda Mall in your Northwest Mall comparison post so people can see the differences. That should be a really good post, I'm looking forward to it. Of course, I'm looking forward to hearing about the updates to Pasadena Town Square (Plaza Paseo?) as well.

    Yeah, the closure of the Hempstead exit is probably surprising to people who don't frequent the area. The good news is that traffic is better in that area than it was before the new I-10 and 290 ramps were built. I don't even know if 290 has exits for Mangum/Dacoma right now or if one has to use W. 34th as an alternate exit. Perhaps NW Mall management needs to get TxDOT to put up signage telling people how to get to the mall like other malls have done. In other mall road construction news, the Bay Area Blvd. bridge was recently torn down making access to Baybrook Mall even more challenging than usual.

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    1. Kmart does still carry a small selection of faucets as well.

      The West Road corridor snapped up most of the good retail tenants. Even the older center across I-45 from the Walmart is nearly full again. The old Target is indeed a Burlington Coat Factory.

      Dick's is targeting the mall customer which may get them more impulse buys. Academy is better on prices, but Dick's has better quality items. I think there is room for both in the market. The Sports Authority was a weak company that did little to change their business model. Academy and Dick's keep their locations up and continue to change the product selection.

      I think more needs to be done if the mall is going to be viable. I actually visited the mall today and it was nearly as slow as it was on a weekday evening. Several businesses had their gates locked with inventory inside. It looks like the Dreyer's Ice Cream has closed on both visits the place was closed. It looks like someone just did not show up to open, but I think it closed.

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  14. Part II:

    I'm pretty sure that I've never been to a mall Kmart before, but it would be interesting to go to one. The one in Ohio in the former Montgomery Ward would be particularly interesting, but I don't know if that store is still open. Here's a now closed Kmart in Warren, PA, that required people to go through the mall to get to the store. That store looked pretty malaised so I'm not surprised that it closed. This store in VA has a similar setup (here's the mall entrance).

    Anyway, we didn't have many malled discount stores in Houston. The Westchase/North Oaks Mall ex-Targets come to mind and of course the Memorial City Mall Target. I guess there was also the Galvez Mall Woolco, but I never went there I don't think. The Food Town shopping center on I-45 and Little York may have had a malled corridor in it back in the day, but I never went there either I don't think.

    It's a pretty exciting time to see these new anchors come up at the local malls. It'll be interesting to chronicle the changes. It seems like Willowbrook Mall still won't be getting a full renovation, but I'm not sure if it really needs one even though the last major renovation was almost 25 years ago. The mall itself will be 35 years old this year. It would be neat to get an article about the mall on the blog during this special anniversary. I don't have many photos of the place, but I could help you write something if you have the photos.

    As you say, the NFL Sunday Ticket is way too much for basically 8 games or so. I remember years where only 2 or 3 Giants games came on TV here a year so what we have now is a lot more than that so I guess I'm happy with that. Having said that, FOX 26 seemed to show more non-national Giants games 4-5 years ago than recently, but I guess they have to get good again and the games will come back.

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    1. I guess the closest we had was the Deauville Malls in the 80's. I am not sure if any malls in the area had a Kmart. A Kresege store maybe but Kmart probably not.

      I think the last time a mall added newly built anchors was the Galleria in 2004 I believe. Willowbrook has been doing great with two new anchors added. Baybrook has the new section but I don't know if there are any actual anchors. I have not passed by that mall in a long while.

      Hopefully the bandwagon teams are not the ones we are forced to watch in 2016. I think New York will have some games since they acquired several new players in free agency. They broke the bank on some of the contracts but a lot of teams did that this year as well.

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  15. Part III:

    The made in Mexico Sony HFs are pretty good tapes. The build quality got pretty cheap in the 2000s, but the tape itself is pretty good. I recorded on one recently on the Akai deck. They can be a bit tricky to bias on a deck with adjustable bias (the Akai has fixed bias), but it shouldn't be a big problem. The HFs have less noise, a pretty smooth sound, and stronger highs than most similar tapes. They're not the best for music with strong bass, but it's not bad in that regard either (it's much better than the TDK D I just used for bass, but perhaps not as good as a Maxell UR).

    Speaking of the TDK D I just used, I found that a couple other bass-heavy songs had distorted sounding bass as well. Songs with light or moderate bass came out just fine though. Perhaps reducing the levels some would have made things better, but I think this generation of TDK Ds just aren't good with bassy music. Aside from that, the tapes sound quite good. The noise level isn't bad and the highs and mids sound pretty neutral. I just picked the wrong tape for a mixtape that's unusually bassy by my standards, but oh well. The tape should work well with most pop and instrumental music.

    It's not unusual for used tapes I buy to have pretty poor quality recordings on them even though they are premium quality tapes. It seems like the usual problem is that people set the recording levels way too high so that the recordings distort. I'm not sure what went wrong with the recording on this tape in particular though since I don't think it's a level thing. There's problems aside from the sound quality as well. The first song is cut off slightly. I'm guessing the person recording on the tape started the CD player when the tape was fully rewound on the leader. Oh well, I guess it takes a little bit of experience to know to wait ~5 seconds before recording on a fully wound tape. Recording on tape isn't all that difficult and good results can be had even on decks without fancy calibration features, but it seems like many people struggled with it and then said all tapes are bad and dumped them for CDs or whatever. Oh well, I guess it makes being able to make good recordings all that more rewarding.

    Hopefully you'll be able to find a good working cassette deck in the thrifts. I'm sure you'll find one if you go to enough thrifts. You do seem to have pretty good luck finding excellent quality blank cassettes if nothing else. You've found some things that I've never found in years of thrifting. Anyway, hopefully you'll be able to find something so you can make some mixtapes.

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    1. My luck has been good with blank tapes. I have been hoping for some new pre-recorded cassettes as well, but I have missed out lately. Maybe with the prices going up at Half Price Books the tapes will not sell out as fast and they will have a better selection.

      Here is a tip for you if you are interested in pre-recorded VHS cassettes. At the Northwest Mall Antique shop there is a booth near the South entrance that has a very good VHS collection for sale. I found a couple of VHS tapes I had been looking for. All of the tapes are 99 cents.

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  16. The I-45 and West Rd. power center, along with the nearby shopping centers, have been quite successful even with the struggles of the area nearby. Granted, the success for those centers will make it more difficult to turn Greenspoint Mall into a similar power center. One thing that helps the West Rd. area is the presence of The Dump and Fry's. Those are unique retailers that draw people in from other parts of the city.

    That's unfortunate to hear about the lack of activity at Northwest Mall. Perhaps HISD is on spring break and so the employees at the HQs nearby are not at work this week. If that is the case (or if the college at the mall is closed this week), perhaps the shopkeepers decided not to even bother opening this week. Then again, I've noticed that a lot of the shops at NW Mall are open inconsistently during my visits in the last couple of years. Who knows, but hopefully those stores that still have inventory in them are still doing business.

    There was a number of new anchor openings at Houston malls in the early 2000s at Baybrook Mall, The Galleria, and Memorial City Mall mainly. Granted, some of those openings replaced old anchors like closed Montgomery Ward locations whereas the current new anchors are all new additions. I'm just glad that Willowbrook Mall was able to add a new anchor without having to do anything to the Sears.

    I think Academy vs. Dick's/The Sports Authority is kind of like Best Buy vs. Circuit City. Academy, like Best Buy, is more discount store like whereas the competition is more like a department store. Shoppers seem to like the discount store approach, but Circuit City still had a number of good years before they started to make poor decisions. I think Dick's Sporting Goods might be more like the older, more profitable Circuit City and Sports Authority more like Circuit City towards the end. Well, if nothing else, it'll be nice to have a full sporting goods store at Willowbrook Mall again. I did buy a decent number of items at the Willowbrook Mall Oshman's before they moved out of the mall in the mid-1990s (the store looked pretty vintage towards the end). I shopped less at Oshman's after the move for sure.

    Odell Beckham is one of the biggest stars in the NFL now so maybe the Giants will get more games on TV because of him. The Giants did spend a lot of money, but they're hardly big name players. I like the DT signing, but the CB has had an inconsistent record and the DE has a stat sheet that is hardly impressive for someone making close to JJ Watt money. I think they'll regret some of these signings in a couple of years, but hopefully the division will remain weak and they can climb to the top of it and be contenders again. They still need to sign more players though.

    Thanks for the tip about the VHS movies. I may have to check that out the next time I have a chance to go to NW Mall. 99 cents is a reasonable price for an antique store given that thrifts and Half Price Books want the same amount. I wonder if they have any other stores there selling vintage electronics.

    I forgot to reply to your earlier comment about remotes at thrifts. Some thrifts have baskets full of remotes that are usually about $1 each (some Goodwills have them, but most don't). I think sometimes the thrifts don't know what remotes go to what if the remotes aren't taped to the electronics they came with since stuff in boxes may not be unpacked until well after the electronic item is put on the shelves so they don't have a choice but to sell them separately. I've brought some remotes from those baskets for thrift store VCRs I brought that didn't come with remotes. Because of that, I have a remote that works with just about every VCR I have in my collection. Anyway, I'm glad that at least some thrifts sell remotes.

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    1. The West area corridor has been more successful than the retail near Greenspoint Mall ever was. It is strange that all of the centers just a couple of miles away were unable to establish themselves.

      I guess the best time to go to Northwest is between Friday and Sunday. The Antique store draws a lot of traffic but not many people venture out into the mall.

      It is good that for now we only lost 1 Sears store to redevelopment.

      Having more of a variety at the mall is always a good thing. A lot of mall owners have neglected to get stores that attract men such as Dick's Sporting Goods. With Sears closing stores, the options for men at some malls are becoming very limited.

      The good thing about the NFC East is that the division has been up for grabs nearly every year this past decade. All a team needs to do is make the playoffs and then they can run the table. The Giants did it twice in the past decade and so did Green Bay and Baltimore. Sometimes only a few changes to the roster result in big changes in team performance.

      Electronics are hit and miss in the antique shop. I have found a few pieces here and there but nothing worthwhile. Some of the booths seem to change often and others have been the same since my first visit.

      I will need to keep my eyes out since I am missing a few remotes. I had not really noticed any large collections of remotes for sale before then.

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  17. One of the things that surely hurt the retail shopping centers directly near Greenspoint Mall itself is that they were full with retailers that didn't last. The Commons at Greenspoint had Phar-Mor, Children's Palace, Computer City, and Media Play as anchor tenants (there may have been a couple of other chains too). Obviously, most of those didn't even survive into the 2000s. Perhaps the shopping center would have done better with more stable retailers, but the more stable retailers opened stores near West Rd. instead. The Commons near Willowbrook Mall was able to replace the closed retailers with other ones, but those retailers never went into The Commons at Greenspoint.

    The area near the Willowbrook Mall Sears used to be a real man's hangout back in the day. RadioShack, one of the mall's Sam Goody's, Suncoast, Oshman's, and B.Dalton were all there next to or very close to the Sears. I guess even the KB Toys there sold video games so you could add that to the list. In earlier times, there was also a Woolworth's Express there. Anyway, all of that is gone now except for the Sears. It'll be nice to at least regain a full-line sporting goods store at the mall if nothing else even if most of the things they sell could be brought at the mall already at either Sears or one of the shoe stores.

    I think the GGP malls will all get a boost with the addition of Dick's Sporting Goods due to men wanting to visit the mall more frequently. We'll see, but hopefully we'll see a more diverse set of stores move into those malls eventually. Perhaps this could even benefit Sears in some way, but they'll now have a competitor for their fitness departments.

    I found a brochure about Plaza Paseo (Pasadena Town Square) on the Huntington Properties website. They must have been hired to help lease the mall. Anyway, it's interesting that almost the entire Macy's corridor is available to lease whereas the Sears corridor area is almost entirely leased already. I guess we know which store draws more traffic at the mall, but the Sears is near the center of the mall too which might be a big advantage especially since there's more parking out there than near the Macy's. Anyway, it's an interesting brochure and it has some Photoshopped images that might indicate renovations already done or that are planned.

    The NFC East should be up for grabs as you say. It's hard to project anything with there being so much roster turnover on the Giants this year (a lot of it is still unfilled) and with there being a new coaching staff. The offense should be okay at least as long as Eli, Beckham, and the holdovers on the line stay healthy. The defense is a big question mark still. The Giants and Saints will play again this year. Hopefully the Giants can keep the Saints under 50 this time! It'll be in Giants Stadium so it'll be much harder for the Saints to win that one. The home team almost always wins when those two play each other.

    One thrift that almost always has a lot of remotes is the Value Village on I-45 and Edgebrook. One thing you have to make sure before buying a used remote is to check to make sure that the batteries in the remote have not leaked and caused damage.

    Sometimes you have to be a bit creative when finding remotes that will work with your devices. For example, I use Sharp VCR remotes (which aren't too hard to find) with my Montgomery Ward Admiral VCRs that are made by Sharp. They work just fine. OTOH, 1990s RCA VCRs won't work with the remotes from the companies that made their VCRs, but a 1990s RCA VCR remote should work on all 1990s RCA VCRs regardless of who made it. That said, my 1984 Hitachi-made RCA VCR does work with a 1990s Hitachi remote, but it won't work with a 1990s RCA remote. At least the remotes only cost about $1 each so it's no big loss if you buy one that does not work with your devices.

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    1. The loss of the retailers at the Greenspoint Commons also happened around the time the area really declined in the 1990's. The decline of the Northline area around the same time left the newer West Rd. retail corridor as the place to be for retailers. It was also strange to see one side of West Rd. booming and the other side in decline.

      I remember all of those stores at Willowbrook except for the Woolworth Express. I can't remember exactly where that was. I remember the one at Greenspoint next to Sears. I remember the Walgreens near the old Montgomery Ward, though.

      I would like to see a more diverse offering at malls like Deerbrook has. All Deerbrook needs is a music store once Dick's opens and then it will be really good. I guess you could count the Barnes and Noble as a music store, but they have a limited selection.

      I visited Pasadena Town Square today. With the exception of a new paint job and some minor cosmetic additions, the mall still appears to be struggling. I will check out the PDF to see if the changes have been made and let you know in a future comment.

      Each one of the recent Giants vs. Saints matchups has been a high scoring game. The winner has scored over 40 points and the loser well over 20. The Saints have so many holes and barely any cap money so we will see what they do. Having Carolina in our division has been a challenge, but we still own the Bucs and Falcons right now.

      I figured out how to sync my phone remote control to my music player. There are a few missing options but it works good enough. I finally found a couple of cassette tape holders to finally put away my excess tapes. I did not have any other finds except for a thrift on the Northside had a hand shopping basket from The Incredible Universe that was not for sale.

      In other news, I finally made it to Almeda Mall and Pasadena Town Square. My Almeda/Northwest post should be completed very soon. Almeda is remodeling the mall entrances again, but I could not get a clear photo. I find it strange that the Almeda Mall site has not updated to show the new look of the mall. Also yet another store has taken over the former Steve and Barry's. The new store is some kind of ladies clothing store and it looks more permanent than any of the previous businesses that have been there since the Steve and Barry's.

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  18. Part I:

    The western side of West Rd. area did certainly benefit from the declines at the Northline Mall and Greenspoint Mall areas even though the eastern side of I-45 near West Rd. struggled until more recently. It is a bit odd. The Fry’s/The Dump shopping center, which probably drives a lot of the retail traffic to that area, didn’t exactly start out as a winner either. The Kmart probably did ok, but the Builder’s Square II and Pace club (which I believe was there) didn’t last long. It wasn’t until Fry’s came in that things started to take off (Compaq had an outlet store at the time that closed after the HP merger and became The Dump eventually).

    The Willowbrook Mall Woolworth Express was located where the Old Navy is now (that area also used to be the original KB Toys before it moved across the hallway, Suncoast, and Sam Goody amongst other things that I’m probably forgetting about now). I think I remember the Greenspoint Mall Woolworth Express, but my memories of it are certainly a bit foggy. The Oshman’s is more memorable there since the store that’s there now (which used to be an Anna’s Linens) still has the Oshman’s look on the outside that the Willowbrook store also had. Oddly enough, I really don’t remember much about the Willowbrook Walgreens other than that I know that it was there even though the Montgomery Ward store was often my entryway into the mall. I do remember a lot of the other retailers in the Montgomery Ward wing though. There was the Gloria Jean’s coffee shop, Cargo furniture, and a couple of jewelry stores (I think the Kay’s is still there). There was a women’s clothing store called Christine’s I think across the wing that maintained a very vintage 1980s look through most of the 1990s. Anyway, the mall Walgreens that I remember the most is the former Memorial City Mall location that was near the Mervyn’s I do believe.

    Another men’s type store in the 1990s that was located near the Willowbrook Sears was the sports card/memorabilia store located in the mall entrance corridor near the Sears. I forgot about that one. There is a store at the mall now near the Dillard’s or Nordstrom Rack that sells sports memorabilia, but I think they mostly have throwback jerseys and pictures instead of cards.

    Deerbrook Mall is one of the most diverse malls in the area with the Sears, Barnes & Noble, and the theater. A lot of malls are missing features like that now. It would be nice if the mall had a music store, but at least there’s B&N as you say. The Deerbrook store has an “expanded vinyl” selection according to B&N’s store locator. Neither of the two B&Ns closest to me have that so at least Deerbrook has that as a plus. Willowbrook does not even have a bookstore these days.

    On the topic of music stores, I came across an article today breaking down music sales in 2015. 28.8% of recording industry sales came from physical media. Of that, CD shipments were down 13.9% and records were up 28.3%. Granted, there were 122.9 million CDs shipped compared to 16.9 million records so CDs still have a big lead in that regard.

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    1. Deerbrook also had a Walgreens close to the Sears on the 1st floor. The Barnes and Noble was mostly Casa Ole and the restaurant moved upstairs next to Sears to make room for the Barnes and Noble. I may have been to the Willowbrook card shop many years ago, it seems familiar. There was also a video game store Babbages maybe in the corridor towards the West entrance, I think. I bet the sports store near Nordstrom is the same company that is putting stores in nearly every mall in the area. Deerbrook has one but they have been in 3 different spaces since opening a little more than a year ago.

      I thought the Barnes and Noble had a big record section. They have records in the music section as well as a large display in the middle of the main walkway. Records are really making a comeback and hopefully tapes will follow.

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  19. Part II:

    Thanks for the Pasadena Town Square update. Did you see any Plaza Paseo references at the mall? It’ll probably take the new owners a while before they can get new tenants if it’s even possible. We’ll see.

    The Almeda Mall website is not updated very frequently. It took them a couple of years to take RadioShack off their directory. I’m not sure why they drag their feet with that. The uniform store at Almeda moved across the hallway into a smaller store to make room for the big new clothing store that you’re talking about. I believe it’s an Image store with a different name so the older, smaller Image store at the mall closed as part of the move. Anyway, I’m really enjoying the Almeda-Northwest Mall post and I left a comment there about it. I’m sure your readers will really enjoy that post.

    I was reading a cassette forum the other day and came across a post on there about dying retail. It seemed that a few of the posters there were also into dying retail and one even posts photos. Anyway, I came across a link there about a multi-story deadmall in Thailand that turned into a pond with lots of fish swimming in the old escalators and such. That’s certainly an odd story. I wonder if the local government finally demolished that mall after all the international attention it received.

    Carolina should be tough to beat next year, but a lot of times teams that are expected to win end up taking steps back the next year. I guess the players get overvalued so other teams sign some of the players off the team and the team itself overpays their own free agents to keep them around. We’ll see about that. The Saints, like the Giants, have a lot of holes still to fill as you say so we’ll have to see how that turns out. We unfortunately followed two of the worst defensive teams in the league last year.

    The Incredible Universe cart was a real find. I’m not sure where some of these thrifts find their carts. One thrift has a bunch of old Aldi carts that well predates their entry into this market. I wonder if there are thrifts around here with old Kmart or Venture carts.

    Anyway, I’m glad that you find some cassette holders. I have not found much recently, but I have not been to many thrifts lately. Universal remotes and remote apps can work “well enough” with devices depending on what you want to do. Most new universal remotes still work with VCRs, which work fine for playing back tapes, but they don’t have buttons for setting tape speed, programming the VCR, and other more advanced options.

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    1. I did not see any references to the new mall name yet. The directories and signage are still under the Pasadena Town Square Mall name.

      I fixed the dates and changed the wording of the beginning paragraph. I also added the info about the Macy's renovation in 2008.

      I read about that mall a few years ago, it is one of the strangest stories out there.

      The Panthers may suffer from a case of Superbowl hangover. The whole division has a very tough schedule this year with the NFC West and AFC West as the opponents. The Panthers also face Washington and The Vikings. There are not a lot of teams that have done well the year after losing a Superbowl. The defensive free agents our teams picked up should help change things in 2016. The Saints relied on a bunch of rookies last year, this year we will have a lot of young talent that has at least a year of experience.

      I would not be surprised to find Kmart carts out here in the thrifts. I have seen several carts from many retailers at thrifts. A lot of the stores put stickers over the logos on the carts. I wonder if I can talk them into selling that Incredible Universe basket.

      I went to some thrifts today amd had some mixed results. One of the new cassettes I bought came unwound in my player and was ruined. At another thrift I picked up several pre-recorded cassettes and one Maxell Type IV metal 100 unopened cassette.

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  20. Part I:

    I don’t remember the Deerbrook Mall Walgreens, but I didn’t visit the mall until years after it opened. Willowbrook Mall had two software/video game stores in the 1990s. The Babbage’s was in the short, lowly visited corridor opposite from the food court. It was next to, or very close to, the Fox Photo lab at the mall. There was also a Software Etc. on the main mall corridor right before the JCPenney and former Palais Royal corridor intersection. Greenspoint Mall had an Electronics Boutique over next to or right by the Oshman’s.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the Willowbrook sports memorabilia store also has other locations. They probably get pretty cheap leases from the mall operators so they probably have to move if someone more prestigious wants to move into the spot. Although the main Willowbrook Sears to Macy’s north-to-south corridor remains a busy spot with prime retailers, the small corridors going to the east-to-west anchors (though some just lead to mall entrances) have kind of struggled over the last 20 years or so. They’re mostly filled, but they are filled with more local type stores. There’s a couple of corridors at the mall that I have not been to in years so I’m not even sure what’s there these days.

    Records certainly are doing well. Crosley, the company known for making poor quality vintage looking record players that sell well, is supposedly opening a new record pressing plant and they’ve released a couple of new higher quality turntables. That said, it looks like cassettes are making some slow progress forward too. I see that Eminem is re-releasing one of his older albums on cassette and I’ve heard of a couple of other big name groups releasing albums on cassettes. I even read an article indicating that National Audio Company, who makes most of the pre-recorded cassettes, is thinking about making their own tape instead of using tape supplied by other companies like Saehan. We’ll have to see how that goes and we’ll have to see if tapes end up back at local malls, but you’re more likely to find them at Deerbrook than I will at Willowbrook mall I think because of the B&N.

    We’ve talked about Sears’ struggles, but it looks like Sears Hometown and Outlet is struggling as well. One interesting note from that article is that some Hometown stores are being converted into a format called America’s Appliance Experts. The AAE stores seem to be doing better, but this is the first time that I’ve heard about it. I wonder if these stores are still branded as being Sears stores or if the AAE thing is just an internal name for the store format. As far as main Sears goes, they’re hiring a turnaround expert as an executive. Hopefully the new guy will recommend improvements to the retail side of the operation instead of selling them off as assets.

    You’re right that teams do seem to suffer from a Super Bowl hangover. The Giants have gone to the Super Bowl 5 times in their history (winning 4), but they’ve only made the playoffs once (2007-2008) in those 5 seasons after Super Bowls. It’s probably a combination of over-valuing the players, lack of motivation, other teams being more motivated to beat them, and teams knowing more about how to beat them since they played more high profile games. The west coast games will be tough for you guys in terms of wild card position. I think Carolina might have gotten a break getting the Vikings and Redskins because I think there will be better teams from those divisions even though those two are the defending division champions. If nothing else, being free of Rob Ryan should help the Saints’ defense. I know the Giants are hoping that their new players will be healthier than the old players they got rid of this offseason.

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    1. Yes the Electronics Boutique was across the fountain from Oshman's at Greenspoint. Greenspoint also had a Babbages in the Mervyn's corridor near the food court. The TV's and storefront are still intact. I am pretty sure I was thinking about the Babbages near the food court.

      The Woodlands Mall also has one of those memoribilia stores and it has been in 2 locations that I know of.

      I am hoping that Urban Outfitters also expands their cassette sales to the Houston market.

      It looks like they will remodel half of the interiors of the Sears Hometown stores to feature the Appliance Experts departments. It looks like the stores will still carry the Sears name.

      Rob Ryan and the players share the blame for the defensive problems in 2014 & 2015. Even his 2013 defense started showing signs of problems towards the end of that year. The Saints let several key defensive players go starting in 2009 that went on to have success on other teams. They signed several free agents despite having a very limited salary cap this offseason.

      The Giants have a good chance of winning the division next year. I have a feeling that it will be a close race once again in that division.

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  21. Part II:

    Thrifts usually say that their fixtures aren’t for sale, but I’m sure they’d be willing to listen if you talked to the right person and made the right offer. Of course, I don’t even know what would be a fair price for a cart. An Incredible Universe cart would be a pretty rare collectible though.

    That’s unfortunate to hear about the cassette breaking. You might be able to fix the tape though. You can usually reattach the tape to the reel if that’s what happened. Also, if it’s just a shell related problem, you could always break the tape apart and transplant the tape to another shell (perhaps from a new tape) and go from there. I got a few pre-recorded tapes last week from thrifts and they all ended up not working well for me either. One was a tape that had blank sections in it every 2-3 seconds. I don’t know how that happened. Perhaps it was a recording defect made by the producer’s plant. It’s also possible that someone played it in a malfunctioning cassette deck where the erase head ran in bursts when it shouldn’t have especially since the write protect tabs are still knocked out. I don’t know, that one is a mystery to me.

    The other two tapes sound kind of dull, but I’m not too surprised about that since both look pretty beat up. I almost didn’t buy them because of that. They probably spent a lot of time in someone’s car. One of them also has a sponge type pressure pad instead of the normal kind of pressure pad that has a fiber type block connected to the tape by a metal bracket. I didn’t know that the record producers used pre-recorded tapes like that. BASF and Memorex used those types of sponge pressure pads in the 1970s and the early 1980s, but they were not reliable and caused a lot of flutter so they were changed to the traditional type pads. Oh well, at least the tapes didn’t cost much. At least the near mint Chuck Mangione Feels So Good LP record I picked up from a thrift works fine, but it cost $2 so it wasn’t cheap compared to the cassettes.

    The Maxell metal tape is quite a find. Is it a MX 100 tape or something different like a Metal Capsule, MX-S, or Metal Vertex? It’ll be worth a decent amount regardless of what it is. You seem to have much more luck finding metal tapes than I do. I’ve only found sealed metal tapes (2 Maxell MX-S tapes from one of the last years they made them) once in all my years thrifting.

    While my luck hasn’t been good at finding good blank tapes recently, I did finally find a Nakamichi cassette deck in the thrifts so I’m now a Nakamichi owner finally (I’m not counting the modern Nakamichi headphones I got from Sears a couple years back). I’ve been waiting years for this so I’m really happy about it. The deck is a fully working CR-1 from 1989 (the same year that a couple of my Denons and my Luxman are from) in excellent condition. Even the heads and tape transport were clean. The CR-1 was the bottom of the line Nakamichi model at the time, but it was still $400 new and it still has a reputation for having the famed “Nakamichi sound.” It’s a pretty basic 2 head deck though. It doesn’t even have a bias control knob, but it works fully at least. I’ve been having fun playing around with it and I can tell already that it’s a very high quality cassette deck on both playback and record. I can’t really say how it competes against my Denon and Luxman 3 head decks yet because I need to do more testing, but I’m really happy to have this deck in my collection. I’m sure it’ll get a lot of use. Here’s a brochure about the deck.

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    1. Yeah who knows what would be a good price for the cart. I really don't know where I would put it.

      I was not really hurt by the tape loss, it was a tape that I had not heard before. I just threw it away and maybe one day I will find another one.

      I have only found 1 Sony 1990's deck in my last 10 or so thrift outings. The bands were very weak on both sides so I left it there. I stuck out today when I visited 3 thrifts on the SE side and only bought one VHS movie.

      The metal tape is a Maxell MXS 100. I will continue to grab the good blank tapes as I find them, but I probably will not get any regular blanks for a while.

      You seem to have the same luck with cassette players as I do with blank cassettes.

      In other news The Sears Deerbrook and Pasadena electronics departments are shrinking. Both departments have shelving units that were taken down leaving empty space for now. Deerbrook is still a decent size with the Connected Solutions and Drones that other Sears stores do not have. It also looks like the Mall of the Mainland store has an even smaller electronics department.

      Also the Dick's Sporting Goods will be 2 floors at Deerbrook Mall. The building is going up now with elevator shafts, stairwells, and steel beams for a two story building now in place.

      Finally it appears that San Jacinto Mall will be losing Marshalls to the new Kroger Marketplace development right down the street from the mall. The street sign for the Kroger center has Marshalls listed now. The Marshalls store at the mall is still open for now, but there is no news about the new store. I passed by rather quickly so I did not get a good look at the shopping center building. Losing Marshalls is a big blow for the potential redevelopment of the mall property. Nothing has happened at the Montgomery Ward site either, no fence, no equipment. It looks like another competing development has broken ground on I-10 just West of the mall. I am beginning to wonder if the only new development at the mall property will be HEB. There are still a lot of chains that are not in Baytown such as Nordstrom, Dillard's, Costco, and Dick's Sporting Goods that could be targeted for the new development. Target could also be a possibility if they want a bigger store for the area.

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  22. Part I:

    Thanks for the San Jacinto Mall update. Marshalls leaving will be a pretty big blow for both the mall and for the proposed new development. As we've said before, most of the retailers that you'd expect to see in Baytown already have locations there already so I'm not sure who the mall redevelopers would target outside of HEB. Even then, HEB has built some new stores without shopping centers being around them so they may not necessarily be looking for a shopping center if they want to build a new store in Baytown. We'll see. Perhaps the delayed demolition of the Montgomery Ward site is a sign that the redevelopment is behind schedule at the very least. At some point soon it might make sense for the developers to make a firm commitment to either redeveloping the site or maintaining it as a mall or else the remaining mall tenants will leave because they don't want to live in limbo.

    Thanks for the Sears electronics department updates. The only Sears electronics department I've been in recently was the Willowbrook Mall location. That one had not changed much as far as I could tell. I wonder what has been reduced at the other stores though. The Mall of the Mainland Sears electronics was small enough as it was. I may have to visit the store soon to see the changes. I didn't even know that Sears had drones.

    I suspected that Dick's Sporting Goods would open two-story stores here at Houston malls to minimize the amount of parking space that would need to be removed to build these stores. That might especially be an issue at the Willowbrook location due to it being shoehorned in an area that really wasn't intended to be an anchor pad as far as I can tell, but we'll see. Of course, the Dick's Sporting Goods store I visited at the Mall at Robinson in the Pittsburgh area was two stories as well even though that is a newer mall.

    I remember the Greenspoint Mall Electronics Boutique much more so than the Babbage's there because I think Greenspoint was the closest EB to me whereas Willowbrook had a Babbage's. Of course, Babbage's, EB, and Software Etc. all merged together at some point into GameStop along with FuncoLand which had a location across from Willowbrook Mall at The Commons. Anyway, most of what I brought at the mall software stores were PC programs. Even then, I didn't buy a whole lot of software at malls due to the prices being better at other stores like Best Buy and Computer City. Having said that, I do miss mall software stores. That's something that probably won't come back due to the nature of the software business unless people get nostalgic about buying software on floppy disks or something. I don't really see that happening though.

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    1. I expect most of the remaining mall chain stores will leave soon if things don't change soon. If the development stalls for a while, it leaves an opportunity for another developer to swoop in and develop an outdoor mall at a different site. Then San Jacinto Mall will really be in big trouble. If Macy's and JCPenney make the move, it would leave Sears as the lone anchor. We know Sears would survive, but the rest of the property would sit and continue to age under that scenario.

      Kmart electronics sections appear to be shrinking as well, at least in Lufkin. I think they are reducing the amount of televisions, headphones, and other items. The movies have been consolidated into one aisle like in Lake Charles.

      I am not sure if any of the other Dick's locations are 2 stories as well. The Woodlands Mall seems likely because of the shortage of parking at that mall.

      Mall software stores have mostly died off over the past 15 years or so. Most Gamestop stores have a PC game section, but that is all. The Smartphone and Tablet revolution has really hurt PC and software sales.

      I will reply to part 2 at a later time.

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  23. Part II:

    It'll be interesting to see how well Urban Outfitters does with the cassettes at the stores that they're selling them at. Maybe we'll get them here eventually. I heard that the top seller during Record Store Day 2015 was actually a Metallica cassette. There certainly seems to be interested based on that.

    One thing I do wonder is if modern pre-recorded cassettes come with Dolby B encoding like pre-recorded tapes back in the day. AFAIK, there aren't even any Dolby equipped players on the market right now so it might be a waste of time to make Dolby tapes, but who knows. I guess we'll know when cassettes have made it back to a significant level when we see good quality equipment being made again. I'm not sure if we'll ever see beastly 1980s cassette decks, boomboxes, and Walkmen again, but even upper-middle tier 1990s stuff would be a big upgrade over what is available today.

    The Maxell MX-S tapes are certainly keepers. They were Maxell's 2nd highest tier metal cassettes after the elusive Metal Vertex tapes. I've recorded onto MX-S tapes and they are indeed great tapes. I'm not sure if they're really that much better than the "standard" MX metal tapes, but that's a high standard to begin with. Anyway, sealed MX-S tapes are going for at least $10 each on eBay so you certainly had a good find.

    I wonder if we'll ever find superferric Type I tapes like Maxell XLI-S (or even XLI) or TDK AR/AR-X cassettes in the thrifts. Those seem to be even harder to find than metals these days and they're starting to become really valuable too.

    It's probably not worth messing with a 1990s Sony deck in a questionable state unless it's a Dolby S deck or an ES series Sony. The low-end Sony's are probably the most common decks in the thrifts.

    I have not found anything since my Nakamichi find last week, but that's ok. I'm still thrilled to have the Nakamichi. Actually, I did see a nice Mitsubishi Hi-Fi VCR at a thrift this week, but I already have a few Mitsubishis so I passed on that. I did see a number of pre-recorded tapes, but it wasn't anything interesting. At least the inventory was good.

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    1. The website for Urban Outfitters is showing cassettes in stock at the Woodland Mall, Rice Village, and The Galleria. The Woodlands Mall seems to have the most in stock out of the stores, well at least the cassettes that I looked at. I will have to check it out on my day off. They have 66 cassettes listed on their website. We may see big boomboxes again, you never know. I also doubt the new tapes are in Dolby, but you never know.

      It looks like some Goodwill locations have dropped the price of VHS and cassettes to 49 cents. I had been seeing prices ranging from 49 to 99 cents, but it looks like they are setting a consistant price now. It seems like pre-recorded inventory is up at the thrifts these days. Hopefully my options for tape players will be better in the coming weeks.

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  24. I came across an interesting recent article about the San Jacinto Mall situation. It sounds like Fidelis isn’t talking about the plans publicly yet. It also seems like the developers may get tax benefits from Baytown if they redevelop the mall. I’m sure that’s a pretty big incentive to get things done, but we’ll see if it’s enough. I wonder if Fidelis might get the benefits if they merely renovate the mall instead of tearing it down and building an open-air center.

    The article talks about how Baytown and the SE industrial corridor is doing well right now compared to the rest of the city, but the experts seem to think that it’s just a temporary situation. Hopefully the developers building new stuff in Baytown won’t over do things or have too high expectations or else it could become a ghost town again quickly.

    I’m not surprised to hear about the electronics downsizing at other Kmarts. Speaking of Kmart electronics departments, I came across an interesting picture from a Kmart in Elkhart, IN, that were taken last year. The store has the signage tiles in the electronics departments like many other Walkman woman Kmarts, but the tiles have been modernized with more current electronics images. Also, as you may be able to tell from this angle, it looks like that Kmart is selling/was selling a double cassette shelf system under the layaway sign that appears to also be convertible to a boombox. I’ve never seen other pictures of Kmarts selling that so that is interesting. Here are more pictures of the store.

    I came across an interesting article about how Staples is experimenting with putting office space that businesses can use to fill up extra space in their stores that they don’t use anymore. It’s an interesting idea, we’ll see how the test works. In other Staples news, it looks like there might be hope again for the seemingly doomed Staples-Office Depot merger. There’s still a lot of hurdles to pass though so we’ll see.

    I’m not sure what Gamestop has these days, but in the past they had a handful of top-selling PC games in stock at the stores. I don’t think they had any non-gaming software though like the old mall software stores had and they certainly didn’t have the selection of PC games either, but a lot of that is due to shifts in the software market. People use phones and tablets for certain tasks as you say and they also download software since a lot of publishers now have downloads. Also, companies like Adobe are starting to require subscriptions to get software where people pay monthly/yearly fees in exchange for being able to get the latest versions instead of selling them like they used to. I don’t like buying software that way and I probably won’t if I don’t have to, but I may not have a choice in the future.

    Speaking of bad electronic trends, it sounds like Vizio is planning on selling a new TV that isn’t really a TV. They plan on selling a TV that won’t come with an over the air antenna tuner. Legally they can’t sell that TV as a TV, but I’m sure retailers will have them out on the floor with other TVs so it could cause a lot of customer confusion. I can’t really think of a good reason for not putting a tuner in a consumer TV other than to save a few dollars. Maybe Vizio thinks they can sell standalone tuners for big bucks.

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    1. Baytown is growing, but it is still not an ideal place to live. Traffic is bad on Garth Rd. and the smells that float in from the area plants and refineries. I am not sure if the crime rate is bad, but I have seen lots of high profile crimes on the news from Baytown. Some of those crimes happened at the mall.

      Thanks for sending the Kmart pictures over. It is always cool to see other stores and how different they are.

      Gamestop still sells the same type of PC games. They carry the more popular titles. I have not bought a PC game in ages so I don't pay too much attention to their stock items.

      The Vizio monitors are probably not a good idea at this time. Little by little cable and digital channels may fade away, but right now most homes still watch standard or cable channels.

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    2. The Staples office spaces might help especially in areas with high office rents and crowded coffee shops. It seems like office stores have a hard time keeping the stores full of relevant merchandise. We still have the big 3 in Houston for now. Even though Office Max is Office Depot, the stores really have not changed.

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  25. Thanks for the information about Urban Outfitters. I did not realize that they were already selling cassettes in Houston. The initial stores that had cassettes must have done well to see other stores get them so quickly. I looked at some of the cassettes they have on their website and some of them are pretty mainstream, but most of the mainstream stuff are older albums from the 1990s and such. I actually already have the Back to the Future soundtrack on cassette, but it’s neat to see that it has been re-released on cassette. The good news is that UO’s cassette prices are much cheaper than record prices.

    I tried to look for Dolby logos on the pictures of tapes on the UO website, but I didn’t see any. The pictures don’t show everything though. Hopefully someone will make a high-quality big cassette boombox. Those boomboxes have a lot of vintage appeal (you see them all the time in movies and music videos) and they aren’t easy to find in thrifts so there may be a market for new ones.

    For some reason that link about San Jacinto Mall wants a password even though I was able to read it for free earlier. Maybe it can be pulled up through Google or the HPL library database. Anyway, Baytown most certainly does not have the greatest reputation. I remember Baytown jokes being popular some years ago. There are some new plants opening there, but as the article indicates, the plants may not generate all that many jobs even if they are high paying jobs. Plus, I’m sure some of the people who work at those plants may choose to live elsewhere closer to other retail areas due to the reasons you list. The positives in the refining business would also help the Pasadena area, but I’m not sure if I’d expect any big improvements at Plaza Paseo anytime soon.

    It’ll be interesting to see if the tax incentives are enough to push Fidelis to open a new shopping center at the mall site regardless if they have enough tenants or not. I don’t think that would be a good idea and I doubt the tax benefits are enough to outweigh a poor performing shopping center. Hopefully Fidelis will put some money into the mall to revitalize it if the redevelopment plans stall so the remaining stores and anchors will remain if nothing else.

    It is nice to see how each Kmart is a little different from one another. I don’t know why other stores have not received the new electronics signage tiles though. Those go a long way towards making the department look much more relevant in modern times.

    I actually think that the office space plan Staples is trying might be a good idea for the reasons you state. Plus, Staples will probably generate some supply sales from people working in the offices. The office chains have smaller electronics departments than they used to and some of their stationary racks and such aren’t as full as they used to be. It makes sense for those chains to try to evolve with the office supply market changes and also to try to generate some high profit margin convenience type shopping visits.


    I’m also noticing more inventory of cassettes in the thrifts recently compared to say January. 49 cents is a pretty common Goodwill price for audio cassettes, but most charge 99 cents for VHS tapes. Perhaps the pricing is coming down, but maybe one particular store decided to sell them for cheap. I’ll try to keep an eye on that. I have most of the movies that I want so I mainly only look for good quality VHS blanks in the thrifts these days. Sometimes some interesting sports tapes and such pop up though and are worth a look. I’ve mentioned YouTube poster vwestlife a few times on the blog before. He just posted a new video about VHS movies. It’s pretty interesting to look at and I’m sure the quality of captures would have been at least a little better if he used a quality 1980s-1990s VCR instead of a 2000s era DVD/VCR combo. There's even a Caldor reference in it.

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    1. I did not know either until I looked the other night at their website. I will probably stop by later in the week.

      San Jacinto Mall is at a tipping point. The building may not be able to be renovated due to the years of neglect. There are several sections of the mall with water damage and I can only imagine how bad the damage is in the Montgomery Ward wing. The department stores are in good shape though.

      I think many people live away from the refineries. I don't think retailers will benefit unless more people move there. I am sure the restaurants get a lot of traffic from the plants.

      By the time some of the nearby stores get them, half of the products on the signage will probably be phased out. It seems more and more likely that Sears/Kmart will exit the electronics business. I hope I am wrong, but they have really downsized their offerings in the past 2 years.

      I wonder if Staples will have a system of delivering items to the offices inside of their stores. It would be a real competitive advantage if they did.

      Thanks for sending over the Youtube video, I will check it out later. I never went to a Caldor, but I know the chain is missed by many. I actually saw the price change at 4 different Goodwills I visited last week. 3 of those stores were on the Southeast side of town. The other store was on the Northeast side of town. I may check out some stores on my day off so I will let you know what I find.

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  26. You bring up a good point about the condition of San Jacinto Mall. The structure may be too damaged for it to be realistically refurbished into a structurally sound mall. If that is the case, demolition may be the only option. We'll have to see what develops with the property and which anchors decide to stay and which give up and leave.

    The Baytown situation may not be much different than the Texas City/Mall of the Mainland situation. Texas City is a refinery town too and there are some high paying jobs there, but a lot of the people who work there live in League City or other areas aside from Texas City. Those people may have not done their shopping at Mall of the Mainland and may have gone to a place like Baybrook Mall instead. It's a difficult situation to assess. You make a good point about the restaurants though. The outparcel restaurants at the Mall Of The Mainland still do pretty well even though the mall is closed. Perhaps the same is true at Baytown.

    I hope your prediction about Kmart and Sears eliminating electronics is wrong, but there already isn't much left especially at some stores. We'll see. If nothing else, updating the signage might help sales enough to keep what they have.

    Speaking of which, I did recently visit the Mall of the Mainland Sears to see if there were any changes to note. As you mentioned, the electronics department has been slightly downsized yet again. It looks like they took one of the racks out of the little aisles of electronics that they have. Losing one rack may not sound significant to someone who hasn't seen the store recently, but it's a pretty big deal considering there weren't many racks to begin with. I didn't really notice if any products were missing though, but I'll try to check that out in more detail in a future visit.

    Other than that, the store really has not changed much. The store still has a lot of clearance apparel out. In fact, they probably have more than what they had a month or two ago during my last visit. I wonder if they're getting clearance clothes from other stores or if they just have a lot of winter clothes to clear out.

    I didn't go to check out if any of the mall near the Stuttgarden has reopened since I don't think they're open yet, but I did notice that they opened up an outdoor patio seating area for Stuttgarden that I'm almost positive did not exist before. Stuttgarden seems to have put a lot of money into the facility. We'll have to see if it pays off.

    I'm sure Staples will have some sort of concierge service for the office users to ensure they get the supplies and printing/shipping services they need ASAP. It'll be interesting to see how the concept stores do.

    The regional discount stores like Zayre, Caldor, Ames, Bradlees, and others seem to have a big following even if we aren't too familiar with them. It would have been nice to have experienced those chains, but I guess all we can do is read about them at this point.

    I went to a thrift today and looked at the VHS prices and they were indeed priced at 49 cents (Disney movies may have been more, they usually are during the rare times that I look at their prices). I'll have to see more thrifts to see the prices. The lowered prices may indicate either higher inventory or lower demand, but I still see people browsing the VHS racks so I'd imagine that demand is still about the same.

    Hopefully you'll have good luck finding stuff at Urban Outfitters and in the thrifts. There's some good stuff out there in the thrifts right now, but I guess you have to be more careful checking things out before you buy them than I have been recently. I recently brought a top of the line early 1980s Radio Shack direct drive turntable for ~$15, but I noticed after I brought it home that it's also missing it's counterweight which will be nearly impossible to buy separately. Ugh. Oh well, at least the Nakamichi cassette deck has proven to be a good purchase.

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    1. The Baytown area also has medical offices nearby which help the restaurants. Most of the new developments have more new restaurants in the front so who knows how many more the area can handle.

      I know that Sears and Kmart have lost significant ground in the electronics departments, but to me it is because they have been eliminating so many products over the past few years. The elimination of most movies and all video games I think really hurt.

      The patio area at the new bar was not there before. Maybe it will help bring attention to the people passing by that are going to the movies.

      I think the movies will sell much faster at 49 cents than before. Hopefully they will continue to sell them at that price.

      Urban Outfitters did have a decent amount of cassettes, but I did not find any of the ones I was looking for that were listed as in stock on their website. Hopefully people are not already stealing cassettes after they just brought them back. They had the cassettes on a very visible table just past the records. They also had about 30 used cassettes for sale in a separate basket on the table. I noticed on their website that they also have a retro cassette boombox for $60, but I did not see it in the store. I did not have a chance to make it to any thrift stores though.

      In other news the former Six Flags Mall in Arlington which had reopened as Plaza Central has closed again according to the Six Flags Mall Facebook page. I had a feeling the redevelopment was struggling when I went there last summer, but it seemed like more stores had opened since my visit. Some parts of the mall have been sold including the Dillard's property which for now is still open. Sad to see another mall go under, but hopefully someone can remake the property into something better.

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  27. Speaking of restaurants, I saw on the Stuttgarden Facebook page that they opened yesterday or Friday night. They say they have limited hours for now until they can get more staff, but they are open. I may swing by the Movies 12 sometime soon to see how the tavern looks from the inside and also to see if any more of the mall has been reopened. It'll be interesting to see.

    In other Mall of the Mainland restaurant news, the Galveston Daily News had an article the other day saying that the owner of the Galveston Golden Corral is looking at opening a Golden Corral at the former Ryan's Steakhouse outparcel. Who knows if it'll happen, but that will be a pretty big pickup for the mall site.

    I wonder if Cinemark will consider renovating the Movies 12 and converting it into a more expensive, more luxurious theater now that there is a nicer restaurant next door and perhaps a Golden Corral too. If nothing else, the new eateries may make it more likely that Cinemark will stay at the mall. We'll see, restaurants often fail quickly so hopefully the Stuttgarden will work well.

    That's too bad that the Six Flags Mall has closed yet again. I guess it's on the short list of malls that have died multiple times.

    I read an article recently that said that the number of households with broadband Internet who also have an Internet-connected game console may fall below 50% here soon. Perhaps there isn't much money in gaming right now and we know about the woes with CD sales right now. I suppose it's just more profitable for Kmart and Sears to sell furniture and appliances in the old electronics departments. Hopefully they'll continue to sell some electronics though. They still have a decent selection of TVs, cordless phones, prepaid cell phones, and cameras perhaps, but many stores don't have much more aside from that. Some electronics departments, like the Willowbrook Mall one, seem to be fairing better than others. I noticed, at least based on what I can see on the Sears website, that Willowbrook, Deerbrook Mall, and the N. Shepherd stores still sell printers whereas the Baybrook Mall, Westwood Mall, and Main St. Sears locations do not. It's kind of odd that the smaller locations have more electronics (at least in regards to printers) than the bigger stores. I wonder if the Westwood Sears electronics department has seen a significant reduction recently in size because it was one of the biggest ones I saw during my last visit there in around 2014.

    I guess Urban Outfitters' online inventory system is not very accurate. Hopefully it's a case of the tapes being in the back stockroom or something and not a case of theft. I guess cassettes are easier to steal than CDs and vinyl due to their size. I didn't know they were selling used cassettes. I wonder how good the used cassettes are, what kind of music they have, where they get them from, and what the prices are.

    There's a company called QFX that sells retro styled cassette boomboxes. I think Sears/Kmart sells at least one of their boomboxes on their website. I think that is the brand Urban Outfitters sells as well, but I think they are much more expensive. Anyway, I think it's a Chinese boombox so the quality might be lacking. I have not read much about them other than reading that they are smaller than the old boomboxes.

    Perhaps Goodwill has reduced their prices on DVDs so they had to reduce VHS prices too. I don't know, that's just a guess. Either way, I guess it's a good time to stock up on VHS movies if you like them. Some thrifts, like Value Village, have 5 VHS movies for a $1 on sale sometimes.

    I noticed that the Kmart website finally has the Maxell UR 90 cassettes available for shipping. Before they were only available in store. The prices aren't great, but I suppose I can finally buy some Kmart cassettes. I may order a couple packs and record on them using my Sears cassette deck.

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    1. Some good news for the Mall of the Mainland property. If Golden Corral opens it will bring a lot of extra traffic to that lot. The new Golden Corral restaurants look really nice.

      In some stores half of the former electronics space has been chopped. They really can't downsize too much more at this point.

      Urban Outfitters had a variety of used tapes, mostly classic light rock bands. I did not see any I wanted so I did not check the price. I would not trust spending $60 on a boombox purchased online. The quality is probably lacking as you mentioned.

      Kmart stores have carried at least 2 packs at a time since they started carrying the blank cassettes again. It seems like they limit the physical media section to about 2 of each item these days. The last Kmart I visited had the yearly rebuild of the electronics section so most of the items were in carts or spread out.

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  28. I was able to go to the Mall of the Mainland this week to see if any more of the mall has been opened back up near the Stuttgarden restaurant. Unfortunately, the wall is still there that barricades the theater and restaurant sites from the food court and the rest of the former mall. I was hoping that they would take that down, but I guess that won’t be happening yet. I didn’t notice any other changes at the mall or the Sears there, but my last visit was just last week so I wasn’t expecting to see anything different.

    The old Golden Corral near Almeda Mall was torn down a few months ago and the brand new replacement location opened back up a few weeks ago. The place has been very busy since the reopening. The parking lot always seems to be full when I drive by it. I have not eaten at a Golden Corral in probably 25 years or so, but I know that some people like them. I remember people liking Ryan’s too in the 1990s, but I have not heard much hype about them in more recent years.

    Thanks for the information about used cassettes at Urban Outfitters. Well, at least it is something. Perhaps the used cassettes will sell well and will spur on more demand for new cassettes.

    The Sears website has the smaller size QFX retro cassette boombox for $18. It appears to only have one speaker so the amount of boom it creates is probably not much. I’m not sure exactly how big it is, but it might not be much bigger than a Walkman with a speaker attached. Anyway, I’m sure our Sony CFD-S50 boomboxes are much better in quality.

    On the topic of Sears/Kmart electronics departments, I came across an interesting article today discussing the problems with selling electronics at B&M stores today. It does refer to Sears a couple of times. I don’t think there’s anything in that article that we have not already discussed at one point or another, but it is still an interesting read.

    It probably makes sense for Kmart to only keep 2 or so of the retro media items in stock at any given time especially if they can get new shipments in pretty quickly. I doubt people are buying those at a fast rate, but they probably have a large profit margin given the high prices on them so it’s still worth selling. Well, anyway, I’m happy that Kmart still sells cassettes. I wonder if they raised the prices on the Maxells after realizing that Walmart was selling the lower quality Onn tapes for the same price. Granted, I have not been in a Walmart since the location near Willowbrook Mall closed so I’m not sure of the current status of the Onn cassettes.

    I have not found much in the thrifts, but I did come across a bit of an oddball. It was a Maxell UDII cassette from the late 1980s/early 1990s with the big oval window. UDII was Maxell’s entry level Type II cassette. It’s kind of rare since the XLII was a higher level tape and sold for not much more. It would have been nice for my collection, but unfortunately it did not have a price tag and a lot of thrifts will not sell things without price tags. I could have waited for a manager to price it, but I figured it wasn’t worth the wait. I do have a mid-90s Radio Shack HD cassette that is said to be a rebadged UDII tape so it’s not like I’m totally without that tape in my collection.

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    1. Hopefully they will reopen the mall soon to bring more traffic through to the new restaurant.

      Buffets have been struggling to say the least. Golden Corral shut down several poor locations in many areas and they have focused on their moneymakers. Ryan's and the related brands are in deep trouble with only a fraction of the locations still in business after several bankruptcies.

      The used cassettes are $5.98 at Urban Outfitters. The new cassettes range from $9.98 to $13.98 righy now. It is a start maybe more retailers will jump on board.

      Thanks for sending over the article, it seems like Sears is trying to figure out what they are going to do.

      Speaking of Sears, the West Oaks location electronics department is shrinking again. They were redoing the department into three aisles. The television displays appear to be shrinking as well. Every Sears and Kmart I have been to in the last few weeks is undergoing an electronics department reset. We will see what happens soon with these departments.

      Also the Main Street Sears finally had the signs back on at night. I managed to get a few shots, but they are not that great.

      It seems like Kmart and Sears stores are stocking most of the same products from store to store with a few exceptions. Hopefully they will get creative and make changes so each store will not carry identical products.

      I guess you win some and lose some in the thrifts.

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  29. Part I:

    It certainly does seem that buffets and cafeterias are struggling to compete with fast food restaurants and also the new “premium” fast food options (I suppose they're called "fast and casual" restaurants) like Chipotle and Five Guys. Perhaps Golden Corral is doing better than most of their competitors though. I think the buffets could do a better job marketing themselves and marketing their value. Perhaps people have forgotten, or maybe young people don’t even know, that buffets do offer pretty good pricing. Of course, perhaps people just want food that is more specialized these days or maybe they just want better quality.

    I was reading an article about how Dick’s Sporting Goods is taking over an old Sears building in either NY or PA. That in itself isn’t that interesting I guess, but the article did mention that a Field & Stream outdoor store would open in the old Sears space as well. I figured that it was odd that two sporting goods stores would open up in the same space so I did some research. It sounds like Field & Stream is a new concept outdoor store operated by Dick’s. I wonder if the Houston locations will also be co-occupied by Field & Stream stores. It would make sense to do that in the Houston market I think. It would make them more competitive against Academy and the number of other outdoor oriented chains that have come to town in recent years. In other Dick’s news, I recently read an article saying that they are opening a store in Katy. I guess not all their stores in Houston will be GGP mall stores then.

    Hopefully the recent floods didn't impact you or your Houston readers. I wonder what impact the serious local flooding here in NE, N, NW, W, and SW Houston will have on retail locations here. We may see some stores get unexpected renovations because of the floods, but I guess it's also possible that some retailers may look to bail out from locations that are marginally performing that got flooded. I know I saw a picture of a Kroger store on 249 that I shop at fairly regularly that was still under water a day after the rain. I'm sure stores like that will need a lot of repairs. I wonder if any local malls were impacted by the flooding.

    There was an announcement today that Kmart and Sears are closing a number of more stores. This time there was actually a published closing list. 3 Kmarts will close in Texas and 1 will close in LA. There will also be a Sears closure in LA. It's a shame to see a number of stores close in this region, but at least all the Houston area Sears stores will remain open.

    I’m glad that you were able to get some pictures of the Main St. Sears sign. I wonder why it was on. The weather has not been good lately so maybe they turned it on since it was dark outside earlier than it normally is due to the clouds. Who knows.

    Thanks for the West Oaks Mall Sears update. I’m not surprised that the electronics department there is being shrunk even more, but they really didn’t have much there during my last visit last September. I wonder if they’ll start moving other departments into that space since it’s being underutilized as such.

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    1. Luby's is turning most of their locations into Luby's/Fuddruckers combos to stay relevant. Buffets are very hard to make a profit in unless you fill the place up daily.


      I don't know if I mentioned that the Woodlands Dick's store is going to be 2 floors as well. An additional focus on outdoor departments is a good idea since most of the area is near a lake or waterway.

      We were fortunate to be in good shape after the floods. The Northwest side of the area seems to have gotten the brunt of this storm. As far as I know none of the area malls sustained major damage. A part of Greenspoint Mall is being used as a shelter for the residents who were flooded. I know the area received an abnormal heavy rain, but there has to be some changes made to handle heavy rains to minimize flooding. A lot of the newer developments in the city have caused areas to flood that did not flood before.

      The 2 Louisiana closures are a surprise to me. Southland Mall is a very good mall and the Kmart down the street in Houma is in a declining shopping center. The Pineville Kmart is in a growing area so I am not sure why that store is closing as well. Another Sears store at the Medley Centre is the last anchor left at that famous deadmall. If you have not read up on that mall, it is a very interesting one.

      It was right at dusk that I passed by the Main St. Sears. This is the first time in a year or so that I saw the sign on. Now I will be able to complete my article next week.

      The one store I keep forgetting about is the Westwood location. I have not been there in a year so I wonder how much is left there.

      I will post a reply to Part 2 later on.

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    2. Another thing I noticed with the newest Sears/Kmart closings. All remaining Super Kmart stores except the Mentor Ohio store are closing. That store is rumored to be a future Meijer store so it might not last much longer. Also more of the Green Kmart prototypes are closing. At least 2 more are closing, I am not sure how many of those were left. Either way it looks like the end of the Super Kmart concept.

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    3. I think I read that there may be two remaining Super Kmarts, the aforementioned Mentor one and the Warren, OH, store as well. Both of these sound like they are slated to become Meijer stores in the next couple of years so they won't be Kmarts for long. The Super Kmart concept does indeed appear to be dead, but really it all but died several years ago. I can't blame Kmart for dumping the concept though. It's hard to make money on groceries and it's not like Kmart is in a financial position to prop up poor performing departments. Plus, it'll be harder for Kmart to compete on the grocery front (well, on all fronts) with Meijer looking to expand a little further in the Midwest.

      I'm guessing a lot of these Kmarts are closing as their leases come up for renewal. Kmarts are more likely to be leased locations than Sears stores. I wonder if Kmart even signs any long term lease agreements these days or if they'll just continue to close stores as the leases expire and thus kind of let the chain expire as a whole with it. We'll see.

      At first I did not recognize the Medley Centre name, but I looked it up and I guess it's the new name for the famed Irondequoit Mall that lived a life similar to that of the Mall of the Mainland. I'm not surprised to see Sears leave that location. That might be a case of the store closing due to underperformance instead of lease issues.

      It's a shame to see the Pineville Kmart close since that seemed to be a Kmart that did decent business and was in decent condition.

      There's been a lot of discussion in the media about whether the apartments in the Greenspoint Mall area should be razed due to the flooding. It'll be a hard call to make. Low income people need a place to live, but perhaps removing the apartments from that area might help that area revive it's retail situation. Granted, it may take a long time for that area to shed it's Gunspoint image. Anyway, I know that there was a neighborhood near the mall that was completely demolished due to flood risks so flooding problems aren't new for that area.

      Some areas, like the Cypresswood area, have had flooding problems for years now. Other areas here in NW/N Houston have only started to see flooding problems in recent years due to new development taking away drainage areas. Hopefully the county will take steps now after another disaster to help solve the flooding problems like what happened to some extent after TS Allison. Then again, there are some low-lying areas that will likely flood again regardless of what is done. This will definitely a big issue and challenge for NW/N Houston going forward.

      I have not been to the Westwood Mall Sears since around this time in 2014. I also wonder what is going on there. I don't spend a lot of time in SW Houston so I don't know when I'll be able to go down there next, but it would be neat to get an update from there if you're able to visit it.

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    4. You are right, the other Kmart in Warren Ohio is closing so the Super Kmart is safe for now. I got the 2 stores mixed up. I guess the strongest remaining Super Kmart stores were converted to regular Kmart stores.

      I think the Medley Centre actually had another short lived name, but that is what most articles refer to the property as.

      I may or may not have an opportunity to visit the Pineville Kmart one more time, luckily I had taken some great images of the store while it was still operating normally.

      Hopefully the managers of those properties are up front with the residents who sign leases about the flooding risks that the first floor has at those locations. After 5-10 years after a flood many of the residents have changed and do not know the risk. Some of those apartments may have to be demolished though.

      There is so much underutilized property in Houston that can be redeveloped or fixed up, but many developers would rather take fresh land and build it up. For those of us that have lived in the same area for a while we need to be prepared especially if new developments are going up.

      It has been about a year since I visited Westwood and PlazAmericas
      Mall. I may have to make a visit soon.

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  30. Part II:

    It’ll be interesting to see what electronics items are left at Sears and Kmart after the most recent downsizing. I have been looking at Kmart ads recently and I do notice that they still sell new release DVD/Blu-Ray discs. They probably only sell titles that are expected to be top sellers though. I’m not surprised that the TV selections are shrinking some too. Although 4K and smart TVs are adding some variety to the market, the reality is that there probably isn’t a huge demand for a wide variety of models and brands. It probably makes sense to sell just a few of the top sellers and maybe have a little bit more for sale online.

    Your observation about the standardization of products at Sears and Kmart is interesting. I still see some merchandising oddballs at Sears and sometimes in pictures of Kmarts like that double cassette boombox that I saw in a Kmart picture. I’ve never seen that anywhere else. I certainly expect certain differences at various Houston area Sears and sometimes those differences draw me into stores that I wouldn’t go to otherwise, but consistency can be a good thing too. It’s hard to say which is more beneficial.

    I came across an interesting Kmart photo of a store in PA that separated the M & V signs in the electronics departments. It's an odd look for sure.

    I did recently pick up a 1990s Pioneer passive subwoofer from a thrift. At $15 I would say that it was not cheap, but it was in good condition and it looked to be a big upgrade over the KLH subwoofer I got a few months back for a couple of dollars in terms of quality and condition. It sounds okay when I tested it at home, but I have not tested it back-to-back with the KLH yet to really see what the difference is. I may donate the KLH if the Pioneer proves to be the upgrade that I think it is.

    I also picked up a Maxell XLII-S cassette from a thrift. Unlike the UDII cassette I mentioned earlier, the XLII-S is a superior tape to the more common XLII. Some people still prefer the XLII due to formula inconsistencies with the XLII-S, but it is a top of the line type II tape. I also picked up a two pack of some rather generic looking ProTech tapes that are made in China. I don’t know anything about these or how old they are. They may be a store brand for some store that I’m not familiar with. They probably are pretty low quality tapes, but it’s a neat oddball nonetheless.

    I just realized that I forgot to put a link to the Sears/Kmart closing list in Part I. Oops, sorry. Here's the link.

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    1. The last 2 Kmart stores I visited had new release videos in stock and it was only a handful of movies. It looks like they are trying to fit all of the remaining movies onto one aisle with the movies facing sideways.

      At the rate the electronics departments are shrinking the Mall of the Mainland Sears will have one small wall of TV's with a small aisle of misc electronics by this time next year. It is sad to see more Sears and Kmart stores closing especially ones that I have visited, but they need to add more items and not keep shrinking.

      It sounds like you found some goodies at the thrifts. Finally a decent blank tape.

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  31. The chasing lights of the Fiesta might not be all THAT old, the Fiesta near the Midtown Sears in Houston has 'em, but the store opened in 1989, long after that sort of thing had mostly fallen out of fashion.

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    1. The Fiesta store pictured above actually changed the chasing lights from a neutral clear bulb to red about 10 years ago. The rest of the signage has been the same since the 80's including the interior neon signs. Sadly the new Fiesta stores don't have the neon lights inside, but they are still very colorful. I have visited 2 newer Fiesta stores on the West side of Houston and they are very different.

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  32. I’ve been doing some reading about Medley Centre/Irondequoit Mall and there’s some interesting stuff about the malls in that area. Apparently there were two other 1960s era malls that competed with Medley Centre, Greece Towne Mall and Long Ridge Mall, that were built so close to one another that they were able to merge both malls into one mall, The Mall At Greece Ridge, in the mid 1990s. That’s just odd, I’ve never heard of malls merging like that. I know that department stores back in the day would sometimes not allow competing department stores into their malls so that led to multiple malls being built a short distance from one another (ala Sharpstown and Westwood Malls), but building two malls practically on the same property seemed pretty silly. Well, I guess it worked out in the end because they were able to merge the malls and the mall seems successful today.

    Anyway, it also seems like many of the malls in that area were developed by the same company, Wilmorite Properties. Perhaps Wilmorite built too many malls in the area, including Medley, and they just could not all survive. It’s interesting that the newest and perhaps nicest mall was the one that failed, but it’s not the only 1990s era mall that just never got enough visitors. The Rust Belt in general seemed to be over-malled even if the developers did not forsee the job losses in those areas. A number of the malls built there were doomed to live short lives as feasible malls. Oh well, at least some of them continue to thrive.

    It probably makes sense for Kmart to only stock a handful of new release movies and maybe a bargain box of cheap DVDs. It seems like people aren’t buying midrange priced movies that are a little bit old anymore. The same is probably true for music, it makes sense to sell the latest mega hit CDs (which still sell fairly well) and also some bargain priced compilation type CDs.

    An electronics department like the one you describe sounds pretty pathetic, but the Mall of the Mainland Sears electronics department is almost like that description already. Some Kohl’s stores may have bigger electronics departments by now. Well, hopefully they’ll be able to maintain what they have if nothing else. The TV selection may continue to thin a bit, but hopefully they’ll still keep things like boomboxes, shelf stereos, video disc players, cameras, prepaid phones, headphones, blank media, and whatever else still remains.

    As for Pseudo3D’s comments about Fiestas, it is true that some Fiestas were built kind of vintage looking. This seems especially true for the more Hispanic serving stores. The suburban Fiestas that were built in the late 1980s had a more modern look for the times, but even then Fiesta went a bit more over the top than other grocers. You can still see this at the Willowchase Fiesta that has barely changed at all since it opened in 1988/1989. The checkered floor in the entryway and some neon aside, it does not look that vintage, but it does not look like typical grocery stores either.

    I doubt the landlords will be that honest to potential future residents if those apartments survive which is bad since I doubt those residents can afford flood insurance. The only hope I guess is that those apartments get blacklisted by the government agencies that offer housing subsidies. If that happens, the apartments would probably go out of business anyway.

    You’re right about long-term residents having trouble with properties that flood when they didn’t used to due to new development. That’s certainly true over where I live. Hopefully this will spur on more growth in the underutilized areas as you say that aren’t flood prone, but we know that people have short memories.

    It would be great to get some updates from the SW side and also the closing Kmarts if possible. Maybe you could do the Westwood Mall Sears comparison pictures from the Adam movie we talked about months ago. Yes, it was a great thing that you were able to get to the Pineville Kmart under regular conditions for sure.

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    1. Another nearly identical mall to the Irondequoit Mall is The Charlestowne Mall or Quad at Charlestown. The interior of the mall died out but 3 out of the 4 anchors are still there doing well.

      I think Kmart stores stopped getting new release music or at least the few stores that still have CD's in stock. Kmart stores have been a little slow in getting TV shows on DVD as well. I think the TV shows probably easily outsell the movies these days.

      I am hoping to see more connected solutions products stocked at Sears stores. They really need to have in-store advertisements to showcase these new items. A lot of retailers are starting to increase their offerings and Sears should act quickly to capitalize on this new trend of electronics.

      The short lived Fiesta in Humble looked very similar on the inside to the Reliant Stadium location with high ceilings and more simplistic neon signs. I think that store only lasted 3 years and was replaced by a Randall's that lasted for an even shorter time. The Randall's moved from down the street. Fiesta rarely renovates their stores outside of painting and sign maintenance.

      The sad part is that flood insurance is more expensive than regular renters insurance, well at least in my experience. I lived in an apartment that almost flooded once but the area and most of the city is known for flooding. I think with the recent heavy rain and tropical events, Houston is becoming known for being a flood zone. It seems like the area has been having more frequent floods than usual.

      Some people also refuse to leave flood zones and live with the risk. Some people also get stuck because they cannot sell the home that flooded because the value goes down after a flood. The insurance also goes up if you stay so either way they property owners will lose money.

      One of the unique things about the Houma Sears is that the store connected to the mall sells softlines and electronics. The hardware, garden, and auto are in a separate building across the parking lot. I wonder if that is closing as well or will it live on as a Sears Hardware.

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  33. Thanks for telling me about the Quad at St. Charles mall, I had not heard about that one. It sounds like Kohl’s is leaving that mall leaving only Carson Pirie Scott and Von Maur. The Von Maur itself used to be a JCPenney, which left, and the mall also used to have a Sears. Perhaps that is an example of a mall that does better with high end retail than with mid-level retail as the remaining anchors are probably the highest end stores the mall had. Von Maur does not open too many locations so there must have been something they liked about that market even with the struggles of the mall itself. We’ll see if the redesign of the mall will help revitalize that one. It can’t get much worse since it only has one in-line tenant left, a LensCrafters.

    I’m guessing that the Humble, FM 1960 & Kuykendahl, and Astrodome area Fiesta stores all opened with the same design. There’s a store on Highway 6 on the SW side, which I’m not sure if it’s still open or not, that I think had a similar design too. I went to the Astrodome store once and it reminded me of the Kuykendahl store based on my limited memories of the place. Of course, the Kuykendahl Fiesta eventually became a short lived Randall’s as well, but neither of those grocery stores lasted long.

    The Houma Sears sounds like an interesting situation, I’ve never heard of that before. I don’t know if you’ll be able to visit the store before it closes, but maybe you can get some pictures of this unique situation. The closest thing I can think of is the West Oaks Sears where the auto center is across Hwy. 6 from the mall. Of course, at one time the West Oaks Sears only sold clothing. I wonder why the Houma store was designed that way. I’m not sure what all is closing, but perhaps Sears will try to put a Hardware store or a Hometown store in the outparcel building or near the area.

    There was a recent announcement that Sears was going to stock more “smart” products like a smart lawn tractor that can be connected to a computer/phone/tablet so that the user can watch videos on how to perform maintenance on it. That seems kind of silly. I’m not sure how many people would use that and some people would probably have preferred if they just put the videos on YouTube or put them on a flash drive/DVD. But, anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how/if Sears grows their Connected Solutions departments especially in terms of traditional electronic type items.

    I’m not sure if current Sears customers, who tend to be older as a whole compared to some other retailers, have much interest in Connected Solutions devices so it might make sense to do TV ads and stuff talking about Connected Solutions products at Sears to lure in younger people who don’t typically shop there. Perhaps they can also stock stores with people knowledgeable about connected devices and they can advertise the quality of service/help customers will get if they go to Sears since a lot of people don’t know much about “smart” home stuff. Some items, like security cameras, could be quite popular.

    Flooding tends to be a major problem in Houston so any reputation it gets for flooding will probably be at least a little bit legitimate. The interesting thing is that some of the spots with the most flooding are more expensive “desirable” areas like Katy, the northern Willowbrook area, and other spots like that. This will probably hurt real estate deals in those areas for a while at least. There are roads in desirable parts of west Houston, like Highway 6, that are expected to be closed for weeks due to flooding. It’s obviously a major inconvenience for residents and I’m sure prospective land buyers who live near the area are thinking twice about investing in the area.

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    1. The Quad at St. Charles development is stuggling to keep tenants. I did not know about Kohl's, but that is going to hurt their plans for the site. Maybe they can still keep the mall portion between the two remaining anchors.

      All of those stores had very similar large entrances and similar interior designs. At least one of those stores survives nearly untouched since the late 80's.

      You can see the outside of both Houma Sears stores in my Southland Mall post. The back store is indeed a Sears Hardware. It looks like both parts of the store will close. The 2 locations carry the same address on the website.

      I passed by Willowbrook Mall a few nights ago finally. The Sears has nearly a full aisle in the electronics department with Connected Solutions products. I guess people will spend to get the newest trendy items, but I agree the smart mowers sound silly. I agree that the cameras could be popular because the alternative is to wire up cameras to a central box.

      As for the rest of Willowbrook, the food court is definitely smaller but it looks nicer. The floor in the mall looks new as well. There is also a large section of the mall near the Nordstrom Rack that is being redeveloped, but they did not have the name of the new store on the signage. I forgot to see how the construction was going on the new Dick's because I parked on the other side of the mall. Things are looking good for the mall and most of the empty spaces have signs advertising new businesses coming soon.

      The county needs to step in and require better flood management improvements for new developments. The city and county are usually very lax with granting permits for new construction. Our area has a history of flooding so there needs to be some way to continue the growth while improving flood control.

      Another small update from the mall formerly known as the Pasadena Town Square Mall. The signs have been changed to reflect the new Plaza Paseo name. I did not go inside but I was in the area visiting some other places. I also hit up a few of the thrift stores but found nothing. It was not my day.

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  34. The photos of the Houma Sears stores at the Southland Mall are quite interesting, thanks. There must be some story as to why they built two different stores. Perhaps there wasn’t enough land for a bigger store. Perhaps the store predated the mall and was a small store. Perhaps Sears didn’t expect the mall to be as much of a success as it became at one point. Who knows. I’m guessing that the Sears Hardware store there is company owned and not a SHOS store like the Houston Sears Hardware stores, but that may not be accurate. Perhaps SHOS will try to find a local franchisee in the area to keep a hardware presence in the area even if it’s not on the mall site itself.

    Thanks for the Willowbrook Mall update. I have not been inside the actual mall itself since January, but I have been to the Sears a few times since then. I’m not sure if they replaced the tiles in the mall. I’ll have to check that out during my next visit. The food court is smaller as you say, but it’s big enough probably. I have not heard what is coming up near the Nordstrom Rack, but I’ll try to check that out as well in a future visit.

    The Willowbrook Sears has maintained a bigger electronics department than most other Houston Sears. I’m not sure why that is, but I’m pleased about it. Hopefully that means sales are good compared to other stores.

    It certainly sounds like Pasadena Town Square has officially become Plaza Paseo now. There may not be the hype around it like the Sharpstown Mall name change (well, changes really since there were multiple name changes over the years), but I guess it’ll be added to the ranks of mall name changes. I’m sure a lot of the locals will still refer to it as the Pasadena Town Square.

    As you say, the wireless smart cameras are good because they don’t need the wires that would cost a lot of money to put in. Also, they can be monitored remotely for people who want to check in on their kids and stuff like that. There’s certainly a risk for hacking, but at least the cameras are more useful than most “smart” devices.

    I wonder if we’ll see more retention ponds and such built now like was the case after TS Allison about 15 years ago. I’m not sure how much those help, but at least it’s something. The main thing the city and county may have to do is be more restrictive about granting permits to people who want to build things on flood runoff areas. Of course, I don’t think that’s going to be pushed very hard. The city and county have both been known to be very friendly towards developers.

    It seems that RadioShack has a new CEO. The new CEO has a history with Sears Canada, that’s interesting. Hopefully he’ll be able to get the company going in the right direction. I did recently visit a Sprint RadioShack to buy a couple of parts out of the parts bins. There was nothing remarkable about the visit one way or another, but I am glad that the stores are still there.

    I have not found much in the thrifts in my most recent visits, but I have not visited a ton of thrifts recently. One thrift had a number of pretty good prerecorded cassettes, but I passed on them since I think I already have that music already. Someone must have also donated a large collection of Tiffany and Debbie Gibson cassingles as well because the thrift was full of those. I wonder how quickly those will move, but it would make great collector items for people who were teens in the 1980s.

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    1. The Houma Kmart near the mall is a Seritage property. That Kmart is the only store I have seen with the newest Kmart logo. I wonder why the mall store is closing Southland Mall is a successful mall. Southland is also one of the few malls left that still has a drugstore, the Rite Aid. I can see more Sears or Kmart stores in close proximity of each other to close in the future. Lufkin, Kileen, Bossier City, and Metairie in the blog region have stores very close to each other.

      I guess the enclosed electronics department is what helps the Willowbrook Sears electronics department stay full. After the consolidation at Deerbrook both of these stores will have identical electronics departments.

      I did not go into the mall so I don't know if the directories changed as well. It is good to see the name formally changed to show that the developers are serious about Plaza Paseo.

      The remote access is definitely a selling point for the wireless cameras, but many wired systems also have that option.

      Some of the newer developments have retention ponds/lakes in the front of the area. I don't know exactly what the solution should be, but what they are doing now is not working.

      It is not surprising to see the corporate turnover at Radio Shack.

      I visited a couple more thrifts and once again came up empty handed.

      In other news Sports Authority wil liquidate the rest of the company. It looks like the proceeds from the current store closing sales will barely cover the court costs of the bankruptcy so they will need to sell the rest of the company to pay off their debts. I did not think the chain would have survived, but it is sad to see another chain close.

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    2. The Bossier City Kmart near Shreveport will close in August. Yet another Louisiana Kmart closing. All of the remaining Kmart stores in Louisiana are within 30 minutes of I-10. I am hoping Lufkin and Kileen survive, but with Pineville, Longview, and now Bossier City closing who knows.

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  35. Part I:

    It’s hard to say why Sears is closing the Southland store in Houma. Perhaps the mall would like that space for redevelopment. Perhaps it is a leased space that isn’t owned by Sears. Perhaps the dual nature of the store causes problems that is leading to poor sales. I don’t know, we can only speculate I guess. You would think that Sears would want to keep that location open especially if the Seritage Kmart nearby might close if someone else wants in on that property, but oh well I guess.

    You could be right about closures at locations that have both Sears and Kmarts nearby. Unfortunately, it seems like a lot of the Kmarts left in this region are located near Sears stores. Lampert’s push to sell more items online makes having both stores less useful (though I’m not sure how many customers shop online and pickup in store versus buying in store). Plus, Kmart is making a bigger push into mattresses and appliances, but Sears is more than capable of carrying that load. I don’t know, we’ll see. Hopefully the locations are doing well and maybe the close nature of those stores creates some loyal Shop Your Way shoppers that shop at both stores frequently. Perhaps recreating Kmart to be more like Big Lots will differentiate the stores enough to justify keeping both.

    The Deerbrook Mall Sears electronics department seems to be doing relatively well as well according to your pictures. The N. Shepherd Sears electronics department seems to be hanging in there pretty well as well based on what I’ve seen on the Sears website when it comes to store availability of items. I’m not really sure why the northside Sears are doing better than the southside Sears when it comes to electronics, but I guess it is what it is.

    I do wonder if the closed off nature of the Willowbrook Mall Sears electronics department is helping the bottom line. Perhaps there is less shrinkage and maybe it gives the customers more of a sense that they are shopping at a standalone electronics store, but I really don’t like it because it makes the store look like it has a theft problem. I guess people don’t want to shop at a store that is considered to be in a problematic area. Plus, it makes it harder to go into the electronics department if there is an item in the aisle that grabs your attention while you’re walking by. I don’t know, it’s hard to say whether it’s beneficial or not.

    I’ve found some photos of new Kenmore kitchen mockups at Kmart stores. Here’s an example. That’s a pretty nice way to display some pretty basic model appliances. It makes the stores look nicer. Hopefully we’ll see more of that at Kmarts.

    The Rite Aid at Southland Mall is interesting. There aren’t too many mall pharmacies these days. I wonder how that will fare with the Walgreens merger. Of course, not all mall pharmacies are really pharmacies. I recently came across a picture of a mall CVS in PA that does not have a pharmacy.

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    1. More Sears and Kmart store closings were announced this week. This round of closings is much smaller and no list was released, but a news search will show which stores are closing. In the blog region the Bossier City Kmart will be closing. Now the only remaining Louisiana Kmart stores are all located within 30 minutes of I-10. Hopefully the Lufkin and Kileen Kmart's will survive, but now those stores are very far away from the nearest Kmart stores and near Sears stores.

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  36. Part II:

    In other Houston mall news, it sounds like demolition of the Montgomery Ward wing at San Jacinto Mall has begun this week. Redevelopment plans are still vague though. Also, it sounds like clothing store Zara will be opening near the Nordstrom Rack at Willowbrook Mall. That must be the development that you saw coming up there.

    We’ll have to see if the Plaza Paseo owners are able to get more small Hispanic owned/serving businesses into the mall. The name change may certainly help with that.

    I’ve also come across some interesting mall photos. I guess the weather is warm enough across the country that retail photographers are taking road trips again. Here is an interesting mall, the South Side Mall in Kentucky, which used to be anchored by a Kmart and still has a Sears. The Kmart became a Magic Mart, but the Magic Mart will close soon. The Gamestop in what appears to be the old Kmart garden shop is odd. Here’s some very interesting pictures of the Logansport Mall in TN. That mall is clearly struggling and the JCPenney mall entrance looks very outdated. You don’t see stuff like that much anymore. There’s some real oddballs in those small town malls.

    It’s not surprising to me that The Sports Authority is done. Dick’s Sporting Goods does everything that they do plus more and they’re probably better at it. Other stores like Academy are moving into more areas and clearly Academy is more popular here locally. It is interesting though to see another chain formerly owned by Kmart go away though. I don’t know if Kmart can be blamed for the failure in anyway though because it seems like things fell apart years after Kmart spun the chain off.

    One of the odd things about Houston is to see so many new neighborhoods (at least here on the NW side) being advertised as waterfront neighborhoods when the ponds those neighborhoods have are just retention type ponds. I’m not sure if those ponds really help much, I’m sure a much more comprehensive flood control solution will be needed.

    Perhaps this will be a slightly slow period in the thrifts as spring cleaning season is getting over, but perhaps the recent flooding might cause people to give stuff away as they have to move things around to replace old carpets. Then again, hopefully that stuff isn’t water damaged. I was able to find some excellent stuff in the thrifts last April-June so I think there’s still good reason to check out the thrifts during the summer.

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    1. Finally we see progress with the San Jacinto Mall project. According to the article, it will be a 60 month long process to complete the project. That is a long time, I wonder if they counted the time since they bought the mall in that time frame. I am hoping that by the time I can make it down there that I can get some good photos of the interior of the stores while they are open to the elements.

      There is a lot of space near the Dillard's and Macy's corridors that can be redeveloped. Retailers are moving into the area, but the mall has not filled any major vacancies lately. The shopping center across the street recently filled the vacant former Office Depot with a clothing retailer.

      The malls in the photos are interesting. I saw Logansport Mall photos a couple of years ago, but it looks worse now.
      That weird Gamestop building is strange, but a good way to maximize space on the property.

      Academy and Dick's may wind up being the last 2 major chains left. Academy appeals to everyday shoppers with a budget and Dick's appeals to shoppers who are looking for top quality goods. Both have carved out their niche and continue to improve and grow.


      The ponds are good for small flood events, but they can backfire in a large rain event by overflowing into the neighborhood. Larger waterways that are kept clear and floodzones where development can't occur should be part of the resolution.

      I guess it is just the luck of the draw at thrift stores. I might need to visit areas outside of my normal routine one of these days. There has to be some other thrift hot spots around Houston.

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  37. It looks like Sears is continuing to close Sears and especially Kmart locations after the announced list a few weeks back. It's unfortunate to see further closings in this region. Hopefully the remaining stores will stick around. At some point the remaining Kmarts may be so far apart from one another that it may be unjustifiable to keep any of them open. Then again, the plan may be to close all of them as their leases come up. Some locations, I think the Portland/Corpus Christi location comes to mind, are located pretty far from other competitors so maybe those will have a better fate.

    Sears is planning on closing their currently oldest store in the chain, the Ravenswood Sears in Chicago that opened in 1925. Oddly enough, the Auto Center will remain open. I don't know anything about the area, but perhaps the store is being redeveloped and Sears is getting a good deal to get out. Either way, it is sad to see a 90 year old store close. Hopefully the Midtown Houston Sears isn't one of the next to go. I'd like to see it get to at least 100 if Sears can hang on that long.

    It'll certainly be worth getting some pictures of the San Jacinto Mall reconstruction if you can. It's still hard for me to imagine what the plan is going to be for the redevelopment, but we'll see. I'm sure we'll hear more as time goes on. If we don't, well, that will be telling too.

    I noticed that one of the three RadioShacks near me has closed recently. The closed store was on 249 and Louetta and was not a Sprint store. I don't know if they had a closing sale or not, I just noticed that they weren't there anymore. Oh well, at least there are still a couple stores left near me and there is a store further down on Louetta for those who live in the area.

    The Logansport Mall is in IN, not TN as I stated earlier. Things are certainly in a sad state there.

    Academy continues to grow outside their traditional base and Dick's Sporting Goods is expanding as well and also going after outdoor stores with their Field & Stream concept. I think both are positioned to do well and may compliment one another due to different pricing as you say. There are some other regional sporting goods stores like Modell's and Big 5. We'll see if those continue to exist or if they'll struggle as well. Places like Hibbett Sports and Dunham Sports seem to have found some niches as well, but we'll see if they can keep their success going.

    It's actually been a long time since I've been to a NW side thrift. My recent thrifting visits have been to SE side ones since I usually thrift after work or during lunch breaks. IMO, the SE side thrifts have been better stocked in the last couple of years, but I've still found stuff in the many NW thrifts. I'm sure the SW side has some good thrifts, but I've only visited one or two of them. It's been a while since I've been to a W side thrift, but there's some there too. I don't think I've ever been to a NE side thrift.

    I have not brought anything from a thrift in a few weeks actually, but I did see some good blank VHS and audio cassettes at one thrift. I wasn't in a buying mood so I passed on them, but I may go back next week to see if they are still there. It was just run of the mill Sony HF and TDK D stuff so no biggie if it's gone (though I do like those Sony HFs). The same thrift had a nice Polk Audio speaker set with subwoofer for $50, but I didn't need all the pieces so I passed on that. I think they also had a decent looking Sony A/V receiver from the early 2000s.

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    1. I am guessing that maybe the plan for Kmart and Sears is to leave one brand per region whichever one is strongest. In Corpus Kmart is within a reasonable distance to the border Kmart stores even though one of those is closing. It is also easy to travel from Kileen to Corpus for deliveries. The Sears at Sunrise Mall is stuck since there is no space at La Palmera. It would be strange if Sears closed there and Kmart remained.

      I wonder what store is the next oldest Sears in operation. I cannot imagine there are many Sears stores as old as the one here in Houston.

      I will keep you posted on the progress at San Jacinto. I may go there later this month.

      I think we will see more lost Radio Shack stores as time goes on. I wonder if any of the Radio Shack franchises will switch over to the Circuit City model.

      Out of the additional retailers you mentioned, I have only visited Hibbett Sports. They have a wide selection of items in a small store. Their stores remind me of how Champs Sports used to be with not just shoes and clothing. You can find sporting equipment, snacks, sports wraps, sports braces, and a wide variety of items at Hibbett Sports. Almeda, Brazos, Post Oak, and Lufkin malls are the closest malls with a Hibbett Sports. There are multiple shopping centers in the area especially in the suburbs/outskirts of towm that have locations as well. Each store also has a different product mix.

      I finally made a recording off of my sharp deck. I had to try a few different methods to record since my mp3 to cassette adaptor is now somehow messed up. I eventually used an audio input from headphone to record and it came out good. I dropped the media volume on my phone fron a 15 to 12 for the recordings and it sounds very good. I might make another one soon. I also tried to record on one of my metal cassettes but it would not overwrite the existing music. I am recording with no sound to see if I can clear the tape. The tabs are still in place so that is not the issue. Maybe the tape was recorded for so long it is imbedded in the tape.

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  38. Part I:

    I am not sure which Sears is the oldest now, but it would be interesting to have a dated list of Sears stores. I recently came across pictures of a couple of NYC area Sears stores that opened in 1932 that appear to still be in business. One is in Hackensack, NJ, and the other is in Brooklyn. 1932 isn’t that much older than the Main St. Sears, but I don’t know if any Sears predate 1932.

    Unlike the border Kmarts, which are located in heavy retail corridors for the most part, the Portland/Corpus Christi Kmart is kind of on a retail island. There are other stores in the area, but it’s not a major retail area. The border Kmarts probably get a lot of international traffic, but maybe some international shoppers make their way to the Corpus Kmart as well. I’m not sure if the Corpus Kmart has bilingual signage like a lot of Texas Kmarts have/had.

    I was at the Mall of the Mainland Sears recently and vacuums have taken up even more of the former TV space. Now there’s just four or five small TVs in the corner and even then a couple of those had clearance stickers on them. Perhaps they won’t even have any TVs on display or perhaps even in stock soon, but I don’t know about that. They did have a floor model of the RCA cassette boombox on clearance, but it was only discounted by a couple of dollars. They had at least five boxed RCA boomboxes as well in the glass endcap case, but I don’t know if those were on sale or not. They were not marked as being on sale. Other than that, I didn’t see any major changes to the mall aside from there being a new sign on the outside of the old Palais Royal advertising the wrestling studio which also seems to be called the World Gym Arena.

    Circuit City seems to be embracing the franchise model and I’m sure some RadioShack franchise stores will be looking for a new affiliate as there seems to be some bitter feelings after the bankruptcy. We’ll see though, Circuit City has a lot of work in front of them. I would not be surprised to see more RadioShack closings as they assess which post-bankruptcy stores are profitable and which aren’t. There was some talk about them opening new stores, but I don’t know if that has happened or will happen. I did mention that the FM 1960 & N. Eldridge store got new signage recently. They now have a new sign on the street pylon signage there as well. That’s still the only location I’ve seen that has totally new signage.

    There’s been some JCPenney news recently. It sounds like JCPenney has been pleased with the appliance sales trials and will expand sales to half of their stores and online as well. Also, it sounds like JCPenney might be doing store-within-a-store trials for carpet and furniture. It sounds like JCP’s own furniture departments will be shrinking to make room for the appliances so maybe that wasn’t a good segment for them even though Sears seems to be expanding in that regard. Anyway, as that article alludes to, there seems to be other trouble at JCPenney causing emergency staff hour reductions and a cutback on discounting. We’ll see how things work out long term. I’m not really sure if Sears should be highly worried about JCPenney’s appliance situation yet, but at least malls will have more variety.

    It should be interesting to keep tabs on the progress at San Jacinto Mall. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would appreciate any updates that you can get.

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    1. I am sure Sears has a list of their oldest stores online somewhere. There can't be too many more Sears stores before 1940 still in operation.

      The Corpus/Portland Kmart is still a mystery to me. It must have a loyal following or a long term lease like that keeps it open.

      It sounds like the Mall of the Mainland Sears may be losing the last of their electronics. I visited a similar sized Sears in College Station two weeks ago that had lost about 2/3 of their original electronics department.

      Radio Shack has been in a tough spot for quite some time now. They will continue to struggle until they find a niche, whatever that is. I have not heard of anything innovative that the company has tried lately.

      Sears is finally opening new small stores that are appliance focused. Hopefully Sears finds a good balance and keeps most of their large stores open. In areas that have lost a large Sears store, these new concept stores could help fill the void.
      JCPenney will eat into some of Sears customers with their appliances, but it seems like a despiration move.

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  39. Part II:

    Hibbett Sports does seem like a bit of a throwback. They aren’t nearly as flashy as the old Champs Sports, but they do have variety like they had as you say. The furthest east Big 5 has stores is in Texas, but those stores are mostly in the panhandle and in west Texas. Maybe they’ll move further east towards us in the future. Modell’s is strong in the NE. They are famous for their “Gotta Go To Mo’s” ads over there. I don’t know much about Dunham’s other than that I see them at a lot of mall/retails pictures I see from other places.

    Sony has released a new cassette boombox, the CFD-S70. I’m assuming that this replaces the CFD-S50 model that we both have, but the S50 is still listed on the Sony site. I don’t see anything different about the S70 though other than that the appearance is slightly different and it has some buttons for presets. I’m a bit surprised that they didn’t add Bluetooth to the new model, but at least Sony is continuing to produce cassette boomboxes. Hopefully they’ll make a new Walkman soon too. That would be great.

    It’s good to hear that you were able to make some good sounding cassettes. Reducing the volume on the source device does sometimes lead to better recordings as you found. As far as the erasure of metal tapes goes, it’s not uncommon for some lower end decks that advertise metal compatibility to have erase heads that are not powerful enough to erase metal tapes. Unfortunately, perhaps your deck falls into that category. Metal tapes have the strongest level of retentiveness so they need a stronger erase head compared to regular Type I/II tapes. They will erase fine on a deck that has a strong enough erase head for metal tapes though. Do you have any trouble taping over normal bias or Type II tapes?

    I don’t know why companies sold cassette decks as metal compatible when they aren’t, but oh well I guess. I guess they figured that someone buying a basic deck would never spend the big bucks to buy metal blanks so perhaps they figured that they could get away with it. Those decks should play metal tapes fine though (even a cassette deck with just Type I/II settings should play a metal tape fine on the Type II/Chrome setting) and I guess they’ll record on metal tapes fine as long as the tapes are already erased. Recording silent audio to the tapes probably won’t help much because it’ll just mix the silence with the previous recording. A bulk tape eraser might do the trick, but you’ll have to find one strong enough to erase metal tapes. It might be easier to find a higher end cassette deck in the thrifts that has full metal compatibility. Well, anyway, hopefully these setbacks aren’t discouraging you from making cassette recordings. Hopefully your deck works fine with other tapes if nothing else.

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    1. Hibbett Sports locations are very basic but they have a good selection of discount and quality items. Their clearance sales are usually very good too.

      I wonder if Sony will eventually produce a large boombox in addition to a new cassette Walkman. I would buy a new Walkman if they ever produced one again.

      The metal tape is the first tape that I had this problem with. I noticed after testing out the first song the issue. I tried taping over it twice with a blank source on the metal tape setting. If you turn the volume way up you can still barely hear the music. I will try taping new music and see what happens this time. The metal tape was one I picked up at a thrift with the intention of recording over what was previously there. I will continue to record when I have time which is not very often. It took me a while to get the settings right this time since it had been so long since I recorded a tape. I was pleased with my other recording, but a higher end recorder would probably sound much better.

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  40. It's good to see Sears open a new store for once, but this new appliance store has me quite confused. The store that they're opening seems to be very similar to the SHOS Sears Appliance Showrooms that have been around a while. I can't really see why Sears is duplicating what SHOS does. I wonder if it might just make sense for the two companies to merge at some point if Sears can generate some money for the purchase.

    I wonder if Sears corporate would consider opening some Sears Hometown type stores in bigger cities that sell appliances, tools, and furniture. We'll have to see what comes out of these new stores.

    Sears has a history site called the Sears Archives, but I don't see anything regarding the oldest stores there. I don't think the site has been updated in years anyway. Hopefully Sears will update the website at some point since history is one of the few things Sears has going for it these days.

    It seems like retailers are desperate to take advantage of the increases in home spending nationally and also to find categories where online sales aren't strong yet. To some extent, I think JCPenney's appliance gamble may only work out if something happens to Sears or if Sears' store closings opens the door for competitors. If Sears goes go away, JCPenney might be considered to be wise for getting their foot in the door with appliances while Sears is still around. Having said all of that, I think Sears still has huge advantages in appliances over someone like JCPenney.

    It sounds like the Staples-Office Depot merger is officially off. I'm not surprised about that. I'm sure shopping center operators around the country are happy about this as there won't be more consolidation. I was recently at an Office Depot store that I've never been to before. The store didn't look too old, but it looked like the store needed a lot of repairs (not even factoring that the A/C didn't seem to be set to be cool) and the organization of the store could use some retooling. I don't know if Office Depot has a lot of money to fix issues right now, but if so, perhaps they'll be more willing to spend now that the merger is off.

    It would be great if Sony made a big boombox, but Sony was never really a market leader in those back in the day like they were with the Walkman. It seemed like companies like Panasonic and Sharp put more of a focus on boomboxes. Anyway, we'll see what Sony does. It's great to see them continue to make new cassette recorder boomboxes if nothing else especially since these seem to show up for sale at major retailers. I'd certainly buy a new Sony Walkman as long as the prices and quality are in line with what they had back in the day.

    I'll have to play around with my Sharp RT-100 cassette deck one of these days and see how it handles metal cassettes. Granted, that is a deck from 1983 and I think yours is from the 1990s so there may not be anything in common between the two, but the RT-100 is a low end deck as well. I've made some great recordings on lower end decks on non-metal tapes so they can work great, but sometimes you just have to live within their limitations. Sometimes it can be frustrating running into unexpected problems when recording, but it makes the really good recordings all that much more fun and enjoyable. Trust me, sometimes I make "rookie" mistakes when recording too so I wouldn't fear making mistakes and learning that way.

    I have not found much in the thrifts lately, but I did pick up those blank tapes I passed on the other day. They were still around and I was in more of a buying mood this time around. I plan on making a thrifting circuit or two in the next couple of weeks so hopefully I'll be able to find some good stuff then.

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    1. One of the articles I read said that Sears will format some of the new small stores differently. Maybe some will be small Sears Hardware versions with appliances as well. I think they need to put tools and appliances together in a larger store size of about 20,000 square feet for this to be successful.

      Sears could use their history to their advantage, but will millenials care?

      In a side note, Sears is really consolidating electronics selections in the stores that do not carry connected solutions products. Nearly every store has consolidated their television selection by half or more in addition to the other inventory cuts.

      JCPenney is taking a huge gamble with appliances. You make a great point about JCPenney being ahead of the rest if Sears fails.

      I think we will see some store closings, but not as bad as we would have if the merger went through. I also wonder if the Office Max name is going to disappear now.

      If more stores jump on the cassette bandwagon, we will see more new items. For now with just Urban Outfitters and small independent retailers on the cassette comeback we will probably not see much.

      I may make another recording or two in a few weeks to see how they turn out. I will keep you posted.

      I have been to a couple of half price books stores in the past few days, but I did not find anything. I did pick up a copy of Straight Outta Compton off of the Urban Outfitters site. It is an HX Pro B NR cassette which I read helps boost the bass on the tape. The tape sounds good and in the future I may buy more newer tapes.

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  41. I think you’re right in saying that Sears should consider “small” stores with more than just appliances. The Sears Hometown stores are probably a good template to start from since they have appliances, tools, and mattresses too I believe. The Sears Hardware format may work in some situations as well. Actually, some/all of the SHOS Sears Appliance Showrooms have some mattresses in stock even if the signage does not indicate it.

    I’m still having a hard time figuring out how SHOS will handle regular Sears Holdings opening similar type stores. The SHOS Hometown stores are in smaller areas so those may not see competition, but SHOS Appliance Showrooms here in Houston (for example) might face competition from smaller Sears Holdings stores if they ever open some here. We’ll have to see how that shakes out.

    I was at the Willowbrook Mall Sears electronics department recently and had a close look at some of the products for sale there. Things are hanging in there okay and I didn’t notice anything significant that was missing from my previous visits a few months ago. That was good to see. The inventory of products was pretty good too. Some items have been moved to different aisles though it seems. Anyway, even though the department is smaller than it was a few years ago, it’s still much, much fuller than the Mall of the Mainland Sears electronics department.

    The millennials (and perhaps even Gen Xers) probably won’t care too much about Sears’ history, but it might help rekindle some feelings with older shoppers. Plus, some creative marketing might help show younger shoppers that Sears was, and still can be, the place for home goods and so forth. I know that KFC, for example, has been using their history to try to gain back customers and get younger customers in who never would have considered KFC.

    Hopefully Office Depot and Staples will work to strengthen their locations now that the merger is off. I went to another Office Depot store a few days ago and it was in better shape than the one I mentioned in my prior post, but I still say that the organization of the store could be better. Some office basics are on one side of the store, others are on the other side in some weird corner, and the electronics department is a maze. I’m not sure if Staples stores are any better though. It’ll be interesting to see how long Office Depot retains the OfficeMax name. It probably costs a lot of money to continue marketing using both names, but perhaps there is some good reason why they want to keep both names on the retail stores.

    Thanks for the report about the new cassette. That’s interesting that it was recorded with Dolby B. Dolby B and HX Pro won’t really help the bass in any way, but it may help the treble some. Granted, treble might not be much of a factor with that type of music. Still, playing a Dolby B encoded tape with Dolby B off will boost the treble levels. A lot of people find this to be a plus.

    I have visited more thrifts recently and have found some interesting stuff. Most of the thrifts have pretty full cassette shelves right now. One thrift had a lot of 1970s used blank cassettes, but I didn’t buy any since they were all low end models. Still, they were interesting to see again. Another had a lot of good cassettes including a few that I picked up. One was an unused wraped cassingle from the late 1980s that has one of my favorite songs on it. I brought the same cassingle from Willowbrook Mall back in the 1980s and played it so much that the tape wore out and developed dropouts. I think that's the only tape I ever wore out. Anyway, it's amazing to get a new copy of it all these years later.

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    1. Sears did not do well again this quarter. They lost nearly half a billion dollars and now they are exploring options for their remaining popular brands. I don't know how much longer they can hold on with these losses each quarter.

      Last week 2 more Kmart stores were added to the recent closing list. Brownsville Texas is notable since they are also losing a store in Mission Texas nearby. Now only 1 large Sears and 1 Kmart store are left in that region. El Paso will be the only part of Texas with more than 1 Kmart store after these closings. I am sure we will see more closings with the recent disappointing quarter.

      Most people can't tell the difference between the office stores. It is hard to differentiate the office store business with the exception of maybe furniture styles.

      The Sports Authority stores in our area will be closing soon. The rest of the company will close as well because they could not reorganize and sold the company to liquidators. A sad loss of jobs and a once solid company, but they failed to change with the times. Dick's and a few other retailers will bid on some leases but only about 10% of the soon to be former Sports Authority stores were bid on.

      A few more artists are producing cassettes such as Eminem. Maybe this is the beginning of a shift that will bring some respectability to cassettes again. A lot of the new releases are produced in very limited numbers so if nothing else they are collectible.

      Congrats on your good thrift store finds. I went to a thrift earlier this week, but only settled on a VHS movie. They had a large pre-recorded cassette selection, but they did not have anything good.

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  42. Yes, as you say, the big news this week has been the poor quarterly results for Sears. It is a bit surprising is to see the poor results in the appliance sector even with a relatively strong market in that area. I certainly think that Sears' trials with the new small appliance stores will help with that. A lot of people don't want to drive all the way to a mall to buy appliances. Plus, having more local stores will keep the Sears name relevant for some people. We'll have to see how quickly Sears expands those new stores.

    Another interesting statement from the results is that Sears is looking at possibly putting Craftsman, Kenmore, and DieHard products in other retailers. Of course, they already do this with Craftsman at Ace. A lot of analysts see that as a death move for Sears, but I'm not so sure. A lot of people have favorable opinions about those brands, but they don't shop at Sears for whatever reason. Perhaps putting Kenmore products in places like Home Depot will make Sears' brands more relevant to more people. Sears should still be able to have some pricing advantages with their own brands and so maybe they can use other retailers to advertise their products and then draw them into their own stores with better pricing and/or service. It's a long shot, but we'll see. I suppose the future of Sears may be as a brand manager and not as a retail operation.

    I heard about the Brownsville Kmart, but I did not know about the Mission store. Thanks for the information. I suppose the Harlingen store will continue on for now, but who knows how long that will last. It's sad to see Kmart's footprint continue to shrink in this region, but I guess it's not totally unexpected. Hopefully the store closures won't make the logistical costs for the other remaining Texas Kmarts higher.

    I came an interesting customer service ranking that has RadioShack dead last. That's unfortunate, but maybe things will improve as RS distances itself from the bankruptcy. It's interesting to see so many mall retailers at the very bottom of the list including Macy's and Foot Locker. It's also interesting that Sears is one of the few retailers who didn't see a score drop this year. At least they have that going for them. JCPenney scored higher than I figured they would have.

    I did notice one big difference between Staples and Office Depot last Saturday. I went in to shop for a printer, but Staples was closed already at a little bit past 7pm. Meanwhile, Office Depot was open til 9pm. I ended up buying the printer from Office Depot. I did look online for ink/toner prices too while I've been looking at printers and noticed that Staples seems to be cheaper than Office Depot right now, but Best Buy seems to be cheaper than either. Well, anyway, I guess those are some small differences between the stores.

    There's been some rumors that National Audio Cassette out of Springfield, MO, (who produces blank audio cassettes and makes a lot of the prerecorded tapes for record companies) is looking at producing their own Type I cassette media next year. The rumor is that it will be a premium Type I formula. Perhaps NAC will continue to use the Korean Saehan stuff for regular grade cassettes and will offer their own formula for record companies who want something a little bit better. I'll certainly keep an eye out on the situation. For whatever reason, the Teac cassette deck has not been available on Amazon for a few weeks now as far as I can tell. I hope that's because of demand and not because it has been discontinued, but I don't know. Hopefully it, or a revised version of it, will be back soon for those who want a new cassette deck.

    I managed to visit a few thrifts recently, but I have come back empty handed. I certainly have not seen many cassette decks or blank cassettes recently, but we'll see.

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    1. Maybe for Sears to survive they will need to cut ties with their stores and spin off the big 3 brands along with the upstart appliance business. From the looks of things cash and credit lines are running very low for Sears. They are going to need a very strong quarter this time around because it is not looking good at all for the company.

      I am guessing we will see a large round of Kmart and Sears closures again but somewhere around 100+ before the end of the year.

      Macy's and Foot Locker don't surprise me. Service is hit and miss at those places. I have been to many Foot Lockers, Finish Lines, and Champs stores without being acknowledged. Some Macy's stores with second and third floors only keep one checkout open so if there is any price issue in a different department it takes a while to resolve. Several Macy's stores don't staff enough people to keep the shelves and racks in order and the store looks trashed like a Ross or going out of business store usually looks.

      Closing earlier than your competitors is not a good idea. Staples is newer to this market so you would think they would stay open later. It pays to shop around for printers and printer ink. Many inks go on sale often and a $5 -$10 savings goes a long way.

      It will be good to see more new cassette options out there. If a few more retailers jump on the cassette bandwagon, we will probably see some new decks offered.

      I may try to visit a thrift or two on my next day off. Lately my luck has not been good so maybe it will be better next time.

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  43. Yes, as unfortunate as it may sound, Sears may have to eliminate their retail operations and maybe turn into a brand manager and maybe a home services operation that continues to sell home warranties and repair services. Maybe the online store will continue to exist, but I'm not sure if that's profitable.

    It would be a real shame to lose the Sears and Kmart stores. Malls would suffer, but at least JCPenney is trying to fill some of the voids that would be left if Sears went away. It's hard to see what Sears can do to fix their retail problems right now, but hopefully they can turn things around somehow.

    I'm actually a little bit surprised to hear that the quality of service at Foot Locker and similar type stores is as poor as it is. It's probably been about 15 years or more since I've been to one of those stores (I usually shop for athletic shoes at big box sporting goods stores, department/clothing stores, and outlet stores when I need them since I think they are cheaper), but I'm not really sure why stores like that even exist if they don't have good service. I guess maybe some shoe models are only available there or maybe there's such a culture about buying shoes at one of the mall stores that they can afford to coast on service. I'm not sure, but I suspect that someone like Dick's Sporting Goods could really put a hurting on the mall shoe stores with their expansion into malls.

    You're right about some Macy's stores looking messy. I remember I went to one about a year ago, I think it was the Almeda Mall store, and things were laying around everywhere and none of the slacks were organized by size. It was a real mess. I guess I have not noticed the problems with the checkouts, but maybe that's because I rarely buy anything when I go to Macy's. I was looking at suits some time back and while Macy's had a lot of selection at the Willowbrook Mall men's store, I didn't think the quality of the suits were all that spectacular and the quality of service was barely anything better than what you'd expect at Kohl's or JCPenney. To that extent, I can see why Macy's is struggling. I think Dillard's has maintained their quality better than Macy's has and I can also see why some people prefer Marshalls and Ross to them.

    I just looked on the Staples website and it seems like most stores close at 7pm on Saturdays, but others close at 9. I don't know why there is that inconsistency, but I guess it's like Sears. Maybe they figure that sales aren't that good at that time especially for printing/copying services. It's especially odd that they'd keep limited hours on the weekend when the story is that the inspiration for Staples happened when the founder could not buy a printer ribbon on the weekend from the local office supply places that used to exist before the big box stores.

    It seems to me that Best Buy has the best printer ink/toner prices right now even compared to online stores. The prices are good and their reward members get 15% off on top of that. That's hard to beat. Perhaps their prices are better on some ink models than others though.

    I should say that the name of NAC is National Audio Company and not National Audio Cassette as I stated earlier. Anyway, it will be nice to see a new premium blank cassette if that happens because although NAC sells Type II cassettes right now, they are making those using old stock of BASF/Emtec tape that will run out at some point. Plus, I kind of prefer a premium Type I to a run of the mill Type II.

    I'm not seeing as much this year in the thrifts on the equipment side or on the blank tape side as I did last year, but perhaps there are more prerecorded tapes than before. I have noticed that a couple NW side Goodwills seemingly don't sell prerecorded cassettes anymore. It's kind of odd since they still have plenty of VHS tapes, CDs, and records, but the ones that do sell cassettes seem to have more of them.

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    1. I read an article the other day about Kmart possibly being closed off to save Sears. It was just an opinion and I read a similar article a couple of years ago. I wonder how much of a cash boost the store closings help the company out with. Most of the items are marked down from full price and then discounted for the sale. I am not sure how much the company pays the liquidator or if the liquidator buys the entire inventory for a discounted price. Either way in about 3 months they sell off nearly the entire inventory of the store and other items that are brought in for the sale. I guess that it would take a substantial amount of time under normal circumstances to unload the entire
      inventory of a store.

      The Finish Line has really good deals on shoes that none of the other mall stores have. They put some of the new shoes on sale for 50 and even 75% off all of the time. The only drawback is that the sale shoes are usually the colors or styles that are not selling well. You can easily find a nice pair of shoes most weeks for $50 or less. Dick's will hurt the higher priced stores like Foot Locker, Footaction, and Champs.

      Dillard's is a regional retailer that is more in touch with customer preferences than Macy's. With Foley's disappearing, Dillard's has benefited more than other retailers.

      I am not a regular at Best Buy, but the rewards seem like a good benefit. All I really use Best Buy for these days is the occasional video game purchase.

      Speaking of new cassettes, Urban Outfitters has dropped the amount of cassette products offered from 70 to around 50. I know a lot of the new cassette releases were very limited. I noticed some of the Blink 182 items are gone which were limited, but I hope they are not selling the rest off. The Woodlands moved their cassettes to a less prominent area under a record display.

      Maybe some Goodwill managers choose not to stock cassettes and send them to other stores. Sometimes I find the cassettes mixed in with random items and others I find on racks. People are selling cassettes for $5+ each on Ebay so I doubt there will be any good cassette finds any time soon.

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  44. I’ve often wondered myself if it might make sense for Sears to shut down the Kmart chain. It wouldn’t really solve anything directly, but at least getting rid of Kmart would eliminate one money draining division from the company and they can focus on fixing the Sears brand if they so choose. It sounds like Kmart might be withering away naturally with all the store closings anyway, which I’m guessing are due in large part to expiring leases, so all Kmarts may go away whenever all the leases are up. It probably does not make sense to keep the chain around once the store count dips below a certain level.

    I’m not really sure how the liquidation process works and I suspect that it might be different for companies that are totally liquidating/bankrupt like The Sports Authority versus a store closure situation like what’s happening with Kmart. I’m not sure if Kmart makes much money off closings directly, but it’s probably more of a case of saving money longterm by closing unproductive stores. You’re certainly right that sometimes store closing prices are higher than normal prices since it seems like they discount based off MSRP. That said, closing RadioShacks had good prices since their regular prices are MSRP pretty much anyway.

    Sometimes I wonder why stores like Kmart don’t just ship their products at closing stores back to a warehouse for sale at other stores or online. I recently purchased a few packages of Maxell UR 90 cassettes from Kmart’s website, but I guess I must have cleaned them out because the cassettes are no longer offered online for shipping. Perhaps they’d have more inventory if they shipped unsold cassettes back to the warehouse instead of selling them at something like 50% off. Who knows, it’s hard to say and maybe they don’t want a ton of inventory on hand. I can think of several reasons why having a ton of inventory is a bad thing. But, anyway, hopefully Kmart reorders more cassettes for their website. I’m looking forward to using the Kmart cassettes on my Sears Proformance cassette deck and maybe on a couple of other decks as well.

    That’s interesting information about Finish Line. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Finish Line or an Athlete’s Foot (the name might have something to do with that), but I’ve certainly seen a number of them. Maybe I’ll have to take a look the next time I need athletic shoes.

    I’m not a fan of signing up for things at stores, but I guess it’s worth it if the discounts are good enough. I’ve gotten a couple of free $5-15 gift card type rewards from Best Buy around Christmas so that’s a good thing.

    I’m sure Dillard’s is enjoying Macy’s struggles. Although Dillard’s does have some advantages being a more regional type retailer, I think the quality of service advantage Dillard’s has over Macy’s is something that is universally accepted as being a good thing. Macy’s seems stuck trying to compete against Dillard’s and also JCPenney/Kohl’s type stores, but they’ll continue to lose ground if they have Kohl’s type service and products with Dillard’s type pricing.

    I wonder why Urban Outfitters has fewer cassettes now. Perhaps, as you say, some of the limited releases have sold out and there aren’t any new replacement releases yet. Perhaps those are coming, but I don’t know. We’ll have to keep an eye on it. Thanks for the update.

    I’ve been to a number of thrifts lately, but I have not found anything worth buying. I think I’m becoming pickier about what I get from the thrifts. I did see a non-functional low end Radio Shack Optimus double cassette deck at the FM 1960 and & I-45 Epic thrift though which I obviously didn’t buy. Speaking of which, Epic only had one cassette, but they tons of vinyl. I have seen a number of prerecorded cassettes though in the other thrifts. Perhaps some Goodwills are shipping their cassette donations out as you say, but I don’t know why. They don’t take up a ton of room. One thing that I have noticed is that the few Goodwills that don’t have cassettes tend to have a lot of records.

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    1. I would hate to see Kmart go, but the state of most stores is not good. The inventory levels seem to keep shrinking and certain departments like electronics are down to a small fraction of what they once had. I read that Sears has now dropped down to 3rd in appliance sales below Lowe's and Home Depot. It seems like some tough decisions need to be made soon to hopefully keep Sears and Kmart operating.

      The Kmart store closing sales are advertising 4 million dollars in inventory on sale in each store. I need to find out how the Kmart closings are managed. I think Kmart ships certain products to other stores ahead of the liquidation sales. I know this happened at the Sports Authority closing sale in Humble. At the time of that closing the company was still planning to stay open.

      Speaking of Sports Authority, I will have a future article about the chain and its demise. I am planning on visiting 2 of the Kmart stores that are closing in North and Central Louisiana sometime this month or next month as well.

      Macy's quality has gone downhill in the past 10 years. Many of the clothes are not any better than you can find at Sears or Kohl's and the prices can be higher for these items. Somewhere along the line Macy's management let product standards go and people are now voting with their money elsewhere.

      There are still a few cassette albums that I may get from Urban Outfitters. I am hoping that since they expanded cassettes to locations outside of their original test locations, they will continue to keep restocking the cassettes.

      I went to the Epic Thrift a month ago and also found no cassettes in stock. It is strange that the first time I went they had nearly 100. As of a few weeks ago the Humble Epic Thrift had not opened.

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  45. It would be a real shame to see Kmart go for sure. That said, there's not much to draw people to Kmarts aside from them being a 3rd option to the 2 big discounters and the 1980s time warp aspect of most Kmarts. Most people view that as a negative and not a positive anyway. Perhaps the experiment of selling closeout merchandise is one way to revitalize the chain, but I don't even know how that trial is going.

    I saw the article about appliance sales. Sears' grip on the appliance market is certainly slipping a bit. It sounded like Kmart's appliance sales were not so hot recently as well, but I don't know if that accounted for store closures. Anyway, I think Sears' ranking might be a bit understated since Sears and SHOS sales (and perhaps Kmart too) are counted separately. Granted, SHOS and Sears Holdings are two different companies, but they are pretty much joined at the hip. Still, the ranking has to be concerning to Sears executives.

    I mentioned earlier that I ordered some cassettes from Kmart. I also ordered some Audio-Technica turntable parts from Sears' website. Oddly enough, Sears stopped selling all Audio-Technica products they had (they had quite a few) a few days after I ordered the parts (which I did receive just fine). I'm guessing Sears was getting the A-T stuff from a 3rd party electronics distributor, but maybe Sears and the distributor don't have a deal anymore or something. Who knows. It's not a good sign to see loss of electronics even on Sears' website, but hopefully the A-T stuff will return soon enough because they make good quality stuff and Sears sold their products at good prices.

    I agree that the quality of clothing at Macy's isn't really much better than what Kohl's and Sears has these days. I know a lot of people around the country were upset at losing their local department stores in 2006 when the Macy's name took over. Those same shoppers must be even more mad now that the quality has gone downhill too. Maybe Macy's will get things together here soon, but if not, their demise might have been caused by even dumber decisions than anything Sears has done.

    The Sports Authority article will be an interesting memorial. It'll be particularly nice to see for someone like me who has not seen the inside of one of their stores in many years. The Kmart articles will be interesting as well of course.

    I guess Epic is getting out of the cassette business or maybe they're selling them to places who will sell them used. Granted, they still have tons of vinyl so who knows. It'll be nice for you when the Humble Epic opens since I know there aren't a ton of thrifts on the NE side. Keep me updated on the finds at Urban Outfitters and any other cassette dealers you find.

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    1. I was able to visit one of the Kmart store closing sales. It is still very early in the liquidation process so the store was mostly full. Sadly the electronics signage was already taken down. On a positive note, Sears will sell Die Hard branded tires. I wonder if the latest product is being rolled out to add value to the Die hard brand before it is sold or spun off.

      I hope Sears did not get rid of their cassette parts to another seller. I liked how easy it was to find and buy parts online.

      Macy's has downsized many of the former Foley's locations which has led to an even worse shopping experience than before. If Macy's management does not make changes soon, we will see more closings in already strained malls.

      I think the Sports Authority stores are scheduled to close at the end of this month. So it is not too late to stop by.

      On the topic of store closings. Hastings filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy Monday and issued WARN notices to all employees. If the company is not sold by Mid-July, they may liquidate the chain. Conroe and Lake Jackson are the only stores in the area, but smaller cities such as Alexandria and Nacogdoches with few options to buy physical media will suffer. Hastings is so similar to Media Play which was a store that I frequented for the short time it was in the Houston area.

      The Epic Thrift in Humble was announced over a year ago, but there has been no news since then. I have not driven by to see how the progress is going, but they still had the banner up not too long ago.

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  46. Part II:

    Things do not sound good for Hastings. That’s a real shame. Hopefully they’ll find a buyer, but I would not be shocked if they don’t. Hastings can still be useful for smaller communities that don’t have a B&N or Best Buy type store as you say. I remember Media Play, I shopped at the store at The Commons near Greenspoint Mall a few times when it was open. It would be a real blow for book/music type stores and shoppers if Hastings goes away as there aren’t many other options left.

    At least one local Sports Authority has already closed. I was in the shopping center where the League City Sports Authority was, but that store had already closed and had the signage removed.

    It may have made sense for Macy’s to downsize some of their stores like the Plaza Paseo/Pasadena Town Square store. I’m not sure if their sales justified such a large store. Then again, a lack of maintenance might have had a lot to do with the Plaza Paseo store downsizing due to the sad shape of the second floor. Sears has a bad reputation for the state of some of their stores, but I’ve seen Macy’s stores that are just as bad if not worse. The Plaza Paseo Sears is certainly much nicer than the Macy’s there. Granted, the Sears is newer as well.

    I still have not found much worth buying at the thrifts. I did see a working Sears LXI double cassette deck at a thrift. It’s very similar to the Sanyo-made Sears Proformance deck I already have that we both saw at the Greenspoint Mall area Goodwill except it was black instead of silver, it was made in Taiwan (I think) instead of Japan like the Proformance, and the LXI also had Dolby C instead of just Dolby B. I may have brought that LXI deck too, but the thrift wanted a whopping $26 for it. Sears electronics may be kind of rare in the thrifts, but they’re not rare enough to warrant me paying $26!

    I think I remember you mentioning the Humble Epic Thrift earlier now that you mention it. Perhaps they are waiting to see how the Spring store does before they fully commit to it. I’m not sure. Anyway, hopefully it will open soon for you guys.

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    1. Crap, my happy fingers accidentally deleted the first reply. For some reason it hit my spam folder and I accidentally hit delete instead of publish.

      Hastings also filled the void left when Blockbuster closed. Their video rental section is about the size of a Blockbuster store. They also had a good selection of video games to rent. Hastings has so many cool items packed into their stores it would be a shame to see them close.

      I know the Humble location is still open for now. It has been a few weeks since I stopped by, but it should still have another week or so left.

      I agree with you about the Macy's stores. Northwest, Sharpstown looked terrible before they closed those stores off. Plaza Paseo, San Jacinto, and some stores outside of the area are in bad shape. Plaza Paseo had a minor renovation and exterior paint job, but it still needs much more work.

      Maybe next week I will get a chance to stop by a thrift or two. It has been a little while since I went so maybe the inventory has changed for the better. I really want to make another Kmart visit to the other Kmart that is closing in Louisiana.

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  47. I think the main thing I had of importance in the first post is that Sears has a new line of Kenmore TVs to go along with the new line of DieHard Silver tires. It seems that the Kenmore TVs are already in stores (Sears only, I don't think they are at Kmart stores) and consist of regular HDTVs and 4K UHD TVs as well under the Kenmore Elite name. Interestingly enough, the UHD TVs are not smart TVs like most UHD TVs. That makes them good for people who don't need smart TVs because they already have other smart devices and it's also good for people who want a high end TV, but don't want the security risks.

    I'm not sure who is making the TVs for Sears. The TVs have a manufacturer code like other Kenmore products, but I don't see that number listed in any OEM guides I see so it might be a company that has not made things for Sears in the past. I think these are the first privately labeled TVs Sears has sold since the LXI Series days in the 1990s. It's good to see Sears committing to electronics and it's also interesting to see Sears continue to push their own brands. Hopefully they'll have some success with the Kenmore TVs, but they'll need to advertise them somehow.

    Sears recently brought back RoadHandler tires, which was a name from the past that they used for many years. I wonder if the DieHard tires will replace them or not. I don't know if Sears is trying to increase the value of their private brands by using them more or if this is a new attempt at trying to drive traffic to the stores. Sears said that they did some research and found that people trusted DieHard tires more than many other popular brands so it makes sense to use the name then.

    It's a shame that Hastings is running into their problems now because there may be reason for hope for media stores. 4K Blu-Rays are coming out now and maybe those will have some level of popularity. Also, I assume that vinyl record sales are increasing sales for media stores. Maybe a new potential buyer for Hastings will consider that, but I would not be surprised if they go away totally unfortunately.

    I've certainly heard stories about the retroness of the San Jacinto Mall Macy's. The Greenspoint Mall Macy's also looked really sad the last time I went there about a year ago. It looked far worse than anything you'd see at a Sears. It's good that Macy's keeps stores open in failing malls and I can appreciate the retroness to an extent, but the shoppers at those stores are getting premium store prices with clearance store atmospheres.

    I'm starting to think that Teac has discontinued their double cassette deck. It's still unavailable at Amazon and now it's not available at a couple of other popular online dealers. The Tascam CD-Cassette recorder combo might still be available, but that's around $500. Hopefully someone will come out with a new decent cassette deck or else the only options will be the Pyle and Ion decks that appear to perform as cheaply as they are priced. Perhaps they beat expectations though, who knows.

    I was recently at a thrift that had a lot of prerecorded cassettes, but none of it was my taste. Oh well. It seems like the days of finding good VCRs and cassette decks in the thrifts might be drying up quite a bit, but these are good days if you want DVD players or CD changers.

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    1. I missed the part about the Kenmore TV's. No smart TV features is right up my alley. Sears must be committed to keeping electronics going so hopefully the new TV's will make better profits for them than the models they had before.

      The management teams of Sears seem to be focusing more on products that Sears can sell easier than the fast fashion efforts from last year. I still think they need to focus on fixing the stores up with fresh paint and new signage. Some of the Kmart stores have signs that have faded so badly it looks terrible.

      Hastings is a one stop shop for entertainment, but the stores are in need of organization. It is difficult to sort through some of their merchandise and the stores I have visited do a terrible job of keeping the merchandise in good order. Things are placed haphazardly in many areas which makes items difficult to find. They also have a lot of inventory that has sat there for years on the shelves. One time at a Hastings a few years ago, I went to buy a box of sports cards which were hard to find and were a couple of years old. When I went to checkout, the cashier scanned the item and said he could not sell it to me because it was supposed to be sent back to the manufacturer because it had been discontinued. I got mad and left without speaking to a manager which I should have done. I asked the cashier why do you have items on the floor for sale, but you can't sell it. I eventually found the set on Ebay but for $20 more than I would have paid at Hastings. I have bought more things from them since, but I am a lot more forgiving than the average customer.

      Macy's is probably going to shrink even more over the next year or so. I think they took on too many stores and it is hurting the entire company.
      They need to invest more in the older stores. Maybe San Jacinto will get a major remodel to go along with the mall rebuild.

      I am sure that decent cassette decks will be produced again. With the renewed interest in records, people have been digging out their old music collections to listen to records and tapes again.

      As you mentioned, a lot of thrifts are running low on vintage electronics. Hopefully Goodwill continues to stock electronics unlike some of the Family Thrift stores which have little to no electronics in their stores.

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  48. Part I:

    It is interesting to see Sears commit to electronics. It’s also interesting that Sears is trying to create a private label brand for electronics yet again. Perhaps they should have done this 10 years ago when the market for TVs was better than what it is now, but it is what it is. Hopefully it works out well for them. I think the Kenmore name might work. After all, Samsung and LG have had success selling electronics and appliances in modern times and GE had some success doing both many years ago. The Kenmore same will be sure to resonate with older buyers for sure and maybe putting the name on TVs will make the name more hip for younger buyers when it comes time to buy appliances. I’m sure LG and Samsung have an advantage that way.

    The TV business is tough right now though. In fact, Panasonic has pulled out of the US TV market for the time being at the very least. It’s strange to think that a dominant player from not so long ago like Panasonic does not even make TVs (for the US at least) any more. I’ll give them credit for not just putting their name on some cheap Chinese TVs though like some other Japanese brands. Hopefully that’ll maintain their reputation for quality, but out of sight is out of mind too.

    You’re right that Sears seems to be taking more of a hardlines approach this year compared to the past. Perhaps JCPenney’s encroachment on the category is giving Sears more focus. I think it’s a smart move, but there are still some questionable ideas. For example, Sears is coming out with a Kenmore personal shopping assistant device. I’m not sure who would buy such a thing. It seems like Sears is just trying to copy Amazon with that one.

    In general, it seems to me that Sears stores are in better shape than most Kmart stores. Of course, part of that might be because pre-merger Sears took better care of their stores than pre-merger Kmart. But, yes, hopefully Sears will put some investment into the stores they want to keep longterm.

    Speaking of which, I came across some interesting photos of the Lakeview Square Mall in Battle Creek, MI. The gallery has a lot of photos of the Sears there. The mall seems to be struggling more or less, but it’s hanging in there I guess. The mall is a mix of retro and modern. All Sears locations are somewhat different so they’re always interesting, but this one in particular has some interesting features. I like how they have the furniture set out like a living room next to the electronics in a carpeted area. It gives the store a nice “home” feel.

    It’ll be interesting to see what approach Macy’s, Sears, and others take to the San Jacinto Mall redevelopment. Some other malls, like the Red Bird Mall you posted about recently, have proposed demalling while keeping the anchors. It’ll be interesting to see how that works. Macy’s and Sears don’t seem interested in investing much into their properties so who knows if they’ll be willing to make adjustments needed to make the redevelopments work. They might be looking for big buyouts from the developers, but I’m sure the developers would like to keep Macy’s around at the very least.

    That’s an interesting story about Hastings. I wonder if the cards that end up on eBay get there because employees at stores like Hastings take unsold cards that were supposed to be shipped back and instead sell them. I’m not really sure why the manufacturer wants the unsold cards back, but perhaps the store does not actually own the inventory. It’s hard to say, but it was unfortunate that you thought you were getting a good deal and didn’t end up with it.

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    1. The Kenmore Tv's are a start. I would like to see a little better picture quality from their tv's for the price. You can get several tv's on sale for the same or cheaper pricing with more features. It is good to see Sears being more innovative for a change. I think the executives at Sears are realizing the grim outlook if they don't make changes now.

      Thanks for sending the photos from the mall in Michigan. That mall looks like it has seen better days.

      I would not be surprised if two more anchors leave San Jacinto Mall before the new development opens. Sears is the only anchor that has had a significant remodel over the years. It remains to be seen as to whether or not the property will attract new stores once it is redeveloped.

      Oh well, I guess you win some and lose some. I hope Hastings will live through these tough times and expand to more areas near us. There is the possibility of the company keeping a handful of stores open even if a buyer is not found. In a week or so we should know more.

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    2. The Kenmore Tv's are a start. I would like to see a little better picture quality from their tv's for the price. You can get several tv's on sale for the same or cheaper pricing with more features. It is good to see Sears being more innovative for a change. I think the executives at Sears are realizing the grim outlook if they don't make changes now.

      Thanks for sending the photos from the mall in Michigan. That mall looks like it has seen better days.

      I would not be surprised if two more anchors leave San Jacinto Mall before the new development opens. Sears is the only anchor that has had a significant remodel over the years. It remains to be seen as to whether or not the property will attract new stores once it is redeveloped.

      Oh well, I guess you win some and lose some. I hope Hastings will live through these tough times and expand to more areas near us. There is the possibility of the company keeping a handful of stores open even if a buyer is not found. In a week or so we should know more.

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  49. Part II:

    A lot of stores seem to have organization issues these days. It may be intentional in some cases so that shoppers have to see other products to get what they actually want in the hopes of impulse buys. In other cases, the stores may not keep enough staff on hand to organize the sales floor. That could be a real problem at a store like Hastings where CDs, videos, and games may end up being placed in the wrong categories and stuff if staff don’t reshelve items. In other cases, I think stores are just disorganized due to poor store layout design.

    I hope you’re right that someone will make a good cassette deck again. I think companies are looking to make turntables more than cassette decks since turntables are easier to make since most turntables have a relatively simple design. Cassette decks, OTOH, would require designing and making heads, complex tape transports, and more complex electronic circuitry compared to a turntable. Perhaps then they’d rather sell a turntable for $200 than a more expensive cassette deck for the same price. Still, I think someone could make money on it since there’s practically no competition in the market and there is some demand seemingly with the increase in cassette sales.

    I recently made a mixtape using one of my new Kmart Maxell UR 90s (it should be said that the cassettes are available to order via shipping on the Kmart website again fortunately) on my Nakamichi CR-1 cassette deck. This was the first mixtape I’ve made on the Nak since I got it months ago oddly enough. I have not fully played the recording back yet, but I’m really pleased with the results of the tape and the deck from what I can tell so far. It’s certainly clear why Nakamichi’s are held in such high regard even with my basic model. I’ll post more updates if I have some about how the tape turned out when I’m able to listen to the recording more carefully.

    I really like the music I recorded to the tape so I also made a CD with the same music on it (well, for the most part, I had to cut a couple of songs off the CD since it only holds 80 minutes compared to 90 on the tape). Some of the songs are highly dynamic classical and jazz recordings so I think having the choice of listening to the music on Type I tape and on CD is a good thing since they have a different experience. Some of the songs I recorded are sourced from my LP, pre-recorded tape, and digital collection so it was a comprehensive mix.

    I was at a SE side Goodwill that did not have any electronics at all during my last visit. The shelves in the department were completely bare. I don’t know what was up with that because the shelves were stocked a week or two prior. Perhaps they are remodeling or something. I went to another Goodwill a few days later in the same area and they had lots of electronics (though nothing interesting) so I think that was just a fluke.

    I don’t go to the Family Thrift Centers that much anymore. Most of the finds that I’ve had at them have been at the Bear Creek location anyway and that’s kind of out of the way for me. I did get that really fancy 1987 GE/Panasonic VCR from the Willowbrook store, but other than that, I’ve never seen a lot of good things at that store or the other one down 249. Well, I have seen some stuff, but it’s usually broken. They seem to have more broken stuff than Goodwills and they’re generally priced higher too.

    Good vintage electronic finds are being rarer and more expensive it seems. I kind of expected that so that’s why I stocked up when I could I guess. Some thrifts still have great media selections though. One I was at recently had three shelves full of audio cassettes (though nothing of my liking) so they are probably still worth visiting. That said, the lack of good components and blank tapes recently has caused me to have decreased interest in visiting the thrifts compared to the last couple of years. I did get that Nakamichi a few months back so 2016 hasn’t been a total waste so far as far as thrifting goes.

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    1. Product placement is a key tactic used by retailers to increase sales, but as you mentioned a lot of places don't keep items organized. Staffing is also an issue, many companies cannot find enough people for the job or they have unrealistic labor targets which lead to empty shelves.

      Glad to hear your recordings are going well. I still have yet to make a new one. I need to fix my Walkman, it has been going slower than usual and the automatic flip is no longer working. That will be my next project, if it does not work I will have to get another.

      I think the thrift store companies are selling the premium items online more often. I have seen items from Goodwill stores listed on Ebay, but I have not looked into the websites. I would guess that their best items are online to try and maximize profit.

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  50. Part I:

    I have seen the Kenmore TVs at the Willowbrook Mall Sears, but they have not been on so I can't judge their picture quality. The prices might be high, but I'm sure they will be discounted heavily during big sales. Hopefully the TVs will be a success even if that's a really hard segment to crack.

    I recently came across pictures of a downsized Sears store in CT that was fully remodeled it seems. It's interesting to see what a "new" Sears would look like. I do see an electronics department in one of those pictures, but it appears to be pretty small obviously.

    OTOH, here are some pictures of a Sears with very retro signage at the Foothills Mall in TN. This store at Glenbrook Square has some very retro elements/department signage as well.

    I've done some thrifting recently and came up with some good finds. One thrift had a bunch of late 1980s/early 1990s blank tapes which is often considered to be the best era of blank tapes. I got about 7 Maxell XLII, 1 Maxell UR, 1 Memorex dBS, and about 10 TDK D tapes. The XLIIs are certainly the crown jewel of the haul. Anyway, I paid $4 for the whole package so that was pretty good. The original price tag on the XLIIs is still there. It was $10.99 at Disc Jockey in 10-1994. I also picked up a few 1990s Wal-Mart brand cassettes and a couple of 2000s Sony HFs from other thrifts.

    I've also seen a lot of audio equipment lately. I picked up a 1992 Kenwood KX-W8040 double auto-reverse cassette deck for $15 that features recording in both wells and Auto Bias. Although this deck may have been the direct predecessor to my 1995 Kenwood KX-W8070S deck that I've had since it was new, the W8040 is built much better. It's heavier and has a higher power draw than even my high end decks. It really is a tank of a deck and is made in Japan and not China like the newer deck that has very poor build quality/design. Anyway, the deck was dirty and needed a good cleaning, but it performs up to the good specs it has (though the Dolby playback quality is sketchy on some recordings and I'm not sure if the auto tape type detection is working correctly on non-120µs tapes). The Auto Bias only adjusts bias and not recording sensitivity unfortunately, but it's a good feature anyway and the peak meters have a good resolution which is pretty rare for a double cassette deck.

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    1. I have viewed the 32,40, and 50 inch Kenmore Tv's at Sears and Kmart stores. The picture quality is nice for the price but I only saw 720p options. If you are going to upgrade a 1080p or better is the way to go.

      That newly renovated Sears really looks nice. Hopefully the company will find a way to remodel more stores and not just a handful. The Gwinnett Place Mall Sears was the last Sears I know of that got a major remodel.

      The Sears at Glenbrook Square and the rest of that mall are very retro. It looks like the mall is doing relatively well despite the obvious age of the Sears and Macy's anchors.

      All of the talk about a thrift store drought finally paid off for you. Those are some really good finds. Hopefully your luck will continue.

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  51. Part II:

    I actually saw a similar Kenwood deck from the same era the next day at another thrift, but that one only recorded in one well and it did not have Auto Bias. They also wanted $25 for it which was way too much. Anyway, I've seen a lot of Kenwood decks at the thrifts over the years, but those are the only non low-end ones I've seen. I also saw a similarly speced Pioneer early 1990s deck for $25 as well. That thrift also had a recent Tascam cassette-CD recoder combo, but they wanted $50 for it (it was in the glass display case). I also saw a lot of decent CD players, speakers, and a receiver or two. I didn't buy any of that, but it was interesting seeing it.

    It seems like the era of <$10 cassette decks may be over in the thrifts as $15 is about as low as I see them go now. $15 is still a fair price for a good deck, but anything over $20 better be something really special IMO.

    There is a new cassette deck on the market with the famed Marantz name on it. Don't get too excited though as it seems to be a rebadged Pyle/Ion deck with a digital counter. File this in the something is better than nothing category, but even then I'm not sure about that.

    Some Goodwills do sell their items online through auctions. I'm not sure if the Houston ones do though. It's not a bad idea, though it makes things difficult for those who visit the thrifts looking for a good deal.

    That's unfortunate to hear about your Walkman. Maybe the belt is bad again? I could be a gear, motor, capstan, or pinch roller issue though. Does the Walkman have a flippy head for the auto-reverse or are all four channels on a stationary head? If the latter is the case, it may indicate an electronic problem as that is not really a mechanical issue.

    I fully listened to the recording I made using the 1989 Nakamichi CR-1 and it's really very good. It has a clean, accurate, digital-like sound quality like my 1989 Denon DRM-800. It may not have the warmth of my 1989 Luxman K-112, but sometimes the clean sound is more desirable.

    It should also be noted that Audio-Technica products are back on the Sears site again. I'm not sure why they went down to begin with, but maybe they have a new distributor. They actually have more A-T items than before too.

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    1. A slight price increase is not a bad thing. The cassette comeback is still not as big as the record comeback so deals can still be found.

      Speaking of cassettes Urban Outfitters is still getting in new cassettes, but they are keeping less titles in stock than they had a few months ago.
      Maybe they are only going to stock certain less risky artists/groups than they started with.

      I looked at the online Goodwill site. You have to be careful and read before bidding because several items were for local pickup only. They had several cassette tapes for a buy it now price of almost $7.00. I would not trust buying anything electronic since you can't test items out first and there is no guarantee. At least with Ebay you can dispute non-working items and get your money back most of the time.

      I cleaned the internals, greased the gears, changed the batteries, and changed the belt on the Walkman. It is still struggling so I may need to find a new one.

      Good to hear your recordings came out sounding clean. I still need to get my hands on a premium deck to make some really good sounding tapes.

      Some of the Audio-Technica products are a good value compared to the name brand version. I am glad they are back.

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  52. Part I:

    It would be interesting if Sears renovated more stores. The Gwinnett Place Sears is one of the most interesting Sears around, but even that one was remodeled over 10 years ago before the Kmart merger I think. I'm not sure if the downsizing at the Danbury store necessitated a remodel or if it's something Sears did on their own. The store does look pretty good, but I would miss some of the carpeted sections of the store. Oh well, it still looks good.

    I believe that the 40" and bigger Kenmore TVs are either 1080p or 4K. The 32" one might be 720p, but that's not unusual for that size. I'm interested to see how the TVs look and also to hear how they sound since sound can be a terrible aspect of modern flat panel TVs. While I doubt the TVs will compete with the highest end models, hopefully they offer better performance than models in their price range. Of course, Sears could help that if they put the TVs on sale.

    League City has a lot of those LED billboards now. Perhaps they have allowed those billboards and other areas around town have not yet. Anyway, I saw an ad on one of those for DieHard that featured a woman listening to music in front of a wall of records. That was interesting. At least Sears is promoting their brands.

    I was also recently at the Macy's Men's Store at Willowbrook Mall and noticed that one of the furniture displays featured a wall that had wallpaper of vintage 1960s-1980s loudspeakers. That was certainly interesting to see. I guess it's good to see that vintage Hi-Fi has some sort of visual appeal if nothing else.

    I checked the Goodwill online site and I see some interesting potential deals. As of right now, there is a Nakamichi CR-1 like I have for $5 and a 3-head Denon DR-M24HX for $6. Both of these auctions end in about a week so the prices will certainly go up, but those are great prices for now at least. Of course, who knows if they work as you say. Plus, I'm sure shipping will probably at least triple those prices. Who knows if they ship them correctly too because audio equipment has to be packaged very well or else it'll break in shipping. It's funny how they say that the Nak isn't "tasted." I would hope that they aren't tasting Naks!

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    1. Some stores will probably need to renovate at least the electronics departments since some stores are getting rid of nearly all electronics.

      I did notice a 40 inch 1080p Kenmore on my last visit. I am glad to see they have some higher quality models available. I also noticed some Kenmore grilling tools available, but I am not sure if those are new also.

      It looks like more companies are joining the retro bandwagon, at least with their ads. It would really be something if some Sears and Kmart stores brought back records.

      Those vintage cassette players probably don't taste good with all of the dust, but I am not one to ruin a good time. Those items seem like good deals, but I am not too much of a risk taker with my money.

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  53. Part II:

    It also seems like Goodwill has opened a couple of other new Computer Works stores aside from the Greenspoint Mall location. That's interesting. Hopefully I'll be able to check out the Spring Branch store if nothing else sometime soon.

    I don't mind paying a little bit more for cassette decks at the thrifts (I certainly didn't expect to always find things like the $8 Luxman 3 head deck), but naturally there is a limit to what I think is reasonable. Granted, at this point I'm only really interested in higher end decks and other interesting oddities. Hopefully you'll be able to find a good deck in your thrifting finds. A high end deck would be great, but even a good mid-level deck can make great recordings especially if it has things like auto calibration. Even some lower end cassette decks work very well (especially early-to-mid 1980s ones). I have a couple of lower end decks from 1983 (the Sears deck and a Technics) that sound much better than what you'd expect from what they cost when new. This isn't to say that all ~1983 lower end decks are good (I have a Sharp from around then that's certainly a step below the other two), but there are some real bargain gems there.

    Hopefully you'll be able to find a new Walkman too. That is one thing that has been very hard for me to find in the thrifts. I guess you'll have to search ebay and hope that you'll get a working model. There is a new model of portable cassette player/recorder on Amazon called the Jaras JJ-2016 that seems to be getting decent reviews and is $30. I'm not sure if it's decent or not, but at least there might be some promise of a decent modern "Walkman." Anyway, let me know how the search goes because I'd like to get a good working Walkman too.

    It probably makes sense for Urban Outfitters to focus on popular cassette titles. UO is certainly geared towards the hipster crowd, but I'm sure even they are more likely to buy popular albums than some unknown artists. Hopefully the tapes will stick around and there will be more choice.

    Audio-Technica's replacement turntable cartridges and other turntable parts are indeed great values compared to most of the other big name cartridge companies that charge a lot more. Granted, some of those other cartridges are really good and some people don't like the treble heavy quality of some of the A-T cartidges, but even then A-T has some fairly priced cartridges that are supposedly more balanced. A-T's headphones aren't cheap, but they have an excellent reputation and probably perform like more expensive headphones and certainly beat overpriced brands like Beats. So, anyway, I'm glad that their products are back at Sears online and are offered at good prices there.

    I'm glad that the drought at the thrifts has ended. Hopefully the good luck will continue even though I probably won't be visiting a ton of thrifts in the next few weeks. Most of the thrifts that have prerecorded cassettes have good selections right now too. Also, I should note that the SE side Goodwill that didn't have any electronics the other day had them again during my last visit. The area smelled like fresh paint so I guess that's why they cleared stuff out temporarily.

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  54. Luckily after playing the Walkman a few more times, it seems to be working better. It will last until I decide to purchase a new one maybe in a few months.

    I was hoping Hastings would have brought cassettes back since they have a large record selection, but the company may not survive after next week due to the bankruptcy. I am hoping that another company buys the stores and keeps them running. I think Urban Outfitters needs to add a Walkman to their product offerings to boost cassette sales.

    Ebay seems to be the best place to get a Walkman from. Each Walkman lasts me about 6 months to a year without issues. I use my Walkman's frequently these days so a $20 investment is not bad for a shipped Walkman if it lasts me a year.

    I may not make it to any thrift stores for a while so keep me posted on the good finds.

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  55. Some Sears stores have shrunken electronics departments that still look okay with the vacuums and/or furniture put into the demised electronics space, but others look like they could use some redoing. The vacuums at Willowbrook Mall, for example, don’t really look out of place except for the fact that they’re in the semi-walled off electronics department. OTOH, the mattress department at the Mall Of The Mainland Sears could probably stand to look more like a furniture department. And, of course, some electronics department still have too much excess space even with other departments taking over the space. I wonder what the Westwood Mall Sears looks like these days because they had a really, really big electronics department even in 2014. I’m sure the selection is a lot less now, but I don’t know what else is on the floor there. That store seemed pretty spread out as it was.

    The Kenmore grilling tools are probably existing items. I think I’ve seen those before. Sears has been selling BBQ grills under the Kenmore name for quite some time now.

    I saw a couple of new DieHard billboards aside from the one I talked about before. One is located on the North Loop near the N. Shepherd Sears. These don’t have the record artwork, but it is interesting to see Sears push the DieHard name.

    Kmart does sell records through their entertainment website. They actually have a pretty good choice of CDs, records, and movie discs too it seems. The prices are pretty competitive too. It’s probably run by a third party media racker though, but it still carries the Kmart name. It would be interesting to see records at actual Sears or Kmart stores, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for that. At least they still sell good quality blank cassettes.

    We’ll have to see what becomes of Hastings. Maybe they’ll add cassettes if they survive. I think it would make sense for Urban Outfitters to sell good quality portable cassette players, but we’ll see. I think a lot of the people who buy them don’t intend on playing them. I know there are reports that a lot of the people buying new records are only doing so for decoration purposes.

    Hopefully running your Walkman freed the mechanism up and you won’t need another one. At least you’re able to get some working Walkmen on ebay for a fair price. I wouldn’t be surprised if the prices go up soon with all the talk about a cassette comeback. You may want to stock up while you can. Someone on one of the cassette forums brought one of those USB auto-reverse converter Walkman type devices that are often available for ~$25 online and gave it a review and opened it up for inspection. It sounds like it may have a good quality frequency response, albeit with a lot of wow-and-flutter. The mechanism does not look super cheap so maybe there’s hope for it if someone were to put better belts in it. Who knows. It may not be worth spending $25 on one of those, but maybe it’s not a terrible alternative if you can’t get a good Walkman.

    I was playing around with the Kenwood deck I picked up and had some interesting observations about it. I tried playing back a Dolby B tape on it in the B well, but the sound quality with Dolby on was iffy. I then moved it into the A well and the quality was quite good. I put it back in the B well and the playback was even worse and it started to skew the tape some. I then hit the reverse playback button and things cleared up instantly. I think the auto-reverse flippy head must have gotten out of alignment somehow causing azimuth problems, but activating the auto-reverse put it back into position. That’s the reason why cassette fans don’t like flippy head auto-reverse decks, but at least it went back into an aligned position (that does not always happen). I will say that the playback speed was too fast on reverse mode in the B well, but it seems about right on the standard direction. That can probably be adjusted.

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