Thursday, December 1, 2016

Hastings Lake Jackson Texas

Hastings Lake Jackson Texas 
Opened in 2005 after moving from the Brazos Mall, this Hastings was located next to a Target store. The former Hastings store at the Brazos Mall was replaced by Ross. This store was opened a few years before Hastings changed the look of their stores and still had the retro store design. 
There is a small shopping center in front of the store partially blocking the view from the highway. This is about all of the store you can see from the highway.
A typical Hastings Superstore had these departments

Movies for sale and to rent
Music CD's and Records both new and used
Video Games for all major consoles for sale and to rent
Books new and used
Comics
Fan zone with collectibles from the big 3 major sports and all teams
Toys and collectables
Electronics with TV's, CD players, record players, walkmans, tablets 
Phone accessories
Guitars and musical instruments
Gag gifts
T-shirts
Outdoor sports
Science projects
Hobby shop with build it yourself cars and RC cars
Skateboards
Magazines and newspapers
Greeting cards
Board games
Magic and Pokemon games
and more

Hastings had a lot of things in one store and you could easily spend hours browsing in the store. Hastings was in the beginning stages of adjusting the products in the stores to increase profits when the company went into bankruptcy. 

Gotta love the flannel shirt. These signs were already dated when the store opened up in 2005.
Here we are in the movie department. Collectibles and blankets were placed on empty movie shelves probably to clear out the back warehouse of goods for the sale.


This location did not get the 2016 refresh and still had a very large movie department for the size of the store. 

If you needed help, these information stations were the place to go.
You can see the video game department here in the back of the store.
This is near the entrance from the movies to the back of the store.
You can easily find the movie section from the middle of the store with the bright blue walls. This is near the comics and middle of the store.
The music department was at the back center area of the store. 
These photos were taken in the second week of the closing sale, the products were still somewhat organized at this point. 

Looking from the center of the store to the book department.
The edge of the instrument department facing the books.
Hastings had lots of records for sale as well as CD's. The t-shirt wall is in the background.
Another view of the music department with collectable toys on display.
Now onto the Book department

Kind of a faded sign, but you gotta love the old school leather jacket. 
All of the walls are painted green in the book department, except for the kids book department.
Here is the preschool and child toy department. 
The newsstand. 

Looking from the book department all the way across the store to the movies.
An old TV, that used to play whatever movie or TV show they were promoting or the clerks felt like watching. There was a TV in between each register aisle.
A register aisle, with two TV's in view.
An up close view of the older Hastings logo, that was on displays around the store.
A final view of the store facing the book department and cafe.

48 comments:

  1. Part I:

    I’m going to combine my replies from the Updates and Extra Images post with my reply here since that post is getting close to the 200 reply limit. This Hastings is interesting and looks quite different than the Alexandria Hastings we saw in the previous post. The wood floor look, even if it’s fake, actually looks pretty nice in this application. I’m surprised more retailers aren’t going for that instead of the hideous concrete look. Oh well. These pictures give a good idea of just how many new and used vinyl records Hastings had. It’s a shame those record sales wasn’t enough to keep them in business. I guess flannel guy was only interested in used CDs and not records.

    Thanks for the information about New Orleans’ malls. I guess the Lakeside area Kmart is located in a very good spot and that has helped it survive as long as it has. It’s a shame that one of the most successful malls in the area is land limited while another mall with more land is struggling to stay relevant. Unfortunately, that is the way it goes sometimes. The Galleria in Houston is another mall that struggles to find room for expansion.

    I do wonder how much money a retailer can get for their pharmacy records. It’s probably worth a lot since I’m sure the customers of the former store are very likely to do business with the store with the new records. I wonder if we’ll see other retailers throw in the towel on pharmacies ala Target, but Kmart must be doing well enough with their pharmacies to continue to keep them around.

    I know the likelihood of Sears opening new stores is slim to none, but I wonder if there might be a good opportunity to open new concept Kmart stores/franchised Sears stores in abandoned Walgreens/Rite-Aid locations after they merge that has a Kmart pharmacy, basic pantry goods, and maybe even appliances and mattresses. I know that sounds like an odd fit of items, but Mattress Firm and other mattress stores seem to be opening up on every street corner so maybe Sears can try to compete against them. Plus, it would really enhance their online operations as people can have items shipped to or returned to neighborhood locations.

    I was looking at the latest RadioShack ad on their website and noticed that RadioShack now has Realistic branded Bluetooth speakers. Realistic was Radio Shack’s house brand for audio equipment prior to the 1990s. It’s interesting to see the vintage logo and name back on new products. Hopefully RadioShack will have success with that and will use the name on some more serious audio equipment than just Bluetooth speakers.

    I also noticed that RadioShack just recently started selling Maxell UR 90 audio cassettes on their website. I’m not sure if they’re in the store also or not. At $2.99 per tape with a minimum order of 10, the price is certainly not cheap, but at least they’re available. Perhaps this is also a good sign that Maxell has not discontinued audio tape as was reported earlier, but it’s hard to say. RadioShack may have gotten their hands on some of the last remaining stock. It seems that Kmart has sold out of their Maxell cassettes online. I’m not sure if they’ll get any more or not. It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on that.

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    1. Hastings had several store designs in place in the handful of stores I visited. A lot of employees have commented online about their stores getting huge shipments of collectible POP figures and other items that were way overstocked and did not sell which probably did not help while they were losing sales.

      The Metairie Kmart property was sold not too long ago to a company known for developing hotels. I would not be surprised if Sears played hardball with the store lease to try and cash out. This is a busy store in a prime location so they will probably stick it out there until they have to.

      The pharmacies may become too expensive for Kmart as the store count shrinks. I bet they could try and raise cash by selling off the pharmacy service like Target did, but what company would take over their pharmacies.

      Smaller Sears and Kmart stores would be a good idea. I wonder if they could raise enough money to try out this concept.

      I have not been to a Radio Shack in a while. I wonder how their stores are doing these days. I went to Radio Shack stores when they still had them in malls, but I have not felt the need to go in lately.

      I wonder if Sears and Kmart stores will lose more electronics this year after the holidays. The electronics departments have shrunk so much that are almost an after thought at a lot of stores.

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  2. Part II:

    I also think that the Giants are flying under the radar, but that’s not unusual. Nobody really gave them much of a chance in 2007 or 2011 either at this time of the year. I think some people assume that the Giants’ record is inflated by a weak schedule (which very well could be true), but nobody is saying that about the Cowboys and their schedule is even weaker.

    None of the teams in the NFL are dominant right now. Seattle looked like they were going to go on a roll, but they’ve had some ugly losses this year. New England always looks dominant at this time of the year, but the Gronk injury could set them back. The Cowboys have a weak (but well coached) defense that could well expose them against better competition. The Raiders also have a weak defense. So, anyway, we’ll see.

    I think the Bucs would have started the season better if they didn’t make the coaching change, but now they’re playing with more consistency. They have enough talent to win the division, but we’ll see if they can stay consistent now that they have some pressure on them. Evans is a very talented receiver, but he has a reputation for having stone hands at times. We’ll see if he can be consistent.

    In some ways, 2011 was a retribution season for 2010 where the Giants played well and actually ended up with a better record than they did in 2011, but they just barely missed the playoffs. The famed Desean Jackson Eagles game really defined 2010 for them much like how the Flipper Anderson playoff game in 1989 against the Rams defined that season and led to the Giants winning the Super Bowl in 1990. The Saints were dominant in 2011, but not getting home field in the 2nd round really doomed them just like it did in 2010. If anything, the stark difference in how the Saints play at home and on the road has really defined the team in recent years.

    Sony, like just about everyone else, simplified their electronics considerably in the 1990s compared to the 1980s (and the same was true of the 2000s compared to the 1990s). A lot of this was due to the integration of ICs and stuff that allowed for simpler and cheaper construction. The struggling Japanese “bubble” economy also put more pressure on Japanese companies to reduce costs and increase things like outsourced manufacturing. Some manufacturers seemed to do this while maintaining reliability and quality better than others though. For example, Sharp’s VCRs remained being reliable, but other manufacturers had a drop off (especially in the late 1990s/early 2000s). Perhaps the greatest image showing Sony’s cost cutting in the 1990s is this image from inside a Sony TC-FX211 cassette deck. It’s basically a boombox cassette deck put into a component cassette deck chassis and sold as Hi-Fi equipment.

    Perhaps you can use Velcro to secure the Walkman. The auto-reverse on the Chinese converter is a nice feature to have when driving. The door eject button works fine on the Chinese converter, but it’s not the easiest thing to use one-handed. That might hurt you if you try to change tapes while driving, but it should not be a problem if you do it when you’re stopped.

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  3. New York has the chance to make up some ground tonight against Dallas but they would need to win out and Dallas would have to lose out to get the division.

    Just about every team has some kind of weakness so you can't really predict who is going to run the table yet.

    The one thing Tampa has going for them is that their new coach was promoted after being with them last season.

    New York has had some tough years, but they have two championships over the past decade unlike any other team right now. Our season is just about over at this point so the long off season is about to begin.

    The internals on the cassette deck are about as cheap as you can get besides putting that in full plastic casing. I wonder if they took that design out of the Tozai playbook.

    Maybe after the holidays I will look into getting one of those players. I still have a lot of Hastings CD's to listen to. There are still a few cassettes that I need to listen to, but I can wait.

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  4. Part I:

    There's a lot of retail news and personal observations to report so hopefully I can get to them all. The big news this past week has been Sears' poor quarterly report. I guess that's not shocking news though. Some retail news outlets (and my own observations) say that this has been a soft holiday season for B&M stores in particular so the holiday season may not be very good for Sears either. That could really hurt their long-term health, but we'll see.

    I did recently visit the Willowbrook Mall Sears. I saw that the operator of the new Sears Portrait Studio is Picture People. They were doing pretty good business from what I could tell, but I guess this is a good time of the year for them. They also have locations at the N. Shepherd and Memorial City Mall Sears. They also have some locations in Houston area buybuyBaby stores.

    I recently purchased some items from a Sears store and for whatever reason, the two people ahead of me in line seemed to take about 15 minutes each to check out (it only took me a couple of minutes though). I'm not sure why the checkout process is so slow at Sears sometimes, but perhaps getting people registered for SYWR is part of it and perhaps also getting the coupons to scan correctly. The department got another register open right after I checked out, but Sears either needs to get that process streamlined or keep more checkouts open in each department or else people will get frustrated and will leave. I wonder how bad the checkout process is at Kmart stores where there is a greater expectation for speed, but the SYWR process is the same.

    I can't say for sure, but I think the two Sears Hardware stores near me are in the process of closing. I thought I saw going out of business stuff in front of one of the stores, but it was dark outside and I couldn't see it well. Neither location is listed on Sears Hardware's website, but the location on Louetta is still listed. It'll be a shame to lose those stores. Perhaps the failure of these stores shows that Sears is still a long way away from being able to open successful new small store formats.

    It's interesting that we are talking about Kmart's pharmacies because I just recently came across a picture of a Kmart pharmacy that got a full remodel. I guess it's a good sign that they are renovating some pharmacies and that shows that they may stick around. I can't imagine that any major pharmacy would want to set up shop inside Kmart stores due (ala Target) due to low shopper traffic, but I'm sure someone like Walgreens wouldn't mind paying a decent amount of money to buy Kmart's records and hopefully transfer their customers.

    I wouldn't be surprised if Kmart tries to get the new owners of the Metairie Kmart location to give them a big check in exchange for closing the store even if it is a successful store. That seems to be what Sears does these days.

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    1. I hear you about the checkout process being slow sometimes. I recently went to JCPenney and moved from one stalled out checkout counter to another to get stuck once again. Both lines had only one person in front of me so it was disappointing to wait.

      Sears at Deerbrook is good at opening additional checkouts if the lines get past 2 people deep.

      Kmart stores have problems with their registers sometimes that hold up the lines.

      I am not sure why some of these long time Sears Hardware stores are failing. The format of the store made it easy to find items quickly and checkout fast most of the time. The few stores I visited also had employees that would ask you if you needed help.

      I looked at a few more photos of the Kmart with the remodeled Pharmacy. I noticed they still sell fishing licenses and have a sporting good counter. All of the stores nearby no longer have this counter even in the sportsman's paradise of Louisiana.

      Looks like Fred's is going to buy nearly 900 pharmacies from Rite-Aid and Walgreens, so maybe they would pick up a few of the Kmart locations in the future. I would like to see some Fred's locations in the area, they are cheaper than Walgreens and CVS.

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  5. Part II:

    A few months ago I decided to fill some gaps in my classical music/jazz CD library by buying new CDs since the prices for premium recordings are pretty fair these days and the selection is still pretty good. I did buy some CDs from Kmart's site a few months ago right before their entertainment site went down (I very well might have been the last customer for that). I tried to find a B&M place to buy classical CDs, but I'm struggling to find any places that still sell more than one or two CDs of the genre in total aside from Half Price Books and the thrifts. I thought Barnes & Noble would be a good place to look, but the Champions store had practically no CDs aside from a few Christmas CDs. They had some expensive vinyl records, but I'm not interested in that for classical music (if they even had that genre on vinyl). That was a major disappointment, but their website still has an excellent selection of music at least. It seems like some B&N stores still have CDs, but not all of them and not ones near me. Some might be on my way from work though.

    There's a place near Midtown on 59 called Joel's Classical that sells a large selection of classical CDs so at least there's them, but there may not be any others. I guess buying online is the only option these days, but I may have to visit Joel's one of these days to give them some business and pick their brains on which recordings have the best "emotion" and audio fidelity for the works I want to add. With classical, most major works are available from many different conductors/orchestras, recording labels, and recording dates, so a lot of work has to go into finding the best recordings if one is demanding that.

    Hastings would have had something that I want, but oh well I guess. Perhaps small towns that Hastings focused on aren't the best markets for things like collectibles and comics. Maybe those are bigger city types of things. It's hard to say, but it seems like they had a hard time finding the right items to stock for their customers.

    I'd be surprised if RadioShack was doing well, but hopefully they are doing well enough to stick around. I know they've focused on R/C toys and drones this holiday season. That might be a nice niche for them to focus on, but it's hard to say. Sears' CE performance is a big part of their declining numbers so hopefully they continue to focus on at least what they have left. I did recently visit the Connection Solutions department to look at security cameras and they had an okay selection of items so that's pretty good.

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    1. Target has downsized their music CD selection dramatically as well. They are down to half an aisle and they moved the items to a less prominent spot in the department to make way for their tech area.

      Hastings had a strange selection of music and several CD's I bought were unusual to find in Southeast Texas. They did have a lot of classical music from what I can recall.

      You will probably get much better advice from a local shop than you would from the big box stores though.

      Radio Shack and others probably sold a lot of drones this year. I have seen them for sale everywhere though even at grocery stores.

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  6. Part III:

    I'm watching the Cowboys-Giants game as I type this. The Giants are leading right now, but just barely. The Giants offense is so frustrating to watch these days. This is even worse than the 1980s-90s Saints offenses or the mid-90s Giants offenses even though they have some talented offensive players. The defense is hanging in there though so we'll see, but even asking the Giants to have 3-4 scoring drives against a weak defense seems like asking for too much. At least we have our recent past glory to reflect on as you say, but watching Eli play like he's 55 years old is tough. Hopefully the Giants can hang on to win this. I think the division is out of the question, but a Wild Card berth is very much in play.

    Unfortunately, it looks like things might be over for the Saints this year. Today's loss was a tough one. The Bucs are looking good though. Keeping someone from the staff from last year has helped, but there's still a transition especially with a rookie head coach.

    They could have called that cassette deck "Tozai by Sony." I bet anyone who brought one of those and opened it up felt like they got ripped off. I haven't been visiting the thrifts too frequently these days, but I have picked up a few prerecorded cassettes including a rare "Walkman Classics" Chrome classical prerecorded cassette from Deutsche Grammophon licensed by Sony featuring Holst's The Planets. These cassettes are somewhat sought after, but personally I'm not happy with the sound quality on them. Part of that is the nature of Chrome tapes that I've mentioned before, but DG had some mastering issues at that time even though they are a premium classical label. I also picked up a Saint-Saens Chrome classical tape from the London/Decca label from the same time period and the fidelity is much better so it's not just a Chrome thing. I also picked up a handful of sealed Maxell XLII Type II cassettes. Those aren't all that rare in the thrifts, but I rarely see more than one at a time so that was a nice pick up.

    I have not had much of a chance to play around with the new USB cassette portable I got, but I will soon and I will report the findings.

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    1. As of last week, the Cowboys secured the #1 seed in the NFC. With the way things are looking Dallas, Atlanta, Green Bay, and New York appear to be the teams to beat in the playoffs. Seattle and Detroit both had tough losses this week. Washington and Tampa are still hanging on barely, but still need help to make it in. The AFC teams have already been determined and Houston may have to face Kansas City again. Texans fans are hoping for an all Texas Superbowl, but if that does not happen they don't want to see Dallas here at all.

      We beat both Arizona and Tampa since your last comment and we have a chance to beat Atlanta this week to finish the season on a good note. The rumors of our head coach leaving are once again coming up, but I doubt that anything happens this off season. Next year if the team once again fails to make the playoffs things will certainly change.

      I have been so busy with things that it may be a while before I make it to a thrift. I hope that I will find time one of these days. I have not taken photos for a new article since Hastings closed either. I have a few items still left to post as well as an update post.

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  7. Part I:

    You are certainly right about JCPenney having a slow checkout process. I did some shopping there around Back To School time and it seemed like each customer was taking about 10 minutes to check out if not longer. I know JCPenney has a lot of coupons which may cause trouble, but Kohl’s does too and their checkout times aren’t nearly as long. I know that sometimes people go to Sears to resolve credit card issues at the cashiers since there isn’t a central customer service desk and that takes some time, but regardless, Sears and JCPenney need to fix their checkout process. It’s unfortunate to hear that Kmart has issues too because there’s an even higher expectancy for there to be a speedy checkout process at discount stores.

    I can confirm that the two NW Houston Sears Hardware locations are closing along with the Fuqua location. I went to one of the stores and got some really good deals since most things were 50% off or more and they didn’t jack up the prices prior to closing like some places do. Even though the discounts were big, the shelves were still well stocked so I was able to get a lot of the things that I was looking for. I enjoyed shopping at Sears Hardware (and still may shop there, but the Louetta location is the only one left in the area and even then it’s pretty far) due to the size and good customer service as you say. I’m not sure why they failed, but I will say that their hardware selection has decreased in recent years with appliances taking up more of the space. Also, perhaps they didn’t advertise enough in the community. I know that Ace is pretty good at sending out ads in the areas with stores.

    I’m not sure why some Kmarts are not offering fishing licenses anymore. It’s been decades since I last fished, but Kmart was my go-to place for stuff like that. I remember taking an unexpected trip to Missouri once a long time back and stopping at a Kmart there to get a license. Sometimes it’s small stuff like that which causes customers to abandon a store in favor of the competition.

    I hadn’t heard about Fred’s plans, thanks for the information. Kmarts are probably too big for Fred’s to take over, but maybe they could if they subdivided the stores. Are typical Fred’s locations about the size of a Walgreens? I would have assumed that they were a bit bigger, but maybe Fred’s is wanting a new concept of smaller stores. It’s a big risk for a chain like them, but we’ll see if this big buyout of locations (which may not be stores in the best locations or in the best condition if Walgreens is dumping them) can help Fred’s jump to national prominence. It will force CVS and Walgreens to deal with a new competitor which is probably what the government wants. I don’t know if any of the dumped locations will be here in Houston since we don’t have Rite-Aid, but we’ll see if Fred’s comes here one of these days.

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    1. I am not sure what the checkout issue is, but they need to have a better sense of urgency if they want to increase sales. Sears has gotten much better over the past year. Even a layaway for a television only took a couple of minutes.

      Sears is slowly dissappearing. Luckily we have not lost any full sized Sears stores in a while. The Houston market seems to be one of the better ones for the chain and I am glad they continue to operate here.

      Sporting goods in Kmart stores are usually in the back in one of the lowest traffic areas of the store. Most if not all Kmart stores no longer have a gun counter which brought hunters into the store for licenses as well. I am sure with the loss of those sales they probably decided to eliminate selling licenses as well.

      Fred's stores are in some former K&B drugstore locations so they are about the same size as your normal drugstore chain. None of the stores I have been to have a pharmacy, but it would not take much space to reconfigure the stores to make room for one.

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  8. Part II:

    I actually went to a Wal-Mart for the first time in about a year a couple weeks back and looked at their CD selection. They actually had more than Target it seemed, but most were “discount” priced CDs. The discount CDs were not organized in any way so I didn’t give them more than a quick glance. Target had a couple of classical samplers, but I didn’t see any classical music at Wal-Mart. Maybe they had a couple and I just didn’t see them.

    I did visit the Baybrook Mall area Barnes & Noble which still has a music & movies department unlike the B&Ns near me. I don’t think they have the listening stations like they used to years ago. The department looked a bit dated with DVD signage that makes it look like it’s a new format, but at least they have that department. Anyway, they still had a decent amount of classical CDs, but most of it focuses on “pop” classical like Yo-Yo Ma and don’t expect much outside the A and B list composers. They didn’t really have more than one of any particular CD. The A list composers like Mozart and Beethoven had their CDs grouped together (not counting clearance stuff), but other composers were just grouped together so I have to go through all of them to see what they had. The prices aren’t great, but they aren’t bad either considering it’s B&N. I did pick up one CD that I wanted for my library and was priced well. Anyway, I wonder how their selection compares to what Hastings had or what someone like Books-A-Million may have. Perhaps Hasting’s odd merchandising is partially what led to their demise. The oddball stuff is probably what was left on the store's last days after things were at ~90% off.

    The Baybrook B&N had some classical music records too (though they had a lot more on CD than on vinyl). It was a bit surprised to see how much they had actually, but the prices were outrageous as you’d imagine for new records. CDs are far superior for classical music than vinyl and most classical fans know this so I’m surprised that they’re even trying to make that many classical records. I didn't specifically remember seeing any classical SACDs (Super Audio CDs) or hybrid SACDs (SACDs that also work in regular CD players) even though classical is perhaps the only genre where SACDs have any popularity, but maybe they had some (probably hybrids if they had any since anyone with a CD player can use those). One thing I will say is that I spent at least 45 minutes in the music department browsing through the stuff at a prime time of the evening during the busy holiday shopping period and I was the only person looking at music the whole time I was there. Unfortunately, that might explain why those departments have been removed from so many stores. The profit margins on the records may be so high that they can warrant putting them in all stores even if they don’t sell too many, but the profit margins on the CDs are slimmer so perhaps they can’t justify putting them in all stores even if they sell better than the records.

    I visited a couple of Half Price Books recently as well including my first visit to the NASA area location. I did not see cassettes at that location. Maybe they had them hidden somewhere, but I don’t know. The store is somewhere in between the sizes of the Copperfield and North Oaks locations, but I think the Copperfield location still had a little bit more music than the NASA store (the Copperfield location still has cassettes for example). The North Oaks store probably has 2-3x the amount of classical CDs as the other two though and a bit more in other genres. I wonder what the Humble store has because I think that HPB is even bigger than the North Oaks store. I have not been there since 2012-13 or so, but I was pretty amazed at the size of the Humble store.

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    1. Sounds like your music search is coming along. So many stores these days just don't have a music selection like the specialty stores did. Maybe if you have a chance to go to Beaumont, 2nd and Charles at Parkdale Mall has a big selection of CD's. If you make the trek you can check out the Macys that will be closing soon. I think the Suncoast is still open there as well.

      The NASA Half Price Books seems to have always had a lackluster selection of music and movies. I guess they don't have a lot of sellers in the area that will part with their collection.

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  9. Part III:

    Anyway, I did pick up some nice CDs and cassettes from the North Oaks Half Price Books including a pretty rare Japanese Denon Bartok classical CD from 1984 (the writing on the CD case is actually in Japanese). Denon CDs are pretty famous for their high audio fidelity and of course it is amongst the earliest CDs being from 1984. I don’t know if this CD is worth anything huge (some early Denon CDs are), but I like the music on it anyway so it was certainly a worthy pick up for me.

    I mentioned earlier that Kmart did not have the Maxell UR 90 cassettes in stock online, but they are back in stock now. Unfortunately, the prices went up again to $5.50 for a two pack, but at least they got more in stock. Hopefully that is a good sign that the Maxell cassettes are still available and perhaps still being made.

    The Saints helped the Giants out by beating Tampa Bay this past weekend. That ensured that the Giants could prepare for Week 17 knowing that they’re in the playoffs with the 5 seed. I’ve heard the Payton rumors, but the team is still playing hard obviously so it’ll be hard to get rid of him. Well, Rex and Rob Ryan will be available if you want a Ryan to take another crack at fixing the defense! Ha, that’s a joke obviously, though Rex would probably be a better defensive coordinator than Rob was. Spags has been a great D-coordinator for the Giants yet again even with his struggles with the Saints a few years back so it’s probably more of a talent problem than a coaching problem.

    I’m looking forward to seeing where the Giants will play in the opening playoff round. Green Bay looks like the most likely spot. The Giants have won big playoff games at Lambeau before (both in seasons where the Giants lost regular season games to the Packers like they did this year), but Green Bay might be the hottest team in the league and I’d like to avoid a team with momentum. We’ll see. I think the Giants defense is playoff ready, but Eli and the offense has been terrible. I think the only way the Giants can win is if the defense holds the opposition to under 10 points. That’s a tough task, but we’ll see.

    As for the AFC, well, there are a lot of unknown QBs in the playoffs. Thus, I think NE and the Steelers have a big edge over everyone else. Those were the preseason favorites too. I’d expect one of those two teams to be in the Super Bowl in Houston. Hopefully the Giants will be there too, but if they can’t, I’ll be rooting for everyone else to beat Dallas for sure. I’d prefer for the Redskins not to be in the Super Bowl, but I’d much rather have them there than the Cowboys. The Giants seem to be the one team that can beat the Cowboys (they made Prescott look terrible) so I’d look forward to that matchup if it happens. I have very fond memories of the Giants knocking the 1 seed Cowboys out in 2007 on the way to the Super Bowl and would love a repeat of that for sure.

    It’s funny how we were talking about Sony junk the other day because I almost fell victim to Sony junk the other day. I was listening to CDs on my Sony CFD-S50 boombox when all of a sudden it stopped reading CDs. I tried to power cycle the boombox to see if that would fix the issue, but it wouldn’t turn on again! Fortunately, it’s working now and reading CDs once again after I kept it unplugged for a while and plugged it back in. I’m not sure what went wrong, but at least it’s working (for now at least). I think I still have Sears’ extended warranty on this for another six months, but hopefully I won’t have to use it.

    Hopefully you’ll be able to visit some thrifts and take some new pictures for the blog here soon. I have not visited a ton of thrifts recently, but I did see some interesting stuff (mostly 1990s audio equipment) at the ones I visited even though I didn’t buy anything. I did see a few cassette decks, but they were all low end stuff (mostly Technics 1990s dual decks) so I didn’t bother with them.

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    1. Glad to hear Kmart will still have cassettes. I guess they will run sales on the cassettes more often with the higher price tag.

      We were glad to repay Tampa Bay the favor and pretty much eliminate them from the playoffs. Payton will remain with the Saints, but he has to do better than 7-9. He is becoming the new Jeff Fisher of the NFL. Sadly our last game was a loss, it is hard to overcome a 35-13 deficit and win. The team still fought and finished 32-38 after a failed onside kick. The offense was very good this season with a 5200 yard passer, 1000 yard back, 2-1000 yard receivers, but it was not enough.

      The Giants have a rough road starting in Green Bay. It probably did not help when some players took a mini vacation to Florida this week. Hopefully they went straight to condition training once they got back.

      I am interested to see what happens with the Oakland versus Texans matchup this week. It will be a very different type of playoff game with the shaky QB's of each team. The AFC seems to have 3 dominant teams and 3 pretenders. The NFC has one dominant team, 4 good teams, and Detroit.

      The boombox problem you had is strange. Maybe there is a chip that needed a hard reset by pulling the plug out for a while.

      I have a reason now to get more photos for the blog. The multiple Kmart and Macys store closings will leave so many new vacant properties. I will try to document as many of these stores as possible before they are gone forever.

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  10. Part I:

    The Sears and Macy's closing news is obviously a huge story locally and nationally. I put my thoughts about it on the Metairie Kmart post. It's good that Houston has not lost any more Sears locations though. While West Oaks Mall and Plaza Paseo will feel the pain from losing Macy's, the closures could help drive up sales at those locations for Sears even if the malls themselves struggle even more.

    I do have a minor Mall of the Mainland update. It seems that they're building some kind of entrance way or something next to the old Palais Royal (currently the wrestling studio). This is probably going to lead to Stuttgarden/restaurant row, but I'm not sure.

    It's good to hear that your experiences at Sears' checkouts have been better lately. I have noticed that some departments are almost always busier than others at Sears. It seems like the children's and men's department checkouts always have the longest lines. The women's department lines may or may not be long, I really don't know about that. OTOH, the tool department checkouts are usually quicker even though the customers there tend to ask the clerks for help picking out tools/lawn equipment and stuff like that. I'm not really sure then why the lines are quicker, but maybe they have more staffing in that department.

    I wonder if Half Price Books might consider opening a bigger store in the NASA area at some point because you'd think that that area would support a bigger store. That location probably has a lot of potential shoppers and also more affluent sellers who sell better than average stuff. Maybe not though as you say. Maybe the people in that area hang on to their stuff. I don't know, it's hard to say. I've noticed recently during my visits that HPB's pricing on CDs is sometimes good, but sometimes not. HPB usually asks for $4-7 for non-clearance single disc CDs used or new, but new CDs can be brought from other stores for $5-~$20 (some special CDs might be a lot more). Obviously getting a $20 CD for $4.99 at HPB is a good deal and there are a lot of situations like that, but I've seen cases where they want $7 for a CD that costs $5 new. I guess it pays off to know how much certain CDs go for or are worth before buying things if you want to get the best deals. One nice thing about HPB, at least with classical CDs, is that they have a pretty good selection of high-end CD publishers like BIS and Telarc to go along with mid-level/mainstream and budget labels and they are all priced about the same. The budget classical label stuff usually isn't bad, but still it's nice to be able to get very highly sought after recordings for the same price as the budget stuff (to some extent, the budget stuff might be overpriced and the high end stuff underpriced, but I won't complain as long as the selection of high end stuff is good).

    I'd love to make a trek to the Eastside and visit the 2nd and Charles store and even San Jacinto Mall, but I rarely go out that side. Maybe I'll make a trip down there one of these days. How is Parkdale Mall doing these days? I was a bit surprised to see the Macy's closing there even though Beaumont is mostly a blue collar area.

    The Saints go as Drew Brees goes and so maybe they feel that they need to keep Payton around as long as Brees is there so they don't waste any of Bree's time where he might have to learn a new offense. It's hard to say what the right decision would be. The Saints had some good looking young players emerge this year that makes the future look brighter, but OTOH, Atlanta might be tough again next year and Tampa is looking promising too. Carolina still has a lot of talent too.

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    1. I wonder if that is the start to that restaurant row development at the Mall of the Mainland. If anything maybe they will open up a portion of the mall again for mall walkers.

      I have seen up to 3 cashiers at a time in several Sears stores during peak periods. It is a good sign because a lot of stores just staff one person in a 4 register area.

      The Half Price Books on NASA is actually a larger store than they had. The old store was much smaller. Maybe they will expand the store someday or move into a more prime location.

      Parkdale was doing well and the only two corridors with multiple vacancies were the Sears and Macys corridors. The Macys had downsized to the first floor at least a couple of years ago which surprised me. Macys is in the back of the mall so it probably did not get as much traffic as the Dillards. The Dillards at Parkdale is really nice and was renovated around the time Macys opened. Dillards used to be split into two stores but they closed and demolished the smaller store and replaced it with a Bealls. The Macys was actually former Montgomery Ward but they renovated the building heavily and you would never know.

      Sean Payton fired several coaches this week and will move forward with the team. We will see who replaces those positions and if they can do better.

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  11. Part II:

    The Texans should be able to beat the Raiders with Oakland's terrible QB situation. The Texans' QBs aren't good, but they're a lot better than what Oakland has. People want to list the Chiefs as legitimate championship contenders, and they are on paper, but the Chiefs have been playoff disappointments since the 1990s when they had Marty Schottenheimer. Andy Reid is kind of a modern day Schottenheimer with all his regular season success and almost no postseason success. We'll see. I'm sure Texans fans are hoping for a match against KC in the 2nd round so they can (probably) play New England in the AFC Championship game. That will probably be a blowout, but at least they'll go further than what anyone expected. We'll see though, I still like Pittsburgh or New England in the AFC with Miami maybe lurking as an odd wildcard if Matt Moore plays well. I'm not sure if they lose much with him in instead of Tannehill. But, anyway, this Raiders-Texans game offers a QB matchup similar to what you'd see in the 3rd quarter of a preseason game.

    I'm thinking the Miami party won't impact the Giants much on the field, but Beckham is still showing how immature he is. You'd think that the players would learn from what happened to Jose Fernandez a couple months back. Well, anyway, at least it's better than Lawrence Taylor doing coke and hookers the night before games.

    Green Bay has been the hottest team in the 2nd half, but the Giants defense has been at least equally as hot and maybe Eli can find some of his Lambeau magic. We'll see, but this might be the best matchup of the whole playoffs so I'm really looking forward to this game. I think Giants fans have more confidence than other teams would have in this situation because of the recent history the team has had at Lambeau. We'll see.

    Yeah. the Sony boombox must have had some sort of software fault that went away when I cut the power from it. I've used it some since I posted that and it's been working fine so hopefully that was just a one-off oddity.

    Hopefully Kmart will put the cassettes on sale from time to time, but I'm not holding my breath for that to happen. I have not done much thrifting lately so I have not brought anything. Part of that is because the thrift I visit most frequently has been closed for repairs after a small fire. Oh well. Also, I've been spending a bit more time at HPB stores lately trying to see what used CDs I can find so I know what to buy new and what to not buy new. I did find a pre-recorded rock cassette at a thrift that I wanted, but I could not open the storage case for the cassette to check it since the plastic had melted the two parts of the case together! I'm sure I could have broken the case and taken the tape out of there if I brought it, but if the tape got so hot to have melted the plastic on the case, the tape might not be in such great condition either so I passed on that. Oh well.

    I've been wanting to buy a good later model CD/DVD player from a thrift since my CD player has been have more and more problems playing CD-Rs and even a few regular CDs. Unfortunately, many of the thrifts now want ~$15 for a used DVD player without a remote even though new ones sell for $20-30. I can't imagine that they sell many of them for that reason. No wonder the shelves are full of DVD players. I'd prefer to get a 2000s era DVD player to use as a CD player instead of a new one though since most of the new DVD/Blu-Ray players do not have buttons or a display on the player itself for changing tracks and stuff like the older ones did. Getting a good standalone single disc CD player would be my first preference though.

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    1. The Green Bay/ Giants matchup is one that will be a good. It will probably be a very cold game so that may work in the Giants favor if Aaron Rodgers has difficulty passing.

      New England would probably have a difficult time against Pittsburgh if they have to go against each other in the AFC championship game. The Chiefs may win their first game, but it is hard to pick them for the Superbowl.

      The NFC is tough to predict right now. If you would have told people that Dallas and Atlanta would be the 1st and 2nd seed back in August they probably would have laughed at you. Tomorrow starts the playoff season so we will see what happens.

      I almost went to a thrift tonight, but I was short on time so I only went to the nearby store I needed to go to. As you mentioned some of the pricing is getting higher and you are no longer getting a good discount.

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  12. I guess I had forgotten that the Parkdale Mall Macy’s was a former Montgomery Ward. Dillard’s seems like a stronger chain right now than Macy’s from a customer’s point of view. The men’s products are definitely nicer at Dillard’s than Macy’s. Perhaps then it is no surprise that Dillard’s won over Beaumont instead of Macy’s. Beaumont may only be able to support one of the upper scale department stores.

    I’m thinking that this could be restaurant row related construction at Mall of the Mainland, but it’s hard to say for sure. Hopefully the area will be open to the public here soon, but it’s hard to say. There has not been a lot of news about the mall recently, but at least Karam seems committed to it with the construction work. He’s got to be happy that Sears is sticking around at that location.

    The NASA/Baybrook Mall area had a Border’s until the chain’s demise and the Barnes & Noble there has a music & video department unlike some other B&Ns so I think that area could support an even further expanded Half Price Books. We’ll see though, perhaps they’re locked into a lease for a while where they’re at since you say that they’ve moved once before.

    I did visit another HPB recently and picked up two new, sealed classical CDs from a mainstream label (EMI) that contains the exact music that I was looking for. Those were great finds and I only paid ~$6 for both of them since one was on clearance. Those finds, combined with some new CDs I had ordered from B&N recently and an in-store B&N purchase, pretty much fills the gaps in the collection that I was wanting to fill right now. I’m sure I’ll find other things I want to buy down the road, but for now I’m happy with my collection. I was able to get great recordings of the music I wanted on new CDs (mostly) for good prices.

    Sears definitely needs to keep at least two clerks at most of the checkouts during any period where there is a decent number of shoppers in the store. Some locations may be better about following that than others though, but at least they’re working on it it seems. Sears will have to try even harder to keep what customers they have with Craftsman tools being available at more stores so they will need to up their game. Unfortunately, I don’t know if they generated enough money from the sale to really help them spend money to improve operations.

    The Giants’ run game has been better in recent weeks with rookie Paul Perkins getting the ball more and it seems that they will go back to having Marshall Newhouse start at RT. Hopefully the Giants can move the ball on the ground and eat up some clock. That might help keep the Packers below ~10-14 points which is what the Giants might need to win given the terrible state of the passing game. Eli has come up big in some big spots before though so we’ll see. I’m really looking forward to the Packers game since it is a really good matchup as you say.

    Yes, you’re right that not many people were picking Atlanta and Dallas. There’s always at least 1 or 2 big surprises with the first round byes and this year is like that. I think Atlanta might be trending up and Dallas trending down as the playoffs start though, but we’ll see.

    I like Pittsburgh’s chances against New England too if their big offensive guys stay healthy. The Steelers came out flat in some games earlier in the year, but it’s hard to imagine them being flat in the playoffs so I think they’ll be a real force. Their defense is not great, but it might be good enough with their great offense. Their offense has to play more consistently on the road though, I think they’ve been quite a bit better in that regard at home.

    I did some thrifting and picked up a 2007 Pioneer DV-400 DVD player with a remote for $10. I have not tested the Pioneer audio quality yet, but it seems like it'll do the job of being a CD player for CD-Rs if nothing else. One thing I don't like about it is that it does not have Rew/FF buttons on the player itself (only track Rew/FF), but it can read MP3s off a USB drive which is nice.

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    1. Parkdale is a huge mall for a city the size of Beaumont, but it stays mostly full. The Macys was in a bad spot and hard to see from either the freeway or Dowlen. Once they closed off the second floor, it seemed like the location was really small and the selection was not very good. Another thing about the Parkdale Mall is that the JCPenney store is very retro. The exterior of the building and mall entrances look very dated.

      Keepe posted on the Mall of the Mainland, it has been a while since I passed by.

      I am glad you were able to find the CD's you were looking for. I know the feeling of looking for a certain album and looking everywhere without success.

      A lot of articles refer to the shop your way initial promotion execution as a huge reason why sales slipped over the past 5 years. I know that I was questioned about multiple programs once a few years back just buying a pair of socks. Credit card, shop your way, and something else. It was very time consuming and to top it off, a huge receipt with extra coupons printed out. Many other shoppers were probably lost when they were doing this at their checkouts.

      As of today 8 teams are left in the playoffs. I am not a fan of how the matchups shook out, but it is what it is. The only game I am looking forward to watching is Pittsburgh vs KC. The rest of the matchups are bland to me. The Giants didn't advance but they made the playoffs and steadily improved on defense.

      The USB feature is always a plus not many of the older players have it. I have a bunch of MP3 CD's, but I hardly use them.

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  13. JCPenney does have some retro locations. Well, at least some of their stores have retained some retro features. Many JCPenney stores still have signage and mall entrances from the 1980s if not before then. The most retro store that I've been to in the Houston area is certainly the Meyerland location (most of the others were built in the 1990s or later), but the San Jacinto Mall location may be retro too. I have not been there.

    Sometimes Sears is like 1990s and earlier Radio Shacks where you were asked to give a phone number and address just to buy some batteries or a blank cassette. I guess the clerks have some incentive to sign people up so they have to ask, but it does slow down the checkout process and makes things annoying to some shoppers. Sears has to find some way to streamline this or else they may lose even more shoppers. I can only imagine the problems at Kmart stores if they have the same issues since discount store shoppers want to get in and out even quicker than department store shoppers.

    The Steelers vs. Chiefs game should be good, but I think Pittsburgh will win unless they have some problems with their offense on the road in the cold. Still, I think they can put up more points than KC. The Packers-Cowboys game should be good. I think the Packers can win that game, but they suffered some major injuries against the Giants and they were pretty banged up even before that game. The Giants game felt like the opposite of the 2011-12 playoff game against the Packers when Rodgers connected on that Hail Mary play at the end of the half. I knew at that point that the Giants weren't going to win the game just as I knew the Packers weren't beating the Giants when Eli hit Hakeem Nicks in 2011-12. The Giants defense played well for a while, but ultimately the Packers scored more than the Giants could. Usually teams win when they can do that obviously.

    I've used the Pioneer DVD player quite a bit since getting it. It's not perfect, but I do like it all in all. The soundstage isn't quite as wide as my 1989 Teac CD player and the bass isn't quite as deep, but it's only off by a tiny bit so it's not a big deal. The CD transport does makes a bit of noise though which can be annoying when listening to quiet sections of things like classical music. Oh well. On the positive side, it does have the USB port like I said earlier, the display works well, and it looks good unlike a lot of modern equipment. Anyway, I'm happy with it and I have not seen any other better deals in my thrift visits since buying it. In fact, one thrift I went to had a whole stack of DVD players without remotes with the lowest priced one being $25. Yikes. It almost seems like getting a DVD player from a good brand with the remote for ~$10 was quite the steal. Maybe I'll buy a new standalone CD player at some point while they still make them, but this Pioneer will work for now.

    MP3 CDs are useful in the car especially if you don't have a car CD changer, a USB port, or a way to connect a phone to the car since you can put a lot of music on one disc. Aside from that, I guess it's not too useful of a format these days since regular CDs have better quality than MP3s (though MP3s converted to regular CDs won't be any better than MP3 quality) and since USB flash drives and phones can hold even more MP3s than a CD.

    I have not seen much of interest at thrifts lately, but I did pick up a prerecorded cassette and a record. Another thrift that usually has a lot of cassettes didn't have any at all on my last visit. I'm not sure what that was all about, but hopefully they will start to stock them again soon.

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    1. JCPenney at Meyerland is certainly a very retro store as well as San Jacinto. I wish that Town and Country had not closed, that store was nearly identical to the Belle Promenade Mall JCP that closed in the 90's. I wonder if any of the stores with that design are still open, several closed in the early 2000's.

      Sears has done a good job at speeding up the checkout process. I usually type my number into the pad since they hardly ask if you are a member these days.

      Thankfully the Sunday playoff games were a better matchup than the previous 6 games. I barely got to see any of the games, but they were more competitive. Since my team is not competing in the playoffs, I have not made it a priority to watch the games.

      Those DVD players sound overpriced unless they are premium models. You can easily find a new basic player for $20. Maybe you can get an extension cord to listen to your CD's far enough away to not hear the machine noises.

      The mp3's are very convenient since I drive a lot. So many new albums these days only have around 10 songs so you have to change CD's more frequently.

      Maybe your next thrift outing will be better. It has been a while since I went to one so who knows what I would find now.

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  14. Part I:

    My memories of the Town & Country Mall JCPenney are not very vivid even though it was one of the closest JCPs to me prior to the opening of the Willowbrook Mall location in 1992. That said, JCPenney seemed to build their stores with more common type designs than Sears and Montgomery Ward did (Sears went with more common type designs in the 1990s) so there are probably still quite a few similar looking 1980s JCPenney stores around the country.

    I can't speak for the the San Jacinto Mall JCP as I have not been there, but the Meyerland location not only feels very retro, but it also feels more upscale than the newer JCPs (especially the ~2006ish freestanding locations). It does also feel a bit like the former Northwest Mall JCP and presumably also the ex-Almeda Mall location. I feel like I should be able to buy MCS Series stereo equipment and hardware when I go to the Meyerland location! I suppose I can buy a fridge there now just like in the old days.

    You're right about the need to put in the SYWR number in the pad yourself at Sears because they don't always ask like they used to. Perhaps this is being done to speed up the checkout process. I'm fine with that for sure. Also, for a while, some Sears clerks were scanning items on their iPhone-like devices and then transferring the order to the regular cash register. This process seemed to take twice as long as it would have been if they just scanned the items using the register for whatever reason. Fortunately, I have not seen the clerks using the portable devices recently so maybe they canned those iPhones to speed up the process. Sears probably lost a lot of money buying those iPhones (or whatever they were) though.

    Most of the country seems to be rooting for Atlanta, but I guess Saints fans aren't. Having another NFC South team in the Super Bowl would be interesting though as it's generally not considered to be one of the better divisions. I don't really have anyone that I'm rooting for or against at this point. I feel that football season is pretty much over for me as well and I've been more focused on NHL hockey since the Giants lost.

    Anyway, I think Atlanta can beat Green Bay since GB is so beat up and since Atlanta seems to be a little more balanced. Then again, Rodgers seems very focused right now and we know Atlanta comes up small at times. I'm just glad Green Bay beat the Cowboys and made them irrelevant one-and-doners yet again. They can't even blame Tony Romo this time. I'm not surprised that GB beat Dallas though.

    As for the AFC, I think Pittsburgh is more talented, but they get sloppy on offense and New England's fundamentally sound defense might be able to take advantage of that. Still, I think Pittsburgh might be able to put up a lot of points even if they commit some turnovers.

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    1. I wish I knew the prototype of those JCPenney stores. A search online did not turn up any results, but I doubt all of those stores are gone.

      The appliance sections seem like an afterthought in the Houston stores I have recently visited. You would think the departments would be easy to find but you have to really look to find where they have put them.

      I have seen those handheld devices a few times but they used them to mostly look up items with me. I know JCPenney tried rolling something out like that and I made a purchase once where the cashier used one but it was giving them trouble. I am not sure why they invested in the technology when it really did not help them boost sales.

      Both games should be good games but I feel the same way about he rest of the games. If Atlanta makes it, this will be the second year in a row for an NFC South team to make the Superbowl. I would be more interested in a Green Bay vs anyone else Superbowl than Atlanta making it. Especially since the game is here in Houston, I don't want a rival team here in this city.

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  15. Part II:

    I have not done any thrifting since my last post, but I'll probably visit at least a couple of locations here soon. In terms of thrift store news, I noticed a few weeks back that the Epic Thrift at 1960 and I-45 has closed. That's unfortunate. I used to like to stop at that shopping center and visit both the Goodwill and the Epic. I guess Goodwill was too much competition even though I've never found that location to be particularly good for electronics. Anyway, I don't know if Epic has any remaining locations in Houston.

    Some of those $25+ DVD players were decent models (like early Panasonics and stuff like that), but none of them were particularly premium to warrant the price especially without the remote. I'd like to get a CD or DVD player that can play some combination of HDCDs (regular CDs that have special encoding to allow for slightly increased quality with a player with HDCD decoding), SACDs, and DVD-Audio, but I have not seen many of those. I do see an SACD compatible player every now and then, but the prices have not been right. I don't even have any SACDs or DVD-Audio discs so it's not a high priority and I'm not even sure if those high resolution formats really have any audible difference compared to CDs. I do have a couple of classical HDCDs. They sound good (I don't have an HDCD compatible player, but Windows Media Player and other programs on the PC can decode HDCDs), but they sound good even on a regular CD player. The HDCDs I have are from a specialty classical label called Reference Recordings. They're known for very high quality mastering and the quality of the mastering makes more of a difference than the format.

    Onkyo and Teac have had the same <$200 CD players on the market for a few years now and Pioneer just released a new model (all three companies are under common ownership now, but they all make different players). I was a little surprised to see Pioneer release a new standalone <$200 CD player in 2016 since cheap DVD/Blu-Ray players have kind of eaten the lower price CD player market, but it's good that there's still interest I guess. There's still some very expensive >$300 CD players on the market, but I'm not particularly interested in that unless they go on sale.

    The Onkyo is probably the best of the three, but the more expensive of the two Teacs might be good too and has a USB port for MP3s. Yamaha has a nice CD player that's a little more than $200, but maybe it comes on sale sometimes. As for my Pioneer DVD player, I do have cables long enough to put it somewhere further back, but then it becomes more of a hassle to change discs and use the remote. Oh well, the transport isn't that loud, but it is a tad annoying when you're really focused on listening to dynamic classical music.

    Yes, changing CDs is very annoying in the car while driving. Changing cassettes is easier and cassettes run longer with auto-reverse, but it's been a while since I've had a car with a tape deck. My current car has a USB port so I have a small 16gb flash drive with MP3s on it in shuffle mode. It's very convenient and the sound quality is better than using my phone to play MP3s through the line-in jack (plus, I don't have to drain my phone's battery). I do use the CD player in my car on occasion though when I want to listen to music in maximal quality so I like having it there. Some new cars, especially domestic models it seems, don't have CD players now, but I made sure to get a car with a CD player (along with the USB port & line-in) and a stereo with simple controls that are easy to use while driving.

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    1. Looks like the Epic Thrift stores have closed and their website shut down. There are some stories about unpaid employees and unhappy former employees online. There is also some controversy about their financial filings online. I knew once the Halloween store took down the Epic Thrift sign in Humble that the store was not going to happen.

      There is still a demand for physical media CD's even though most chains are shrinking or abandoning those sections altogether. I am not surprised to see newer players on the market because there are several residential and commercial uses for CD players.

      The HDCD I had never heard of until your comment. I guess it must have been an expensive technology. I guess it failed to catch on like HD-DVD and maybe Beta. It was just another choice I guess in a crowded field of music formats.

      I have to use the AUX to the phone jack in my newer vehicle. My older vehicle even though it is a 2003 model has a cassette player.

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  16. Those handheld scanners were mostly used at the N. Shepherd and Baybrook Mall Sears in my experience. Maybe those locations still use them as I have not been to either location in a few months, but I would like to visit the N. Shepherd store here soon. I never saw those scanners used at the Willowbrook Mall or Mall of the Mainland locations. Anyway, that technology seemed to be a major bust. Perhaps JCPenney and Sears wanted to appear to be trendy, but it didn’t work.

    I’ve seen banners on the outside of some JCPenney stores advertising the appliances, but I don’t think I’ve personally seen those departments yet. I guess it’s been a while since I’ve been to a JCP. There’s still a lot of 1980s JCPenney stores I see in mall pictures from the NE/Rust Belt/Atlantic coast. There’s probably some clone stores still out there, but I couldn’t begin to tell you where one might be.

    That’s some good information about the Epic Thrifts. It sounds like it was a messy situation. Hopefully the employees are able to get paid.

    I know a lot of people don’t want to see Pittsburgh, Green Bay, or New England win another Super Bowl, but I don’t really mind seeing them win again if that happens. The Giants have had recent playoff success against Green bay and New England so their success makes the Giants look good in some ways. Plus, it’s good that there are elite franchises for everyone else to aim to be. I think the Giants are up there on respect list. The Saints have some catching up to do in that regard, but they have as many Super Bowl wins as anyone else in the NFC South (Tampa Bay is the only other team with a SB win) so it‘s not like they are an embarrassment within their division.

    HDCD wasn’t a total failure, but it was poorly executed by the companies behind it and the record labels. The idea behind HDCD was to create a CD that could be played on all CD players with standard quality, but could playback pseudo 20-bit audio using the 16-bit CD format when played back using an HDCD decoding CD player. Supposedly there are 4-5,000 HDCD titles, but many of these do not indicate that they are HDCDs and in some cases they do not use all (or any) of the HDCD features so there’s no benefit to them. Even when HDCD is indicated and is implemented as intended, the HDCD logo is barely visible on most titles and most people didn’t know what it meant so it was pretty pointless. It’s quite possible that you have an HDCD in your collection and don't know it. Microsoft brought out HDCD in the 2000s, but they never really did anything with it so it’s pretty much a dead format now except for a few niche publisher CDs like the Reference Recordings ones (the person behind RR was the co-inventor of the format so his HDCDs are pretty much as good as it gets).

    Of course, one of the biggest things holding HDCD and other formats like SACD back is that it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to tell an audible difference between a CD and higher quality formats. Thus, anything better than a CD is a hard sell since the CD is designed to reach the limits of human hearing.

    CD sales are still falling, but according to the latest RIAA data, the CD sales rates are falling at about the same rate as LP sales and digital download sales are falling even faster. Unfortunately, cassette sales are not tracked, but the numbers would probably be small anyway. Anyway, perhaps the LP fad is starting to die off. We’ll see. People thought digital downloads would kill off the CD, but the downloads are struggling even more than CDs. Streaming is really growing right now. Streaming is good for trying out new music, but it’s no replacement for owning music IMO. Anyway, there’s still a ton of CDs out there and they’re still selling in decent numbers so hopefully good CD players will stick around for a while unlike cassette decks where the last decent one was discontinued in 2016 unfortunately.

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    1. Sears and JCPenney need some ideas that can help out their sales. The appliances in JCPenney will help them if Sears continues to disappear. I think the best option for Sears right now is to shrink their store base even more and focus on key areas to keep their business running. They just don't have many options left it seems.

      Now that the Probowl just finished we are down to just New England and Atlanta. If Atlanta wins, they will have bragging rights for a while. If New England wins, it will be a historic victory them. It has the appearance of a high scoring game, but you never know. Nerves can get the best of people in the Superbowl and cause strange things to happen.

      I guess the HDCD format just passed me by, I may possibly have a CD in my collection. One of these days I will take a look and see. I don't hear very well so any differences I could probably not tell anyway.

      Best Buy also downsized their CD selection even more. They only have an aisle near the small video section with CD's now. It seems like Barnes and Noble has shrunk their CD section as well. They don't have the shelves filled up like they used to and videos are now mixed in with the CD's.

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  17. I read an article the other day saying that Stanley and Sears will maintain two different tool lines using the same Craftsman name. The article was discussing how this might be confusing to shoppers. I’m sure there will be a lot of confusion. Sears may suffer if they try to maintain their tool’s quality when Stanley cheapens their tools and offers them for less money at places like Walmart. The customer who thinks the two Craftsman tools are the same will naturally go for the cheaper Walmart product, but then then they find out that it isn’t a quality product, they won’t want to buy any tools from the same name even if Sears has better quality stuff. I think Sears made a major mistake selling the Craftsman name the way they did, but we’ll see.

    Sears has tried to spend money on their online store, but I’m not sure if that is paying off. Even Amazon is rarely profitable, but part of that is due to their large spending on R&D. Closing stores and focusing online isn’t the answer I don’t think. They probably need to close some stores and they should keep the online store, but they probably should try to open some new smaller stores in new emerging suburban areas that are more focused on their core lines. The Appliance-only store in Colorado is a start, but they’ll need a lot more of those. I doubt Sears is in position to do much inventing right now though as their stock has been plummeting in recent days and there are rumors of more layoffs at Kmarts that will be staying open.

    I mentioned earlier that RadioShack has started to use the Realistic name on some audio products. Well, now it seems that they are also using the Tandy name on some computer accessories (wireless mice and keyboards) as well. I never thought I’d see the Tandy name being using again. We’ll see if RadioShack has any success using those legacy names again. I wonder if they’ll ever sell a whole computer using the Tandy name. That would be really interesting, but I guess something like a tablet would be more realistic given current market trends.

    Thanks for the Best Buy update. It’s been a few months since I’ve been to one, but I’m not surprised to hear about the decreased CD selection there. Barnes & Noble seems to be a mixed bag when it comes to music/movie selection. Some stores have none at all, but others still have full music/movie departments. Other stores are somewhere in between. The two NW Houston locations seem to be the only ones here that don’t have any music at all.

    I’ve visited the Baybrook Mall area B&N a few times the last couple of months since they have a full music department still. They don’t have listening stations anymore and the checkouts in the music/movie departments are rarely manned. Still, they seem to be getting new CD shipments. I’ve noticed some new classical CD titles during my last visit. In fact, there’s a CD I brought there in December (I brought the only one they had on the shelf, but they only seem to keep one CD of each title they have on the shelf at least for classical) and they had another copy of the CD during my last visit a few days ago. I didn’t think that they’d get another copy since it’s a CD from 1991, but they must have gotten it from somewhere. Maybe they’re still making those CDs after all these years.

    I actually saw a Panasonic DVD player for $12 at a thrift the other day that advertised HDCD support, but I didn’t buy it. I’ll stick with what I have unless I find something really good at a good price.

    It seems like the team with the better defense wins the Super Bowl almost every time even if the other team’s offense is legendary. With that in mind, I think New England has a big advantage. Atlanta certainly could win though. Their offense will be hard to stop and the game will be played indoors (or at least under warm conditions if they open the roof) so any disadvantage they may have had being a domed team shouldn’t be a factor. NE is less likely to choke the game away, but they kind of choked in the 2011 Super Bowl against the Giants so who knows.

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    1. Maybe the reason Sears did not get as much from the sale of Craftsman is because they did not want to eliminate Craftsman from their stores. Either way Sears will still hurt their future prospects with the Craftsman sale.

      I read about the Kmart layoffs, it sounds like they are running into inventory shortages. If no Kmart store is going to be using backroom storage anymore, it is cause for concern. That will mean more products running out and holiday displays put up super early.

      Radio Shack legacy names are a good way to bring back the nostalgia from their older shoppers. The new Circuit City was banking on their name to jump start their new stores. For now all is still quiet with them.

      The Barnes and Noble at Deerbrook still has a good selection of music items and keeps that area staffed. I don't go inside very often, but you can see that area from the mall.

      There have been some distractions this week with the Falcons. Superbowl week distractions should be kept to a minimum, but we will see if it affects their performance. This is probably the worst week to lose a playbook and announce a contract and playing time dispute. New England has he better defense by far, but the Falcons have some good players on that side of the field.

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  18. A lot of people viewed the news that Kmart was going to put all their inventory out on the sales floor as being bad news. In some ways it makes sense to have all your goods out for sale instead of in storage, but it’s a logistical problem in many other ways. It makes the sales floor look cluttered (a problem Kmart has had for many years already even though there are many bare shelves at Kmarts) and there are issues with having the wrong seasonal items out as you say. Kmart is starting to resemble a Big Lots type store more and more, but Big Lots is probably doing better as a business. It seems like Kmart just can’t win.

    It’ll be interesting to see how customers react to the Tandy and Realistic names as they have not been used since the very early 1990s. Hopefully they expand the product lines some more and are able to spend some money marketing the new names. It’s funny how old RadioShack spent a lot of money on a Super Bowl commercial trying to show how the 1980s Radio Shack is dead only to see the new RadioShack go back to the old 1980s names. Personally, I like the legacy names and hope that RadioShack has success with them. Those names hold a special place amongst electronic hobbyists who were around back then.

    I’ve been looking up classical CDs on the Barnes & Noble website to see what stores have what in the Houston area. It seems like the Baybrook Mall area, Holcombe, and Town & Country B&Ns have the most classical music. The other non-NW area B&Ns have some stuff, but not as much as those three. It’s possible that other locations, like the Deerbrook Mall store, have just as many CDs as something like the Baybrook store in non-classical genres. I haven’t really looked at that. I wonder if there are any other good classical music stores in Houston aside from B&N, Half Price Books, and Joel’s Classical Shop. I’m not sure if the Katy Mills Books-A-Million has anything these days, but that’s pretty far out of the way for me anyway.

    One thing that I didn’t know until recently is that the B&N across from The Galleria had moved to a new location down Westheimer. I’m not sure when that happened. I last shopped at the old location probably 7-8 years ago.

    I have not been keeping up with all the Super Bowl news this week, but it certainly seems like the Patriots are the more seasoned team when it comes to handling Super Bowl distractions. Of course, everyone remembers the off-the-field problems the Falcons had the last time they made the Super Bowl where a starting DB was arrested the night before the game. The Falcons do have a pretty decent defense though and they can rush the passer somewhat. That can be a problem for Brady. The Giants have shown that Brady becomes mortal when pressure is put on him. Still, I think the Pats should be the favorites, but there is certainly potential for things to go the Falcons’ way.

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    1. I wonder what vintage items are making their way out of the Kmart storage rooms. On my next Kmart outing I will be on the lookout for some of these items, they will probably have some interesting things that have been boxed up for years.

      The Superbowl commercial was a mistake that haunted Radio Shack for a while. I still think a name change and store remodel would really help the company. As an example look at what Garden Ridge did to enhance their stores with the At Home remodel. The company is growing very fast and moving into dead big box stores with success. People still think that Radio Shack is going to ask for all kinds of personal info just to buy one item.

      Books A Million did not have too many music CD's on my last visit about a year ago. They had a lot of records though. I don't know if Music Town in Spring has any, I just looked through their cassettes when I last went there.

      Their rent probably went up too much in their former spot. I had not noticed the Barnes and Noble had moved either.

      Both teams have to score as much as possible. Neither team can afford to have multiple drives without points scored. The Patriots defense I think is better than Atlanta, but they have one of the best pass rushers this season. I think the Patriots have revenge in mind so they are going to play a very competitive game.

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  19. I have seen some interesting things show up for sale during Kmart closing sales in various photos I've seen. Old video games and VHS movies are not uncommon. I'm not sure if Kmarts which aren't slated to close will sell those items or if they'll just throw them away from the stock room or just ship them off to closing locations. Who knows. You may find some interesting things. Then again, there's probably a lot of normal items on Kmart shelves which have lingered on for years anyway.

    I think it would have made more sense for the old RadioShack to have spent less on the Super Bowl ad and more on more regular advertising just reminding people that they were still around. The new RadioShack definately needs to spend more on marketing, I think a lot of people have forgotten that they still exist especially given all the store closings in 2015. As you say, they may also need to market the fact that you don't have to give all your personal information just to buy batteries. A lot of people assume that it's still that way there. I wonder how the chain is doing these days though.

    I hope RadioShack will be able to make some real audio equipment with the Realistic name and some real computer stuff too. The Tandy name was used on some revolutionary home computers (the TRS-80 series) back in the 1980s and were the first computers in many homes across the country. I don't know if there is an opportunity to be as revolutionary as they were back in the early days of home computers, but it would be neat to see some solid computer products with the Tandy name on them.

    I still have not visited Music Town in Spring even though you said that they have a lot of cassettes. I read some user reviews of them and it seems like the condition and pricing of some of the used products are not the best, but it would make for an interesting visit none the less. I do wonder if they have a decent selection of classical music though. Many "indie" music places don't want to have anything to do with that genre. Some of those indie music stores seem more like head shops that also have music. That's certainly not the vibe most classical music fans, including myself, want to shop in even if I'm looking for rock/pop music. Fortunately, Music Town does not seem to have that vibe though it from what I can tell.

    I did some research and it seems like The Galleria area Barnes & Noble closed in 2011. I guess it's been gone for quite a while then. There wasn't any clear explanation for why it closed, but rent prices would be the best guess as you say. Perhaps parking and access issues were a factor as well. I'm not sure if the store down Westheimer was a replacement store or if it existed before. Either way, I guess it acts as a replacement along with the River Oaks store. Maybe B&N felt that they had too many stores in the area, who knows.

    Thanks for the Books-A-Million information. I guess it will not be worth it to drive all the way there to browse their CDs. Oh well.

    In some ways it seems like Atlanta is more talented than New England, but I think Pittsburgh was more talented too and we saw how that turned out. NE will be ready to play, but who knows how Atlanta will approach the game. Sometimes coaches get themselves in trouble against NE by trying to outsmart Belicheck by coming up with plays they aren't used to running when the key to beating them is by executing what the team does best. The Giants did that and had success. Atlanta's coach comes from Seattle, who is known for making foolish coaching decisions, so we'll see if he can resist the urge to make too many changes and oddball decisions. The potential for an Atlanta upset is certainly there if they execute what they do best.

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    1. It may be a few weeks down the line until I can make it back to a Kmart. I would not be surprised to see some old items for sale at Lufkin. There will probably be more closings since the company announced that they are going to save a billion a year in cost cutting measures.

      Radio Shack does not do a very good job advertising to bring people in. I think they probably did better with mall locations since people would walk by and get drawn in. Now they are mostly in shopping centers where people drive up to the stores they want to visit and rarely walk around. I don't hear too much about the company these days.

      Music Town had a lot of items when I went but the store was overstocked and had boxes all over the place. Maybe it has been taken care of now, but it would be worth your time to stop by.

      Barnes and Noble has been slowly closing stores for the past few years. I think they need to think about adding a used book and music department to keep their business going. People don't buy books as much as before and used items have good profit.

      As you now know, last weekend was an epic Superbowl. I guess with the mostly boring playoff games this season, we got a treat to end the season. There is not much I can say that has not already been said about the game.

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  20. Part I:

    The big retail news this week of local note is that Brazos Mall’s new owners are planning a 25 million dollar renovation of the mall including an updated food court, new floors, seating, and lighting. A new logo for the mall might be coming too. This might not be new news, but it sounds like the old Sears will be turned into a TJ Maxx and HomeGoods. Those are popular stores and will probably drive more traffic to the mall than Sears did unfortunately (personally I would have preferred the Sears for the variety of quality goods they sell). We’ll have to see if this keeps the mall viable going forward, but at least the new owners are trying things.

    GameStop used to be under the Barnes & Noble umbrella so they should be used to buying/selling used items. Plus, I’m sure their college bookstore operation buys/sells a lot of used books. I’m not sure why they don’t do it in the retail stores, but maybe that’s because they only want to sell new items to keep their upscale aura up. Also, perhaps they don’t want used item sales to cut into their Nook ebook profits. It’s hard to say. I guess I have not noticed the changes at B&N over the years as it used to not be the best place to buy new music from, but it’s really one of the very few options left here in Houston and elsewhere.

    I was talking to someone I know this weekend and they wanted to know what would be the best place to buy a particular cable they needed since “…RadioShack is gone now.” The funny thing is that there is a RadioShack right around the corner from this person and they probably see it everyday, but they assumed that RadioShack closed completely in 2015. I’m sure a lot of people think the same thing. RadioShack really ought to try some sort of marketing campaign to try to inform people that they are still around and have some new brands in store. It does not help, as you say, that a lot of their shopping center stores aren’t seen by shoppers perhaps because some of their locations are so small even if they have a good location within the shopping center.

    I read recently that Payless Shoe Source wants to close around 1,000 stores. It sounds like they are in a similar situation as RadioShack was in a few years ago, albeit perhaps not as dire. Payless, like old RadioShack, has a mix of mall and shopping center stores and they still have locations in a lot of 2nd or 3rd tier malls. It’ll be interesting to see how that shakes out. I don’t shop at Payless, but I know of some people who do. Oddly enough, I think the RadioShack closest to me is next to a Payless.

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    1. The Brazos Mall is due for an update, but the food court still looks relatively new. Thanks for the link to read about the changes.

      Barnes and Noble is slowly shrinking so they may need to try selling used items at all of their stores at some point.

      Radio Shack stores in some shopping centers that closed still had signage up. Some commercials on tv and radio stations would help. I think the news from their bankruptcy and closing of the mall locations really hurt them.

      Payless wants to consolidate stores into larger locations. I guess similar to what the Shoe Department has done with their newer, larger Encore stores. Payless has too many stores that probably compete with each other.

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  21. Part II:

    I guess MusicTown being overstocked is better than it being understocked. Hopefully they have lower prices now to try to alleviate the overstock problem. I recently purchased a used Deutsche Grammophon classical cassette from the North Oaks Half Price Books and it was a whopping $1.50. I don’t think I’ve ever paid that much for a used cassette. It even had a price tag on it, unlike most other HPB cassettes I’ve seen, so I don’t know if that one was priced higher than other cassettes on the shelf. I’m not sure why it would be as it was from DG’s value line from the 1980s (though it often does not make sense to buy used value line/value brand CDs from HPB as they can be brought new for around the same price). Fortunately, unlike the DG Walkman Classics chrome cassette I got a few months back (and unlike a couple of DG Karajan records I have), this one sounds pretty good. It’s on regular ferric tape. I’m not sure if that’s the reason why it sounds better or if the performance quality is better too.

    One thing I don’t like about PolyGram (labels including DG, Decca/London, & Philips) classical (and perhaps other genres as well) tapes from the early-mid 1980s, whether chrome or ferric, is that they use big sponge pressure pads instead of the usual hinge mounted fabric type pads. The sponges don’t keep alignment as well and they can fall apart over time, but fortunately I’ve never seen a PolyGram sponge that has fallen apart. I guess I can’t complain too much as long as it works.

    I also visited the Kirkwood and Westheimer HPB recently. I visited a HPB on that part of Westheimer many, many years ago, but I seem to remember a different looking (and larger) store than what they have now. I don’t know if they’ve moved at some point or if the store was always at the current location. Anyway, even though the store is not that big (compared to North Oaks and Humble standards at least) and even though they didn’t have a ton of classical CDs, I was able to pick up some good CDs, both new and used, at that location. I didn’t buy any cassettes, but they do have them unlike the NASA area location unless the NASA store has them in some hidden location that I’ve never seen. There were a couple of cassettes that were tempting, but it’s of stuff that I’m planning on buying on CD new at some point anyway.

    I have not done a ton of thrifting in recent weeks, but I have made a few visits. I have not seen a ton of interesting equipment, but I did see a nice Toshiba 6 head VCR for $8. I already have one of those so I did not bother with it. I really like that VCR though, it’s got excellent image quality. Unfortunately, they are a bit fragile though. I’ll probably visit more thrifts here in the future, but it does seem like I’m not visiting the thrifts as much this year as I used to and my interest in doing so isn’t quite as high. There’s still interesting stuff that shows up though for sure.

    It seems like Houston got a Super Bowl that everyone will remember. I’m sure Saints fans are thrilled with the result just as they were when the Super Bowl was last in Houston when New England crushed Carolina’s dreams late. I knew that NE was going to make a run when Atlanta got up big. The Falcons are the Falcons after all and that ultimately showed up. Anyway, I’m kind of glad that that the season is over with now so I can turn my attention to other sports.

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    1. A couple of HPB stores have different prices for cassettes and separate price tags for each cassette. I guess they are going to maximize the profit when they can.

      The Westheimer/Kirkwood HPB is smaller and does not seem to have a lot of good merchandise. I still go there from time to time, but some HPB stores seem to be better than others.

      I have been limited in free time lately so I have not been to any thrifts.

      I am sad to see football season go. I don't follow any other sports so I will be anxiously awaiting August when preseason kicks off.

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  22. There is some interesting Sears news this week. It seems that Sears is trying out a freestanding Sears Auto Center called DieHard Auto Center in San Antonio. Supposedly this is located near a former Sears that has closed, but I’m not sure which location that would be. Anyway, it’s just a single trial that Sears is doing, but it’ll be interesting to see if they expand the concept. While some Kmarts do have Sears Auto Centers in the old Kmart auto service departments, perhaps Sears could expand these DieHard stores to more Kmarts. Perhaps it’s just a strategy to increase the value of the DieHard name for a sale though. Sears used to own Western Auto and I believe they had a stake in NTB/NTW in the 1990s so it’s not like this is totally new territory for them.

    There was an interesting interview with the RadioShack CEO last week. It’s still hard to tell if they’re doing well or not, but perhaps focusing on STEM educational products is a good idea. Generally speaking, the profit margins are high on educational items. But, yeah, RadioShack really needs to do some marketing to tell people that they’re still around.

    I’m not too familiar with Shoe Department/Encore. Payless consolidating into larger, better location seems like a good idea. I don’t know much about the shoe industry, but I do know that the competition is steep. We’ll see if Payless will be able to survive.

    A retailer who may not survive is Gander Mountain. It seems like they are filing for bankruptcy. I’ve never shopped there and I don’t think they’d have much that I would be interested in, but there is a location near me at 290 and 1960/Hwy. 6. That location was very hard to get to for many years since there wasn’t a continuous feeder street there, but that recently changed. Perhaps some other retailer will snatch that location up if Gander leaves it, but it could be turned into a warehouse or something since there’s a lot of those in the area as well.

    It seems like prices for new CDs at Half Price Books are pretty consistent across stores, but the prices for used CDs varies somewhat. There’s variance within a store as well. Sometimes I’ll see used CDs that shouldn’t be worth much at all going for $7.99 when double CD packs from a good publisher go for $4.99. I can’t really explain it when I see stuff like that. As far as cassettes go, perhaps HPB is trying to gain an advantage with all the news of a cassette comeback. While the $1.50 prices won’t prohibit me from buying a used cassette, I’d certainly be more willing to buy more at $1. We’ll see what happens.

    We’re probably a bit spoiled since the North Oaks and Humble HPBs are larger than most other Houston HPBs. While the Kirkwood store is fairly small, I did find some good things there so I might visit that location sometime soon again. We’ll see. One thing I’ve noticed about Houston area HPBs is that most are located in shopping centers where the parking lots are quite packed at peak times. While I don’t mind walking a bit, I can certainly see some shoppers bypassing a potential HPB trip due to the difficulty of getting a parking spot.

    Perhaps this is a good time to start following the New Orleans Pelicans NBA team. They just made a trade for a major superstar, Cousins, to pair with major superstar Anthony Davis without having to give up much. We’ll see if Cousins stays with the Pelicans or leaves in free agency, but it was probably worth the gamble given that they didn’t have to give up much. The NBA isn’t the NFL where anyone can get hot and win the championship so the Pelicans still have work to do before they can dream of a championship. The Pelicans are unusual for a modern NBA team in that they’ve focused on getting a strong frontcourt. They could give a smaller team matchup trouble in the playoffs if they can get in.

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    1. I like the Diehard auto center idea, maybe they will convert their current auto centers to this new format and boost sales.

      As for Radio Shack, we now know that the company is endangered once again. Will the company survive this bankruptcy?

      Shoe department is similar to Famous Footwear or Shoe Carnival. They sell name brands for discounted prices.

      I have never been to a Gander Mountain. It looks like a nice store but I have never had a reason to go in one. At least 3 Houston stores will close with the bankruptcy.

      It has been several weeks since I visited a HPB. Maybe I will have a chance soon. I am still overstocked with movies and music from Hastings so I have not made it a priority to visit them lately.

      I hope the Pelicans do well, but I can't seem to get into any other sports besides the NFL. Free agency has been off to a good start for both of our teams. We have filled a few needs and continue to have money left over for possibly taking Malcolm Butler from New England.

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  23. Here's an update worth posting about RadioShack. It looks like RadioShack might be done for good now. It seems that Sprint has pulled out of their agreement with RadioShack and that RadioShack may file for bankruptcy and liquidate. The League City and Texas City stores are already conducting going out of business sales. I'm not sure about other locations, but it's not looking good. It seems that the hopes for a RadioShack revival were too good to be true.

    In other electronic retailer news being reported by TWICE, hhgregg is having serious trouble as well and will close 40% of their locations. This includes their Louisiana locations.

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    1. There are lots of closings all of a sudden. Several retailers are having a hard time right now. Gordmans, Gander Mountain, and the above companies are either closing or filing bankruptcy.

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  24. RadioShack looks to be in trouble. I'm not sure if they'll survive this bankruptcy, but we'll see. The RadioShacks near me are not slated to close (yet at least), but they are going through a storewide clearance sale that with all sales being final that looks like a closing sale. I actually picked up some good deals because of that sale (everything is at least 20% off with somethings like parts drawer stuff being 50% off). Hopefully RadioShack's sales were on the upswing so someone might swoop in and save them yet again, but I'm not too optimistic about that right now.

    I heard about the Gordmans closing. I didn't even know they had locations in Texas. The Gander Mountain on 290 is indeed closing according to what I read. I never shopped there. I really have no need for stores like Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops.

    Locally, the big news (thanks for the tip) is that Northwest Mall is closing with the anchors staying open. It's sad to see it go, but it's a bit of a miracle that it lasted this long. At least NW Mall's twin, Almeda Mall, is still alive and doing pretty well.

    JCPenney seems to be actively trying to model themselves after Sears. I even read something where their CEO was taking shots at Sears. Of course, JCP has their own problems so I'm not sure if they're in any position to laugh at anyone. Anyway, it looks like JCP wants to deemphasize apparel and sell more home goods, appliances, and home services. They're starting services that offer bathroom remodels and stuff like that ala Sears. Emulating Sears here in 2017 seems like it wouldn't be a winning move, but we'll see if JCP can turn things around. I'd like to see more hardline goods in their stores, but they risk alienating their current customers yet again if they stop selling the clothes that they like to buy.

    I have not done a lot of thrifting lately, but I have found some mid-1980s sealed blank cassettes in the thrifts. I found a Sony HF at one and a 3 pack of TDK SA Type IIs in another. Those are considered glory era cassettes and are real finds. I also picked up a couple of pre-recorded CDs and cassettes. One thrift had a lot of audio equipment at good prices (including a late 1980s JVC double cassette deck), but it was all lower end stuff so I didn't really check it out that much.

    I've been keeping an eye on the Giants' moves, but I have not really followed what other teams are doing. I'm cautiously optimistic about the Marshall signing. He's a big target and he'll help with run blocking, but he drops even more passes than Beckham does and Beckham has stone hands at times. The Giants need to do more to improve the O-line, but I don't think there's much they can do now.

    The Pelicans have not played well since getting Cousins so it's not looking good for them making the playoffs. We'll see. The other sports are more boring to watch in the regular season as the games don't mean as much as they do in the NFL, but the playoffs can be intense. I don't watch baseball these days and only watch some NBA, but I love watching NHL hockey. I know it's not a popular sport in this region, but it's a lot of fun to watch. It probably helps that my team, the Sharks, have been one of the better teams in the league over the last several years and are considered one of the favorites to win the Cup this year.

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    1. I would not be surprised if the storewide clearance sale is a going out of business sale in disguise. If I remember correctly, the stores that closed before the last bankruptcy were not technically allowed to close until Feb 1, 2015. The store at Deerbrook Mall had a similar sale that was never called a store closing sale.

      I may make it to a Gander Mountain store closing sale, but Gordman's is a little far away. I went to Northwest Mall last weekend in the evening and took a bunch of photos. I plan on taking one more visit there before it closes.

      It looks like JCPenney is exiting a bunch of their small market stores and a few dying malls as well. If they are going to emulate Sears, they will need to remodel only the stores in good malls/shopping centers to see how it goes. There is a market for these goods and services, and Sears seems to be very vulnerable right now.

      I stopped by some antique stores and actually found some decent items. I did not buy anything though since they were not must have items like a replacement Walkman right now.

      The Saints made a lot of moves and we are waiting to see if they will pick up a CB from New England. Now that free agency has started the news has gotten interesting again.

      I fill my spare time in the offseason gaming or taking small road trips. Maybe when I retire I can pick up a new sport to follow.

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  25. You're probably right about the RadioShack clearance sale being a disguised closing sale. We'll see though. Most analysts seem to think that RadioShack is done now, but I did read that they might just be looking to reduce their store count. I'm hoping for that, but I'm not optimistic. I've been buying all the odds and ends that I think I may need from RadioShack now because I may not get another chance.

    Are the remaining Northwest Mall businesses still open or have they already packed up?

    I saw the JCPenney closing list and it seems like smaller stores continue to be cut. JCPenney could pick up a lot of customers if Sears goes out of business. OTOH, some of the malls JCP are in will struggle even more so if Sears closes so they are probably having to put a lot of thought into which stores to focus their efforts on so they don't waste money since they don't have a lot of it.

    I visited a thrift and found a nice pair of RadioShack bookshelf speakers from 2002-3 in good shape. These are from when RadioShack was using the RCA name on their private label electronics. I brought them and they sound really good for their size. I'm impressed, but RadioShack did build some excellent speakers. It's a shame they got away from making/selling items like this.

    I have not seen any Walkmen in the thrifts in a long time. The last Goodwill I went to had some blank late 1990s Maxell UR cassettes in the glass display case for some reason. I guess they feel that they are so valuable that they don't want anyone to steal them. Who knows.

    The Saints could use all the help that they can get on defense, but New England's players have a history of not living up to expectations when they leave NE. Brandon Browner is an example and I'm sure you're still having nightmares of him getting burned. Then again, getting a player on a good deal always makes sense.

    I'm surprised the Giants were able to sign Geno Smith. I figured he'd want to go somewhere where the starting QB is more injury prone. Hopefully Geno can get back on track with the Giants and be a solid backup if his number is ever called. I wonder if this means that they won't take a QB in the draft as they were rumored to do before. Both of our teams need to start planning for their QBs of the future.

    The Sharks made it to game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals last year before losing to Pittsburgh so I'm hoping for another deep run this year with a better result. That certainly kept me occupied for the early part of the summer last year. I know a lot of people are interested in the NFL Draft, but I don't get excited about rookies until they actually hit the field in games since so many players end up being overhyped busts.

    There's been a lot of activity on the various retail blogs still alive lately. Hopefully this is a sign of a retail blog revival, but we'll see.

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    1. Radio Shack released a list of stores being closed. Is your store on the list? For now, the 2 stores on the NE side are safe.

      When I went to Northwest, only the Foot Locker had left. Even the food court still had the same restaurants open, but some closed early. I plan on making one last stop before or on March 31 to take one last look inside.

      Speaking of Sears, they are finally somewhat admitting that their future is very much in doubt. I am sure you have seen the numerous articles posted yesterday about their recent statement.

      Mall and shopping center retailers that are not discounters are in big trouble right now. There is a list that has over planned 3,000 store closures in 2017. Gordmans is not on that list, but the estimated 1,000 Payless Shoe store closures are. Walgreens and Rite Aid may add more if their merger hits any snags. The office store chains are likely to add more closings before the year is done as well. The start to 2017 has been terrible for traditional retailers so far.

      Radio Shack lost their identity over the years and tried to follow trends but failed. I still remember they still had the big warehouse catalog in stores that had Atari 2600 games for sale still in the original unopened box.

      I guess the thrift had shoplifting issues, but cassettes seem low on the most wanted lists these days.

      It seems like The Saints are grabbing players left and right this year. I hope they can find the right mix of players to bring the team at least a playoff berth in 2017.

      The Giants and Saints will both probably get QB's in the upcoming draft. As of right now Brees has one year left on his contract and he is going to take it year by year. Eli probably has a few more years left and has been healthy for most of his career. Now with his receiving core, he should have an improved 2017.

      Having something else to keep you occupied when football season is done is a good thing. I seem to have more free time this time of year to make trips.

      I see Sky City has posted some recent updates after being dormant for a while, The Kmart Blog and Dead and Dying Retail have both been active as well. Deadmalls has posted some new posts also, but Labelscar is close to 4 years without an update. I have photos for several new blog posts as well as a few still incomplete older project posts. The recent waves of closings have been difficult to see, but I am glad that I was able to document a few of the stores while they were still around.

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