Monday, December 21, 2015

Kmart Elmwood Center New Orleans/Elmwood La. Summer of 2015

This Kmart completes the Louisiana Kmart collection featured on the blog. Here is the current online Kmart store list, all of the stores can be found here on the blog under the label Kmart Louisiana.
This Kmart is located in one of the largest and busiest shopping areas in the metro New Orleans area. The Elmwood Center where this store is located features over 1 million square feet of retail and dining options (info here). The shopping center has been expanded many times over the years. 

The New Orleans/Clearview Kmart is a vintage 1970's era Kmart store and one of the largest stores in Louisiana.
We will start at the front of the store 
The checkouts
Looking towards the back of the store
Here is the sporting goods area which was obviously once part of the electronics section.
The classic Kmart A/C vents are all over the store
Some views of the back sections of the store
Now we are at the electronics department. which was being consolidated into a smaller area on my visit.
Office supplies have taken up space on the other side of the electronics department.
Here is the first aisle of music and movies which is an endangered section in Kmart stores. 
Most stores have either eliminated or shrunk the music and movie sections, not here.
The second aisle of movies
Looking at the furniture department from the electronics section
More electronics 
The Sears appliance and mattress department 
Maybe somebody should fix the e before it falls off.
More wide views of the electronics department
More views of the Sears appliance and mattress department
The mini garden shop entrance
Here is the mini garden shop
As you can see there is not much in here
Now for the apparel section of the store
Newer department signage
I wondered if this button still worked, but I resisted the temptation to push it.
Now here we are at the pharmacy with some of the new large advertisements.
No older Kmart store would be complete without a vintage blood pressure monitor.
Looking to the back of the store from the health and pharmacy departments.
Looking at the grocery section from the health and pharmacy departments.
Another one of the help buttons, from a different era.
A look from the back corner of the store near the hardware and mattresses.
Another look at some of the electronics aisles taken over by other products.
And finally the outside of the store
The closed off garden shop
The road sign visible from Clearview Parkway. As you can tell this section of the shopping center has many of the most popular big box retailers. 


  1. Thanks for the photos of this Kmart and for the information about the shopping center. This place seems to be the definition of a power center as they seem to have just about everything except for a grocery store maybe. Is the RadioShack still open? If so, I wonder if it is a Sprint store since Sprint has a store already in the shopping center it seems. Having a RadioShack in the same shopping center as a Best Buy seems like a bit of a head scratcher, but it's not unheard of. The Walmart/JCPenney shopping center in League City has a Best Buy and RadioShack also. It's also a bit weird seeing a Kmart next to an office building, but I guess that isn't unheard of either.

    This is certainly a modified mansard slice facade store so it's probably from the late 1970s or early 1980s. It's kind of odd that it has both the traditional big HVAC vents and also some big ones that are more recessed than the traditional ones. I'm not sure why they have both.

    This store has some modern touches like the clothing department signage and the fake brick wall decor in that department that some other Kmarts have been getting. It's a bit of an oddball, but at least it has some new stuff.

    The electronics signage certainly isn't new though and it's clear that the department has been downsized. Still, as you show, the music and video shelves remain pretty full. I wonder if Kmart will keep things that way. They have a lot of compilation CDs on the shelves. Some of them seem like they might even be interesting. It's too bad that Kmart does not sell those online AFAIK because I might be interested in those.

    Thanks for the detailed picture of the blank media section. It looks like this Kmart certainly has the Maxell UR 90 audio cassettes, but this must have been before the price increase. It's also interesting to see the VHS-C and VHS head cleaners on sale. I wonder if that helped to move any of those products. It seems that the 8 hour T-160 VHS cassettes are cheaper at Kmart than at Sears, but the the T-160s are oddly enough still cheaper than the new T-120 2 packs that Sears has started to sell in place of the old 4 packs. The price per tape of T-120s is certainly much cheaper at Kmart than at Sears unless Kmart's prices have changed recently.

    I was recently at the local Hobby Lobby, which used to be a mansard slice facade Kmart, and I noticed just how low the drop ceiling is there. I guess the Kmart was the same way. I never seemed to notice this before when it was a Kmart, but are vintage Kmart drop ceilings lower than most other retailer's drop ceilings?

    Hobby Lobby removed the giant HVAC vents, but the Big Lots next door still has miniture versions of those round vents. The Big Lots is a former Kroger (though the Kroger has been gone for about 30 years now) so I guess Kroger had those back then. They certainly aren't as imposing as the Kmart giant HVAC vents, but they're something that caught my attention for sure. The Big Lots seemed to have a higher ceiling than the Hobby Lobby.

    1. The Radio Shack was still there, but I did not get a close look at the store. The shopping center is very crowded and super busy. I would not be surprised if the store was expanded at some point, but I can't say for sure. Walmart in the late 80's and Target in the late 90's came to the New Orleans area late in their nationwide expansions, so Kmart was #1 here for a while. TG&Y, Woolworth, Gaylords, Woolco, and Zayre's were the main area competitors years before Walmart and Target showed up.

      The electronics department was being consolidated even more. The back wall had lots of empty cases from the video games and buggys full of items that were being set up on other aisles.

      Many Kmart stores have very low ceilings. The mansard stores all have low ceilings. I wonder how Kmart stores would look if they removed the ceiling tiles and lifted up the lighting. It would instantly change the dingy feel of the older stores.

    2. I'm not normally a fan of stores with open ceilings (except for low frills stores where it makes more sense like a Home Depot or Sam's Club), but perhaps the low drop ceiling Kmarts could benefit from the drop ceiling being removed. Of course, that would only work if the roof itself is high enough. A low open ceiling would probably look worse than a low drop ceiling.

      Most Target stores, even the older ones, have drop ceilings that look nice. Perhaps Kmart could raise the ceilings a little bit while keeping the drop ceiling, but I'm sure that would cost way more to do than Kmart wants to spend. Oh well. Here are some pictures of a Kmart (now closed apparently) that was seemingly built in a former Builders Square II from the 1990s almost certainly. It has the high open ceilings like a lot of big box retailers today. I don't know, I'm not a fan of the look. The store appears to have enough operating lights, but it's still dark looking and it looks like a warehouse. Maybe it would look better if everything wasn't white, but that could probably be said about all Kmarts with Big Kmart era interiors.

      I recently came across some pictures of a Wegman's grocery store in New York State. The store has an open ceiling, but they painted the ceiling so that it does not like so warehouse-y. Maybe that's an idea. The yellow floors are a bit odd, that's for sure. Wegman's has a sterling reputation though. The store certainly looks much, much nicer than a HEB even though it seems to be an older store.

      Aside from the falling "e" in the Sears sign, this electronics department does not look too bad. Here's a photo of appliances in the electronics section of a Kmart where things aren't so well designed. I'm not sure why they put all that trash on top of those box fans. Anyway, we'll have to see what's left of these electronics departments as they continue to shrink.

      I didn't realize that Target came to New Orleans so late. They were in Houston by the early 1970s so they're practically an institution here by now. A lot of people think that Target is newer than Wal-Mart and Kmart, but the reality is that all three started in 1962. Perhaps people feel this way because Target was the newest entry of the three in many markets (not in Houston though) and because of Target's more youthful image and marketing.

      On the topic of 1962 Kmarts, I recently came across a vintage picture of the 1962-built Kmart in Spring Branch that someone posted. My family certainly did a lot of shopping at that Kmart long ago so it's interesting to see a vintage photo of it. I thought you'd enjoy seeing that.

    3. The Kmart store in Burnsville has a modern look like a superstore. I am not a fan of removing anything that will take away the vintage feel of old Kmarts, but it would be a refreshing change for some of the locations that are in bad shape.

      The Wegmans store looks very busy with all of the colors and yellow floor.

      I am not sure why Target came to metro New Orleans so late in their nationwide expansion. Lafayette had a Target many years before New Orleans did, but Lake Charles got their first Target in the early 2000's. I am not sure when Target showed up in Baton Rouge, but it would not surprise me if it was before New Orleans. Another large major retailer that never had a store in metro New Orleans was Montgomery Ward. They had stores in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Lake Charles so it was strange they never put a store in the largest city in Louisiana.

      Thanks for the vintage photo, there is a lot to see there with the Kmart, Kmart Foods, and Jack in the Box.

    4. Thanks for the information about the retail history of New Orleans. I didn’t realize that New Orleans did not have a Montgomery Ward. Montgomery Ward didn’t have nearly as many stores as Sears and JCPenney did/does so that’s not shocking information to me, but it is still surprising. It sounds like New Orleans just didn’t have a lot of the major retailers that other large/larger cities are accustomed to. To that extent, Houston has fared pretty well over the years with a lot of retailers at least trying this market, but we don’t have Kmarts here anymore which is a major omission IMO.

      I just looked on Google StreetView and it seems like the Long Point Rd. 1962 ex-Kmart in Spring Branch was demolished. I don’t know when this happened, it must have been recently. It’s sad to hear about that building being gone since it‘s just as much of a piece of Kmart history as it is a piece of Houston retail history, but it’s probably a good thing that it didn’t sit there to rot. I wonder what is going up there instead. We certainly lost a lot of old retail landmarks in Houston in 2014 and 2015.

    5. The Kmart-turned-Hobby Lobby and Kroger-turned-Big Lots... I'm assuming these are the ones at FM 1960 and Jones in Houston, right?

    6. Yes, the stores I was referring to are the former Kmart and Kroger stores at FM 1960 and Jones Rd. in Houston.

      On the topic of that intersection, the shopping center on the NE corner of that intersection has undergone some changes here recently. The 24 Hour Fitness Sport in the former Eagle/Kingsaver/Freshville Foods/Crafts Etc. anchor spot has recently closed. The 24 Hour Fitness had been there for around 10-15 years or so. Also, the vintage looking Hartz Chicken also seemingly recently closed. It was kind of odd that two fried chicken spots operated in that shopping center for many years (decades really), but I guess KFC won the war. Of course, the KFC is much more modern looking since they tore down the old KFC about 10-15 years ago and rebuilt it from scratch.

    7. Target was only in Alexandria and Lafayette until 2001. The first Baton Rouge Super Target opened then. Metairie's first Target is the three-story one on Veterans, circa 2004. There are one or two on the Westbank side of the similar vintage. There has never been a good explanation as to why Target ignored the state for so long. Now, they're everywhere.

    8. I remember when the plans for the first 2 NO area Target stores were revealed. The Clearview mall location has the third floor, but it is not part of the store. There was a plan several years ago to convert the 3rd floor into apartments that did not happen.
      Kmart still has a big presence in Southeast Louisiana with 6 out of the 10 remaining stores within an hour of New Orleans.

    9. New Orleans had several homegrown department stores. DH Holmes, Maison Blanche, and Godchaux had anchor stores in several area malls along with Sears and JCPenney. Dillard's acquired DH Holmes in 1989 and converted the stores to Dillard's. Macy's entered the New Orleans area in 1985 at the Esplanade. Godchaux closed in the mid 80's. Maison Blanche was also acquired by Dillard's in 1998 and the stores were either converted or closed. Mervyn's also entered the New Orleans market in the mid 80's and left at the same time they left Houston.

  2. I wonder... isn't it a bit odd that the newer of the two Kmart stores on Veterans Blvd in Metairie was built with an A&P next to it? That Kmart opened around 1993 when Kmart was building Super Kmart stores. It would appear there was plenty of room for a Super Kmart at the Metairie site but they chose not to build one. They probably would have closed the other Kmart in Metairie (the one that used to be GEX) if a Super Kmart opened anywhere in Metairie or Kenner.

    Something else I must ask: isn't it a bit odd that Kmart only uses a part of the former GEX? Chuck E Cheese's and Jo-Ann Fabrics are also in parts of the building even though it isn't any bigger than a standard 60's or 70's Kmart. I have a suspicion that the Jo-Ann used to be a Cloth World but am not sure about that.

    1. It might have been a cost issue. Land on Veterans in Metairie has been extremely expensive for many years now. Retailers have to wait for another store to close and bulldoze the property to build their store. The Lowes down the street also had to add rooftop parking to meet the parking requirements for their store. A Super Kmart may have required extra parking spaces that would not fit on the land. The Sav A Center is set back on the property giving the grocery much more parking than the Kmart. The grocery store starts nearly at the back corner of the Kmart store.

      Cloth World was in the New Orleans area and also Hancock Fabrics, so it was probably either one. The Chuck E Cheese was originally a Showbiz so it may have been there before the Kmart located there. That Kmart store is very odd in comparision to the other Kmart stores I have visited, but it is a decent sized store.

    2. It's a bit surprising that the Sav-A-Center (now Rouses) in Metairie uses the exact same design as a number of Super Fresh stores in Philadelphia/Baltimore/Washington DC. Yes, both Super Fresh and Sav-A-Center were A&P divisions, but hundreds of miles apart.

      There was another A&P design that was used in the Mid-Atlantic region by Super Fresh but also by A&P stores in Metro Atlanta. The Kroger in Brookhaven, Georgia is a former 1990s A&P (which itself was built on the site where a former Grand Union was demolished) and still looks just like it did as A&P.

      Amazingly the tiny pre-1950s A&P in the French Quarter survived as A&P until they pulled out of New Orleans. Now Rouses is there. I have to think that if this A&P had instead closed sometime before 1997 that K&B would have opened at the site.

      As strange as it is that this store ended up as Rouses, it seems even stranger that a former Albertsons in New Orleans (on Jefferson Davis Parkway) ended up as a Goodwill store instead of Rouses.

      The Sav-A-Center name was reused by A&P in Greater Philadelphia once A&P bought Pathmark. A number of Pathmark stores and Super Fresh stores were both rebranded as Pathmark Sav-A-Center, but this didn't help turn around the ailing Super Fresh and Pathmark brands. As of a few weeks ago, A&P is now totally defunct.

      Anyway, I was wondering... what did the former flagship Maison Blanche store become? I don't know where it was located but it can be seen in a YouTube video from the 80's (it wasn't originally a YouTube video) called "yeah you rite" about the dialects of New Orleans.

      Also, did the Eckerd stores in New Orleans get sold to another drugstore chain? I know a lot of Eckerd stores in Texas and Florida ended up as CVS, but the Eckerd stores on the East Coast (both in the South and Northeast) were bought by Rite Aid. Side note: Walgreens now plans to buy Rite Aid and this surely will result in a lot of closures and divestitures. CVS bought the Target pharmacies even though this meant for a lot of overlap, with CVS having a near-monopoly on pharmacy counters and prescription files in some areas.

    3. Thanks for the grocery store breakdown in the New Orleans area. There have certainly been many changes over the years in that area. I have been to the French Quarter Rouses and also when it was an A&P. That store is so small, but it is the only decent full grocery option for French Quarter residents. The French Market barely has any groceries these days.

      The Maison Blanche became a hotel, The Ritz-Carlton. CVS took over the few Eckerd stores that were left in the New Orleans area.

      Here is an article you may find interesting about Maison Blanche

  3. Hancock Fabrics still exists so the Jo-Ann would not have been one (it's possible there was once a Hancock at the site, but it probably would have closed and sat vacant for awhile before Jo-Ann moved in.

    GEX went out of business in either 1973 or 1976 (not sure why websites disagree on this...) and I'm pretty sure Kmart would have opened at the former GEX sites right away. Showbiz Pizza however didn't exist until sometime in the 80's. It seemed like 1984-1985 was their peak for new store openings. They soon fell on hard times though and sold out to Chuck E Cheese's in 1990. There also was a chain called Celebration Station but it totally went out of business in 1989. Chuck E Cheese's opened at a number of their former sites.

    1. My theories for the GEX site are incorrect. The other possibilities I guess would be the site was subdivided into smaller sites when GEX closed and other businesses got in before Kmart. Kmart also could have limited the space at that location due to factors such as high rent.

      There was a celebration station down the street from the Chuck E Cheese/ Showbiz that closed in the early 2000's. There are still a few open in various parts of the US.

  4. Long ago, the parcel with the fabric store was a Security Sporting Goods. It was a small, local chain of sporting goods stores in the metro New Orleans area.

    1. Thanks for finding out the identity of the mystery parcel.