Thursday, February 18, 2016

Updates and extra images

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

Alexandria Mall 2015 extra images.

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

Spring Deauville Mall 2015 mini-update.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      The Sears in Port Arthur has nearly the same storefront as the one at Pierre Bossier Mall in the picture. Check out the Central Mall article

  4. Part I:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  5. Part II:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  6. I found a article saying someone brought the rights to the Foley's trademark and wants to open retail again as a department store.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  7. Part I:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  8. Part II:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  10. Part I:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  11. Part II:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  12. Part III:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  13. Part I:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  14. Part II:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  15. Part III:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  18. Part I:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  19. Part II:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  20. Part I:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  21. Part II:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  22. Part I:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      I will reply to part 2 at a later time.

  23. Part II:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  29. Part I:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      I will post a reply to Part 2 later on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  30. Part II:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  35. Part I:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  36. Part II:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  38. Part I:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  39. Part II:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  46. Part II:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  48. Part I:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  49. Part II:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  50. Part I:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  51. Part II:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  52. Part I:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  53. Part II:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    1. The recent comments widget increases my comments on the blog. I don't check it often, but when I notice a prolonged drop in comments, I check that first.

      Have you been to the Mall of the Mainland Sears lately? I am curious if they have downsized the electronics department like at some of the small town stores.

      With as many times as I have gone to Sears, I am surprised that I never noticed those items. Then again, I usually don't look at grills or outdoor furniture. I will be on the lookout for those billboards from Sears.

      I will need to check out the record selection that you sent over. I may eventually get a setup to add to my system.

      Hastings was given an extra week until July 20 to continue operations as normal before they auction off the company. I am hoping that this means a real buyer will continue operating the chain. I would be very disappointed to see any further store closures especially from a really good store. Even Kmart continues to close stores, two more were announced over the past two weeks. One in New Mexico and another one in Michigan.

      Thankfully Ebay still has hundreds of cassette Walkmans available at any given time. I still have two parts only Walkman players that I can take parts from if needed. Right now an exact replacement on Ebay will set me back $40 or more for the exact same unit. Last time I paid $25 with shipping. Maybe I have created the demand and bought too many for my personal use. I have owned 5 of that same model Sony Walkman.

      I wonder if any companies are working on next generation cassette players that are more durable and have less issues than many of the used models we have had. I don't remember cassette players being this much work several years ago.

      A funny story about used pre-recorded tapes. I bought a few tapes from Half Price Books. One of the tapes started flaking apart leaving nothing but clear plastic and I had to clean out my Walkman again. Luckily I noticed the problem quickly and minimized the damage.

    2. I accidentally deleted your last comment, it got flagged by the spam folder. Once again my fingers moved a little too fast.

      I am sure by now you have read that things did not turn out well for Hastings and the company will start liquidating the stores today. Thankfully, I made a trip to a Hastings and snapped some photos before the place gets destroyed by the going out of business sale.

      I also read that the last company making VCR's will cease production this year on new models. I am hoping that VCR/DVD combos will still be sold. According to the article on Yahoo, the company making the VCR's sold 750,000 units last year but the issue is with finding parts.

      I also read that Sears/Kenmore will have 4K tv's coming out soon. With all of these new models, the Sears stores that still have electronics will hopefully stop shrinking. In other Sears news, I read that their delivery company is doing very well and even delivers products from Costco and other retailers to customers.

      One thing I am considering is purchasing a better Walkman such as a Sony DD or WM-DC2. Do you have any recommendations? If I can get a more durable and better quality Walkman it may be worth shelling out a few more dollars.

  56. Part I:

    It's a shame that Hastings is going under. It's the end of the road for another interesting retailer. Oh well. I will enjoy seeing your photos of Hastings though. It's not a store that I've been in very many times over the years since we never had locations near here.

    Actually, Sears released a series of 4K Kenmore Elite TVs along with the other Kenmore TVs a few weeks ago. These do not have smart TV capability. That's kind of odd since Sears is pushing Connected Solutions, but then again, it's a good option for those who don't want or need a smart TV.

    I read that article about Sears providing delivery services for other retailers. It's good to see that Sears can still make money even if they aren't the ones selling the appliances. It just goes to show how powerful Sears still is in the appliance segment. In many ways, the other big box retailers still have a long way to go to match Sears' presence in the field. There have been some recent articles about JCPenney's price war with Sears. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out. I still think Sears has many advantages in the area, but it's good to see JCPenney diversify their departments.

    I did read those articles about Funai discontinuing VCR production soon. That's a real shame, but I think Wal-Mart is the only major retailer still selling those VCRs (they are all DVD-VCR combos now) and Wal-Mart's pricing demands might mean that it's hard for Funai to source parts and still make money. It's hard to blame Wal-Mart for that though since they're the only ones selling them.

    Maybe some Chinese based company will pick up the slack and will produce VCRs as is the case with cassette decks. They are still producing a couple of models even though the Japanese companies threw in the towel seemingly with the Teac deck supposedly being discontinued this year. The quality may not be as good as the Funai units (which is really saying something since I don't think those Funais were very good), but at least it will be something. If nothing else, there are thrift store VCRs, but good VCR models are becoming harder to find in the thrifts.

    1. I will try and cover as many Hastings stores as I can over the next few weeks. Hastings was always a must stop when we came across one. I wonder if things would have turned out differently for the company if they had pursued superstore expansion into major cities.

      Maybe Sears wants to differentiate their brand from the rest by not including the Smart TV features. They might be targeting older Americans that want to upgrade, but don't want a complicated television.

      The appliance war is one to watch. I think JCPenney is going to have difficulty in the short term with gaining new customers. I don't think any JCPenney stores have been converted in the area yet. With the way things go in retail, Houston will probably be the last to get the new departments.

      There are still a lot of VHS enthusiasts out there so I believe another company will emerge to build new VHS players once again. 750,000 units sold each year is nothing to sneeze at. I bought a new one two years ago myself.

  57. Part II:

    The higher end Sony Walkmans will certainly get you better quality and features like Dolby B and even C in some cases, but I don't know if it'll get you more reliability. The WM-DC2 is a famous model and is very high end. I'm sure they aren't cheap. From what I recall though I think some people have problems with the gears on them. Those units are quite old. Direct drive models might be more reliable than belt drive models, but I'm not sure. I've heard that some DD models have issues if they have not been used in a while.

    I think investing in a higher end model might be a good idea, but only if you can get some sort of guarantee that the unit is working. I do have a non-working WM-F2 that I would like to fix/have fixed some day. The WM-F2 records though and you probably don't need that. It'll be cheaper to get a playback only unit.

    I don't know as much about portables as I do about component cassette decks, but you may want to consider some non-Sony models as well. Some higher end models of those can be had and are probably cheaper than Sony models. Panasonic made some portables that are known to be pretty reliable, but you have to make sure to get one that does not have a gumstick rechargeable battery that probably isn't made any more (this is true for any brand, but I know Panasonic used those batteries more than other brands). You may find some real gems under the Sanyo, GE/RCA, or JVC brands as well. There are other brands as well. Aiwa is another popular brand. They made some excellent models, but they are known to be unreliable and hard to fix. I'd avoid those. Of course, it's worth making sure that the battery compartment of any Walkman you're interested in is not corroded from leaking batteries. That's a common problem with Walkmen and often the corrosion has gone too far to be able to fix them.

    Older Walkmen may have better built quality, but they may be more likely to not work just due to age. A newer Walkman may actually work better since it's newer and since it may not have much use on them. Anyway, let me know what you end up with. I'm curious to know how it works out. One good resource to read is the Walkman forum at Tapeheads. They have some good information there about various models (mostly higher end models). Some of the people there are techs who have better access to parts and know-how of how to fix Walkmen so they might be biased towards some high-performing models that aren't reliable, but it's still worth reading.

    1. Thanks for the advice about the Walkman's. I had sticker shock the other day looking on Ebay and Amazon at some of the higher end models. I guess any Walkman will have issues due to the age and wear and tear on the parts. I am going to try other different models from here on out to see which one I really like.

      I am going to check out the Tapehead Walkman forum you suggested and see if I can find some good suggestions.

      In other news the former Sears at Northshore Square Mall in Slidell is now an At Home store. The mall continues to operate as is until the redevelopment begins, but there is no public timetable for the plan yet.

      The Sears at Brazos Mall in Lake Jackson closed in June. I don't remember if I read about the closing or not, but it was a surprise to find out that the store closed. Apparently it was a mutual separation and the mall management is looking to redevelop that section of the mall. The Sears lasted 40 years at that location so it is a shame to see that one go. Sears had the prime property facing 288 and TX 332 off of the main retail strip of the area. The mall currently has Chuck E Cheese, Texas Roadhouse, Ross, El Chico, and JCPenney facing TX 332.

      Of course no comment reply would be complete without mentioning the Kmart rumor from last week. Some tough decisions will need to be made soon to save either Sears, Kmart, or both to return the company back to profitability. If Kmart has to be sacrificed to save Sears it would be a real shame. Hopefully whatever happens will save as many jobs as possible and strengthen the company for the future.

  58. The Kmart rumor is certainly an interesting one. On the one hand, I guess there is past precedent that Kmarts clearing out the back room are closing Kmarts. On the other hand, Kmart is saying that they are trying to get all the merchandise out on the salesfloor for numerous reasons including getting better deals from suppliers. I don’t know what to make of the rumors. It would not be surprising at all if Sears did dump Kmart. In fact, we’ve speculated about that before. Then again, I think having all the merchandise out on the floor helps as long as Kmart can organize the stuff. They should have plenty of floorspace at most stores given a few of the shrinking departments (especially electronics), but we know Kmart isn’t good at displaying items. So, anyway, I guess we’ll see what happens. It would be a shame if Kmart went away, but hopefully the company can salvage some kind of physical retail presence in one form or another even if it takes sacrifices to get there.

    It’s a shame to hear about another Sears closing in the region. I’m not sure if I’d consider Lake Jackson to be in the Houston area or not, but it’s certainly not far if not. I did not hear about the closing until you mentioned it so it certainly was a surprise to me. It’ll be interesting to see if JCPenney sticks around or not at Brazos Mall. The mall operators had high hopes for the mall, but losing Sears is certainly going to be a blow. At least the Slidell Sears got a new tenant (and a decent one at that) and won’t sit and rot until redevelopment plans are clear.

    You might be right in saying that Sears is targeting older buyers with the Kenmore TVs. I’m sure a lot of those buyers want something with a good picture that is easy to use and does not have a lot of useless fluff. We’ll see if Sears can capitalize on that. I see that the DieHard Silver tires are in Sears’ latest ad along with the Hankook RoadHandlers. The DieHard Silver tires are unfortunately made in China. That does not mean that they are bad, but I’m not sure if I’d trust Chinese tires. The RoadHandlers are made in Korea at least so it’s good that they’re keeping those around. I don’t know if Sears will sell DieHard Gold tires, but hopefully those will be made in a place with a better reputation for quality.

    I think it would have been hard for Hastings to crack the major markets with all the competition. Sticking to the smaller markets was probably a good idea, but even that didn’t work unfortunately. Speaking of which, I did visit the North Oaks Half Price Books recently. The audio cassettes have been moved to a new rack below the CDs. They now have VHS tapes in the spot that used to have the cassettes. It looks like they have more than they used to have, but it’s hard to say since they aren’t double stacked anymore. They did have one tape that I was interested in, but I didn’t buy it since I didn’t want to stand in line for one item.

    Hopefully someone will find a way to make new VCRs. I think there is enough demand as you say. If not, I think the prices of used VCRs will skyrocket eventually due to people wanting to watch tapes and also wanting to convert home recordings to digital formats.

    I’m not surprised that you got sticker shock from those higher end Sony Walkmen. I don’t know exactly what they are going for these days, but I know it’s not cheap. You may have better value success going after a lesser Sony model or another brand like I mentioned before. I was playing around with my late-1980s GE boombox recently that I brought from a thrift last year and it still works well. It was made by Sanyo.

    The parts on Walkmen are known to go bad probably due to the small sizes of the parts. It seems like the mini belts that Walkmen use are more prone to going bad than regular belts and the mini plastic gears aren’t as reliable as well. To that extent, you might be better off with a newer model just due to age effects even if they aren’t built as well. I hope you’re able to find something good and affordable though.

    1. Kmart really does not have a brand or set of products that distinguishes their brand. Sears still has their 3 popular brands they can rely on. Also most of Sears stores are in better shape than the majority of Kmart stores. Sears spent money on updating and replacing stores in the mid 90's to early 2000's. Kmart did the Big Kmart updates at most stores but did not change much besides signage and store configuration. Kmart stores are showing their age much more than many Sears stores.

      The Sears closing was intended to clear space for new tenants at the mall. The store faces a prime corner and has great visibility so it is an attractive space. The building may have to be demolished and rebuilt to lure another retailer though. For now the store is boarded up and dragging that corner of the mall down. The JCPenney store still has a mirrored glass mall entrance but the interior was refreshed recently. We will see if they stay there.

      The new Sears branded items should help sales at the company, but they send a mixed signal. For example, management made it clear that all auto centers are available for redevelopment opportunities. So on one hand they are making new tires, and on the other if a company is willing to buy all of the auto centers for redevelopment, they will sell them off.

      Hastings best opportunity to break into the big markets was the early 90's around the time Media Play and Best Buy expanded in the area. Their mall stores could have outlasted FYE if they had held onto them. I am sure that the rental business and large music CD selection dragged the company down. The remodels of the store shrunk those departments and increased the amount of collectables in the store. Their regular prices were normally a little higher, but they had good sales frequently if you paid attention. I may need to drop by North Oaks one of these days to see their tape selection.

      VCR's will go up, the days of $10 units will be over. $100 dollars will not buy you a good high end working Walkman. I may take a chance on a newer model, but I need to do some research first.

    2. One thing I forgot to mention is that Dick's Sporting Goods is going to open a 2nd NE Houston location off of the Beltway. Academy is also opening a new location at 59 North & The Grand Parkway. The sporting goods store competition is just beginning between these two chains. Academy seems to be growing just to grow, they have been putting stores in smaller markets and in areas where residential development is a few years out. They have also been expanding and/or replacing stores in existing markets for a while now. I wonder how much more they can grow in this market. The demise of Sports Authority had been coming and Academy took advantage, but Dick's Sporting Goods is a much stronger chain. We will see if Academy can continue to dominate the Houston area.

  59. The big news today is that Macy’s will close 100 stores soon and will focus more on online sales. I have not found a closing list if one even exists yet. There are a handful of Houston area stores that certainly have to be considered endangered though. I would consider the Plaza Paseo, Greenspoint Mall, and the San Jacinto Mall locations to be endangered for sure. I’m sure mall operators are very nervous right now.

    You’re right that it is unclear what will happen with Sears Auto Center. Like you say, Sears has considered spinning/selling off the auto centers as well as offering auto centers up for redevelopment. OTOH, Sears seems to be pushing the DieHard brand very strongly these days. Perhaps the spinoff and brand enhancement goals are in conflict with one another, but it’s hard to say. I did read an article recently on a tire industry website saying that the DieHard Silver tires are made in Korea by Kumho. The picture of the tires on the Sears website says China so I don’t know about that. Maybe some sizes are Korean and some are Chinese. Kumho is a relatively respected Korean brand of tires (like Hankook) so perhaps tires made by them in China would not be as bad as a Chinese brand tire. It’s hard to say.

    Sears stores are in better shape in Kmart stores, but I wonder if they’ll start putting all the backroom goods on the sales floor like what Kmart is doing. That might make Sears stores look more like discount stores and even less like department stores. To some extent, the clearance areas I’ve seen at some Sears electronics departments recently look like some of the pictures I’ve seen of Kmarts that have things put here, there, and everywhere. Anyway, hopefully Sears stores will do a better job maintaining their displays and such than most Kmarts do.

    Hastings could have done well in the big markets in the 1990s, but they would have had to have been price competitive with the Best Buy and Wal-Marts of the world on CDs and DVDs or else the lack of sales combined with debt from operating stores in expensive markets would have sunk them even quicker than they did. For a while Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Target had a large selection of music and movies and that made going to a specialty media store pretty pointless (though Wal-Mart was and may still be famous for censoring lyrics in music which might make them useless to some buyers).

    I’m not sure if it really makes sense for Dick’s Sporting Goods to open two NE side locations so quickly. We’ll see. I saw a sign at the Baybrook Mall store indicating that it will also have a Field & Stream location that will really help them compete with Academy. I’m not sure yet if the other Houston locations will have Field & Streams. I suppose that Academy is aggressively defending their turf with Dick’s threatening to take away market share. I’m not sure if these new stores on the edge will be successful, but perhaps it’s a defense move and also a way to get into new suburbs before the real estate prices go up if the suburbs are successful. It’s a risky strategy especially with the oil industry problems supposedly putting a real damper on housing sales in this market.

    I’ve been seeing a lot of audio equipment in the thrifts lately. I have not seen this much in quite some time. The only thing I brought was a 1983 Hitachi 30 watt stereo receiver. It’s compact in size, but it has nice digital displays for power output and radio signal strength that were popular in that era. It was only $15 and usually receivers cost at least $30-40 in the thrifts which is why I’ve never brought a thrift receiver before. I couldn’t fully test it in the store and unfortunately I can’t get sound out of the right channel either through the speaker terminals or the headphone jack. I’m not sure what’s going on with that. I have not had time to look at it yet, but maybe it’s something I can fix. We’ll see. The sound out of the left channel sounds really good though so I’d really like to get the thing fixed. It’s in great shape otherwise though.

    1. 100 locations is a lot to lose. I would not be surprised to see at least 2 closings. The Willowbrook Mall Men's store could also be endangered. One of the articles I read mentioned the possibility of split stores being consolidated into one building at a lot of malls.

      I wonder if Sears had already been doing what Kmart stores are doing with inventory. Some stores have had a really difficult time filling open spaces. It also may have to do with management as well, strong managers will keep their stores up.

      Hastings was one of the earlier stores to offer trade ins and sell used cd's, games, and movies as well. Just about every retailer is offering used items, even Target now has a small used game section.

      A lot of these new retail areas will see good traffic at the beginning and then slow down until the new subdivisions show up, if they ever do. The Beltway Dick's is being built in an area with a lot of office and residential development. It should also pull customers from East Houston near highway 90 since the nearest Academy at I-10.

      I went to 3 thrifts earlier this week and tested a $4 Teac v-407c cassette deck. Sadly the display did not come on and the tape functions did not work. They had a couple of other decks but they were very low end models. I managed to find a few good prerecorded tapes though.

  60. The closure of 100 Macy's stores represents a pretty large chunk of their store count. It'll be interesting to see what happens locally, but I'm sure that at least one location will close if not a handful of stores. The Willowbrook Mall Foley's used to have men's and furniture departments in what is now the women's/housewares store so they could move them back over there I'm sure. It would probably look something like the West Oaks Mall Macy's. I'm sure product selection would take a bit of a hit all over the store, but perhaps Macy's just has too much slow-selling merchandise that they can eliminate. It would be unfortunate to see the ex-Montgomery Ward vacant again, but at least that would open up another anchor pad at the mall for someone else who wants to come in without having to shut the Sears down or downsize it.

    I think Macy's focusing on an e-tailing approach will be an even bigger mistake than Sears doing the same thing. For one thing, many people won't want to buy clothing online. Also, there's a ton of competition and it's not like Macy's has popular house brands to draw people in ala Sears. Hopefully Macy's will invest in improving product and service quality in their stores (along with better pricing) because that's what they're really missing in comparison to stores like Dillard's which seem to be doing better.

    I read an article earlier in the week discussing how JCPenney has been taking advantage of Sears closing at some of their malls where they shared locations. The article was speculating that perhaps Macy's closing will help as well, but OTOH, the loss of all these anchors could end up hurting JCPenney's mall locations due to reduced traffic at those malls where Sears and/or Macy's is leaving. We'll see. JCPenney seems to be doing better recently, but they are far from being on stable ground. Perhaps JCP will invest in building new suburban stores once again like they did ten years ago. If so, the loss of more mall JCPs, along with other anchor losses, could be devastating for the mall industry.

    I guess Kmart was ahead of the curve when they sold used video games back in the 1990s. The profit margins on used games can be huge compared to new games which may even be sold at cost. Thus, I'm not surprised to see retailers looking to go that route.

    I suppose Dick's Sporting Goods is banking on some growth in the Highway 90 area. I rarely go to that part of town so I don't know if that area is growing with the expansion of Highway 90 a few years ago. Anyway, it's odd to see a retailer focus so much on the NE/E side since those are areas that retailers usually ignore to focus on the N/NW/W/SW/SE sides of town. I'm sure you're liking it though and you may become more loyal to Dick's Sporting Goods over Academy if they invest in your side of town.

    That's a shame that the Teac didn't work. I guess there's a reason why it was $4. I have been seeing a lot of audio equipment, including cassette decks (though mainly lower end ones), in the thrifts the last few weeks so I'd keep looking while the inventory seems to be good.

    Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a fix for the Hitachi receiver. It seems that the STK module may be bad. Replacing that probably costs more than it's worth. Oh well, perhaps I can use it as a pre-amplifier. I have not tested it to see if it works ok in that function. I probably should stop buying thrift electronics that I can't test because I've had a lot of bad luck with them lately.

    1. Well I finally finished my long winded Six Flags/ Plaza Central Mall post. My smaller posts should be faster to complete.

      I guess I have been paying more attention to Macy's and department stores in general lately, but it really seems like their clearance sections are taking over lots of space. Maybe we are about to see a small return of Foley's stores or Belk could finally move into this area if Macy's closes stores. The redevelopment project at San Jacinto Mall would be an ideal site for a new retailer such as Belk. The store there would more than likely be torn down for a new building if that was the case. Speaking of San Jacinto Mall, more stores have left including the Marshall's. Another store has a sign advertising their move to another place. The mall ceiling is leaking in several spots and they have buckets under some of the leaks. The demolition of the former Beall's and Montgomery Ward is complete. The section of the mall connected to the former anchors is still standing with tarps covering the open holes. I guess they have delayed that part of the demolition because all of the equipment is off of the site. The fencing is still in place around that section of the property though.

      I am not sure how much JCPenney will benefit by staying in malls that lose multiple anchor stores. JCPenney will probably need to stack up their treasury before they will build new stores at this point. The company lost so much value, they have been slowly rebuilding things at this point.

      Dick's is not the only business flooding the area. Showbiz cinemas built a new location in Fall Creek off of the Beltway with movies and a bowling alley and they are planning on building another large location just a few miles away at highway 90 and the beltway. More restaurants and grocers are also opening which is going to hurt existing places. Hopefully areas like Humble will not wind up like the 1960 and I-45 area with several empty big box buildings.

      I went to another thrift this week, but came up empty handed. They had a dual cassette Kenwood deck for a mere $35 and nothing else for sale. They had a lot of VCR's but I did not look at the prices. It sucks that your purchase did not work out, but at least it was not an expensive loss.

  61. Part I:

    It does seem like retailers, especially the department stores, are putting more clearance items out on the sales floor than before. Some of this might be related to what Kmart is doing in regards to not having anything/much in the backrooms. On the one hand, items in the back aren't making any money so it makes sense to sell them. Plus, the discounted items makes the stores more competitive with chains like Ross and Marshall's which have supposedly been doing well lately. On the other hand, the marked down items may take sales away from more profitable items and cluttering the aisles and departments with clearance items can take away from the appearance of the store.

    The abundance of clearance items at Macy's specifically may speak to their general sales problems and perhaps also bad merchandising. They may also have a lot of privately labeled goods that can't be sent back to the manufacturer. Who knows.

    I'm not sure what's going on with the "new" Foley's. It would not make sense for them to go into Greenspoint Mall or Plaza Paseo as the sales potential at those malls are limited and the buildings at those malls are in poor shape from what I can tell. The Willowbrook Mall Macy's Mens store would be a different story if that opened up, but the price might be too high for that. It would be a good option for Belk though if they wanted to come to town and if they want a mall property.

    I also agree that the San Jacinto Mall redevelopment would be a good place for a Belk if the redevelopment goes through and if Belk actually comes here. I know you put this in another post, but it's interesting that the San Jacinto Mall Sears has expanded their electronics department somewhat. Perhaps they're giving electronics a second look with the Kenmore TVs and such. We'll see what happens with that and what the future holds for the San Jacinto Mall Sears in general. Thanks for the update about the mall.

    On the topic of Kenmore TVs, Consumer Reports recently reviewed the 65" Kenmore Elite 4K TV and had mostly positive things to say about it especially in regards to picture quality and value. The part about it having mediocre sound is not good, but I suppose that would not be a problem for someone using a home theater system or a soundbar. Anyway, hopefully Sears can capitalize on the positive review.

    Thanks for the NE side retail update. Some of this stuff might make for an interesting blog post. I've heard that the refining side of the petrochemical industry, which dominates the E side of Houston, is doing better than the upstream/business side that dominates the north/west side of town. Perhaps this is steering development a bit to the east, but we'll see how this trend holds up. I know there's signs showing that the city as a whole is struggling compared to recent years.

    1. The Greenspoint Mall Foley's just before it became Macy's had a separate clearance section on the second floor away from the rest of the store. I think more stores need to do this to keep the clearance items from taking over the main floor. The clearance area was staffed and had a checkout area also.

      For now the retro department store website has very little information about the brands they carry except for a brief history of each company and t-shirts for sale. Belk seems likely to expand once the new owners of the company settle in.

      Speaking of Kmart and Sears, I had a chance to visit some stores this week. The Kenmore TV's are now being showcased with signage in both stores. Three Kmart stores that previously sold music Cd's no longer have any in stock so I guess that is the end of music sales for the company.

      Either that or the East side of town was under retailed and they are finally catching up. Developers are always looking to build even in sluggish economic times such as this one. The population growth and median income of the area is hard to ignore and the land is some of cheapest in the area so the risk is low.

  62. Part II:

    The Chronicle had an article today about the remodeling of the Midtown Randall's. That's interesting to see. I know that I've been doing more grocery shopping at Randall's recently. It seems like their prices have improved a bit and they still have good promotions on their digital coupon site. I'm not sure how their profitability is doing in the Houston market, but hopefully things will work out for them.

    $35 is probably too much for a Kenwood double cassette deck. The two that I have are right up there with the best double cassette decks Kenwood ever made, but I don't think they're worth nearly that much. I've seen a lot of cassette decks and audio equipment in the thrifts lately so I say keep visiting them while the inventory is good. The prices aren't always good, but sometimes you'll get lucky.

    I visited a Habitat for Humanity ReStore thrift for the first time ever recently. It was pretty nice actually and retained a few aspects of the Randall's that it used to be, but they did not have any electronics (aside from a bunch of old PBX business telephones) nor do I think that they usually stock electronics. That said, they did have a lot of VHS movies and some DVDs, CDs, records, and audio cassettes. I picked up a sealed 2000s era Sony HF and a sealed 1980s Radio Shack Realistic Supertape XR 46 minute premium Type I tape for 50 cents each. The Supertape is a rare find these days so I'm glad that I found that. The 46 minute tapes were designed to fit a full record album, but most people preferred 90 minute tapes so an entire LP could fit on one side of the tape. The same thrift also had a used 1990s TDK SA-X 100 minute for 10 cents that I obviously picked up. That was probably the best 10 cents I've ever spent since the SA-X was TDK's highest level Type II cassette. The tape has a voice recording of someone practicing a sales pitch for mail order meat. This is not the first time that I've found a used premium cassette that has something on it that could have been recorded just as well on an el cheapo Tonemaster or something, but oh well. I'm sure TDK didn't complain that someone spent big money on a tape when a bargain tape would have done fine.

    I also picked up the two cassette set of '70s Preservation Society Presents Disco Fever recently from another thrift. If that sounds familiar, you probably remember it from this classic 1992 commercial. I recalled the ad as soon as I saw the cassettes on the rack so I had to buy them. That's one of those commercials that's so bad that it's good. I hope that guy didn't put any money on that disco comeback. The music on it isn't bad either if you like disco. It's certainly a great warmup before visiting a vintage Kmart or one of the Houston Macy's on the endangered location list.

    I have great news regarding the 1983 Hitachi receiver. I took a second look at the internals since I still had it disassembled and I found that the right channel had a blown fuse. Well, that's a simple fix. I brought the right replacement fuse at RadioShack for $2.50 for a package of four fuses, put it in, and now the receiver works just fine! I was hoping for a simple and cheap fix and that ended up being the case for once. I've run the receiver for several hours since fixing it and it's working and sounding great now. All in all, it was a great deal for $17.50 including the fuses. RadioShack came to the rescue yet again.

    1. Since Randall's is part of the large Albertsons/Safeway chain merger I would hope to see lower prices. The Midtown store is a good place to start with the renovations, maybe more stores will get the remodel.

      Sounds like some good finds at the new thrift store. Where is it located at, I saw one outside of the area but I did not stop in.

      Yes I remember that commerical, it is hard not to laugh at the intro. Disco hasn't really made a comeback like 80's music has.
      Kmart has been using more upbeat music in the stores lately so you might hear some disco on a trip there.

      Glad to hear you were able to fix your receiver without too much of a hassle. That issue was probably the reason why you were able to find the item at a thrift store. Hopefully the receiver will work for a long time without issues.

  63. The big news this week has been Sears' poor quarterly performance. Then again, it's hardly a surprise so I'm not sure what there is to say about it. The end of CD sales at Kmart is dissapointing news, but not unexpected. Perhaps Kmart's media racker had financial trouble or maybe they had trouble getting a good deal with a racker given that they got rid of games too. Perhaps the sales/profits were so poor that they just got rid of them. Kmart still has an excellent online music and movies store though that's almost certainly run by a 3rd party racker.

    The idea of running somewhat closed off clearance departments is interesting and perhaps a good idea. It's somewhat akin to the bargain basements downtown style department stores had back in the day. It would force bargain shoppers to walk past regular merchandise and perhaps they could get some impulse buys off that. Plus, it would keep the rest of the store tidy. I guess retailers like Dillard's and Nordstrom prefer opening clearance stores (albeit those two do it in very different ways) instead of clearance stores with a store though. I can see benefits to that too. I know Macy's has standalone clearance stores too, but not here in Houston AFAIK.

    At least Randall's is trying to make themselves competitive in this market. I know they've done a lot of marketing regarding their anniversary. Hopefully the efforts will pay off, but it does not always work out that way. We'll see, but I like what I see.

    One store I have not been to recently is Wal-Mart. The last one I went to was the ex-Willowbrook store right before it closed. It sounds like their stores are getting remodeled with a grey and blue outside theme and a black and white inside theme. All in all the designs make the store look very no-frills compared to past designs. It's hard to judge it though without actually seeing it in person, but it seems too Sam's like especially on the inside.

    One advantage the NE/E side has over other areas is that there is still a lot of undeveloped land for people who want to live in a suburban area somewhat close into town. The NE side has a lot to offer people who like an outdoor lifestyle. The presence of the airport and refineries will always make the NE/E side unattractive to some, but many others may give it a second look. Perhaps, as you say, retailers are finally starting to serve the oft ignored NE/E side shoppers now that the other areas are seeing saturation and slowed growth.

    Disco at Kmart? It's a natural fit! The ReStore I went to is on Grant Rd. & Jones Rd. in the former Randall's. I've seen a location on the South Loop near I-45 by the ex-Auchan. It's a neat thrift especially if you're looking for home items.

    I saw a nice Denon AV surround receiver from the late 1990s for $20 at the same thrift that I got the Hitachi from. I don't know if it worked, but if so, that was probably an even better deal than the Hitachi. It was too big for me though and I like the "light show" on the Hitachi so I wasn't interested. You're probably right that the fact that the Hitachi was "broken" probably explains why it was donated and sold so cheaply, but I'll take it in this case. It's still working great for me now. But, anyway, I'm still seeing a lot of audio gear in the thrifts so it's a good time to look.

    1. So far the only change that Sears announced since their quarterly report came out is that they will be putting paint back in their department stores for sale. Sears Hardware stores never got rid of paint, but maybe this signals a return of more items that they dropped from their product mix. As you can see weird things are now going into former electronics departments such as office supplies, toys, appliances, mattresses, vacuums and automotive products.

      Dillard's and Nordstrom have very small clearance sections in their full line stores. Macy's seems to have ever growing clearance areas. Even Sears does a better job of separating clearance items.

      Hopefully they will consider expanding Randall's in the area. Maybe even a cheaper Randall's concept to compete with lower cost grocers like Kroger.

      There are 2 Walmart stores in the area with the new look. Livingston was remodeled and a new store on the Grand Parkway in Spring. I don't know if any other stores have the new look in the area. It is kind of bland but I guess that is what people like these days.

      I hope that the growth slows down. The roads are starting to become congested in some of the areas where 2 years ago were good alternative routes.

      Thanks for the tip about the thrift, I will have to check it out sometime.

      Speaking about audio equipment, Urban Outfitters now has 2 Walkmans for sale. The reviews are not very good on one and the other is 50/50. The clear Walkman is $38 and the other model is $60. They also have a few new tapes in stock including a re-release of Purple Rain.

      One more update on the Hastings closing sale. Even more products from other closeouts have been added including 2 more Blockbuster movie displays. Blankets, large bags, kitchen items, automotive items, picture frames and other items have been added. The discounts have been increased to 40-60% for most items.

  64. I think it’s a good idea for Sears to bring back paint. We’ll see how Sears fares with the test stores they’re trying paint out at. I know paint takes up a lot of room, but many Sears stores have excess room. I don’t know if there’s a lot of profit in paint, but people who buy paint may very well buy rollers, brushes, dropcloths, masking tape, ladders, buckets, and stuff like that. There’s probably profit in that stuff. Of course, Sears will have to train the employees on how to mix paint.

    I see that Sears will be using the Easy Living and Weatherbeater brands. These brands have been sold at Sears Hardware even after regular Sears dumped paint and I believe they are made by Sherwin Williams. Those brands (especially Weatherbeater) were quite famous back in the day, but I’m sure Sears will have to do some marketing to get those names back in people’s minds when they think of paint. I see that they may also make a Craftsman paint. I can see that working, but I don’t know if it’ll be a higher line of paint or what. This may all go back to Sears wanting to increase the value of their store brands, but it’s interesting to see Sears go back to the 1980s with a focus on store branded products.

    Dillard’s will sometimes have a large clearance event that brings in a lot of shoppers, but these usually only last a few days. This probably happens at the end of seasons. You’re right though that most retailers, including Sears, do a better job mixing the clearance items in with regular items so they don’t make the sales floor look messy.

    I’ve not personally seen a renovated Walmart, but there must be more than two in Houston since the photo I posted is of a Houston location on Hwy. 6. The look on the outside is a bit similar to what Wal-Mart had before the “Project Impact” renovations, but it still looks a bit weird to me. It probably looks better on some of the newer stores than the ones that opened around 2000 or so.

    It seems like Randall's might be finding a bit of a niche with their locations in wealthier areas and/or areas with little competition. It may be hard to grow with that strategy, but it might keep them afloat if nothing else. Obviously a store with that kind of niche won't be the cheapest, but I think their prices are more competitive than many think if one uses their online coupons and checks their sales.

    Traffic is the problem with growth. 59 through NE Houston isn’t as bad as many other Houston freeways during rush hour AFAIK, but it’s still really bad closer to downtown. I’m not sure what 90 is like since I have not been on it. I’m sure some of the regular roads are starting to become congested too.

    The Hastings liquidation is odd. It certainly seems like the liquidator is liquidating items from multiple retailers. It’s a strange thing, but at least you can enjoy seeing some real oddballs before the stores go away.

    The portable cassette players at Urban Outfitters are priced very high. The $60 one looks like a USB converter “Walkman” that can be purchased under a different name for $20-30 on Amazon. The difference is that the UO one does not have the USB functionality (at least it’s not listed that I can see). The clear one seems to be a very basic model that probably performs similar to or worse than the Craig you brought from Rite Aid. They probably found a supplier in China making clear Walkmen since I think some prisoners have to use clear Walkmen to make sure nobody is hiding things in them. I believe cassettes are still popular in prisons due to other technologies not being allowed in or whatever. Anyway, I guess it’s good that UO has two cassette players, but I would not buy either at those prices or even at 50% off.

    The Purple Rain tape reissue is interesting. I actually have that album on a pre-recorded cassette that was brought new around the time that the movie came out. It’s certainly a good album. I don’t see the need to buy another copy of it, but I would have been interested in that if I didn’t already have it.

    1. A lot of Sears stores have plenty of room where the electronics used to be at. They can even use the paint to cover up the old electronics signage, lol.

      A once a season large clearance sale makes the clearance sale seem like a big deal. Maybe instead of closing 100 stores Macy's should be converting some of those locations into clearance centers and getting rid of the large clearance sections in the main stores.

      Walmart is trying to win back customers with better customer service and cleaner stores. Right now with Target and Kmart continuing to lose sales, Walmart is trying to strengthen their position.

      A lot of areas are offering tax breaks to lure businesses at the expense of adequate infrastructure improvements to the nearby area. It is a catch 22, everybody wants more stores and restaurants but complain with the traffic they bring. Stores will follow residential growth and community leaders are always looking for growth so the cycle continues.

      I am guessing that Hastings did not carry much inventory at their distribution centers because the stores were already starting to empty out before those random items were shipped in. The stores are supposed to close by Oct 31, but I doubt they will make it that long with inventory thinning out quickly.

      Maybe the recent demand for Walkman players will lead to higher end models in the future. It would be great if Sony or another manufacturer put out a Walkman with durable parts again. These low end players are disappointing to a lot of people who know that cassettes can sound great.

  65. Part I:

    I am not sure if Kmart still sells paint. If so, I wonder if they sell Weatherbeater and Easy Living brands like Sears Hardware. Sears Hardware also sells Pratt & Lambert paint which is expensive, but high quality paint that is typically not available at big box type chains. I used some P&L Accolade exterior latex paint on some doors about 15 years ago and they're still in excellent condition with little fading and no chipping/chalking/peeling. I'd certainly consider buying P&L paint from Sears Hardware if the need arises again. I've also had some good success over the years with Valspar interior paints from Furrow's and Lowe's.

    I recently visited West Oaks Mall. The mall was actually reasonably busy during my visit including the Sears and Macy's. I don't know if the Sears had AC problems or if they've really cut back on the AC to save money, but it was quite warm in the store. Anyway, there's some lights in the escalator area of the Sears that they don't have on anymore. I think turning those on might make the store look even more fancy. There really isn't much in the electronics department anymore. They don't have any TVs out on display except for one tiny 24" or so TV. They had some Nakamichi soundbars, but that's about it. The only other things they had were a couple of small rolling carts with flash drives, CD-Rs, JVC earbuds, a few cables, DVD/Blu-Ray players, prepaid cell phone cards, and cordless phones. It's basically the same as what the Mall of the Mainland has. The rest of the electronics area has recliners and stuff like that. The signage for electronic brands Sears used to sell is still there. You're right, perhaps they can use some of their new paint to paint over that!

    I noticed in this week's Sears ad that they have a decent number of electronics in the ad, but there's a disclaimer there saying that electronics are available in select Sears and online. I suppose that only the bigger Sears will have things like TVs and cameras now and the rest will just have things like flash drives and earbuds.

    It's easy to see where the paint will go in places like the Westwood Mall Sears, but I'm not sure if stores like West Oaks and the Mall of the Mainland will get paint. If so, I'm not sure where it'll go as those stores don't have as much room. I suppose they could put paint in the old electronics department at the Mall of the Mainland store as that's right next to tools, but it would be odd to put paint in the West Oaks electronics department. Anyway, Sears has moved some housewares around on the 2nd floor of the West Oaks location. The 2nd floor of the West Oaks Sears kind of looks like a mini-Baybrook Mall Sears 2nd floor with how it is situated now.

    As for the West Oaks Macy's, I only went to the first floor, but it looks to be in much better shape than other non-A mall Macy's in Houston. I noticed that the elevator is still very retro looking though. The doors on the elevators are extremely slow. That gave me a good look at it without even going in it. The clearance areas were very obvious like they are at other Macy's.

    Macy's does have some Backstage clearance stores, but none in Houston AFAIK. I don't know if they'll consider converting some stores to that concept, but it might make sense. Some stores are in such poor repair though that I don't even think that they'd make for good clearance stores. I looked at some belts at the West Oaks store while I was there and it's easy to see why Macy's is struggling. They had some Chinese synthetic leather belts with regular prices around $50! Granted, they were marked down 40% or so and coupons might bring that down even further, but Sears has practically the same belts (they may really be the same belts with different names on them) with regular prices under $20 and Sears also has some bonded leather belts for the same price.

    1. Kmart does not have paint anymore either. The hardware sections are much different than before. A lot of items are no longer available and a few Craftsman items have taken up the vacated spaces. I guess little by little this has happened at both Sears and Kmart, but it has been very noticable in the hardware and electronic departments.

      I am surprised that the West Oaks Sears basically no longer has electronics. I purchased video games and a camera there so it is sad to see that department mostly eliminated.

      Macy's has become like Penney's to me, I may pass through to see the store but nothing really catches my eye there anymore. In the past year I have probably spent less than $100 on items at both stores combined. I may pick through some clearance or sale racks but I am not the kind of customer that will keep these places going. I really can't tell the difference between a $50 belt or a $20 belt especially when they last the same amount of time.

  66. Part II:

    Anyway, it's hard to take Macy's seriously as a higher end store when they had so many low quality belts. The regular prices were flat out embarrassing even if they never sell at regular price. I saw no reason to buy those belts at Macy's instead of Sears. At least Sears is more honest about what they sell and their pricing is more honest too.

    I'll give Walmart credit for renovating their stores even when they don't really need a refreshing, but sometimes renovations are a step back. I think the Big Kmart designs in the late 1990s were an example of a poor redesign that ended up being too boring looking compared to the competition. Perhaps this is Walmart's Big Kmart moment, but perhaps I should not judge it without seeing it in person.

    I wonder if Urban Outfitters is having success selling Walkmen at $60. If so, someone like Sony might be interested in selling an actual Walkman again if they know that there's a market for a more expensive player. The current players are certainly disappointing as you say and I'm afraid that they're making people unfamiliar with cassettes think that cassettes suck when it's really the cheap players that suck. Even a low end Sony from the early 2000s is much better than what's on the market now it seems.

    1. Macy's needs to change a lot of things to get back to their previous success. They stripped the stores they acquired of local items and brought lower quality items hoping people would not notice and keep buying. Reading the comments on the recent Macy's articles shows they have lots of issues to fix.

      It seems like bland is in these days. In the late 90's stores were going with a more colorful look (ex. Katy Mills) and Kmart stores decided on a bland look. There was not much excitement after the changes were made to Kmart stores. Kmart was my go-to retailer since I lived within walking distance of one. Walmart was several miles away so Kmart was my #1 retail destination.

      I am hoping that somebody starts making better Walkmans. If things keep going well for cassette manufacturers maybe it will happen.

  67. Part III:

    I did some thrifting recently and ended up with an equipment haul. I thought I'd never find <$10 cassette decks again, but one thrift had a $6 working ~1993 Onkyo TA-RW313 dual auto-reverse Dolby B-C HX-Pro deck and a working $7 1983 Sears Proformance (made by Sanyo) single cassette deck with Dolby B. At prices like that, I had to buy them so I did.

    The Sears deck is the single cassette version of the 1983 Proformance double cassette deck I brought a couple years ago that we both saw at the Greenspoint Mall area Goodwill. You can actually see both of them here in the 1983 Sears Christmas catalog as items 4 & 5. The catalog actually has the LXI Series variant of the single cassette deck instead of the Proformance one, but they look exactly the same except for the tape transport buttons. I'm not sure why Sears had both LXI and Proformance versions of the same deck, but I guess that's why Sears had problems establishing a popular electronics house brand. Anyway, on the next page, they have a couple of rack systems that have the actual Proformance single and double decks.

    One thing that is odd, at least according to the catalog, is that the single deck weighs more than the double deck. I may have to open them up to see if the single deck is built better than the double deck. That certainly isn't unheard of, but both decks still work like new today even though they are from 1983 like that Hitachi receiver I recently brought.

    Speaking of that 1983 Sears catalog, I'd love to find one of these 1983 Proformance CD players by Technics in the thrifts. That was the year CD players came out so that's probably Sears' first CD player. That ad is interesting. That player is also featured in this 1984 Sears commercial with the single cassette deck like I just brought right under the CD player. What an era that was for both electronics and for Sears.

    I probably would have left the Onkyo at the thrift if it was another brand because I really don't need another non-high end 1990s deck, but I've never had a piece of Onkyo gear so I was interested in trying it out. I tried playing a tape using both the Onkyo and Sears decks and it seemed to me like the Sears deck actually has better playback quality. It sounds like the Sears has a more open soundstage. That said, I have not cleaned or demagnetized either deck and the Onkyo has much dirtier heads than the Sears deck. I find it a bit odd that the thrift priced the Sears deck higher than the Onkyo, but maybe they thought the Sears deck is more vintage since it's silver. Anyway, I look forward to cleaning these up and trying them out further. I rarely see Sears electronics in thrifts so I'm glad to find this one. Another plus about the Sears is that it's pretty small so it won't take up a lot of room.

    Another thrift I went to had 2 Sony double cassette decks. One was a 1990s one and the other from the early 2000s. I have little interest in lower end Sony decks so I didn't even bother to test them. The 2000s one had a sticker on it indicating that it was a former store demo from what appeared to be Circuit City. That thrift also had a high end linear stereo Mitsubishi VHS VCR from the mid-1980s with manual audio level controls and stuff like that. I might have brought that one if it worked even though I have no interest in linear stereo VCRs (Hi-Fi stereo is much better than linear stereo and much more compatible) just because of how fancy it is, but it seemed to have both belt and electronic issues when trying it out so I passed on that.

    1. Wow talk about some good finds. Which thrift has the 2 Sony decks for sale, I would like to pick one up if they are still there.

      Thanks for sending over the retro advertisements, I wish Sears still had half of the selection that they had back in the day.

      Speaking of Circuit City, the last I heard about the new stores is that they are still looking for a site for their first store. High retail space costs are one of the reasons given that the location is not open yet. A quick glance at their website and it appears there have been no changes and no products for sale yet. Hopefully the concept will get off of the ground and the stores will open soon.

  68. There really is not much difference between what is in Macy’s, JCPenney, Sears, and Kohl’s. Macy’s may have some lines that are above what you’d find at the other stores, but for the most part it seems like they are selling the same stuff. The difference is that Sears is the only one selling stuff at reasonable regular prices. The other stores have regular prices that are probably double what they should be, but then have “sales” and coupons to bring the prices back down to (maybe) reasonable levels. Macy’s probably ends up being the most expensive, but there’s no reason to pay their prices.

    I’ve seen the same shirts sold at JCPenney, Kohl’s, and Sears with the only difference being that the Sears and Kohl’s shirts are branded as Arrow and the JCPenney ones are branded as Van Heusen (they’re both the same company). I’ve usually found Sears to be the cheapest out of the three. JCPenney does have Michael Strahan suits. That’s interesting to Giants fans. JCP also has Nike and New Balance shoes, brands that Sears no longer sells, but those can be purchased from a number of other stores as well.

    A full grain leather/solid leather belt should last longer than a bonded/coated leather belt since those only have a very thin piece of leather on them. It’s hard to say how long a synthetic leather belt will last. They could be made of a very durable material, but they could be made of a very cheap material as well. I’ve found that Stein Mart has better quality belts than Macy’s and such and also at far better prices. The fact that Macy’s can’t compete on quality with a discounter like Stein Mart shows how far they have fallen.

    I’m surprised that Sears has mostly dumped electronics at West Oaks Mall as well. That store is on the smaller side for Houston Sears, but it’s still reasonably big. I really think that Sears should sell Kenmore TVs at all locations if nothing else. They really need to work hard to establish Kenmore as an electronics brand. I was at the Mall of the Mainland Sears recently and they now have two cassette boomboxes, the RCA and a new GPX one too. They’ve organized the electronics department better now so it looks fuller even if it really isn’t.

    Thanks for the Kmart update. I wonder if they’ll sell paint now too. They should have room for it, but they may not want to have the labor costs involved in training people on how to mix paint. I think Venture may have sold only ready mix paint only, but it’s hard to remember. I remember buying a couple of really cheap gallons of paint there that I was using with a texture mix since I was going to paint over it anyway.

    I remember buying some Dutch Boy paint at the Jones Rd. & FM 1960 Kmart for a bookcase I was painting around 1994 and still have with that paint. I remember buying it late at night and I guess the paint guy was off for the day so the manager had to mix the paint in his dress shirt and tie. It ended up the right color so I guess those managers were trained to do a lot of things back then.

    I find it hard to believe that Circuit City has much of a chance if they’re struggling to find a reasonable spot for their first store, but maybe they want to make sure that their first store does really well.

    There’s a Jensen Walkman available online (in limited edition blue at Amazon) that seems to get decent reviews. It might be worth a risk if you feel like gambling with ~$20, but don’t expect Sony quality even if it’s okay.

    The two Sony double decks were at the Family Thrift on Hwy. 6 near Bear Creek. One was a very basic 1990s Dolby B only deck for ~$7 and the floor model 2000s one is I believe the same model that YouTube user vwestlife owns (which he also brought as a Circuit City floor model). I didn’t see a price on that one. It seems like an ok, but not great unit based on vwestlife’s review. That thrift has a couple of tapes that you could use to test the units if you find them.

    1. I had an idea that some department store brands were probably affiliated. Thanks for letting us know about the connections. It seems like a lot of the sale prices are still high most of the time.

      Department stores are not going to compete if they don't source higher quality materials.

      I passed through the West Oaks and Highway 6 area. The Sears store has a few areas with little to no inventory. The quick clearance of nearly the entire electronics department is really a surprise. I wonder if they are on the verge of closing the second floor. I also stopped at a few thrift stores off of FM 1960 but nothing stood out. I did manage to scare the crap out of several people including myself when I tested out a boombox without realizing the volume was turned all the way up. One of the tape decks did not work though so I left it behind.

      Speaking of Kmart, on Friday they announced the closing of a handful of stores. Yet another Texas store in Abilene is closing. For now our three somewhat nearby stores are safe.

      Maybe we will see Circuit City early next year. I will be excited to see them return.

      Next time I am out near West Oaks, I will need to stop by that Thrift. I would have probably stopped by more places but I was running out of time.

      I will check out the Jensen Walkman, but I may try another model on Ebay.

  69. Part I:

    I don’t think the second floor at the West Oaks Mall Sears is under any danger of closing because there really isn’t enough room on the first floor for appliances, housewares, and furniture. It looks like Sears renovated the mattress department some to make it look nicer ala the Baybrook Mall Sears. Still, it is surprising that they eliminated so many electronics. They really don’t have any more than what the Mall of the Mainland Sears has. It’s possible that the MotM Sears has more electronics. I didn’t see both cassette boomboxes at the West Oaks store, but maybe I missed it.

    That is sad to hear of another Kmart closing in Texas, but I’m not too surprised about it. At least it wasn’t one of the stores that is closer to the Houston area as you say, but I’m sure that’s of little consolation to Abilene area shoppers. It’s probably unlikely that I ever would have visited that store anyway, but maybe I’ll make it to the Portland/Corpus Christi, Killeen, or Lufkin stores one of these days.

    I think I told you about the Kmart music and video online store. Well, perhaps you shouldn’t try to shop there now because it’s offline. I ordered a number of CDs from there last week for the first time, which arrived just fine, but I noticed that the site was taken offline shortly after my order and has not returned since then even though it’s several days later. Odd, I wonder if I killed Kmart’s excellent media store (which was seemingly run by the third party racker Alliance Entertainment). Maybe Kmart discontinued that service a long time ago and just never took the website down and didn’t notice it until my order. Well, hopefully it’ll come back soon. I remember ordering an Audio-Technica phono cartridge from Sears only to see all A-T products get taken off the Sears website afterwards. They did come back later so maybe it’s just a matter of getting new suppliers or something.

    You’re probably better off gambling on eBay for a used brand name portable cassette player than you are going with the Jensen, but the Jensen is cheap enough that it might be worth a gamble. The reviews on the Jensen are a bit mixed too, but they are better than the other portable cassette players.

    Yes, it seems like boomboxes and other radios are always turned up to full blast at the thrifts for whatever reason! I always try to check for that before I plug in anything at the thrifts. That’s too bad that the boombox didn’t fully work. Good boomboxes are hard to find at a good price.

    1. I always though the electronics department was very bold when you come up the escalator. Now that it is mostly gone, it seems plain. I guess Sears would really need to shrink their 1st floor inventory to fit what is upstairs and close off the second floor.

      I know I mentioned about 6 Kmart stores closing, but there are 17 now that made the list on Friday. None of the affected stores on the list are Sears, they are all Kmart's.

      That is strange that they all of a sudden pulled the plug on online music sales. Maybe they will come back or maybe they are abandoning the format.

      I will keep my search out and maybe find something to settle on over the next several weeks.

  70. Part II:

    I did end up with another good thrift pickup, albeit something a bit different. I’ve been wanting to find a good quality Video8, Hi8, or most preferably a higher end Digital8 camcorder in the thrifts for several years now to serve as a backup to my 1999 Sony Video8 analog camcorder from Service Merchandise. I’ve been needing to digitize my old Video8 tapes and having a second camcorder would help with that. Unfortunately, camcorders are rare in the thrifts and the only camcorders I ever see in the thrifts are low-end VHS-C camcorders that are beat up, missing needed accessories, and are priced at $40+.

    Well, I spotted a camcorder bag at a thrift priced at $25 and decided to take a look. Inside was a 1999 Sony Digital8 DCR-TRV510. This was a high end model from Sony’s first generation of Digital8 camcorders and cost ~$1300 new. Not only was the camcorder there, but it came with the bag obviously, a charger, the manual, the remote, a serial cable for transferring still images to a computer (the camcorder predates the era where USB ports were common), two battery packs including a high capacity one, and a LaserLink adaptor (which is a totally useless but neat device that allows you to hook up a camcorder to the TV via infrared for wireless playback). I wasn’t able to fully try it out at the thrift since there weren’t any 8mm tapes, but the parts that I could try out did work fine. I obviously brought it and it works fine now that I’ve fully tested it at home. The batteries may not hold a complete charge, but they work well enough. It uses the same batteries as my other 1999 Sony so I can use that battery and charger too.

    It’s an unadvertised feature with these first gen Sony D8 camcorders, but they can playback regular analog Video8/Hi8 tapes and digitize it via FireWire output to a computer with FireWire or a DVD recorder with FireWire (which I have both). This will certainly make backing up my old tapes to a PC a lot easier since I won’t have to fool with a video capture card even though I do have those (though I could do that too if I wanted to). I may even be able to stream analog VHS footage from a VCR through the camcorder's inputs and stream it to the PC in digital, but I have not tried that yet.

    Plus, it’s a really good digital standard def. camcorder too. It has the high powered version of NightShot that Sony was forced to tone back a couple years later and excellent low light recording even without NightShot. This thing can do things that even modern expensive HD camcorders can’t do so it’s a useful tool.

    It records digital video to either Video8 or Hi8 tapes, though Hi8 is recommended. I have plenty of blank Video8 tapes and a couple of Hi8 tapes on hand which is good because although Best Buy and Wal-Mart still sell Hi8 tapes in store, they’re extremely expensive these days (Best Buy wants $65 for a 4 pack!). Amazon does have some blank tape for considerably less. I’ll certainly keep an eye out for Hi8 tapes in the thrifts now (I did pick up a blank Video8 tape from a thrift already). I did have to buy a FireWire cable so I could hook the camcorder up to my laptop and DVD recorders. Altex of all places was the cheapest place for that including online stores at $5.99 so that wasn’t bad.

    That camcorder model sells for over $150 on eBay so I think $25 was a great price especially given all the accessories that it comes with and the fact that it works with the accessories on my other camcorder and vice versa. So, anyway, there are good finds in the thrifts, but it does take some patience to find certain items. Hopefully you’ll be able to find a good cassette deck soon.

    1. That is an excellent find. I still have a low end Sony-Hi8 camcorder that works very good myself. I find the tapes from time to time at thrifts, but I don't use the camera these days. The battery does not last very long, but I have a wall charger. I converted all of my Hi8 tapes to DVD's and made flash drive copies as well a couple of years ago.

      I saw a large full VHS camcorder at a thrift once. I had one of those also many years ago.

  71. Part I:

    The West Oaks Mall Sears did indeed have an impressive looking electronics department back in the day. The dark room department look was similar to what stores like Dillard's, old Macy's, and Foley's had back in the day when they sold electronics. Oh well I guess. Hopefully Sears will reconsider and start selling some Kenmore TVs along with those recliners they have set up in the old electronics department. You'd think those two items would go together well especially during football season.

    One thing Sears should consider doing at West Oaks is fixing the lighting in the escalator area. The store used to have some nice lighting which made the store look fancier. The lighting has been turned off during my recent visits to the store. I don't know if the lighting needs work, but if not, it might be a cheap fix to spruce up the store. Was the A/C working normally during your visit to the store?

    Hopefully Sears/Kmart will find a new 3rd party supplier to offer an extensive media catalog on their website. I think they need something like that if they want to compete against other large online retailers like Amazon and Walmart. Stores like that use 3rd party rackers too to enhance their music/video offerings. The one Kmart had prior to last week from Alliance was very nice. They had a ton of CDs and records, including imported stuff and stuff that has been out of print for decades, and they also had sample music bits for many albums. I would say that the pricing was a tad higher than Amazon, but I got a SYWR bonus that I think more than made up for the price difference. I got all my CDs shipped for a single 99 cent flat rate, but a couple of the jewel cases were cracked unfortunately. No biggie I guess as long as the CDs aren't scratched. One of the CDs I ordered was a 2015 new release album and it didn't even come in a jewel case. It just came in a cardboard sleeve sort of like a record. I don't know if that's common for new release CDs, but that's disappointing if so. I feel like I'll scratch the CD if I keep taking it out and putting it back into this sleeve so I may have to find a jewel case to put it in. The record companies should stop being cheap to the people who still buy physical media and at least provide a proper case.

    That's good if the Sears closings have slowed down. I suspect that a lot of the Kmart closings are due to leases being up, but many Sears locations are owned by Sears (or the Seritage REIT if nothing else) so that would not be an issue for many Sears locations.

    1. Sears did pick a bad time to remove the West Oaks electronics department. As you mentioned football season is probably one of the busier times for tv sales. Speaking of football season congrats to your NY Giants on their victory this week.

      Kmart could make some money with used cd sales since Hastings is now out business. A few bloggers I came across had never shopped at a Hastings but ordered used CD's frequently because of their low prices.

      I have noticed a lot of the new CD releases in those flimsy sleeves. Maybe they are being pressured to cut costs or be more environmentally friendly. Apparently video game companies did not get the memo and continue to use dvd size cases for games.

      Well that list grew again on Sunday to 29 Kmart closings. Since Sears did not release a list the Business Insider has been adding stores as they find them. None of out nearby area stores were added but a lot of Tennessee stores are now on the list.

  72. Part II:

    That's good that you digitized your camcorder tapes already and did so to multiple formats since DVD-Rs can go bad after a while. I don't know why I've been slacking off on that, but I have a number of VHS and Video8 home videos that need to be digitized. The Digital8 camcorder will help with the digitizing tremendously though and has me more motivated to get things done. I'm not sure if I'll convert the tapes to DVDs (either using a DVD recorder or computer) or if I should capture the digital video on the computer and just burn it to data Blu-Ray discs as uncompressed video to ensure the highest quality. I could always then make DVDs off those files later on then if I wanted to. We'll see.

    Hi8 is/was an excellent format and produces better video quality than the Video8 XR camcorder I have. Many Hi8 camcorders even had stereo sound, but some Video8 camcorders did too. There probably isn't a great need to use those camcorders now that phones and modern camcorders can capture HD video much easier, but there could be certain low light situations where the older Hi8 camera might work better.

    I've actually seen a few full-sized VHS camcorders in the thrifts too, but they have the same problems as the VHS-C cameras I've seen in the thrifts. Most of those used NiCad batteries which only lasted 4-5 years. The lithium batteries that my Sonys use last a lot longer even if the capacity does degrade some over the years. I still have my 1987 Magnavox CCD VHS camcorder made by Panasonic, but I think the AC adapter has bad capacitors (like many Panasonic electronics from that era) so I don't have a way of powering it. It would be neat to use that again, but I really don't need a VHS camcorder to digitize my VHS recordings since a regular VCR will work just fine. I doubt I'd buy a full-sized VHS camcorder from a thrift even if the price is right unless it's a very fancy model.

    The Giants and the Saints had their rematch today and the defenses actually showed up this time. It seems like the home team always wins when these two teams play. I'm glad to get the win, but I'm not happy with the way the offense played even excluding the turnovers. Maybe the Saints and Cowboys Ds are better than I'm giving them credit for, but I feel like they should have scored more than they have so far this year. Oh well, I'll take the wins at this point in the year especially with the D playing well. As for the Saints, you have to be pretty disgusted with the close losses so far this year, but it's the same stuff I saw from the Giants plenty of times last year.

    1. I managed to get my Hi-8's converted but my VHS home movie tapes are a different story. I still have a bunch of those to take care of. One of the VHS camera I used was not very good at all and the color quality is poor, but maybe it will look better if I make a few adjustments. The second camcorder I had worked much better. I know I have one video that has the outside of Deerbrook Mall at night with the old mall entrance and the original Macy's. There is no telling what else I may find. I have not watched those old movies in forever so my memory is hazy as to what all I have on them.

      I touched the game a little bit on my last comment. Starting 0-2 for the 3rd straight year is very disappointing. It may be time for some major changes in the organization. Very few NFL coaches in this generation last 10 years and continue to have success. The organization seems to be going backwards. For example we brought back 2 players that were part of our 2006 draft class this season. They also managed to rack up 40 million in dead cap money this season and have mostly whiffed on the free agent pickups in the past 5 years. These bad moves are wasting the last productive years of a future HOF QB and hurting the chances for the team to have success when he leaves. Don't get me wrong, I am grateful for the success this team had which was a first for the organization. Times change very quickly in the NFL and you have to adapt or get left behind. I hope the team can turn it around but the odds are against us now, and that is my rant lol. Anyways once again congrats and best of luck the rest of the season.

  73. It sounds like a lot more Kmarts have been added to the latest closing list including several in this region. It looks like the Houma and New Iberia stores will close in LA. The Harlingen and Lubbock stores will close in Texas in addition to the aforementioned Abilene store. There are stores in MS, OK, NM, and AR that are scheduled to close as well. It’s a shame to hear of the closings, especially the ones in the region, but it’s hardly surprising at this point.

    Perhaps there is some money to be had with used music. I don’t know though, new CD prices have fallen a lot over the last few years to the point that it might make more sense to just buy new unless the used prices are really low. Of course, those new low CD prices might explain why retailers are not so keen on stocking them anymore unless they are guaranteed top sellers. Records are a different story obviously as there is a market for used records due to the prices and lack of availability of new records.

    You’re probably right that the record companies are trying to cut costs or be more environmentally friendly with the cardboard CD packaging compared to the jewel cases. Perhaps they know that online purchasing is big now for things like CDs and the plastic jewel cases are too prone to breaking during shipping like what happened to a couple of mine. Unfortunately, the flip side of that is that CDs are more prone to be scratched in the cardboard sleeves during normal use. Oh well I guess, we might be stuck with the cardboard sleeves from here on out.

    Early VHS camcorders used video tubes (like Panasonic’s Newvicon tube) instead of CCD or CMOS image sensors. A lot of those tube camcorders did not have the best low light sensitivity and lights tended to blur at night (which was sometimes used to create special effects before they could be done easily by computers). Also, many camcorders with newer image sensors like the CCD did not have good low light sensitivity as well. Many VHS camcorders just did not have great image quality even independent of the limitations of VHS, but some offered excellent performance. I remember some Sharp VHS camcorders in particular that had excellent low light sensitivity, but I’m sure other brands made winners and losers as well and I’m sure price made a difference as well.

    That old Deerbrook Mall footage would be very interesting to see. Who knows what else you’ll find. Maybe you’ll find some other old malls and shopping centers on tape. At least you got the Hi8 tapes because those camcorders tend to break easily and they are not easy to find especially at a good price. You should be able to find VHS VCRs in the thrifts for several more years, though I will say that the number of VCRs in the thrifts (especially good ones) has declined significantly over the last couple of years.

    I’m not an expert of the Saints or other NFC South teams, but it does seem like the Saints have spent big money on free agents that have not worked out well for the team. It’s also been many years since the Saints have had a strong defense, but perhaps things are looking up in that regard this year. I suspect that the offense would struggle as well without a quality QB like Drew Brees.
    I was never a big Sean Payton fan due to his lack of success as the Giants offensive coordinator in the early 2000s under Jim Fassel even though they went to the Super Bowl, but there’s no denying that he helped the Saints win a Super Bowl. Then again, perhaps the other coaches have caught up to his style and he has not adapted to change. The Giants fired a two time Super Bowl winning coach in Tom Coughlin so perhaps it might be time for the Saints’ GM and coach to go. Then again, I don’t think the Giants’ problems the last few years were Coughlin’s fault for the most part. It wasn’t his fault that the defense lacked talent, but the big money free agents they signed this past offseason all look like winners so far. I’m sure Coughlin would have loved to have had them on his team.

    1. Yeah the list grew again today. I woke up and the list grew from 19 to 64 stores closing. The Houma and New Iberia store closings did not surprise me. Houma just lost their Sears store and now the Kmart is going. Harlingen was the last store near the Mexico border so it makes sense to close that one as well. I have a feeling we may see more closings next week as well.

      Many of those old CD's are probably sold at a loss just to clear space. Hastings had a ton of CD's for $5 or less on clearance before they went out of business.

      I wonder if the website shutting down is coinciding with the loss of music at Kmart stores. I wonder if Kmart cut the cord and sent back all of their remaining music back. I did not see any clearance music for sale while they still had music earlier this year.

      I can't remember what camcorder models I had, but my second one was a Samsung and it was much better than the first. I am going to have to dig up my old VHS tapes and relive some old memories.

      Sean Payton was lucky to get Brees when he started in New Orleans. Without Brees he may not have made it to the 2009 season with the team. The 2009 team was the perfect combo of great free agent pickups, undrafted players, drafted players from mostly 2006-2009, and a few vets that lasted through the coaching change. They have not been able to judge free agent talent and rely too heavily on undrafted players. The Giants also had a lot of key players injured the past few seasons. The defense is off to a very good start allowing less than 20 points in each game. The offense has a lot of weapons with a healthy Victor Cruz, Odell, and Sharpe. Eli still has the ability to win games. Most of the division has started out strong this year so it will be interesting to see. Washington will probably fall to the bottom while the rest of the division fights for the top spot.

  74. There were so many Kmarts on the Texas-Mexico border that I figured that maybe Kmart was doing well with Mexican citizens who come into Texas to shop and/or bilingual Texas shoppers. Perhaps those sales aren’t as strong as I had guessed with a couple of closures along the border in the last few months. There’s still a few of them left around El Paso though I do think though. Hopefully this won’t impact the other Texas Kmarts, but I would not be surprised at all to read of more closings in the next few months.

    It’s quite possible that Kmart’s in-store music departments were racked by Alliance Entertainment. Perhaps Kmart’s agreement with Alliance lapsed and Alliance took their CDs back and are selling them elsewhere now. It’s hard to say. That may also explain why the website went away also. Hopefully Kmart will get a new supplier even if it’s just for online or in-store purchases. I’m not too optimistic about them ever coming back in-store, but perhaps Sears can launch a new music store online with another supplier. I know that Sears tried an online music streaming/purchase website called Alphaline a few years ago, but I guess that was a failure as it didn’t last long.

    There’s some risk with buying any physical media used, but I would be leery of spending any significant amount of money on used CDs unless I could inspect the CDs first to make sure they aren’t too scratched. As we all know, scratches can make a used game, movie, or music disc useless. I once purchased a used copy of Madden from Gamestop that was too scratched to play, but I was able to fix it by polishing the disc with baking soda toothpaste. Still, some discs are just too scratched to even be restored.

    I’m not too familiar with Samsung’s camcorders aside from the recent HD camcorders. Those supposedly aren’t very good compared to Sony and Canon camcorders, but maybe they made good quality VHS camcorders back in the day. I’m sure you’ll enjoy watching those VHS tapes and finding things that you’ve long forgotten about.

    You’re right, Sean Payton certainly wasn’t winning a Super Bowl with Aaron Brooks under center. Then again, I’m not sure anyone could win under those circumstances! It’s amazing how a bad draft or two (or a few good ones) can turn a roster around. The Giants had some bad drafts, partially caused by injuries, and that really set them back for a few years. They’ve had some good drafts recently though and things are looking up especially with the free agent signings looking good.

    One former Saint from the 2009 team that has really been playing well for the Giants this year is LB Jonathan Casillas. I think everyone, including myself, assumed that he’d just be a backup and special teams player when he signed with the team last year, but he’s played very well this year and his teammates named him the sole permanent team captain on defense. That’s not bad for a lowly paid player on a defense with a lot of stars. I’m not sure why you guys let him go (he also won a ring with New England after he left the Saints), but I’m glad that he’s on the Giants now.

    The Eagles are off to a good start, but they’ve played some pretty lousy competition. Hopefully the Giants can get ahead of them and the other NFC East teams, but the Giants have a tough stretch of games coming up soon. There’s a lot of talent on the Giants’ offense, but they have not been executing consistently. They might be one of the top teams in the NFL if the defense can keep playing like they are and if the offense can get going as you’d expect with a good QB and three highly talented WRs, but we’ll see.

    1. I forgot about the McAllen Kmart, that is the last one left in deep South Texas. El Paso lost 2 or 3 stores recently so not many are left there either. Another store of interest in the list is one of the last 2 Super Kmarts. Warren Ohio will be the last Super Kmart standing but for how much longer.

      I think we may see Kmart cd's showing up at Big Lots since they were pulled from the stores without going on clearance.

      I have bought used CD's and DVD's from Ebay, but I usually ask for a good photo of the disc to make sure it is not scratched. I have not had any issues so far. I mostly buy games though.

      The Samsung camera was a good value at the time and had most of the same features as the Sony models. The only thing it did not have was image stabilization which was only on the most expensive cameras of that era.

      The Giants are not far removed from some of their most successful seasons. It will be easier to fix the team than it would be to fix the Browns or Rams. The Giants still have players who know how to win.

      Having good receivers is vital in todays NFL. The rules mostly favor them so cornerbacks can't be too aggressive or they will get flagged. Good QB's are hard to come by as well, look at some of the teams who have gone through multiple QB's without any success.

      The Saints tried to find cheaper new talent to replace players who would cost more than they could pay especially with the expensive offensive lineman and Brees contracts at that time. After the 2011 season they started losing a lot of defensive players that went on to have success in other places. Their biggest recent mistake was letting Malcolm Jenkins leave and then overpaying for Jarius Byrd. Darren Sproles was also traded away that year for next to nothing to clear cap space. Castillas could have probably been given a chance to start in 2010 if he had not been injured. The Saints LB core was strong but the loss of Scott Fujita in 2010 could have opened up a spot for him.

  75. The number of Texas Kmarts is depleting quickly. I guess there’s probably less than ten left in the whole state. Hopefully the remaining ones will stay around for a while, but I don’t think there’s much reason to be optimistic about that. I wonder if Kmart has any distribution centers in this region or if they’re all combined with Sears distribution at this point. If not, I wonder if Kmart would consider closing some distribution centers down with all the store losses. It’s got to be expensive to ship items out to some of the far reaching Kmarts where there is only one location within a hundred miles or more.

    It’s possible that Kmart’s CD inventory will go to a closeout/liquidation store. I’m not sure. I think it’s also possible that the third party racker mailed them back to their warehouse and will try to sell them to other retailers the racker servers whether it be online or in-store. Walmart, Best Buy, and Amazon all use rackers to some extent so there’s plenty of chances for those to be resold I think. If nothing else, the racker may have a deal to get refunds from the record company for unsold items. I believe books, which are also generally sold through third party rackers, work that way as well.

    My Sony Video8 camcorder does not have image stabilization either. That and stereo sound are the only things separating it from being a good camcorder to a really good camcorder. The TRV510 Digital8 camcorder does have electronic image stabilization though. I have not played around with that feature much to see how well it works. One advantage to the big, bulky full-sized VHS camcorders and the older compact tape-based camcorders like VHS-C and Video8 are that they are more stable when being held (or rested on the shoulder in the case of VHS cameras) compared to today’s cell phones or smaller regular camcorders.

    The Giants have quality leadership and football personnel which separates them from the Browns and Rams of the NFL. It’s hard to say where the Saints fall on that spectrum. They’ve had some success so they’re definitely a step above the Browns and such, but they’ve also had a lot of lean years. Of course, the Giants have had terrible stretches too (the 1970s come to mind) so it hasn’t always been good for them either. Hopefully Eli and Brees will be able to play at a high level for several more years because both franchises could be in a world of pain if/when they have to find new QBs.

    It seems like the Saints are always in “cap hell.” The Giants were like that for a few years too. It just seems like teams that win the Super Bowl aside from the Patriots overestimate their methods and then find themselves being less competitive. One of the Giants’ problems was signing players from the championship teams to contracts that were too rich or too long. It seems like they’ve learned their lesson and this past offseason was their first chance to spend money again.

    The Giants have invested heavily in cornerbacks so we’ll see how that goes. DRC and Jenkins are both playing under rich free agent contracts and Eli Apple was a high first round draft pick. They also have a number of good and potentially good WRs too. I’m sure the quality CBs practicing against quality WRs makes each group better.

    1. I stopped by the Lufkin Kmart this past weekend and the store had a fair amount of business. One thing I made sure to look at was the paint selection. They have a variety of spray paint, but that was all I found. The Kmart has a much smaller tool selection than the Sears across the street, but now electronics are mostly gone from the Sears. I am not sure if that was planned to keep business up at both stores, but the Kmart is in better shape than the Sears store with a much larger selection in nearly every other department besides tools and appliances.

      I wonder what will happen to the leftover Hastings stock once they close. There is only about a month left but most stores still have a large amount of CD's and DVD's left. The prices were slashed again this past weekend to 60-80% off with some DVD's going for as low as 49 cents.

      The Saints have had much more success since Tom Benson bought the team in the 80's. Under the previous ownership they were not even close to the playoffs in nearly 20 years. Sadly one of the best linebacker cores in the history of the NFL was wasted by a mediocre offense and 4 playoff appearances did not result in a single playoff win.

      Ownership has taken chances with big name coaches and players with no results to show for it until recently. A high number of unrestricted free agents and late round draft picks play for the team now, but as good as some of those individual results have been the wins have not happened.

      A team or two seems to get lucky every year in the quarterback search. This year is appears to be Dallas and Philly. There are only 15-20 good quarterbacks playing in the league at any given time and some teams go through quarterbacks like crazy every year. Once you get a good one priority #1 should be to build a strong o-line then build the rest of the team.

  76. I am a little surprised to hear that the Lufkin Kmart is in better shape than the Lufkin Mall Sears. Usually the Sears stores are in better shape than the Kmarts. This is especially true when you get a Kmart as old as the Lufkin one. Then again, the Lufkin Sears is pretty small whereas the Kmart is a pretty typically sized Kmart. Hopefully the Lufkin Kmart will continue to do well. It’s a bit surprising that it does as well as it does considering that Target and Wal-Mart (not to mention other retailers and Sears) are located quite close to the Kmart.

    I recently drove by the Gulfgate shopping center on my way to the South Loop and I noticed that a Best Buy Outlet store has opened in the old Staples. I’ve never seen a Best Buy Outlet store and I don’t even know what it is like. I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to visit it anytime soon, but it might be an interesting visit if you’re ever in the area. I have not been to the Gulfgate shopping center since 2005 I do believe.

    It’s hard to say what will happen to the Hastings CDs and DVDs. I’m sure people will buy them once they get priced cheaply enough, but there probably will be some left overs. Perhaps they’ll get destroyed, donated to thrifts/libraries, mailed back to the publishers, or something like that. I don’t know if someone like Big Lots would be interested in a mixed bag of CDs that couldn’t sell for even 50 cents.

    The Saints have had a number of mediocre years even under Tom Benson. The Saints went many years between Archie Manning and Drew Brees where they had mostly mediocre (or worse) quarterbacks. Aaron Brooks, David Wilson, Wade Wilson, and Bobby Hebert were probably the best QBs during that stretch. That’s pretty sad. The Giants had a similar run of bad QBs in the 1970s and then again in the 1990s. The Giants were able to get Kerry Collins cheaply, who had last played with the Saints before the Giants, and he was able to turn things around for himself and the team before Eli Manning took things to the next level (I’m not counting the short-lived Kurt Warner era with the Giants).

    The Saints did have awesome LBs in the late 1980s. The Giants also had an awesome set of LBs at that time with a couple of Hall of Famers as well. I think it would be a good debate as to which team had the better LBs, but the Giants won a couple of Super Bowls and the Saints really didn’t do anything back then due to the terrible offense and being in a tough division with the 49ers and Rams. Just think, you guys could have had Lawrence Taylor if you hadn’t drafted George Rogers right before him in the 1981 draft! I should probably thank you guys for that draft flub! Rogers was pretty good, but he was no LT for sure. I liked Jim Mora as the Saints coach. He might be the best coach the Saints have had, but there’s no way he was winning anything with that offense.

    Wentz and Prescott have had success so far (unfortunately for the Giants), but I would not anoint them as being great NFL quarterbacks yet. They’ve been able to win some games with dink and dunk type offenses as far as I can tell. I’m not sure why the defenses aren’t gearing up more to stop that, but they will later on this year or next year. Wentz does have some potential to be a good QB though I think. I think the biggest limitation on that offense isn’t Wentz, but the low quality receivers instead. Of course, you guys know how good Sproles can be so he makes that offense relevant as well.

    I agree about having a good QB and O-line as the core of the team. I think a strong D-line is important as well. The Giants won a couple of Super Bowls recently with that formula (along with some good WRs) and the Saints won one as well. The Giants have some good O-linemen that were chosen with high draft picks, but I’m not sure if they still have enough on the O-line to protect Eli enough and to create a strong running game with non-star RBs.

    1. The Lufkin Kmart has had some small improvements in the past few years. The store is much cleaner and organized than before as well. One thing though is that the store had not received a lot of the new signage I have seen at the South Louisiana stores though. Lufkin is the main retail hub of that section of Texas so the stores there stay mostly busy. Nacogdoches has some retail also, but Lufkin has many of the destination big box stores such as Best Buy and Target. South Lufkin has a very healthy retail, entertainment, and restaurant selection that you need to travel 90 minutes away or more to find elsewhere.

      I wonder if the Best Buy Outlet is like a Sears Outlet with a ton of appliances. Maybe I will check it out someday.

      I will probably make it back to Hastings in the next week and a half. The last time I was at the Conroe location they were advertising their store closing by mid October. I will let you know what I find.

      Maybe the music and movies will pop up at a future store closing sale like the Blockbuster items did at this sale.

      A lot of people forgot about Kurt Warner and he almost won another championship towards the end of his career. Jake Delhomme was another QB the Saints had early in his career but stuck with Aaron Brooks. Then he went to the division rival Panthers and carved the Saints up several times later.

      There were a ton of blunders in the Saints draft choices. LT was a huge miss and would have been nearly unstoppable with the later 80's LB's together on the same team

      Mora was in the news this week with another funny soundbite about the 0-3 start to the Saints season. He is currently tied with Payton for the most wins in franchise history at 93. With the way things are going they might still be tied when we have our week 5 bye.

      The lack of good tape on these rookies also helps them do better. A lot of QB's these days come into the league and have success early then fizzle out. The recent exceptions being Newton, Wilson, and Luck. Another thing about this season are the injuries to key players.
      It seems like every year these numbers continue to grow. The NFL and players union need to add more practices back to the contract so the players will be more conditioned to play.

      You are right, a good D-line makes it easier for the players to cover receivers and force QB's into bad throws. It also allows the linebackers to tackle running backs before they can hit the gaps and sprint ahead. If linebackers are dealing with O-lineman pushing through it is going to be a long day for them.

      It looks like the Giants are modeling their current team in a similar mold as the recent Superbowl teams, but with the ability to use a no-huddle offense in certain situations. The NFC East might wind up being a stronger division than I anticipated with 3 teams having a strong start to the year.

  77. You are probably right that the Best Buy Outlet probably has some open box appliances like Sears Outlet. They probably also have some demo model A/V, computer, and camera gear. They may also have some returned A/V gear as well.

    It's good to see that the Lufkin Kmart can hold it's own against other retailers. The Killeen Kmart has an advantage in that it isn't really near other retailers and it's by the military base so there may be a lot of families living in the area who might be from other parts of the country where Kmarts are more prevalent.

    It's good the hear that the Lufkin Kmart is in better condition now. Hopefully that is a good sign that the store will stick around, but other stores got some renovations and then closed. You would have guessed that the Lufkin Kmart would have gotten some new interior signage with the other improvements, but I guess not. Is the Walkman woman still standing there?

    Here are some photos of a renovated Kmart concept store near Chicago. There are some obvious department signage differences here than at other Kmarts. All in all, it looks like something from the 1990s, but I guess that's still an upgrade compared to typical Kmart standards. I don't think it's enough to make the stores look modern, but it's progress. We'll see if that concept gets expanded. The expansion of fresh foods is interesting. I've also heard that Kmart is adding paint departments back to at least some locations.

    I forgot that Jake Delhomme was a backup on the Saints for a while. Wow, that was a mistake letting him go ala it was a mistake for the Chargers to get rid of Drew Brees. They could have drafted a non-QB in 2004 and been in better shape. It's interesting that the Saints are playing San Diego as I type this.

    It's funny how Jim Mora went from a team with a good defense and no offense in New Orleans to a team with a terrible defense and a good offense with the Colts. He never could get the talent he needed on both sides of the ball, but he was a good coach that sadly will only be remembered for "Playoffs?!" and other rants.

    It's interesting how the NFC South, a division usually known for lousy QBs, has become one of the best divisions for QB play. Matt Ryan right now is looking like an MVP candidate. Of course, Atlanta does fade in the 2nd half of the season sometimes so we'll see.

    I still think the Giants can be the class of the NFC East, but players like Odell Beckham need to start focusing on winning. It's easy to see the difference between a player who has won something, like Victor Cruz since he's come back, and a player who has only been on losing teams like Beckham. They have some tough tests ahead the next two weeks with the Vikings and Packers. I'm definitely expecting a loss to the Vikings, but maybe they can beat the Packers.

    I've seen a lot of good audio equipment in the thrifts lately, but I have not brought anything. One thrift had a very nice early 1990s Radio Shack Optimus receiver, but they wanted $50 for it so I didn't even bother looking at it too hard. I also saw a vintage made in Belgium Philips CD player from probably 1988, but it was missing a power plug. That can be replaced pretty easily, but I didn't have a way to test it so I passed. I saw a couple of basic cassette decks, but nothing that was worth bringing home given the prices. I did pick up a few 2000s era Sony HF cassettes and an early 1990s BASF Ferro Extra I cassette. That's the first sealed BASF audio tape I've seen in the thrifts so I brought that even though it's just a Saehan Korean made tape and not a "real" BASF. I also picked up an interesting prerecorded audio tape that has a bunch of 1970s and 1980s TV theme songs on it performed by a symphony. That should be good for a laugh.

    1. The electronics department in the Lufkin Kmart is still mostly the same as a few months ago. The television wall is smaller but the presentation is much better than before. The Lake Charles and a few other stores have a similar setup now. The only new sign is one advertising the Kenmore TV's. Kileen is one of the busiest Kmart stores I have been to in a while. Elmwood in New Orleans would have to be #1.

      I wonder how much Kmart is going to invest in the fresh food concept. Target has been struggling with their markets which look very similar to what Kmart has in their new concept store. Suppliers are probably going to be leery of Kmart since they caused their Super K era grocery supplier to go bankrupt.

      Looking back at the Saints QB's they had very few stable QB's over the years. The franchise was mostly a mess until around 2000 when things started to finally click.

      Thankfully the game this week worked out in our favor. Losing to Atlanta on Monday night was embarrassing, we usually beat them. Matt Ryan is an average QB, Julio Jones and the ground game are what is winning games for Atlanta. If you take either one away they will fall apart. Their defense is ranked slightly above ours so any offensive struggles will hurt them. We will know this week if they can win in Denver if they are for real or not. But the NFC South has a future hall of fame QB with Brees, then last years MVP Newton, a solid second year QB Winston, and Ryan.

      Odell is becoming more famous for the kicking net incident than his play this season. The good news for him is that I read an article that says the refs are going to pay more attention to what the defenses are saying to him to get him fired up. The NFL has been going overboard with penalties this year too so it has been tough for Odell. If the Eagles take a loss this week, the division will be very close.

      The tape with the TV theme songs sounds comical. Thankfully it was not that quartet from the TV show Scrubs singing TV theme songs. It has been close to a month since I visited a thrift. The only off days I had for shopping, I spent at Hastings.

  78. I heard an ad on the radio for the Best Buy clearance store. I could not tell for sure, but it sounds like it might be a temporary store set up until sometime towards the end of the month (I forgot the date they mentioned). Perhaps it is a permanent store and the special sale they are having is limited. I’m not sure, but I would check it out soon if you want to see it. Anyway, it does sound like they have appliances, TVs, computers, and stuff like that.

    You make a good point about Kmart’s fresh foods and Target’s lack of success with that segment. I think Target’s problem is that they charge way too much for fresh food items at their non-Super Target locations (I can’t really speak for Super Targets since it’s been years since I’ve been in one at this point). They’re usually more expensive than any other grocery store. They may get some sales from people who are looking to make just one shopping stop, but I think most people know to get their groceries from elsewhere. Hopefully Kmart’s pricing is more reasonable, but it might be hard to get competitive pricing from suppliers with such few stores.

    You make a good point about Kmart having trouble finding suppliers. It’s not just a problem with them having failed past experiments, but they are also having trouble with suppliers who fear that Sears might go bankrupt soon. In fact, there are reports now that Sears is fielding offers on selling the Craftsman name to Stanley Black & Decker and other tool companies. Obviously that sale would inject a lot of cash into a company that seemingly needs it, but selling the Craftsman name might take away one of the few bright spots for the company. We’ll see, but they may have to do something to stay alive.

    Odell Beckham has certainly become an embarrassment for the team. He has to learn to deal with what the opposing players are saying and doing to him. I think it’s known around the league now that Beckham will get off his game if you say certain things to him. He just has to learn to deal with that like all other professional athletes. Hopefully the league will stop allowing players to taunt him against the rules if that’s the case, but Beckham has to get his head right too.

    I think the Giants can still do well in the division even with the recent losses. The offense is certainly capable of playing a lot better than they have, but they need to stop making boneheaded mistakes and Eli has to get better timing and better touch. The Vikings may be the best team in the NFC so a loss to them at this point isn’t too concerning, but they need to beat the teams they have coming up.

    I wonder if the Giants are a pretty popular team in LA/MS these days with Beckham and Eli on the team. I'd imagine that they'd be one of the more popular teams after the Saints and Cowboys.

    I think your scouting assessment of Atlanta is pretty spot on. They’re good, but teams can gameplan to beat them. The Saints got a break playing a team in the Chargers that’s an even bigger choke artist than them. The Saints can still make some noise in the division if the defense can step it up a little bit. Carolina is a team that tends to get stronger as the season goes on so they need to gain ground on them while they’re down early and hopefully for you guys Atlanta will fade as the season goes on.

    I have not picked up much in the thrifts recently. I forgot to mention in my previous post that I picked up a sealed 1990 Giants Super Bowl championship commemorative VHS video. I'm not sure if I'll open it or not, but it'll be a good keepsake either way.

    1. Target charges the same price for items at their Super Target stores for the most part. The prices are usually higher than a normal grocery on items like fresh beef, milk, ice cream, and several other items. If you shop a lot at Target you can take advantage of deals, but it can be a hassle sometimes. Some of the deals require you to buy several items to get a measly $5 gift card.

      I would hate to see Sears sell off their Craftsman brand. They need the cash infusion, but it is their most popular brand. A company like Black and Decker would be able to distribute the Craftsman tools to all of the competition and further hurt Sears. I wonder if filing for bankruptcy instead of selling Craftsman would be a better move. Sears has too much debt and could use the bankruptcy filing to restructure debt and close unprofitable stores that they lease.

      I still have faith in OBJ he has been a steady contributor to the Giants and he has the potential to be one of the greats.

      The Vikings are for real, their defense is carrying the team. With their QB and #1 running back injured, they are still finding ways to win. I still can't believe they traded away a first round pick for Bradford, but he is doing ok for now. They were only a field goal away from beating Seattle last year in the playoffs.

      Eli and Brees have both been on recent teams with poor defenses so they will make game changing mistakes from time to time. It happened to us against Atlanta most recently. Even in San Diego he had 2 int's, but the collapse by San Diego helped us win.

      Peyton and Eli are popular in Louisiana, but Archie is the most beloved Manning. When the Manning brothers went to the Superbowl, most people there rooted for them to win. Peyton and Eli hold a Summer football camp every year in New Orleans, which is very popular. ODB is an LSU favorite, but I don't hear too much about him from my New Orleans friends.

      Altlanta's offensive coordinator was with the Texans from 2006-2009, but the team did not have any success until 2011. He was also with Washington from 2010-2013 with a playoff appearance in 2012. Our division plays some of the strongest defenses in the NFL so it will be tough to win. Atlanta has Denver and Seattle on the road over the next two weeks. I expect Carolina to beat the Bucs this week and hopefully we can beat Carolina in week 6 at home. Last year both losses to Carolina were by one score so maybe we will get them this time.

      I would keep the VHS tape sealed, it could be worth some money. If anything, maybe a disgruntled Bills fan would pay to make it disappear.

  79. Part I:

    It is hard to say whether it would be better for Sears to declare bankruptcy or to sell off all assets in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy. Sears may have to dump assets during bankruptcy so I'm not sure if they can avoid dumping valuable brands/assets unless they can significantly increase business. People still value Craftsman tools so them being available everywhere will certainly hurt Sears and Kmart's sales numbers. Perhaps Sears could negotiate exclusive sales rights (aside from Ace which already sells Craftsman) for a number of years. Maybe they could sell the international rights to the Craftsman name so someone like Stanley can use the Craftsman name to sell tools in China while Sears still has the rights to the name in the US.

    Plus, who knows what the new owners will do to the quality of the product. I can't say that I'm a tool expert, but I know that Stanley once had a good reputation, but they are now considered to be a Wal-Mart grade tool maker (probably because Stanley makes tools for sale at Wal-Mart). I know that Craftsman may not have the same reputation that they once had, but they still have a good reputation and compete with Lowe's Kobalt Tools and Home Depot's Husky tools.

    I was recently at the Willowbrook Mall Sears and noticed some changes there. They already have Christmas stuff, which isn't too much of a surprise I guess, but they are in a slightly different spot this year. This year they are where the lawn equipment normally is/was instead of being across from the sporting goods. It's only a move of a few feet, but perhaps this is being done in preparation for paint coming in sometime soon.

    Also, some changes have been made to the electronics area space. They took down the glassed in half wall from the former electronics space that now has vacuums and stuff in it. In addition to vacuums, that space now also has luggage. Luggage used to be upstairs. I'm not sure what has changed upstairs since I didn't go there, but I'd imagine that there's more furniture up there. Hopefully I can check that out soon on a future visit. Anyway, the actual electronics department still has the glassed in half wall and has not been shrunk any further, but at least they've opened up some of the non-electronic space now.

    Super Target's grocery departments must be really uncompetitive then. No wonder they have not bothered to try to expand Super Targets to NW Houston. Target does have 5% off for their cardholders and the gift card promotions as you say, but I think they're still more expensive for groceries than anyone else even with with those discounts. It's hard to remember for sure, but it seems like Super Targets are even less competitive on pricing than Super Kmarts when they were here.

    1. Sears stores are changing little by little. Another smaller store that I visited earlier in the year has gotten rid of the majority of their electronics. In the former electronics space, they have vacuums and a large outdoor canopy with chairs set up.

      Maybe Sears will still have a hand in the Craftsman brand if they sell it off, but it will be a big loss when they sell the brand off.

      Their sale prices can be competitive on things like soda and cereal, but the other grocers have much better sales. Some of the sales Target has are confusing in that you need to pair two items together from different aisles to get a deal. Other times with things like juices, they will put certain flavors on sale and leave one or two flavors out of the sale for some reason.

  80. Part II:

    I did not like the Bradford trade (and still don't since the Eagles got a lot from that), but I guess they felt that they needed to go for it this year. Plus, it's not like Bridgewater is a superstar yet so maybe Bradford will end up being the better QB long term for them. They could end up riding their defense to a deep playoff run ala Denver last year.

    I don't think any of the NFC teams have a complete package this year aside from Seattle maybe if they can get their O-line to play better. The Giants may actually have the best talent on both offense and defense, but the offense has to play better. I wasn't too high on the Giants chances at the start of the year and they're only .500 now, but I think the potential is there for them to make a deep run this year if the offense can get their heads screwed on straight.

    I'm not sure if Carolina beating the Bucs is a sure thing without Cam, but they have a solid backup. We'll see. Brees and the O will have to put up a ton of points and they'll have to take advantage of their homefield advantage as much as possible, but if they can do that, I think the Saints have a shot at things. Jim Mora might be right to say that people shouldn't give up on them, but it's going to be hard with that defense.

    I'm sure that Bills fans would like for Scott Norwood to kick this VHS tape wide right, but I'll probably keep it sealed. The Giants have won some of the most exciting Super Bowls, but I still say that Super Bowl XXV was the most exciting one even if XLII was perhaps the most special one. I still get chills whenever I see replays of the Norwood kick and am afraid that he might actually make it on one of those replays! Bill Belichick gets a lot of credit for his defensive gameplan for that game, but it was really the offensive gameplan and execution that won that game for the Giants. They made every play that they needed to make which is remarkable considering backup QB Jeff Hostetler was playing. Mark Ingram Sr.'s 3rd & 13 catch and run for a 1st down on an eventual long TD series may be the most remarkable Giants' Super Bowl catch including the Tyree and Manningham receptions even though it never gets the credit that it deserves.

    1. The Vikings are stacking up their team to win now. So far, they have beaten everyone on their schedule. I give them credit for having a solid backup plan for getting past their injuries. The Eagles almost gave up a king's ransom to get Mariota last year. A published report had them giving away multiple picks and several players to get that pick. The Eagles lost a lot of picks this year to move up in the draft.

      Seattle is really good, but as you mentioned the O-line is an issue. They are finally using Jimmy Graham correctly and they picked up CJ Spiller so they look stacked for now. Dallas is close as well, with a good offense and decent defense. Dallas just does not have receiver depth, they have to rely on the running backs to keep them going.

      The Saints have put 13 players on injured reserve, that were projected to have played on the final 53 man roster. Most of those players are on the defensive side of the ball. I know we can score on Carolina, last year we put 38 points on them with Josh Norman still on the team. Watching last weeks Monday night game was painful, both teams were playing to lose it seemed. Tampa had the edge, but the kicker missed a couple of field goals. Then Carolina turned the ball over a couple of times and their kicker missed as well.

      I need to go back a re-watch a lot of the older Superbowl games. There have been a lot of good games that come down to a drive or two that seal the deal. The most disappointing Superbowl has to be the Seattle vs. Denver game where the game was pretty much over by the 1st half.

  81. Part I:

    One new thing about the Willowbrook Mall Sears that I forgot to note in my previous post is that the Sears Portrait Studio has reopened. I wasn't expecting to see that operating again, but it was and they had customers in there during my visit. These have not reopened at all Sears though as the Mall of the Mainland Sears still has not reopened their Portrait Studio.

    Stanley Black & Decker purchased another tool brand so maybe they won't go after Craftsman now. That's good (I guess), but there are other companies that may make an aggressive offer for Craftsman. We'll see what happens.

    I've heard from some people that Target carries some flavors of food items that other stores do not carry. Perhaps that gives them one unique edge, but as you say, the pricing on flavors aren't always consistent. I've shopped at Target much, much more frequently than Wal-Mart this year (I have not been to a Wal-Mart since January). This is a bit of a reversal from the past few years. That said, I don't think I've purchased a single grocery item from Target aside from a pack of gum.

    I was recently at the Greenspoint area Fry's. It looks like they are building some new stores next to the Fry's to bridge the gap between them and The Dump. Fry's is starting to look a bit shabby on the outside. They should get some of the masonry on the outside of the store fixed up. As for the inside of the store, it's pretty much business as usual. Things look fine, but they hardly have any CDs anymore. Their CD selection isn't much different now than what Kmarts had before they got rid of the CDs. They probably have more records than CDs now. The old CD racks have been partially replaced by perfumes. The perfumes take up more rack space than the CDs.

    1. I wonder what company runs the Sears portrait studio now. It is good that they were able to get that one open. Maybe more have or will reopen soon.

      Not picking up Craftsman may come back to hurt Stanley. If another international company picks them up and distributes the tools globally it could really hurt Stanley. I am sure Sears is probably looking for a buyer ASAP with their current financial situation.

      Candy variations is one thing I have noticed at Target. Certain brands such as M&M and Hershey carry certain seasonal flavors just for Target. Walmart seems to be trying better to keep their stores in better condition. The receipt check they have now at some Walmart stores is annoying and crowds the exits. Certain stores are still not taken care of as well as others.

      It has been close to a year since I last went to a Fry's. I have not needed much from them since I started going to Micro Center. It sounds like the management at Fry's needs to spruce up the store.

  82. Part II:

    I kind of wish that Chip Kelly and the Eagles got Mariota last year instead of Wentz this year, but oh well. We'll see. The Cowboys defensive coordinator has done a masterful job getting good performances in recent years out of a very mediocre defense in terms of talent. Their run heavy offense and good O-line helps the defense though. I think a good defense, especially a defense that's good at stopping the run and TEs, will give the Cowboys fits unless they play better with their downfield passing game than what they've shown so far.

    Drew Brees can carve up just about any defense, especially in the Superdome, but it's unfair to ask him to get TDs on practically every drive. The Saints would be a playoff team if they could just get average defensive performances, but that has eluded them in recent years.

    It's disappointing that the Giants are in last place right now, but I still think they can turn things around. They must get better production from the LT though. Flowers has been terrible so far and the team should consider benching him. Eli has to stop feeling pressure that isn't there too and stop throwing those hurried floaters. The Giants' secondary is totally depleted right now with injuries, but hopefully the defense can play well enough in front of the DBs to cover up for now.

    That Seahawks win wasn't the most entertaining Super Bowl ever, but I appreciated seeing a no doubter championship performance for once. The Giants' NFC Championship Games have been even more memorable than their memorable Super Bowl wins IMO. The 1990 and 2011 NFCC games were almost clones of one another against the 49ers in Candlestick where they won on game winning FGs in both games. In fact, the last two Giants NFCC games were won with FGs in OT on the road. Brett Favre probably still has nightmares about those INTs he threw in the NFCC games against the Giants and Saints.

    I have not brought anything from the thrifts lately, but I did see something very interesting that I almost brought. It was a late 1970s Montgomery Ward turntable that worked for $10. Although it looked nice, it was a very basic unit with a diamond stylus. As much as I'd like a vintage piece of Wards audio equipment, I really had no use for something that low-end. I'm sure someone snapped that one up though, turntables are never priced that cheaply in the thrifts. I also saw a couple of used Scotch audio cassettes with Kmart/Kresge price tags on them dated from 1971. I'm not sure why I didn't buy those since they'd be great for the collection, but I didn't. I doubt those will sell fast so I might be able to pick them up next week if I change my mind.

    1. The NFC East is finally getting some recognition this year. All teams have good records and most of the teams are on the rise. The NFC West has been the division to beat, but their strength outside of Seattle is diminishing. The Rams and Cardinals have been up and down. The 49er's are a mess so they are not much of a factor.

      This year the lack of a run game is hurting both Brees and the defense. He is still playing at an elite level currently leading the league in yards per game.

      Sounds like the Giants need to make a change at LT. We had that same issue in 2013 and a change was made late in the season. Our replacement LT is now one of the best in the league, Terron Armstead.

      Those close games can be a stressful experience. Sadly no lead is safe in the NFL these days. This past week we blew a 21 point lead and Carolina caught up late in the game to tie the score at 38 points. We were able to pull off the win with a successful long field goal close to the end of regulation.

      I have not been to a thrift in a few weeks. I went back to Hastings this week. They are in the last 8 days as of today. Used CD's are 10 cents, most comics, used books, and movies are 90% off, and their rental movies are discounted heavily. Everything else is 70% off and they still have some good items left. Less than half of the store has products so it is getting empty fast.

  83. There was an operator listed for the Willowbrook Mall Sears Portrait Studio, at least I think so, but I cannot remember the name. I'll try to see if I can figure it out on my next visit to the store. I can't find any information about the new studios online.

    The Craftsman name will likely be a big hit internationally if the right company picks it up so perhaps it was a mistake for Stanley Black & Decker to not pick it up (they still could I guess). If Sears does sell the name, hopefully it'll be for international markets only or someone who will give Sears stores some sort of break over other competitors.

    Is Walmart bringing back the receipt checkers at some locations? I know many hate those checkpoints. They don't bother me as much as they do for some people, but I can see it being a problem with the lines as you say. This can be a problem at Sam's Club and Costco.

    Speaking of Walmart, they may be the only B&M retailer that still sells cassettes in the future if the rumors I'm hearing are correct. Maxell is releasing a special edition 50th anniversary UD cassette in Japan (made with Korean UR grade tape). Based on that news, some people e-mailed Maxell USA to see if they'll be sold here. Not only was the answer to that a no, but apparently Maxell USA is telling people that they are getting out of tape sales (presumably audio and video). Well, that's terrible news since the Maxell cassettes are sold at many stores and are of good quality. It's possible that Maxell's Indonesian supplier (Panggung) has stopped making tape, as they were rumored to be doing a couple of years ago, and so they can't get quality tapes made at a reasonable price. Who knows.

    The good news is that National Audio Company out of Springfield, MO, is still making cassettes for sale online and their rumored plans to make a high quality Type I tape in-house (instead of buying Korean Saehan tape) are still on track. I'm not sure what the future holds for VHS blank tapes if there is even a future. Hopefully retailers will be able to find new suppliers if the demand for tape is still there (which there seemingly still is given the number of retailers that still sell them). But, anyway, 2016 has not been kind to tape-based A/V formats with the best/only available cassettes, VCRs, and cassette decks being discontinued.

    New blank tape may become hard to find, but there's still good finds in the thrifts. I recently found a sealed mid-1990s TDK MA 110 at a thrift for 50 cents. I picked that up obviously since that was only the 2nd time I've seen a sealed metal cassette in a thrift. I also picked up a used late 1990s Maxell XLII 110, a sealed Sony CD-IT Pro Type II with the holographic J-card, and a handful of random run of the mill sealed Type Is. I also picked up a nice prerecorded album on 120μ chrome. I may be in the minority, but I'm not always a fan of prerecorded chromes (or true chromes of any kind) as compared to late 1980s-1990s ferrics. Maybe it's just because the ferrics are recorded at hotter levels, but they do seem to sound better to me.

    I also came across a couple of late 1980s Technics double cassette decks from the same series at the thrifts recently. One was a basic one for $25 and the other was a mid-level one that I tested and works for $12. I had no interest in the basic one, but I almost brought the mid-level one. I don't really need another deck of that caliber though so I put it back. I think I also saw a basic 1990s Sony too, but I don't even give those a second look at this point.

    1. Sears can use all of the help they can get these days. I was reading that their largest toy supplier is rumored to be stopping toy shipments to Kmart stores. At this point the toy department is one of the few areas of the store that has not been downsized.

      I have been to 3 Walmart stores now with the receipt checkers. Some of the checkers will let the line back up very far, while others only look at customers with full baskets.

      If Maxell stops making tapes that will be no good for the industry. It seems like cassettes are struggling to come back. If the high quality tapes come back, that will help the movement.

      The thrifts will continue to be the place for tape heads like us to go to. The amount of new cassettes coming to Urban Outfitters has slowed down, but every couple of weeks or so a new or re released tape comes out there.

  84. Hopefully Kmart will be able to resolve their issues with the toy supplier. I really don’t know much about the toy business, but it sounds like toys are one of Kmart’s better performing departments. There has been a lot of speculation that suppliers are worried about whether they will get paid or not especially if Sears chooses bankruptcy.

    One thing the old Jones Rd. and FM 1960 Kmart did (and presumably other Kmarts of similar mansard slice façade vintage still do/did) which probably led to some impulse buys was to put the toy department right by the checkouts. I’m sure a lot of kids pestered their parents to buy a toy while they were waiting in the checkout line. Plus, I think toys is one of the departments with a lot of shrinkage. Perhaps the clerks could keep an eye on suspicious activity. I’m not really sure what things the modern Kmart toy departments have going for them compared to the competition.

    We'll have to see how Walmart shoppers react to the receipt checkers. Walmart shoppers have shown some willingness to be patient with Walmart's poor service with the long checkout lines and stuff like that, but it's possible that now more shoppers will go to Target, "Dollar" stores, and grocery stores instead to do their shopping in order to avoid the hassle. We'll see.

    The AFC West is probably the strongest division this year with the Broncos, Raiders, and Chiefs all looking like playoff contenders. Even the Chargers have played well at times, but they usually blow games late. The AFC South certainly appears to be the worst division by far. From top to bottom, the NFC East may be the second best division. That’s a big surprise, but hopefully the Giants’ overall talent advantage will allow them to rise to the top over the season. All the mental mistakes, including off the field distractions, need to stop though. The team is becoming a bit of a circus, ala the Jets, which is not familiar territory for the franchise.

    A strong run game would help coverup the porous Saints defense, but I guess that isn’t there yet. The Saints are still hanging in there and are within reach of the Falcons if they slip up as they often do. It just seems like this is another year where Brees will have to carry a team that might have gone 4-12 or something with just an average QB. Fortunately, Brees is still playing well so you have a chance.

    It’s possible that Maxell UR cassettes are selling well, but perhaps their Communicator line of professional cassettes (aimed at schools, business dictation, court/police interviews, and stuff like that) have seen big sale decreases to the point that UR’s increasing sales aren’t covering up for the losses on the other side. It should be noted that the UR and Communicator tapes are pretty much the same thing performance wise these days, but they are packaged differently. Perhaps Maxell could maintain reasonable prices with the Indonesian tapes, but perhaps the pricing would become unreasonable if they try to maintain similar quality through a Korean or another supplier. I’m not really sure why Panggung is wanting to get out of tape manufacturing, but their last attempt to exit the market led to the withdrawal of the Sony HFs.

    Anyway, hopefully another company will see the void in the market and will produce cassettes for sale at B&M retailers to replace the Maxells. Kmart and Walmart got new suppliers after Sony pulled out. We’ll see. Perhaps National Audio Company can start a retail division with their new line of tapes. If nothing else, at least new audio cassettes should be available from NAC online.

    1. Kmart stores appear to have more space dedicated to toys than Walmart. They usually increase the toy selection around this time of year also. Most Kmart toy departments in the stores I have been to are near the layaway. I wonder if that is to have the layaway person watch the area during slow times.

      Speaking of Sears, the only Sears Hardware in Northeast Houston in the front of Kingwood closed. I am not sure when it closed but google reviews go as far back as 4 months ago. I was last at that store in the early Summer so it could not have been too long ago.

      Since your comment San Diego turned the tables on the Falcons and finally game from behind to pull off the upset. Even though we lost this week we are only 1.5 games behind the Falcons. The defense is slightly improving and two starters will be coming back over the next two weeks. We just can't keep throwing away games with turnovers. Since our division is weak it is still very much open.

      The NFC East has surprised me, last year the Cowboys lost Romo and Bryant for a while just like this year but they are a different team now. Philly has been doing very well and Washington is still an average team. The Giants will have a tough go of it, but if they can get the division wins it will really help.

      I'm glad I stocked up on blank tapes when I did. They will probably start going up in value if more companies decide to stop making them.

  85. That is unfortunate news to hear about the closing of the Kingwood Sears Hardware store. I went to the Sears Hardware website and it appears that the Kingwood store is the only local closing so far. Sears Hardware stores are independently owned, but I don’t know if that store had the same owners as other Houston area stores. Hopefully the two stores near me will stay open. I do shop at them a few times a year.

    It sounds like Kmart is operating a successful toy department, though that might change if they can’t get the latest toys due to supplier problems. Keeping toys near layaway may make sense. Some parents may want to put toys on layaway for Christmas and for birthdays so that is convenient to remind shoppers of the service. Plus, as you say, perhaps the layaway clerk can keep an eye on potential shrinkage.

    Sometime ago we talked about the Danbury Fair Mall Sears in CT where Primark took over one level of the Sears and Sears renovated the remaining part of their store. Well, here are some more detailed photos from that Sears. The concrete looking tiles look better than regular concrete floors. I think I still prefer the carpeted departments at older Sears, but it’s interesting to see what Sears would do if they could do more significant renovations to their stores. I’m sure it would help their sales some if they could expand these renovations to other stores.

    San Diego is showing that they will be competitive in the AFC West even with all their blunders so far and injuries. The other three teams still look like they are strong even if they are all flawed in some fundamental way. The NFC North is gaining strength too with the Lions looking like they may be a contender. I wasn’t expecting much from them this year, but they’ve helped the Giants with wins over the Redskins and Eagles. The Vikings suffered a setback, it’s still hard to say whether the Packers are legitimate contenders, and the Bears are terrible so that division probably still ranks below the NFC East for now in terms of second best after the AFC West.

    I don’t think this will be another year where 7-9 wins the NFC South, but I would not be shocked if that happened. The Saints are still in it, but so are the Panthers and Bucs. Someone will have to win the division, and whoever it is will likely still be better than the AFC South winner, but it doesn’t look like it will be pretty. Of course, 7-9 teams have a history of doing some damage in the playoffs as the Saints can attest to when the Seahawks knocked off the defending champion Saints some years back.

    The Giants got another ugly W where the offense looked terrible. Hopefully they can figure something out over the bye week. I’m not looking forward to the Eagles matchup after the bye. The Giants have really struggled against them and I think the O-line will struggle against that strong pass rush. That’s the kind of game where Eli is likely to end up with 2-3 fumbles and a couple of INTs too. Aside from that, the Giants’ strong defense might be able to carry them to some wins even if the offense remains anemic. We’ll see. The Giants’ secondary has played excellent football even with the rash of injuries to the CBs and Safeties.

    Anyone who is interested in taping, whether audio or video, should be stocking up on tape now because it’s very well likely that getting tape will only become harder and more expensive as time goes on. I have blank audio cassettes in my collection to last me years, but I still like buying the new Maxell URs as they work well. Hopefully I’ll still be able to buy those new, but it’s not looking promising right now. Maybe Sony should restart cassette sales, even if they just rebadge some other tape, considering that they’ve released a couple of new cassette recorder boomboxes in recent times.

    1. There has not been too much new Sears and Kmart news lately. I am hoping they have a good holiday season this year. I think they are making a mistake though by staying open on Thanksgiving. This would be a good year for them to take a stand against the Thanksgiving Day sale to bring them some positive PR. I know it is risky because none of the largest retailers are doing it, but they need all of the positive PR they need. Thanks for sending the photos of the newly refreshed Sears store. I can see they have a decent selection of TV's even though it is a smaller store.

      Hastings closed the rest of their stores this past Saturday. In the last few hours of their closing sale, they were letting people fill up large bags of stuff for $30 and books only for $20. In the last hour, they dropped the price to $10 for anything in the bag.

      Very few teams are standing out now with the Vikings taking their first loss and the majority of the rest have at least 3 losses. New England, Minnesota, Dallas all have one loss. Oakland, Denver, and Seattle have 2 losses. This past week was strange with 2 tie games and a third nearly ending in a tie. The Giants are now in second place after last night so if they win against the Eagles they will be in a really good position. I am glad we pulled off the win against the Seahawks because another loss would have killed our chances for this season.

      Sony may just stop making cassette and CD boomboxes soon. I really like the portability of them and use mine frequently. I will use mine even more since I added a bunch of CD's to my collection from the Hastings closing sale.

  86. It is hard to say whether it would be a good idea for Sears and Kmart to close on Thanksgiving or not. It seems like the trend this year has been for retailers to wait until Black Friday to open. Perhaps this is because of the backlash or perhaps sales weren’t good last year. I know retailers were complaining that sales started too early last year (even before Thanksgiving) and that hurt Thanksgiving weekend sales.

    Anyway, I don’t really have a problem with stores being open on Thanksgiving as long as the employees are given a choice to work or not. For better or worse, a lot of people consider shopping to be a family tradition and it’s probably better to have stores open during more normal times than have people line up at 6am or something. Plus, a lot of retail employees want as many hours they can get, especially if they have a special holiday wage, and welcome the opportunity to work more especially when there isn’t a conflict with school and stuff like that.

    Hopefully Sears will have a good holiday season this year, but we’ll see. I guess it depends a lot of the type of sales they have. I was happy to see all those TVs at the renovated Sears. Hopefully that is a sign that they are committing to electronics in at least some stores.

    The Hastings closing sale is interesting. I guess you got to experience the last minutes of the chain’s existence. I heard that some closing RadioShacks had the same kind of sale where they let people walk out with whatever they could carry for ~$10 on the last day of business. I think I heard that someone got a few Sherwood receivers for $10 or so. That must be nice.

    One bit of local news is that a new liquor store called Total Wine & Liquor opened in the ex-OfficeMax in The Commons across from Willowbrook Mall. I believe they are opening a few other Houston locations as well. I don’t know much about the liquor store business, but the store is quite nice and will certainly offer Spec’s some competition. One interesting thing is that they have tan plastic carts ala Kmart in the late 1980s.

    The Saints got a big win against Seattle that may help turn their season around. I guess that was payback of sorts for that 2010 playoff loss. The Saints are really tough to beat in the Superdome and Seattle’s offense has been struggling, but it’s still an impressive win. The Saints might well win the division if they can win games like that on the road. We’ll have to see. Carolina looked like they are ready to turn their season around as well and Atlanta hung on for a good win.

    The Giants would be in the playoffs if the season ended right now. That’s impressive considering all the blunders the team has had so far. Dallas won unfortunately, but hopefully they can beat Dallas in their second game and pick up another game somewhere else. Dallas looks like they might be the best team in the NFC right now with the Vikings struggling, but that’s not saying much and they clearly have some holes. I think the Giants can make a run if they can get into the playoffs. I’m not looking forward to the Eagles game though for the reasons I mentioned in my prior post.

    I found a picture of a renovated non-Supercenter Wal-Mart in Florida that has both the Onn cassettes and the new Sony CFD-S70 boombox. It’s good that they still have a lot of the Onn cassettes on the peg. Hopefully the fact that Sony made another new cassette boombox means that they are sticking with the format. There’s several cassette boomboxes on the market right now so hopefully that shows that there is a market for such things.

    Do you plan on making any mixtapes with the CDs you brought? That could be a fun recording project. You could use the Sony boombox to make the mixtapes, but you could get better quality with standalone equipment.

    1. Employees should be given the choice, but it seems like Thanksgiving has been an all hands on deck kind of day.

      We bought a TV in the $250 price range from Sears not too long ago. I may need yet another one since my tube TV is going out.

      Yeah I was there up until the last 15 minutes Hastings was open. There were still a bunch of books and DVD's left. I found a few music CD's as well, but I left with a lot of DVD's. This was the first store closing since Circuit City that I went on the last day.

      There are a lot of competing liquor stores now with Goody Goody expanding as well. I really don't drink anymore so I rarely visit any liquor store.

      The win this week keeps us alive, but we need a good 3-4 game win streak right now to stay alive.

      The Vikings have been exposed especially this week against the Bears. The Vikings gave up over 200 yards of total yardage to one player and made Jay Cutler look like an MVP. The Giants have a very good chance if they win this week to keep their playoff spot.

      Dallas and Atlanta look like the NFC teams to beat at the moment. We have another shot at them to end the regular season and hopefully it will be a battle for the division.

      I might make some mix tapes or just copy the CD's onto tapes. I have about 35 new CD's so it will take a while to listen to them all.

      Thanks for sending the photos over, that Kmart cart really brings back memories. The new Walmart design is very plain, but they have been keeping a large blank cassette supply on hand.

  87. I am not really sure how stores schedule employees for Black Thanksgiving/Black Friday. Retailers may say that employees have a choice, but they may have their hours cut down the road if they don’t work on those days. It’s hard to say. My preference is to not shop at all on those days, but I’ve been dragged out to stores with other people. I prefer going out on Thanksgiving rather than Friday in the morning since it seems like the lines are shorter and you don’t have to wait outside in bad weather as long.

    It sounds like Spec’s dominance of the Houston market (at least I assume that they dominate it) is now in jeopardy with Goody Goody and Total Wine here. I’m not a big drinker either and I don’t go to liquor stores very often, but I was in the area and decided to check out the Total store since I used to shop at the OfficeMax there quite frequently. The store looks completely different from what OfficeMax looked like.

    The tan Kmart carts that I was used to had black or brown writing on them instead of white writing like that one, but yeah, I have many memories of those carts as well. Kmart used tan bags for many years as well. I have many memories of those bags as well.

    It’s odd for me to see a picture of a non-Supercenter Walmart electronics department that isn’t small and cramped since the last non-Supercenters I went to were in the 1990s where the departments were in a small enclosed room like area in the center of the store. I guess Walmart must have moved those departments to the back wall area at some point. But, anyway, it’s good that they’re seemingly continuing to sell the Onn cassettes and multiple cassette recorders including the new Sony. It’s been such a long time since I’ve been to a Walmart that I was wondering if they still sold the Onn tapes.

    The Vikings seem to be falling apart on both sides of the ball. Will they fall out of the playoffs or is this just a midseason swoon? We’ll have to see. So many teams have big holes on their rosters, even aside from injuries, that it’s hard to call anyone a legitimate championship team except for the Patriots maybe and even they have special teams concerns at the very least. I don’t think that it’s even out of the question at this point that the Giants could get a first round bye if they go on a long winning streak.

    Atlanta could end up being a bye team, but they could be out of the playoffs as well. A long winning streak would put the Saints in wildcard contention if nothing else so I think Saints fans have reasons to be optimistic right now. They face a weak opponent this week so at least they should get to .500, but a loss to the 49ers would be devastating to everyone’s morale so they need to come out sharp on the road.

    Perhaps it’s time for a Kenmore TV or something else from Sears. The sales should be good soon. You could always get a CRT TV from a thrift for really cheap if you wanted to go that route, but I can understand why you’d want to get a flat panel TV instead (though a CRT would work much better with vintage games). Anyway, I found Sears to be one of the best places to demo a TV the last time I brought one so hopefully that has not changed and you’ll be able to find the right TV for you by demoing the picture and sound quality.

    I’ve found some interesting odds and ends in the thrifts lately. I found some blank DVD-RAM discs which work well in my LG and Panasonic DVD recorders. Those are rare so I brought them. I also found another Sony Digital8 camcorder in the thrifts. This one just came with the camera, battery, and tape. It was only $7.50 so I rolled the dice and brought it. It has tape transport issues, but it should work even better than my other Digital8 camera at digitizing analog video from a VCR and sending it to the computer so it’s still useful to me even if I can’t use tapes in it unless I fix it. Plus, I can use the battery and tape in my other cameras.

    1. I read a lot of stories from employees who were forced to work thr holidays. Multiple companies including Kohl's, Sears, Kmart, and Target make everyone work a shift.

      Specs will be fine and they continually upgrade or enlarge their stores frequently. I noticed that Specs took over the former Academy on Rayford and 45. The small local stores may be the ones to lose sales with the new competition.

      There are still a handful of the small Walmart stores left here and there. Navasota may be the closest one to us. That store was remodeled with the previous remodel style that most stores in Houston have. The electronics were still in the middle of that store and also at another in Giddings. I have not been to either store in years so I can't tell you if they have cassettes now.

      The Patriots look like the real deal this year. All of the other teams have some sort or weakness. I am glad that every team has at least 1 loss at this point. The playoff opportunities are still there for most teams at the midpoint of the season.

      Our #1 cb is coming back from injury this week and possibly our 1st round pick Rankins dt.
      I am confident we can get to .500 this week. Our team seems to get to .500 after slow starts but after that we have fallen apart. I hope that we can at least win the next 2 games.

      I have an extra CRT but I may save that for the old games only. It would probably cost more than $10 to fix the TV I am having problems with. I don't know if my backup works, it has been a long time since I used it.

      The digital 8 battery is a good pickup by itself since those go out so often. It may be a while before I can go thrifting because of the holidays, but who knows.

  88. Spec’s has been opening a lot of stores in the Houston area over the last 5-10 years. Some stores appear to be much larger than others, but I’m not sure how much of a difference there are between them since the Jersey Village store is the only one I’ve been to in modern times. I know Spec’s advertises on the radio quite a bit. You’re probably right in saying that the smaller liquor stores are taking some losses from the expansion of “big box” liquor stores. Then again, those small neighborhood type stores will always have convenience on their side. Places like Total Wine seem to specialize in more obscure and expensive items, but they have the common stuff too. Anyway, that might be one retail sector that remains strong due the lack of online shopping options (at least I assume that online shopping of alcoholic beverages isn’t big if it’s even legal).

    I think there were a couple of non-Supercenter Walmarts in Houston as of about five years ago, but I’m not sure if they’re still around or not. I think the Walmart on Beltway 8 near the Town & Country area was not upgraded to a Supercenter for many years, but I don’t know what happened to that store. Also, there is (or was, but I think it’s still there) a store in the Meyerland area that I don’t think was Supersized. The opening of the Westpark Tollroad area Walmart may cause the Meyerland store to close if it hasn’t already.

    It would be quite odd to shop at a vintage Walmart that still had the center electronics department. It might be worth checking one out if I ever have the chance. It’s been almost 15-20 years now since I’ve shopped at a Walmart like that. By comparison, I’ve been to a vintage Kmart much more recently than that.

    The Patriots certainly look very dominant right now, but they usually do at this point. They’ve only won one Super Bowl in the last 10 or so years though so the rest of the league certainly has hope for sure. Saints fans have to be excited to be getting some potentially quality defensive players back. The Broncos game after the 49ers will be tough, but it could be another home game like the Seattle one. The following Panthers game will be big for sure. The schedule after that is pretty soft for the rest of the year so the Saints could certainly make a run here.

    I know the Giants are excited to have their DBs healthy again since they’ve been playing without their top 2 free safeties for most of the year. Rodgers-Cromartie and first round pick Eli Apple have been gimpy for most of the year too. The DBs are probably the strongest unit on the team so the team will need to ride them if they’re going to make a run.

    CRT TVs are still plentiful at the Goodwill stores so you could replace that TV for less than what it would cost to fix it. Of course, I can see why you’d want to get a flat panel TV instead. What kind of CRT TV do you have that is going bad? What kind is the one you use for games?

    Yeah, I now have 4 batteries that I can use in my two fully working Sony camcorders. It’s good that all the ones I have are interchangeable. I didn’t get any kind of AC adaptor with this $7.50 camcorder I brought, but again, the accessories are interchangeable with my other Sony camcorders so that isn’t really a big problem.

    I was at a thrift recently that had some vintage Pioneer audio equipment from the prime 1970s era. There was a SX-680 receiver for $25 and a graphic equalizer for $20. The prices weren’t bad, especially for the receiver, but I could not test them with speakers so I decided to pass. The receiver was also missing a knob, but it was still functional. It looks similar to my SX-650 that was purchased new, but the 650 seems a little better built. Still, it was neat seeing that stuff at the thrift since desirable stuff from that era does not show up very often. The same thrift also had a couple of cassette decks, a late 1980s JVC and a 1990s Sony, but both were basic so I passed on those and didn’t give them much attention.

    1. The Town and Country Walmart expanded. They rebuilt the building while it was still open. I think the original structure may have been demolished, if not it was significantly altered. As for Meyerland, that store was still there not long ago. It has been a while since I have been in that area. The smaller Walmart stores have such a limited selection. Maybe they have found a way to get better items, but the Navasota store is very small.

      Since your comment our teams are headed in different directions. We are back below 500 and the Giants are making a push. Carolina is a make or break game for us.

      My old TV is a Sharp, I have a backup CRT but I really like some of the newer TV's.

      I made it to a Thrift last week finally and picked up a basic Sharp RT320 single cassette deck for $10. It seemed to work at the store, but I have not had time to hook it up and test it. At the thrift I tested all of the functions with a tape so it appears to be working ok.

  89. The Walmart updates are interesting, thanks. I always thought that Wal-Mart chose a strange spot for the Town & Country area store. You would have figured that an I-10 facing store would have done better than a Beltway 8 facing store, but maybe the land was cheaper there. Plus, they built the store with the front not facing the Beltway. Maybe they wanted people from I-10 to be able to see it, but I think it’s too far from I-10 to be visible. Anyway, that store has been there for probably around 25 years now so I guess it does good enough business. As far as I know, the Meyerland Wal-Mart is still open, but I can’t say for sure that is.

    I visited Plaza Paseo not too long ago for the first time since the name change. Not much has changed since my last visit, but they’ve completely changed the signage. They also have some murals in the ex-Dillard’s wing of famous Mexicans. I think that’s new. There’s also a pretty big video game store in the mall now that I think is new. It was near the Sears if I remember correctly.

    I recently came across some interesting photos of what appears to be the last remaining Kmart full restaurant. Here’s one picture, here’s another, yet another, and finally another. The Kmart is in Belle Vernon, PA, and appears to be a former Grant’s location. According to Yelp, it seems like the restaurant serves pretty typical American fare like steaks, soups, and burgers. It would be interesting to have a chance to eat and shop at that Kmart one day. Eating a steak at Kmart sounds quite interesting. Also, here are pictures of a Kmart in Tulsa, OK. There’s nothing amazing going on there AFAIK, but it’s interesting to see another Kmart close to this region.

    I can only imagine your reaction while watching the Saints blow that game against the Broncos. This has been a trying year for Saints fans, that’s for sure, but at least Atlanta and Carolina lost too. Tampa is sneaking back into the picture though. Anyway, a win against Carolina will probably come close to eliminating their hopes while boosting the Saints. I wouldn’t give up hope yet.

    The Giants continue to hang on to win ugly, close games. They have the Bears and Browns coming up. Hopefully those are easy wins that will take them to 8-3. Their last five games are all against serious playoff contenders (including 3 NFC East games), but they may only need to win 2 or 3 of those 5 to clinch a wild card spot if they beat the Bears and Browns. We’ll see, but things are looking positive for the Giants. They certainly need to keep pressing for improvement on offense though if they want a chance and making a push in the playoffs.

    The Sharp RT-320 seems like a decent mid-level deck from the early-to-mid 1980s. It’s a step up from the 1983 Sharp RT-100 deck that I have. Hopefully it will work well for you. It has auto reverse and Dolby B/C so it’s pretty well equipped. My RT-100 does not have the best sound quality, but it’s a bottom of the barrel deck so I’d expect much better performance from the RT-320. Let me know how the deck works for you. You’ve certainly been building quite the collection of Sharp products.

    I came across a basic looking 1990s Sony dual cassette deck at a thrift recently, but upon closer review it was actually a Dolby S deck with auto-calibration. The thrift wanted $20 for it. I wasn’t sure whether to buy it or not given my aversion of Sony decks from that era, but Dolby S is tempting. Ultimately, my decision was easy since I tested it and neither well worked. I guess I can’t say I was surprised given the reputation those Sony decks have.

  90. I last went to that Walmart store when they opened the store up completely after the remodel, I forgot why I even decided to stop there.

    I will probably do an update on Plaza Paseo in the future. The redevelopment will be difficult since it is a neighborhood mall away from a lot of the major retail centers in Pasadena. We will also have to see what happens when Macy's releases which stores they close early next year. There was an article I found that listed the top 150 or 200 stores in the chain that were not in danger of closing. Several Houston area stores were included on that list but Pasadena, San Jacinto, and Greenspoint were not on the list. Willowbrook was on the list but it did not specify which store or if both were solid performers.

    The Kmart restaurant is definitely a find, I wonder if it is independently owned and operated. Thanks for sending those photos over.
    The Kmart in Tulsa is interesting, it has a lot of the newer design elements inside. Lufkin has some of the updated signage and red paint on the walls, but luckily the vintage electronics signage survived.

    I managed the see the past two Saints games much to my dismay. The Denver game should have not been decided by that play, they left too many opportunities to win pass them by. The Carolina game was winnable, but they did not adjust quickly enough to win there either. The defense continues to improve, but the offense struggled in the first half of both games. Maybe we can get an early draft pick this year to solidify one of our many glaring needs. All of our losses except for the game against Atlanta have been within 6 points or less. I guess you could say we are almost there, but this is the 3rd season in a row with a potentially losing record.

    The Giants are in really good shape and would be leading most divisions if it were not for the Cowboys 10-1 record. With Washington taking a step back the Giants can make a run but catching the Cowboys at this point will be very tough. But as you know playoff seeding does not mean anything, with several wild card teams winning the Superbowl recently including the Giants twice.

    I still need to do a good test on the Sharp deck, it remains where I left it when I bought it. A refurbished Walkman is next on my list, but I may get another dual cassette deck if I come across one. From what I have been hearing the Sony dual cassette decks don't hold up very well. I think the luck I have had with Sony Walkman's lately, it has made me think twice about going after a Sony deck.

  91. Plaza Paseo management certainly must be pretty nervous right now while the await Macy's store closure list. The same must be said for San Jacinto Mall and Greenspoint Mall management. While it could be said that Sears is the most popular anchor at the mall, certainly Macy's has a lot of drawing power even in the Macy's wing at the mall is a bit lackluster. We'll have to see what happens when Macy's finally releases the closure list.

    A new blog article on Plaza Paseo would be interesting. A lot of people may not know about the name change. It is one of Houston's least known malls perhaps because of it's non-highway location. It's certainly an interesting mall though and one I enjoy visiting.

    I would guess that the Belle Vernon Kmart restaurant is independently owned and operated, but who knows. Hopefully it sticks around. The Tulsa Kmart does have some recent upgrades like the new Pantry aisle racks. It's odd that they painted the electronics department but kept the Big Kmart era triangles. It's not a big deal, but it is a bit odd. The store looks nice for a Kmart of that vintage, but they could use a little help organizing some of the products. It's odd that they closed the pharmacy at this store. I wonder if that is an isolated thing or if Kmart is trying to raise money by selling their pharmacy records to Walgreens or other pharmacies. Anyway, hopefully the renovations are a sign that this store will stick around.

    I finally started converting the Video8 tapes I was wanting to digitize. In fact, I'm working on converting the last Video8 tape that I'm converting right now as I type this. Next will be the VHS home movies, but that will require a slightly different process. Anyway, I converted the tape of my 1999 trip to New Orleans and saw footage I took of the outside of some 1990s-built Big Kmart somewhere in the suburbs (probably Metairie or Kenner, but I don't know). It looked like it was on some sort of major road. I'm not sure if you know which Kmart that would be. It had a circular style facade like many other 1990s Kmarts.

    The Giants won another close one against Chicago last week. Hopefully they can take care of business against the Browns this week. If so, things will be promising for a wild card as they start their tough stretch against serious playoff contenders. I say this every week, but the offense has to improve if they want to make a deep run. The defense is starting to become dominant though except for them giving up big plays to TEs.

    The Giants have only won a Super Bowl once as a wild card, 2007 when they went 10-6. The Cowboys and Redskins also made the playoffs that year with the Giants beating the division champion and #1 NFC seeded Cowboys in the 2nd round. The Giants 2011 championship came in a year where they won the division at 9-7.

    The Saints certainly could have won those two crucial games, but we saw what happened. They're still not out of it, but now Carolina and Tampa Bay are looking to make a run at Atlanta too. The Saints could use some good draft picks because they have a lot of holes, but hopefully they'll keep trying to win this year and won't focus on the draft. We'll see.

    There is an old joke about 1990s+ Sony gear being engineered to last precisely until a day after the warranty expires instead of being engineered to last a long time or give great performance. Some Sony products, like camcorders, seem to be more reliable compared to the competition than others (VCRs, TVs, non-ES series audio gear). I'm just not a big fan of 1990s Sony cassette decks and VCRs for that reason (plus, I think some other brands generally performed better). Hopefully you'll be able to find a good, working Walkman though. I ordered one of those Chinese Walkman-style USB converting portable cassette players a couple of days back since it was on sale for only ~$13 shipped. I'll definitely report my findings on how well it works once I get a chance to give it a good test.

    1. Plaza Paseo and Greenspoint Mall would really hurt if Macy's left. San Jacinto Mall would actually be better off if Macy's left because it would open up more land for the redevelopment of the property. I am guessing that the redevelopment at the San Jacinto Mall property will wind up with residential and office space since most major retailers have opened up elsewhere in town.

      The area where Plaza Paseo is at was very overmalled with Gulfgate, Almeda, and Baybrook nearby. The redevelopment of Gulfgate, the massive shopping developments on Fairmont, and the newer massive Almeda Walmart big box center has hurt the mall for many years now as well. The area around the mall has seen a bit of a revival but massive abandoned buildings are still next to and near the mall.

      I did not notice the missing pharmacy at the Tulsa Kmart. I am sure they make good money with pharmacies but maybe like you said they sold off their records to Walgreens.

      The only newer New Orleans area Kmart that I can think of is the Lakeside area one on Veterans. That store was built sometime in the late 80's/early 90's to replace the much smaller mall location.

      For some reason I thought the Giants made it in 2011 as a wild card. It must have been one of those years where Dallas blew their playoff chances on the last game of the season. If we had beaten San Fran that year in the playoffs, New York would have gone back to the Superdome for the NFC Championship Game. That 2011 loss in the playoffs is probably the most painful loss in our 50 year history. That 2011 team had the best offense in team history and the defense was just good enough to hold leads most of the time.

      This week worked out well for both of our teams. New York took care of Cleveland and JPP had a pick 6. It is amazing what he has been able to overcome and still be a top pass rusher. Cleveland played tough, but they just can't figure out how to win.

      Sean Payton had to show his former defensive coordinator that he was still the boss and ran up the score. Greg Williams had problems with Sean Payton when they worked together and the team was moving on from him after 2011. Then the bounty scandal made things much worse. Williams called out coaches and players to try and save his career. Payton of course was suspended without pay for a season and our franchise has been struggling ever since.

      When you mention that joke about Sony electronics, it actually is not that far off. The TV's and disc players seem to last, but the tape players are not very durable. My large VHS camcorder lasted for several years until it was stolen. My second Sony Hi8 camcorder broke after a two foot fall, literally two feet off of a shelf onto carpet.

  92. Part I:

    You bring up a good point about it potentially being a good thing for the San Jacinto Mall redevelopers if Macy’s leaves. While Sears there can be integrated into a redeveloped shopping center pretty easily since it’s up front, it would be difficult for them to develop something that connects both Sears and Macy’s due to the distance to the Macy’s building on the back side of the mall complex. For sure though Macy’s would be a big loss at Greenspoint Mall though since they are the primary retail anchor left. Dillard’s would still be there, but that’s a limited hour clearance store.

    In an odd way, Sears moving from their freestanding store to the Pasadena Town Square/Plaza Paseo mall may have been a net negative for the mall since that opened up Sears’ old spot for Walmart to come in and steal a lot of the retail momentum in the area. Then again, Walmart probably would have opened up somewhere near there regardless if the old Sears real estate opened up or not.

    The New Orleans area Kmart I saw on my old tape does indeed appear to be the Lakeside Mall area Kmart in Metairie. I recognize the Best Western Landmark hotel tower near there in the video. I’m not sure why I didn’t get any video of the mall or visit it, but oh well. Maybe I did go there and just don’t remember it.

    Kmart does seem to be promoting their pharmacies so I don’t think they are looking to eliminate them chainwide, but who knows. Target closed their pharmacies and allowed CVS to operate their in-store pharmacies recently. Perhaps in-store pharmacies aren’t as profitable as they used to be, but who knows. I don’t know of anyone who used Target’s pharmacies, but I knew a number of people who used Kmart’s when they had them here in Houston. Kmart usually sells their records to a neighboring pharmacy whenever they close a pharmacy and perhaps they can make some money off that. I usually see the records going to Walgreens, but I’ve seen CVS, Rite-Aid, and Meijer too.

    I came across some pictures of a Kmart recently and it looks like some Kmarts have received large Kenmore TV signage. That’s good to see. At least they are trying to promote the new TVs. I wonder if Sears and them had much luck moving Kenmore TVs this Black Friday.

    It was good to see the Giants take care of business against the Bears and Browns. JPP has been playing very well this season and will likely get a big contract from the Giants or someone else this offseason after many (including myself) thought his career was done. They actually changed the interception that he scored on to a fumble. Oh well, it’s the same to the team. Now the Giants probably only need to win 2 or 3 of their remaining 5 games to clinch a wild card. The last 5 games are all against strong teams so it’s good that they have a cushion. They have the 2nd best record in the NFC right now, but that does not matter much as long as Dallas is ahead.

    The Cowboys and Giants played each other in the last game of the season in 2011 to determine who would win the NFC East. The loser would not make the playoffs so it was basically a playoff game. Obviously the Giants won and the rest is history. I remember the Saints-49ers game well. Giants fans were fearing having to go to the Superdome after the terrible game the Giants had there that season (on MNF I think) and in 2009 as well when both teams came into the game at 5-0. The Giants got exposed and fell apart, the Saints went on to the Super Bowl. The Saints seemed sure to win that matchup against the Giants in 2011, but fortunately Alex Smith of all people led that game winning drive and they headed to San Francisco instead for that classic NFC Championship Game.

    1. At the San Jacinto Mall development, the JCPenney could rebuild their store on the plot where the Montgomery Ward was at which would open up more space in the middle of the property. The Macy's would still be in an odd spot if that happened. Greenspoint would be hurt the most, but some of the retailers from Northwest could possibly open up stores there if they are forced out of the mall for the redevelopment.

      Lakeside is the busiest mall in the city. The mall is crammed on such a small property that parking is an issue even with parking garages. A few miles away, the larger Esplanade Mall is still struggling with vacancies. The Esplanade has a Macy's that was renovated after Hurricane Katrina damage, but the third floor did not reopen. The Esplanade was in the movie 21 Jumpstreet, but the mall has been struggling since it reopened after the Hurricane. The former Dillard's Men Store is a large Image store, The Dillard's is now a clearance center with the second floor closed off, Target is attached to the mall but does not have a second floor. Part of the second floor of the mall is now walled off and several stores are vacant. A new movie theater was built but not attached to the mall, and the old theater is rotting away in the shadow of the new movie theater. Clearview which is about 2 miles away has been able to compete with Lakeside, but the Esplanade has struggled.

      Selling prescription records should be a quick way to make cash for the company when they are closing a store. I wonder what they get for the sale of those records.

      I have seen these Kenmore signs also, they put them up last Summer in a lot of Kmart stores. I have only seen one in a Sears that was in Louisiana. There was one in the Metairie Kmart that you have on tape, that coincidentally I will have an update on soon.

      It is strange that I don't hear a lot about the New York Giants despite their excellent record. All I hear about is the Cowboys, Falcons, and Raiders while New York and New England are quietly putting together wins. There is a good chance at least one of the first 3 teams I mentioned comes back down to earth soon and opens up a chance for another team to take their spot.

      2011 could have been a great year for us if things would have turned out better in San Francisco. I still enjoy replaying from time to time the 62-7 drubbing of the Colts on Sunday night football. It was hard to believe we followed up that game with the worst performance of the season at St Louis and Brees nearly got injured by the terrible o-line performance. 6 sacks, 2 INT's and Brees almost did not have a touchdown pass against a winless Rams team. After that game we won 8 straight to finish 13-3.

  93. Part II:

    I didn’t think of the coaching significance of that Rams-Saints game until you mentioned it. The Rams have a good defense so putting up the numbers the Saints did was very impressive and I’m sure Sean Payton was wanting to run up the score a bit. Unfortunately, Tampa seems to be hot at the end of the year so you’ll have to overcome them and Atlanta to win the division. There’s still hope though.

    We used to have several 1990s Sony TVs, VCR, and TV/VCR combos where I used to work. The failure rate after 15 years on those (especially the TVs) was around 50% even though some of them did not get a lot of use. Sony built a stellar reputation for themselves prior to the 1990s, but they were coasting on their reputation after that on many of their mainstream products. Some products, like camcorders, were still better than the competition so it was worth it to get a Sony. For others, like VCRs, TVs, and tape decks, it was worth steering clear of Sony.

    I did get the Chinese USB converting portable cassette player that I mentioned I ordered in the last post. I just got it so I have not had a lot of time to test it yet, but I do have some initial impressions. At first I grabbed some batteries out of a remote to try it, but the tape I tried was playing back with a lot of motor noise and with a lot of wow and flutter. I then tried some fresh batteries and for whatever reason, one of the reels was not moving when the other was moving just fine. That caused a bit of a tape spill, but I was able to get the tape off the pinch roller without causing some damage. I figured that maybe the new belts in it were stiff or something so I just ran it in Rew, FF, and play modes for a while without a tape to get things free. That seemed to work because now it’s playing back just fine and the motor noise and flutter are gone with the fresh batteries. The sound quality is actually quite good through the headphones (I used my JVC headphones, I have not tried the included headphones and assume that those don't work well). The frequency response is probably better than that of our Sony boomboxes. I’ll have to do some more testing to confirm that though.

    Anyway, now that it’s working well, I would say that it’s worth the ~$13 I paid for it. I guess I can say that for sure when I test it further. I would recommend buying one if you’re looking for a new Walkman with acceptable performance on the cheap, but just be sure to try it out first on a junk tape that you don't mind being eaten. The playback performance is probably equal to or better than the low-end Sony from the early 1990s that I have been using. It seems sensitive to batteries though so they’ll probably have to be changed often. Also, it does not have a belt clip if you use that. I don’t know how durable the thing will be (it does not seem like it would be durable), but it may last if you treat it carefully. The auto-reverse seems to work well and it claims to have bass boost, but the bass boost can’t be turned off. It also has a socket for plugging in an AC adaptor instead of using batteries, but it didn’t come with the plug.

    1. We play Tampa twice and Atlanta once again and we have 2 more NFC games so we probably have to win all of the remaining games to have a shot at the division or even the 6th wild card spot. Tampa is a different team these days, they were such a non-factor even in our down years. Now they have a strong defense and an up and coming offense that you have to game plan for. Mike Evans is the highest graded WR so far this year. Playing them twice in 3 weeks is very tough so realistically we will probably split the series.

      Sony probably tried to cut corners on materials and workmanship like many competitors. I may invest in the USB converter since these days I just use a Walkman to plug into my car stereo. I would have to find some way to secure it so I don't break it while stopping and accelerating. Thanks for the tip, if I get one I will use my messed up metal tape to test it out.