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Circuit City, Columbia Mall area: 1980s/2000s   8 comments

Posted at 4:14 pm in historic,stores

When Circuit City came to town, their first location (as I recall it anyway) was on Two Notch Road, by the first Columbia Mall entrance. I didn't go there very often because, in short, I had no money at the time. I also found that the salesmen, who worked on commission, were rather predatory, and it was hard to get a close look at anything without one swooping down. In the late 80s or maybe the early 90s, they changed their corporate direction to be a "big box" player, and moved out of their original store (which now houses Wes Bolick bedrooms) and around the corner, so to speak, into a large store at Capitol Centre.

By this time, I had a real job, and a little money, so I would go browsing a bit more often. They always seemed to have a lot of interesting electronics (and appliances, which didn't really seem to fit with the rest of their concept). I found that if I stayed away from the TVs and large stereo systems, I could generally look unmolested by staff, but that checkout was now a big pain. At one time, Radio Shack had the most annoying checkout experience in electronics retail, belying their supposed tech savy by writing everything down on a pad by hand and running a total with a calculator and then nosing about your phone number and address. After Radio Shack reformed, Circuit City seemed to take up some of their nosiness, and I recall on a day when I was in a bad mood anyway, and just wanted to pay cash for a $10 tape for data backup that I rebelled when they started digging for all my personal data, and ended up boycotting the chain for about 5 years.

In that interval, they fell upon hard times. I think part of it was the DIVX debacle. Back when it was clear that technology was advancing to the point that VHS would be obsolete and that the next medium for distributing movies to retail would be some sort of CD sized disc, there were two contenders. One of these was, of course, DVD, and the other was DIVX (which has nothing to do with the current video codec called DivX, btw). The difference between the two formats (from a consumer perspective) was that DVD was "forever" while DIVX discs could only be played for a limited time period before expiring (making each purchase essentially a rental). Circuit city backed DIVX in a big way, and apparently shaded the truth in a lot of their sales-floor pitch, earning a lot of consumer bad-will.

In the meantime, Best Buy was challenging them with even bigger stores and more tech choices, and they have never completely recovered. None of that, I suppose, has anything to do with the move of this particular store from Capitol Centre to their current location out on Two Notch near Sandhills -- that was just the combination of the decline of Capitol Centre and the general flight from the Columbia Mall/Decker Blvd area out towards the north-east. (Once again, we can see that it wasn't lack of parking that did it.. :-) I ended my boycot years ago, and have been in their new store a number of times. It seems to me that Best Buy is still better at computer stuff (though neither compares to the late, lamented CompUSA in that regard), but that Circuit City is better than it was. Certainly they seem to have done away with commissions and you can generally browse more comfortably now, and the last time I bought something, they didn't ask for my phone number at all.

Written by ted on April 2nd, 2008

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8 Responses to 'Circuit City, Columbia Mall area: 1980s/2000s'

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  1. Circuit City was previously known as Dixie Hi-Fi. it was a Dixie store that opened at the Two Notch Rd location, and i believe it might have been sometime in the late 70's.

    they may have done away with commissions, but they still hit you up hard for an extended service warranty making you feel like you are buying a worthless piece of crap that's going to fall apart the day after the original warranty is up.

    scruffy

    2 Apr 08 at 10:30 pm

  2. Hmm. I don't recall that at all, but then we bought our stereo at Sam Solomon.

    ted

    2 Apr 08 at 11:01 pm

  3. No love lost for Circuit City. Always welcomed the arrival of a Best Buy in town to humble Circuit City.

    And it's cyclical - I now have shifted to HHGregg instead of Best Buy.

    Ironchef

    3 Apr 08 at 7:42 am

  4. The new location at Sandhell is as marked improvement. I actually boycotted the old location for years as well due to their predatory sales tactics. now you can't find anyone to help you at all. All the chains are junk now.

    Joe Verant

    9 Apr 08 at 9:00 am

  5. Thanks for the pics and bit of Columbia history. Moved from Columbia to Greenville in 79. I remember the CC store opening. That side of town blossomed. "The place to be." After so many years, you see how cyclical those things are. Whats boomtown now is ghosttown in 20/30 years.

    Still, its good to see and remember small pieces of Columbia, albeit store closings. Sad to see someone's dreams die.

    Is MLJ Mauro's Pizza still in Columbia? He had a place by campus when I was there. he opened a store by Sam Solomon by Dutch Square. Loved his pizza and calzones.

    There was a place in 5 Points - upstairs. Had a rat in a martini glass as their logo. 2 brothers played there often. They had a funny name. Something that related to one brother worked and the other didnt - hence the name.

    Someone told me the DSP is still there. The Downstairs Plaza. And Moe Levys'. bought all my "Cords" from there when cords were in. Bought a guitar from a small music store on Assembly - dont remember their name. Saw Jeremiah Johnson at a cigarette smoke filled theater on Main Street just across from the capital - near a Rexall Store.

    Goodbye Electric City and Spaghetti Warehouse, Dons, and Sambos. Burger King on campus where you could get a burger, fries and a Coke for a dollar. Cashing a check at Taylor Street Pharmacy - before there were ATMs and then go next door for fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts. And whatever happened to Hiers Dinner Theater?

    Sorry for "Rattlin" on.

    JB

    16 Apr 08 at 8:12 am

  6. I think I ate at Mauro's sometimes when I lived in The Towers. It was in University Corner, but is not there now. There's pretty much nothing by the former Sam Solomon now.

    The rat martini place or DSP aren't ringing bells. Moe Levy's is still hanging in there though! The campus Burger King closed when all Columbia Burger Kings closed during a dispute between corporate Burger King and the local franchisee. Many re-opened under new ownership, but that one never did. Yep, I remember "The Big-T" on Taylor Street, and buying hot dougnuts before going down to the train station to wait for my Aunt Lucy coming in on the "Silver Star" from Jacksonville..

    ted

    16 Apr 08 at 11:36 am

  7. It didnt close down that long ago, my mom bought me my PS2 there. I remember because it was the first version of the PS2 that had a high failure rate. We exchanged it for another one about a week later. I think it closed somewhere in 99-2001. The salesmen did suck alot, and the Harbison store is laid out in the same way as this one was. For whatever reason I cant stand how that looks, but I love the Sandhills/Two Notch look. But the DVD selection just sucks. I prefer BB for that.

    geoff

    8 May 08 at 8:33 pm

  8. Browsing DVDs at BB can be fun, but if there's something that I already know I want, I just order it from Amazon. There's no way any brick-and-mortar store can compete with them on inventory.

    ted

    8 May 08 at 10:48 pm

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