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Richway / Gold Circle / Target, 2500 Decker Boulevard (Decker Mall): early 1990s   62 comments

Posted at 6:16 pm in Uncategorized

Richway was the discount arm of Rich's. Now, half of you are thinking Rich's had a discount arm? and the other half are thinking What is Rich's?, but that can't be helped.

The idea of Richway was to be K-Mart, but a little more upscale. (Wal-Mart was not a factor at the time). To accomplish this, they made their store architecture a bit more "modern" and eye-catching and the insides somewhat less cluttered and more pleasant looking. Whether the architecture "worked" was a matter of some dispute. At the time, Mazda had just come out with a car called the RX-7 whose shape was very triangular, and whose ads featured all the "hip" RX-7 owners having triangular garages. When Richway built its stores (Decker Mall, Bush River Mall and Woodhill Mall), the question I heard several times was Why did they put RX-7 garages on the roof?.

I think they did suceed in making their stores a better shopping experience than K-Mart (it didn't take much!), but failed in creating their own distinctive brand and "experience". In fact, the only distinctive part of their branding that I can remember was a sham. In front of their battery of check-out lines, they had a pole with a light-switch on it, and a sign that said something to the effect:

If you ever find all the open lanes have more than two people waiting, flip this switch, and we will open another lane.

This raised two questions: 1) Why should it be the customers' job to monitor Richway's checkout lanes, and 2) what would happen if you actually flipped the switch?

I think the answer to the first question was: It shouldn't be, and the answer to the second was: Nothing. I actually made the experiment during one holiday season when I came in and found about half the lanes open and all backed up; it didn't accomplish anything other than me losing my place in line.

I'm a bit hazy on the circumstances of Richway's downfall, but it happened years before the actual Rich's stores were phased out. It might have been Macy's purchase of the parent chain that did it, or it might just have been that the stores weren't really profitable as the rise of Wal-Mart reshaped the retail world. At any rate, the whole chain went under, and the local Decker and Woodhill stores were aquired by Target (the Bush River store was not), which had a more successful "upscale discount" branding concept. After Target joined the flight from Decker, the building stood empty for a good while then was remade as a self-storage facility, anchoring what remains of Decker Mall (with the DMV anchoring the other end).

UPDATE: SAL (thanks for the link!) says it was a Gold Circle after being Richway and before being Target. I don't really remember that, but I may have been living out of town at the time.

UPDATE 21 Dec 2010: FInally added Gold Circle and Target to the post title.

Written by ted on February 25th, 2008

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