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Sears Declares Bankruptcy   13 comments

Posted at 1:15 am in commentary

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Well, in a surprise to noone, Sears has declared bankruptcy:

Sears Holdings Corp. filed early Monday for bankruptcy protection from creditors, marking the collapse of a company that dominated American retailing for much of the 20th century.

The retailer, which sought chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, N.Y., reached a deal with its lenders that will allow the 125-year-old company to keep hundreds of its stores open for now.

As part of the deal, Sears is expected to close at least 150 stores immediately, according to people familiar with the matter. Currently, the company operates roughly 700 Sears and Kmart stores. It employs about 70,000 people.

Of course Sears has basically already exited the Midlands, but there are still a couple of Kmart stores hanging on in the area.

Anyway, it's a far cry from the days of "As Solid As Sears", and it didn't really have to happen. If Walmart can do it, and Target can do it, that, at the least, proves it's possible. And one of the ironies is that probably about the time Amazon started to spin up, all the people at Sears who knew how to run a catalog operation were retiring..

Written by ted on October 16th, 2018

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Sears, 7201 Two Notch Road (Columbia Mall): September 2017   34 comments

Posted at 12:15 am in closing

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As I remarked to my sister, they have been closing this store for years. You could say it started when they did away with the roasted nuts counter, part of the classic heritage that had followed them from Harden Street, but that half-joking aside, it was really apparent in recent years that the store was being hollowed out: there was less and less stock, and more and more empty space. It never got as bad as Belk at Dutch Square with a whole floor abandoned, but it was impossible not to notice. Then, several years ago, they decided it wasn't worth keeping the store open for all the hours that the mall was, and you'd find the mall doors drawn during normal business hours. This year, Sears as a whole finally put Going Concern language in their financial report, and when the latest list of store closings came out, I can't imagine anyone was surprised to see this store on it.

The closing of Sears will leave Columbia Mall with only one anchor store, and Macy's isn't looking that robust either lately.

UPDATE 13 September 2017 -- The place is now emptied out, though there seemed to still be a good number of trucks and other hauling type vehicles in the parking lot on 9 September 2017 when these pictures were taken:

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UPDATE 29 February 2020: Add tags, address, map icon.

Written by ted on June 23rd, 2017

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Sears, Columbiana Centre, 100 Columbiana Circle: Early March 2014   29 comments

Posted at 1:33 am in closing

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Well, it's old news now, but Sears at Columbiana Centre is closing, and today was the first time I was able to get out that way to get some shots. I'm going ahead with a pretty-well-in-advance closing to give us a landing page to talk about it, and because it's pretty big news. Hopfully I will get inside shots for an update at some point. Certainly the pre-printed closeout signs in these exterior shots are pretty familiar to us all by now (blurry or not..).

It appears that Belk will be taking over some, though not all of this space.

Frankly, given how hollowed-out the Columbia Mall store is at this point, I expected it to go first.

UPDATE 11 February 2014 -- Here are some interior pix from 9 February:

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UPDATE 29 Februayr 2020: Add tags, address, map icon.

Written by ted on February 3rd, 2014

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Sears Repair Center, 8328 Parklane Road, 15 May 2009   4 comments

Posted at 12:35 am in closing

This Sears Service Center used to mail out "lawn mower tuneup" cards every spring, and I took my mower there several times. In fact they mailed out one this spring and I was considering it though I ended up using the AARO Rental Center on Two Notch instead.

Really, when I think about it, I'm not sure why the place lasted as long as it did. Sears at the mall certainly has the space in the auto bay to do that sort of repair work there if they want to, and I'll bet the same is true of K-Mart as well -- there really wasn't a good reason for having three seperate buildings on Parklane.

I notice that Sears still refers to Columbia Mall rather than Columbia Place -- good for them!

UPDATE 29 February 2020: Add tags, map icon.

Written by ted on June 18th, 2009

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Sears Roebuck, 1001 Harden Street: 1970s (Moved, Demolished)   28 comments

Posted at 12:24 am in closing

I read somewhere that as World War II drew to a close, businesses took internal bets as whether that meant "back to the Depression" or "victory boom". Montgomery Ward decided on "Depression" and adopted a cautious, defensive strategy. Sears Roebuck bet on "boom" and started a post-war expansion strategy.

I don't know this for a fact, but it seems to me that the old Sears on Harden Street must be a "boom" store. Even though Main Street was still the big shopping destination, Sears bet on suburbia and ample free parking to cater to the fact that every family in their market (the middle class) now had a car.

This store was still going strong when I was a kid, and was huge. I believe that it encompassed the entire strip mall that now stands there (with the possible exception of the Offce Depot). I guess we went there most often shopping for clothes, but since that was an activity that I purely hated, I would always wander off in the hardware and camera sections.

In fact, I got my first camera at that store. I think I still have it in a storage box from two moves ago, though I can't put my hands on it right now. It was an off-brand, cheap one, and I think I actually used my own money to get it. I remember that it used "127" film, and that I had carefully checked (I was obsessive about some things) that it would take slides that could be projected on my aunt & uncle's projector though in the event I never took a single slide on it. Come to that, I don't think I ever took a roll of color film either -- those were different days! I also got my first (well, only, come to that) enlarger there. It was a cheap plastic contraption that had a pretty crummy lens and haphazard focus, but it was a $20 way to make prints bigger than "contact" size (a 127 negative was bigger than a 35mm one but not as big as a 120 one, so contact prints were really too small -- now 616 film made nice contact prints!).

Of course for kids, the biggest thing Sears had going for it was The Wishbook. This was their Christmas toy catalog, which we would be sure to leave lying about the house opened to strategic pages all during the holiday season. The selection and prices were also good for several months into the new year, which led us to possibly the stupidest thing we ever bought.

We had some sort of club, which I believe we called the YPS club (S-P-Y backwards..) dedicated to solving the (nonexistent) mysteries of our neighborhood, and for some reason, even though the club only lasted a few weeks, never had any meetings or even any missions, we decided we must have a typewriter to take the club's (nonexistent) meeting minutes. My parents had a typewriter, but they (wisely) considered it too delicate for our hands so we searched The Wishbook minutely and found a toy typewriter which would actually type for a surprisingly good price.

Our parents looked at the picture and description and tried to talk us out of it and to explain how the machine actually worked, but we were fixated and would have none of it. In the end they threw up their hands in a "ok, but let this be a lesson for you" manner and ordered it. I was so excited when it came in, and we went down to Sears to pick it up. The excitement lasted about half the way home until I got the thing unboxed and figured out how it worked. The "keyboard" which had looked so impressive in the picture (though not to adult eyes) was actually one piece of metal with pictures of seperate keys painted on it. So to "type" you dialed a Dymo-Embosser-type head to the right letter and mashed the "keyboard" which would imprint a capital letter on your paper. I suppose you could get 1-WPM on it if you were good..

Another thing I remember in particular about that store is that they had an automatic foot-sizing machine in the shoe department. No, this was too late for the infamous X-Ray foot sizers, but it was till pretty neat. You took off your shoe, put your foot in a rectangular box, and the walls would close in on it like a James Bond death-trap until they hit your foot on all sides. I used to stick my foot in it even when I had no intention of getting shoes.

Sears missed the first wave of suburban shopping malls in Columbia (ie: Dutch Square), but decided that they were the future and became (and remained) an anchor store in the new "Columbia Mall" being built in Dentsville. When that store was ready to occupy, they closed down the Harden Street location, and for many years that new mall store was the only Sears in town. I think the old store was vacant several years then was redeveloped into the current strip (with several face-lifts and a total rebuild of Food Lion after a fire). I'm not sure if any of the original Sears building is still present -- I rather doubt it.

Sears had a good post-war. Starting more or less at parity with Montgomery Ward, it saw MW out the door as its bets paid off and theirs didn't. By that time however, it was clear that Sears had missed the next bet and had no idea how to cope with Wal-Mart or even Target. It will be interesting to see how they come out of the current recession, or if perhaps the "new" store will have to be redeveloped too.

UPDATE 21 June 2011: Added a picture (at top) of the old Sears building from a vintage Chamber of Commerce promotional book.

UPDATE 29 February 2020: Add tags, full street address, map icon. (I used the '1001 Harden' address of the current Food Lion).

Written by ted on January 14th, 2009

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Sears Essentials, 7501 Garners Ferry Road Suite A: Late 2008   13 comments

Posted at 5:26 pm in closing

I'm assuming that this location of Sears Roebuck will carry on through the holiday season. There doesn't seem to be any downside to that, and folks aren't going to hesitate buying from them since they know they can always do returns at Columbia Mall or Columbiana Center.

This store is something of an odd duck for Sears. It is the only Sears I've ever been in that has shopping carts and front check-out lanes. I know Sears bought K-Mart a while back, and this place felt to me like a Sears branded K-Mart. As far as I can recall, I only shopped there once, and ended up getting that retro-Atari (pong, battlezone, missle-command etc) box that was semi-popular a few years ago. Of course like a lot of re-released toys ("Cootie", "Candyland", "Lite-Brite") it wasn't as good as the original, and one of the controllers died the second time I used it.

Once the Sears goes, I think this plaza will pretty much be a "dead mall". It's already in really bad shape, and anyone with money is going to locate in the Wal-Mart strip across the road if they can.

UPDATE 29 February 2020: Changed the title from Sears Roebuck to Sears Essentials, added a full address, tags and map icon.

Written by ted on November 25th, 2008

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Sears Gas, 7201 Two Notch Road (Columbia Mall outparcel): 1970s   11 comments

Posted at 12:36 am in closing

By the time Sears moved from Harden Street to Columbia Mall, it was long past the catalog glory days of being the company you could by anything from, but it hadn't yet been so bloodied in the retail wars that it would reject odd ideas out of hand.

This concrete slab in the Columbia Mall parking lot by the Charleston Crab House (and still actually owned by Sears to judge from the tow-away signs) was one of them. Over this slab was a canopy, and under the canopy was an island with a number of Sears-branded gas pumps. I don't remember a whole lot about the place as we only filled up one of two times there. I'm pretty sure it was self-serve, but since there was no such thing as electronic credit card reading pumps at the time, there certainly would have been a cashiers shed with an attendant. You could pay with cash, or, of-course, with your Sears Card.

My memory is that the place was an experiment that didn't last too long. I don't know exactly what happened, but I can hazard some guesses. First, the location was not convenient unless you were already at the mall. Getting in and out of the mall parking lot was (and is) much more time consuming than stoping at a corner station. Second, in the 70s people actually had some brand loyalty to different gas chains, and felt that name-brand gas was a better product than generic. Now we tend to think it's like sugar, and there's no problem buying Domino's if Dixie Crystals is more expensive. Third, at some point in the 70s (I believe) there was a major scandal about Sears's auto repair operation ripping people off (that's why about all they will do nowadays is change tires or batteries). The opprobrium from that may have tainted their gas business in people's minds. Fourth, it is simply the fact that selling gas was not in the core retail market Sears was (is..) trying to serve. As their fortunes declined, they may have decided that selling gas was a distraction and brand-dillution. (Though I have seen Wal-Mart trying the concept recently..).

At any rate, the place closed after not too many years. The canopy stood for several years after that, but was itself finally torn down. I don't remember the tanks being torn out, and there are still some access points, so perhaps they are still there (though that seems like an enviromental cleanup bill waiting to happen if it really is the case).

UPDATE 20 February 2020: Add tags, address, map icon.

Written by ted on October 13th, 2008

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