1050 S. Babcock St., Melbourne, FL
This Sears store opened in 1968, coinciding with the opening of the neighboring (now dead) Brevard Mall, which featured Montgomery Ward and JCPenney as its anchors (more on that here, though). In 2015, this store was sold to Seritage Properties as part of SHC's controversial REIT deal, which is typically not a good sign for the long-term future of a Sears or Kmart store. Even with that being the case, this Sears location was supposedly a "Top 200" store from what a few employees told me, citing this Sears location had particularly strong sales in clothing. As usual, Eddie doesn't care about any of that, and this Sears store was marked for closure during SHC's initial bankruptcy filing in October 2018. Liquidation sales had begun here in late October 2018, with the store closing for good on January 6, 2019 at 1:45pm.
Monday, October 15, 2018, approximately 1:00pm: AFB was at work, either bored out of his mind or needing a break from the constant complaining from customers. Around that time he snuck into the backroom to find a quiet corner where the boss wouldn't see him, hoping for a moment of peace to check his emails and to Google the latest news on Sears Holdings, who he knew was expected to file for bankruptcy that day. A quick Google search later, AFB found the headline he was looking for: Sears files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, to close 142 more stores. Scrolling through the list, reading the names of the 142 chosen victims, this is what was going through AFB's mind: "Oooh, the Gainesville Kmart got axed. YonWooRetail2 is going to be sad about that. So did, Metairie, LA - there goes Kmart in Louisiana. Some nice Kmarts in New York and Pennsylvania got cut too. Now for the Sears stores. Panama City Mall got cut, no surprise there, but YonWoo's really getting hit hard with these closings. Lakeland Mall Sears, that's a sad one. Melbourne got cut too --- wait, what? Melbourne?!?!?! Did they really cut Melbourne?! They meant to put Merritt Island, right? No...they didn't. Darn, the Melbourne Sears is such a nice store, and a much better store overall than that one in Merritt Square! Oh great, I guess I have another
AFB on flickr My Florida Retail photo chronicle to begin..."
Tuesday, October 16, 2018, approximately 10:00am: AFB pays a visit to the Melbourne Sears, hoping to squeeze in one final trip before the closing signs of doom get plastered all over this place. He was a man on a mission this day, hoping to get a comprehensive tour of this place to share with everyone on
flickr My Florida Retail to showcase the way things were here. Mission accomplished 😀. Welcome everyone to the newest installment into AFB's series of store closing chronicles: The closing of the Melbourne Sears. (Cue dramatic theme music)
Another SHC store closing list, another photo chronicle begins. As I promised you before, today marks the beginning of my coverage of the closing of the Melbourne Sears store. Today's post is part 1 of 4 in this series, featuring photos of this store in its normal state prior to the liquidation process beginning. This post will be the longest in the series, as I wanted to get enough coverage of this place to show what things were like here before the liquidation began in late October 2018. In addition to plenty of interior photos, I also made sure to get plenty of exterior photos to document the great 60's architecture that made this store truly unique. There will be plenty of sad but interesting photos to see of this store as the series progresses, so let us jump right into things and begin our pre-liquidation tour of the now dearly departed Melbourne Sears store...
Like I said before, one of the greatest parts of this store is the exterior. The zig-zaggy awning just screams 1960's architecture. Even though this design was 50 years old by the time these photos were taken, it still looked good in the modern day. Sears did some modification to this store over the years, with most of that work happening in the 1990's. Originally, this store would have looked something like this long-closed Sears store in Meridian, MS.
As you can probably tell, I took a lot of pictures of this store's exterior. The design of this store's exterior is just too classic to not go a bit photo crazy while documenting it!
Turning the corner to the right side of the building, the zig-zaggy awning continues down this side too. Another Sears logo finds its way to this side of the building as well, as this side faces the major crossroad of NASA Boulevard.
Now for a few more photos of the right side of the building:
Sears: 50 years in Melbourne, the sign reads, visible to all the motorists driving by on busy Babcock Street. The Melbourne Sears was marking a milestone year just as news of its impending doom was released to the public. It really is sad to see this place close after being here for so long. If you drive by this place today, the Sears logo is blacked out, and the message board reads nothing more than a single word: "CLOSED".
We'll return to the front of the building for a few more shots of the main entrance. From this photo, it looks like the place is completely empty! In addition to the batch of photos I took from this store the day after its closure was announced, there are also a few random exterior photos I've taken at other times mixed into this post as well. I'm pretty sure the above photo was from one of those other times, as there was a nice little crowd at this store the day after its closure was announced. During my visit here that day, I overheard one shopper say, "This is such a nice store. Of course I had to discover it as soon as they said it would be closing!"
The lighting in the above photo really worked in my favor, doing a good job illuminating the Sears logo and the foliage next to each of the entrances.
Here's a close-up photo of the walkway to the left of the main entrance. Those darker spots near the roofline on the right side of the photo were originally windows, which were later covered over. The other panels were always walls I believe.
Stepping onto the walkway now, here's a look toward the left side of the building. In this photo, you can also see how the exterior of this building is actually brick, brick that was painted over in white presumably during the 1990's remodel. If you look at that Sears store in Meridian, MS I linked to earlier, you can see what this store would have looked like when it was built, with the natural brick exposed.
The above photo is another one that I feel turned out quite nicely. Who'd have thought that sunlight would actually act in my favor for a change?!
The main entryway into the Melbourne Sears can be seen here. This entryway actually looked quite nice, complete with a shady bench to relax on after a long shopping trip! While the sunlight was helpful in making many of my exterior shots look better, the sunlight was never in my favor as I was trying to capture the "Sears Roebuck & Co. Satisfaction Guaranteed or Your Money Back" slogan printed on the glass above the doors. That always came out glared every time I tried to capture it.
I have even more exterior photos to share at the end of this post, but for now, let's head inside for our last look at this store before those gaudy red and yellow signs of doom spring up all around this place...
Stepping through the front doors, this is what you would see upon entering the Melbourne Sears. The first department you walked into entering through the front was women's clothing. The store's main register was located straight ahead, although there were other registers located throughout the store. My visit here also came when Sears was celebrating their 125th anniversary, so the special signage made for that promotion will be seen throughout this tour. Too bad most of these signs would be coming right down in just a few days when the closing began... However, as cool as it would have been to get one of those 125th anniversary signs at the liquidation sale, I did manage to get a few Sears bags with that 125th anniversary logo on it.
However, before we go any deeper into this store, let us take a moment to look...up. Over the main entryway, the zig-zaggy ceiling from the walkway outside continued inside the building to allow light to come in through those top windows. The effect looked really nice in person, however, this ceiling just inside the entryway was never easy to photograph, as it involved me having to rather obviously tilt my phone up for a picture in the middle of the ladies' clothing department!
Here's one last look back toward the main entrance before we head deeper into this store...
Stepping further into the building, we head into the front right portion of the store. Over here we find the jewelry counter, with the main register visible off in the distance again.
Turning 90 degrees to my right from that last photo, we see the men's clothing department in the distance beyond the jewelry counter. And as the sign hanging from the ceiling notes, the optical department was down the aisle to my right, tucked into a little cubbyhole next to one of the store's right side entrances. I don't have a photo of the optical department for this post, however we will see that in a future post as my coverage of this store continues.
Here's one final look back toward women's clothing and the jewelry counter before we enter the next department: men's clothing. Since this store's layout is a bit hard to describe in words, you can always reference this map of the store as we continue through this post.
Here's an overview of the men's clothing department, as seen from one of the corners within that department.
The men's department also has an exterior entrance, and this is the view into the store from said entrance. In front of me is the men's department checkstand, with kid's clothing located in the section behind the register.
Tucked into a portion of the men's department was a small alcove for fan apparel and gear, featuring plenty of shirts and such for UF, FSU, and the Miami Dolphins. In addition to the big names in college and professional sports, this Sears was also one of only a few stores in the area to carry merchandise featuring Melbourne's very own local university, Florida Tech. A photo of a Florida Tech Panthers shirt is inset into the bottom corner of the above image, as we have to feature some local pride!
And yes, YonWooRetail2 (our MFR contributor from the Gainesville area), I made sure to frame this photo with the UF Gators merchandise front and center. I don't want to lose you as a contributor by putting FSU Seminoles stuff front and center! 😁
Stepping through the men's department, here's a look down the center of the store toward the front entrance. I was standing in the children's clothing department when I took this picture, looking back toward women's clothing.
Just prior to the announcement of this store's closure, Sears added a small toy department in a little alcove between children's clothing and women's clothing. This toy department was previously home to overflow from the men's department, overflow which was relocated to a portion of the space that previously housed electronics to make room for the toys.
Here's an overview of the toy alcove, which wasn't fully set when I took these pictures the day after this store's closure was announced. Considering that was the case, I doubt they toy department was ever fully set beyond what we see here. In the few Sears stores I've been to since these toy departments were rolled out, most of them usually occupy space that was previously home to electronics. I think this placement next to children's clothing worked out nicely at this store, with prime exposure in a part of the store that parents would frequent with their children.
"Excuse our mess" - ha! - this mess is nothing compared to the ones that would come with the upcoming closing sale! However, I actually have to give this store some credit. The employees here did keep this place looking presentable all the way to the very end, much better than some other closings I've been to.
Here I'm looking out from the toy department toward some more clothing.
Let's step back into the women's clothing department as we continue toward the left side of this store...
In the distance here is the shoe department, as well as one of the left side entrances into the building.
Here's we have a good look across the width of this building. Behind me is the left side entrance, with one of the right side entrances visible in the background. In this photo we also have our first glimpse at the shoe department.
This large area in the front corner was set aside for trying on shoes. It was nice of Sears to provide shoppers with cushioned chairs they could use to try on shoes, rather than those hard benches most other stores have!
The shoe department also had its own set of registers, which I don't think were used very often.
Here we have a look down the left side of the store, as seen from the shoe department. Beyond shoes we find small appliances and housewares.
And here's another look across the women's clothing department, the section in the foreground being home to ladies' lingerie.
Here's one final shot looking back toward the shoes before we enter housewares...
Towels, rugs, bed linens - it's all here.
The next department beyond housewares is the rather large mattress department. As we start to get into photos of the closure process, we'll see the mattress department slowly transition into the fixture sales department.
Continuing our trek down the left side of the building, we find a small furniture department (part of which is visible to my right) before we enter hardware. The hardware department (as well as seasonal merchandise) takes up the portion of salesfloor in the furthest back part of the store.
This Sears had a nicely sized hardware department. The hardware department here was always busy since this part of town lacks a true hardware store, so this was convenient for people living in the nearby neighborhoods.
I thought it was interesting to see these Sears branded rolls of bubble wrap during my visit. You don't see the Sears logo on products much anymore!
In the very back of the hardware department was the merchandise pickup room. In this room was an unstaffed kiosk where you would enter an order number when it was ready for pickup. After entering the order, an employee from the backroom would come out from a stockroom door with the item/items from the order. I'm sure in past years there was an actual staffed counter back here, although I have no idea how that would have been set up.
Looking in the opposite direction from the Merchandise Pickup room, here's a look across the hardware department width-wise.
Along the back wall of the hardware department are these two little alcoves. The alcove closest to me was previously a hearing aid center, and the one to the left (closer to the door) was previously home to an H&R Block. Once those closed, these spaces became home for excess product from the hardware department, mostly larger items. In the early days of the closing, these two alcoves became home to the start of the fixtures sale.
Just beyond the two alcoves, the back portion of the hardware department becomes home to power equipment.
The ever elusive Sears crates! These three were tucked behind some power equipment displays in the back of the hardware department, not really serving much of a purpose. One of these crates was going to be my ultimate prize from the fixture sale I hoped, but someone named 'Scott' would ultimately beat me to all of them! I don't know who you are Scott, but I hope that you're taking care of these crates and that you didn't buy them to use as firewood! However, all was not lost, as I did get some other small things from this store's fixture sale. Actually, my experience at this store's closing was one of my most pleasant fixture sale experiences I've had yet, but more about that as this series progresses.
The majority of the Christmas department had also been set by the time this store's closure was announced. Just ahead of me was the nicely decorated Tree Shop, with the other decorations surrounding the display of Christmas trees.
One of the doors into the backroom, tucked into the corner amongst the Christmas decorations.
Gardening supplies line the back wall in this aisle, with Christmas decorations still being put out to my left.
Amongst this Christmas village I spy something interesting...
Yes, you can always count on the friendly Craftsman man to bring Christmas joy when he comes rolling into town with his truck! This was the only Sears related piece in their Christmas village set this year. If Sears put out an actual Sears store piece for their Christmas village (like what Walmart does every year), I probably would have been much more tempted to buy it, especially since last Christmas was looking like it could have been Sears' last!
I know Blogger is weird when it comes to videos, so maybe this will work (if not, let me know, and I'll have to figure something out). In this video I take you through the Tree Shop, which was rather quiet and peaceful during my visit this day. There are also some additional views of the sporting goods and hardware department near the end of the video.
Here's a look back toward the main register in the hardware department, as seen from seasonal. This is essentially a still-frame of the last view in the above video, as I took this photo right after I stopped recording.
Connecting hardware/sporting goods to appliances is this narrow corridor. It looks like weird, dark, off-limits corridor, but it was actually used quite frequently by customers. Sears had decided to use this corridor as a home for their overstock Christmas trees. I don't know if that was the original plan, or if this was the beginning of preparations for the upcoming closing.
On the wall in the narrow corridor was this board, where store management would display positive feedback given about the store's employees. This was a nice touch I thought, especially with the store putting it right in public view as a way to demonstrate how friendly the store's employees were. From looking at the board, Patty seems to have been quite the helpful person, as her name made this board a lot! Hopefully she's since found a new place to continue to help customers.
At this point in the tour, the appliance department is the last main department we have yet to see in this store. The appliance department is located behind men's clothing, and next to the mattresses (which are visible in the background).
Turning around from the last photo, here's a look toward the other side of the appliance department. The blacked out window you see in the distance was originally a side entrance into the appliance department, which has been closed off for as long as I've shopped at this store. From the outside, a roll-up hurricane shutter covers this door to keep people from attempting to use it. Now that I'm thinking about it, all the entrances into this place are covered with those same roll-up hurricane shutters to keep people from using them now. But anyway, electronics were originally along that wall where the former entrance was, this store's electronics department eliminated sometime around 2016-ish. The former electronics department was repurposed as space for more appliances, as well as overflow from men's clothing. It's not the greatest photo in the world, but you can see some of the old electronics department in this photo.
Standing in the old electronics department, we find that it is now filled with clearance appliances. However, I've seen some former Sears electronics departments kept mostly empty after the department's removal, making for a pitiful sight, so it was a good thing this store was able to keep this area looking full.
From the edge of the men's clothing department, here's a look into the appliance department. To my right is the small overflow section from men's clothing that was moved over here, mostly containing socks and underwear. The only traces of this store having an electronics department that remained were a Consumer Cellular kiosk (visible to the right of the 30% off sign), as well as a small rack of phone chargers.
Turning around, here's one last look across the men's clothing department. We've seen our fair share of this store's interior, so we'll begin to work our way back outside now...
We entered through the front at the beginning of this post, so we're going to exit out the side this time. Before leaving, we see the optical department to my left, tucked into a little alcove. Unfortunately this photo turned out a bit dark, but like I said earlier, I have some much better photos of the optical department coming up in my later photosets as the closing progresses.
Back outside, we find ourselves in the side breezeway looking toward the door we just exited from. In only a matter of days, those 125th anniversary signs would be gone, and the red and yellow signs of doom would be plastered all over these windows.
Looking down the side of the building, here we have yet another opportunity to appreciate the great architecture that made this store so unique. The side walkway is extremely wide, even extending beyond those poles a bit. I'm sure this was a bustling little corridor back in the day when Sears was the retail king!
Walking further toward the back of the building, the entrance into the men's clothing department is located just out of frame to my left. In the distance you can also see the shutter covering the closed-off door that once led into the appliance department.
Here's a close-up of the Sears logo on the right side of the building, facing traffic on NASA Boulevard.
The architecture on the left side of the building isn't quite as stunning as what we saw on the right side of the building. Besides the little awning over the left side entrance (which is the one that led into the shoe department, there isn't much else to see on this side of the building.
Here's a closer look at the left side entrance on the pleasant fall morning I came out here for photos.
Toward the back left side of the building we find the merchandise pickup entrance. The merchandise pickup door only got a plain metal awning, which certainly pales in comparison to the coverings over the rest of this store's entrances!
The last stop on our pre-closure tour of the Melbourne Sears store is the Auto Center. The Auto Center operated for a short period as the store closing began, but closed well in advance of the main store's last day. As you can see in this photo, the Melbourne Sears Auto Center was always busy, the line of cars out front demonstrating that on this particular day! I feel this would have been a good Sears Auto Center to keep open even after the main store closed, but then again, I'm not Eddie! (Although if I were in Eddie's shoes I'd have tried to find a way to not have to close the main store either!)
I can't remember the exact time the auto center closed, although I believe it was sometime in November 2018. The auto center was closed for a while as the main store continued to liquidate.
While today's tour from the Melbourne Sears is over, my coverage of this store is not. I still have three most posts to come featuring this store in liquidation mode. I don't have any set timetable for when the future posts on this store will go up on MFR, but I'll try to cover some other stuff in between the Sears closure stuff, so as to not bombard everyone with tons of photos of this place all at once! (In addition to helping me upload some more of the numerous other photos buried within my archives!). Be sure to keep checking back with the blog for more posts from myself and the other contributors!
So that's all I have for now. Until the next post,