Sunday, April 21, 2019

Happy Easter from My Florida Retail!

     Happy Easter from all of us here at My Florida Retail! Target spared no expense with their giant "Easter basket", getting in the spirit by filling it with a bunch of Kinder Joy eggs. Anyway, I hope everyone has a great Easter! As an Easter gift to the readers of MFR, keep scrolling down for Part 3 of the continuing series on the closing of the Melbourne Sears store...

Sears #2245 - Melbourne, FL - The Closing Continues

     Everything must go as the closing sale continues at the Melbourne Sears store! Jumping now into part 3 of my four part series on the closing of this store, things are going to start looking much more like a closing now than we saw last time...

Sears #2245
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.

     Saturday, December 29, 2018 - Approximately 5:00pm: Returning to the Melbourne Sears store once again, we're jumping ahead six weeks from where my photos last left off. That may seem like a lot of time I had left to pass, but I wanted to begin the next portion of this series from where this closing really felt like a closing. In that span of six weeks I'd popped into this store a few times to walk around and check out the fixtures, but I was waiting for the right opportunity to take my next round of photos. The Christmas season now behind us, I figured this late December evening would be a nice chance pick up where I had left off, as the closing of the Melbourne Sears store continues...

     Getting ready to head inside once again, here we can see the countdown to the end is on...only 9 days left here according to the sign.

     Heading through the main entrance and turning to the right, here we find some large swaths of emptiness in what was formerly the women's clothing department. Yep, this sure looks much more like a closing now, the merchandise selection rapidly dwindling...

     One of the store's side entrances is clearly visible from this perspective now, helped by the fact that the women's clothing has been consolidated to a small area immediately surrounding the front doors.

     Next to that side entrance, we have our first decent look at the little space that was once home to the Optical department. In the last few posts from here we saw the signage for this space, but this is our first look at the Optical box itself. At this point well into the closing, the Optical department had been cleared out and chained off.

     Returning to the main aisle, we find more emptiness as the side of the jewelry counter tries to peek out from the left side of this photo. That too was rather empty when I walked by it.

     And not only was the jewelry counter mostly empty, most of the counter itself had been sold off too.

     Continuing our theme of emptiness, here's a look into the empty portion of the men's clothing department. What was left of the men's clothing had been consolidated into the section just out of frame to my left.

     As usual, plenty of store closing signage was taped to the windows, just like we see here at the men's clothing side entrance.

     The empty cubbies made for an interesting sight in the men's department. The jeans used to be placed in these cubbies.

     Moving back to the main aisle, we can see what was left of the men's clothing selection from this perspective.

     The children's clothing selection was fairly thin too, but seemed to be one of the fuller departments left in this store with 9 days to go. Some of the fixtures sale area had begun to creep into this part of the store too, those empty racks to my left being part of the fixture sale.

     Leaving the children's clothing department, here's a look back toward the main entrance, around which most of the remaining merchandise was consolidated.

     There were a few pairs of shoes left in the aisles to my left, but the aisles by the door were completely empty.

     It was slim pickings in the housewares department as well, with all the remaining housewares condensed to the endcaps on the main aisle. The fixture sale also began to encroach on this area as well, with that visible to my left.

     Turning around, here's a better look at how the small appliance, furniture, and mattress department had been turned into a home for fixture sales. The fixture sale also continued back into the hardware department. They really had a lot of fixtures to sell off here. Most of that stuff was large fixtures and other things I didn't need, but I was able to dig myself out a few small souvenirs over the course of this closing. However, I'll talk more about the stuff I found in my next and final post about this store.

     Even with the fixtures sale taking up most of the former mattress department, a few display mattresses were still available for sale. Those mattresses were all shoved into this part of the department, near the aisle that cuts across to children's and men's clothing.

     Here's a better look at the fixture sale that was going on. At this point in the closing, I think there were more fixtures for sale than actual merchandise! Anyway, that old desk to my left looks interesting. You never know what gets left behind in these old desks, so why not open the drawers and poke around inside of it?

     To be honest, I don't remember exactly what desks I found these two papers in. They came from two different desks, and there were at least 10 desks for sale scattered throughout the fixture department. The first relic I found inside the desks I poked through was this telephone directory, listing the extensions for all the different departments, as well as the phone numbers for some other Sears services. This directory was relatively modern though, probably made within the last decade to reflect the phone system in this store in its final years. However, this next item I found in a desk lives up to the name of "relic" much better:

     Moving along to a different desk, it's yet another telephone directory - this one being much, much older than the last one we saw though. I really hope that no one was using this directory in recent times, as the extension numbers, while similar, don't quite match up with the extensions mentioned on the modern directory. For example, if you wanted the assistant manager, this directory says to dial 203. On the modern directory, dialing extension 203 would have gotten you the Merritt Island store! For an idea of how old this directory is, it references the Cocoa Sears as one of the nearby stores. The Cocoa Sears relocated to Merritt Island in 1989, although I feel this sheet is probably much older than that.

     Clearly, winning an award for increased sales and profits won't save a store from closure - these awards just became one more thing to drag out for the fixture sale.

     Behind the old mattress department was this little room. I don't know if this room served any particular purpose, but it did contain an emergency exit complete with a Sears logo.

     Heading into the hardware department, here's one last overview looking back into the fixture sales area.

     Entering the hardware department, the old H&R Block and hearing aid center become visible once again. To my left and inside the old H&R Block/hearing aid spaces were yet more fixtures - certainly no shortage of those here.

     The hardware department was quite empty by this time in the closure process. There were some random large items and a few thin aisles of hand tools left, but the selection was certainly picked over.

     The seasonal and sporting goods department had been reduced to nothing more than three ladders for sale.

     Leaving the seasonal and sporting goods department behind us, we'll take this time to stroll through the little corridor into appliances and back around to the fixture sale. However unlike the song in the background of the video says, I don't think there is a remedy for Sears...

     Turning around from where that video ended, here we have a view looking back into the appliance department. I like the way the perspective of this photo turned out.

     Moving along into the appliance department, what was left of the merchandise was consolidated into the part of the department where I was standing for this photo. The merchandise remaining consisted mainly of display appliances, with what little backstock that remained being dragged out into empty portions of the sales floor. Going further toward the wall and the old exterior entrance, the appliance department turned into a holding area for fixtures that had already been purchased.

     The fixtures holding area was roped off, but I was able to get a few photos of this portion of the store from the other side of the rope.

     Heading back toward the men's clothing department, here's another look toward the fixture holding area.

     I think this photo is a pretty good summary of what a closing sale is all about...

     Before leaving this store, here's one last look at the merchandise that remained in the front portion of the building. As we've seen from this tour, the merchandise visible here made up about 85% of the merchandise that was left in the building.

     With the merchandise thinning out, that did provide me with an opportunity to get a better photo of the raised squiggly ceiling over the front doors.

     And to finish out this post, here's a look at the now-closed Sears Auto Center. The Auto Center lasted about a month or so into the closing process of the main store, closing about a month and a half before the main store.

     With part 3 of my Melbourne Sears closing series out of the way, that means I have one more part to go in my continuing coverage of this store: the final day. That's going to be a fun (but sad) post - probably the most exciting part of this entire series. Look for that to come to the blog soon!

So until the next post,


Thursday, April 11, 2019

Live Life With Extra Sprinkles, 'Cause I Wanna Go To Friendly's!

     Hello everyone, and welcome to a new feature here on My Florida Retail! Today I introduce to you "Dining With AFB & Friends". While we've seen some restaurants here on My Florida Retail before, most of the ones covered so far have been abandoned, repurposed, or casually looked at from the outside. While we'll still see plenty of restaurants from those perspectives in the future here on MFR, there are lots of obscure, rare, faltering, or otherwise interesting restaurants that not only would I like to photograph for posterity, but that I'd also like to try the food from too! So that's how Dining with AFB & Friends was born, as myself and the other contributors of the blog (if they ever wish to do something like this) from time to time take you all into the restaurants with us. For our first Dining with AFB & Friends post, we'll stop by a restaurant chain that's made the news this week due to another round of closings being announced...

Friendly's Restaurant #7695
1011 E. Eau Gallie Boulevard, Indian Harbour Beach, FL

     This Friendly's Restaurant opened in 1988, built in the classic Colonial building style of the chain's restaurants in the Northeast at the time (which fit in nicely in New England, but stand out quite a bit here in Florida). Today this Friendly's in Indian Harbour Beach is the last of its kind in Brevard County, as well as one of only three Friendly's Restaurants left in all of Florida (the other two being on International Drive in Orlando and the other in Port St. Lucie).

     "We are open," reads the road sign on this Friendly's Restaurant on the morning of April 11, 2019. Considering how rare an operating Friendly's Restaurant is in Florida these days, in addition to last week's announcement that 23 Friendly's locations in New York and New England would be closing, the employees at this location in Indian Harbour Beach probably want to reassure locals and tourists alike that they aren't seeing things when this Friendly's sign appears on the horizon along Route A1A.

     Friendly's made their way down to Florida sometime in the 1980's I believe, during a time when the company had over 500 locations in the Northeast, Midwest, and Southeastern US and was growing rapidly. Friendly's skipped their way down to Florida like many other companies hoping to find success in the sun, that their legacy in the Northeast would resonate with all the transplanted Northerners now calling Florida home. Friendly's continued to build restaurants in Florida into the 2000's, when the chain began entering its period of decline. It seemed like most major cities in Florida had a Friendly's at one time, so there were a decent number of them down here at one point. While I don't have an exact count of how many Friendly's in total operated in Florida, I can say that Brevard County had either 4 or 5 Friendly's of its own at one time (including the location we'll be seeing today in Indian Harbour Beach, as well as former locations in Melbourne, Melbourne Square Mall, Merritt Island, and possibly one at Searstown Mall in Titusville, however I couldn't confirm if that Titusville one ever opened or not). Taking that into consideration, I'd have to guess there were at least 30-40 Friendly's in Florida at the company's peak. 

     Anyway, while some of these Friendly's locations closed in the early 2000's or even before that, the company expedited closures as the 2010's began, many of these closings triggered by Friendly's bankruptcy in October 2011. Other closure waves trickled out after that, bringing the company to where it is today. While Florida was always an isolated market for Friendly's (the next closest locations appearing in Myrtle Beach, SC), the three random Friendly's left down here after years of shrinking are even more of an anomaly, all clustered in East Central Florida and fairly out of the way from the next closest cluster of Friendly's Restaurants. (Which is a situation that sounds quite similar to one that a certain supermarket chain tried to pull off a few years ago, doesn't it?)

     With news of those recent Friendly's closures floating around, in addition to just recently realizing that out of Friendly's 174 remaining locations, only three of them are in Florida, I made a note in my mind to try to patronize my local Friendly's at some point soon. I figured today would be a good of a day as any to visit Friendly's, especially after browsing their menu online and noticing some $5 weekday breakfast specials that sounded like a good deal. Hungry and ready to go, I took a nice morning ride up A1A for some Friendly's for the first time in many years...

      In addition to the photos I took in April 2019, I also have a few photos I took of this Friendly's location a few years ago. I posted these old photos to flickr, which I believe I left on there when I started to delete content to conform to the new uploading restrictions. Three years ago, instead of a plea that this restaurant was still open, the message on the signboard featured a little play on a famous political slogan going around as the election of 2016 neared.

     Moving away from the road sign, here's our first look at the building itself. This is the classic Friendly's building style, modeled after the Colonial architecture common in the New England area. The entrance into the restaurant is located under the red awning.

     Here's another view of the front of the restaurant. This Friendly's doesn't have any signage whatsoever on the front of the building, opting instead to place signs on each of the sides.

     Turning our attention to the left side of the building, here's one of those signs I mentioned. This particular sign faces Route A1A, as does the main road sign. When I took this photo a few years ago, everything looked good over here...

     ...however, a few hurricanes later, Friendly's has been reduced to nothing more than "riendly" now. The last hurricane to have any impact on this area was Hurricane Irma in 2017, so that's how long this sign has been broken like this. There's also the off chance a passing storm could have done this damage, but it's pretty rare for a passing strong thunderstorm to whip signs around so much to where they begin to fall apart like this.

     Anyway, on this side of the building we also see the now closed off drive-thru window, visible where that brick wall jumps out from the rest of the building. At one time you could order ice cream at that window, but it looks like it's been a long time since that was possible here. I think some Friendly's still offer drive-thru windows according to the website though.

     Moving around to the right side of the building, we see the other sign, which is still fully intact. Those arched windows look into the main dining room, which we'll see in just a moment.

     Here's a look at the front right corner of the building, the main entrance located just behind those bushes and palm trees. This building was looking a bit rough around the edges, not only because of the broken sign on the other side, but also due to the missing brick on this corner of the building. I don't know how that brick went missing, but the wooden framing of the building became exposed when the brick came down. While the outside of the building was looking a bit rough, I discovered looking through county records that Friendly's actually renewed their lease at this location. The original lease on this building expired in 2017 according to records. I couldn't find a copy of the new lease to see how long the term is, but for Friendly's to renew, I guess this place does decent business. Being right across the street from the beach in an area with a decent amount of tourists probably helps this location. Not only that, but ice cream is always nice after a day at the beach 😀

     Stepping inside the restaurant, this is the view we see. Like most Friendly's, to the left when you enter is a small counter where you can order ice cream, and to the right is a cooler with prepackaged cartons of ice cream and ice cream treats for purchase. I didn't get a picture of the counter to the left (as a bunch of waitresses and cooks were hanging out behind it), but it was identical to this one.

     I didn't actually eat my food in the restaurant itself, opting instead to order my food online and pick it up to go. However, as I waited for the cooks to finish preparing my order, I was able to get this picture looking into the dining room. It doesn't look like much has been updated in the dining room since this place opened in 1988, but the building looks much better maintained on the inside than it does from the outside. I personally don't care if the furnishings are old, just as long as they're clean! Friendly's also had all of their Easter decorations out too, some of which you can see up on that shelf along the restaurant's back wall.

     Now that we've seen the restaurant itself, it's time to eat! For my late breakfast today, I ordered the vegetable omelet with home fries and wheat toast. Since Friendly's takes 50% off select breakfast entrees during the week, I got all of this for only $5 plus tax - a great deal I must say. The omelet was very good too. Friendly's didn't skimp on the vegetables in the omelet either, with plenty of mushrooms, peppers, onions, and tomatoes cooked into the egg, as well as garnished with more vegetables on top. It was a very filling breakfast, and well worth $5. One of these days I'll have to try the lunch menu, as there were some good lunch specials I saw online too. I hope the Indian Harbour Beach Friendly's sticks around for a while, as I was quite happy with my breakfast!

     As I said before, the Indian Harbour Beach Friendly's is located directly across the street from the beach. It was a nice day so I hopped across the street to Canova Beach to see what was going on over here, as well as grab a few photos to include with this post.

     With temperatures hitting 90 degrees for the first time in 2019 this week, the beach had a bit of a crowd for a Thursday morning. Come this weekend, there will be people everywhere here!

     So I hope you guys liked this new feature. This isn't going to be a common one (at least from me - I don't know if any of the others will pick up this feature up more often), but I might do a Dining with AFB & Friends every once and a while to keep things interesting.

     Anyway, that's all I have for now. I'm slowly progressing on getting the next portion of the Melbourne Sears closing series ready, so hopefully that will be coming up before too long!

Until the next post,