Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Shoppes of Victoria Square - Merritt Island, FL

The Shoppes of Victoria Square
1450 N. Courtenay Parkway, Merritt Island, FL

     While most of Merritt Island's retail centers are doing rather well in some form, The Shoppes of Victoria Square is one of the island's harder hit centers. Although the plaza is anchored by a busy Aldi store presently, much of the center is dead, plagued by an empty junior anchor and mostly empty major anchor. Today's post will explore The Shoppes of Victoria Square through the years, specifically profiling the center's two former anchors (Winn-Dixie and Walgreens) and the one major outparcel, originally home to McDuff's SuperCenter. There are lots of fun surprises to be had here, so let's get this post started!

Winn-Dixie #2330
1450 N. Courtenay Parkway #36, Merritt Island, FL - The Shoppes of Victoria Square

     Beginning our tour of The Shoppes of Victoria Square, we'll start with the plaza's former Winn-Dixie anchor. Winn-Dixie opened this store in March 1989 as one of the original Marketplace era stores, bringing the new concept to Merritt Island for the first time. I believe this store was built to serve as a replacement for a tiny old 1960's store located east of here on North Banana River Drive, as that store closed around the time this one opened. This must have been a decently successful store back in the day, as it was remodeled and expanded in the later part of the 90's to the newer Marketplace design. That expansion took over some smaller storefronts to the right of the Winn-Dixie, allowing for the expansion of the service departments, which were a key point of the later Marketplace stores. Winn-Dixie's late 90's expansion, however, came at the cost of Merritt Island's other Winn-Dixie store. Located 2 miles south of here at the corner of Courtenay Parkway and SR 520, that store, which was smaller and older, was closed in favor of the expanded Marketplace store here at Victoria Square.

     However, as we move further into the 2000's, Winn-Dixie's financial woes were catching up to them, and the company declared bankruptcy in 2005. While not a part of the initial wave of closures during the 2005 bankruptcy, the Merritt Island Winn-Dixie was marked for closure in a future wave. Because of that, the Merritt Island Winn-Dixie was included for sale at a 2006 bankruptcy auction, and ended up becoming one of 4 stores purchased by a man named Esmail Mobarak. Mobarak was the owner of a few Foodtown Supermarkets in the New York City area, and planned to used these newly purchased Winn-Dixie stores as a way to expand the brand into Florida. Of the four stores Mobarak purchased, the Merritt Island location was the only one not located in South Florida, and must have been a purchase of opportunity, as he only paid $5,000 for the store's lease (he paid much, much more than that for each of the other three stores). We looked at one of those Foodtown stores on AFB earlier this year, and while I can't speak for what those stores were like when they first opened, Foodtown Florida is an...interesting place these days. The new Foodtown Florida stores were designed to be a world marketplace, catering to various cultures from around the world. It's a good concept for ethnically diverse South Florida, but not for Merritt Island. Needless to say, the Merritt Island Foodtown store closed within a year of opening. For only $5,000, I guess it wasn't too bad of a financial risk to open a store like that in Merritt Island to see how it fared. In the late 2000's Aldi opened up in the leftmost third of the old Winn-Dixie, and the remainder of the building has been empty ever since.

     Aldi remodeled their side of the building to their liking, while the remainder of the building is still as it was when Winn-Dixie and Foodtown closed.

     Winn-Dixie old entryway was chopped in half to make room for Aldi's. What remains of Winn-Dixie's old entryway is on the other side of that block wall (which we'll see shortly), with Aldi's doors just out of frame to my left. Before we get to the empty half of this building, we'll pop into Aldi really quick...

     The Courtenay Parkway Aldi is one of the last holdouts in the area with Aldi's late 2000's/early 2010's décor and layout. Aldi has been on a remodeling spree recently, where the company has been trying to bring all of their stores to the latest prototype, which looks like this. I believe the reason this store has held onto the old décor for so long was because plans came to light for a second Merritt Island Aldi, that second location opening on October 1, 2020 across the street from Merritt Square Mall on SR 520. My guess is with the new store now open, Aldi will be able to close this store temporarily for remodeling.

     Aldi's newer stores are much fancier looking than this, but even when this decor package was current, I still felt that Aldi was the nicest of the discount grocery chains out there.

     In this photo we're looking from produce (which is located in the back of the store) toward the front end.

     Frozen foods are along the left side wall, where Winn-Dixie's dairy department would have been.

     Here's one last look across Aldi's front end, looking toward the exit.

     Anyway, I'm sure you guys are much more interested about what lies in the other half of this building than what's inside Aldi. Now that we're done poking around Aldi, let's head over to the abandoned side now for a peek inside...

     Like I mentioned before, Winn-Dixie's old entryway got chopped in half when Aldi moved in. Pictured here is the half that survived. At least one original door managed to make the cut (located under the window panel with the '26' on it), so you can still get into this half of the building. I've seen a few subdivisions in the past that have left some portions of the building without any interior access (from the front anyway), which I always thought was strange.

     Here's that lone surviving door up close. What lies behind it, you ask?...

     Winn-Dixie Marketplace, of course! As we saw in my Foodtown post earlier this year, Foodtown didn't have a huge remodeling budget, so they left all of Winn-Dixie's existing decor in place after they moved in. Foodtown did remove the word "America's" from the America's Supermarket tagline at the entryway, to make room for their own sign, and replaced the Winn-Dixie logo above that with an emblem of their own.

    There weren't any lights on in this half of the building, so I only had the sunlight to brighten up the interior. Since the only light was coming in through a few windows by the entryway, the entire back of the store was dark. However, in this picture we can make out the old Marketplace decor and flooring a little bit, so I had some success here. Looking straight to the back wall was the meat counter, and I believe the bakery and deli were located along the right wall, that is if this store followed the usual late 90's Marketplace layout after the remodel (it's too dark in here to tell what's located along that wall).

     The exterior of the unused portion of the Winn-Dixie space still has a labelscar if you look closely above the vestibule wall - it looks like it reads "Pharmacy". The side of the building you see here is where the expansion occurred in the late 1990's. It's hard to tell from the front an expansion happened here, although you can still see the remains of the 1980's era vestibule that were modified during the expansion.

     At the southernmost end of the plaza is this small restaurant building that sits by itself, only connected to the rest of the plaza by the decorative roofline. While this space has been home to Beef 'O' Brady's for a while now, it was home to CiCi's Pizza from 1997 to 2002, one of three CiCi's to open in Brevard County when the chain entered the area in the late 1990's (those locations being this one, one in Melbourne, and one in Palm Bay). While the Merritt Island and Palm Bay CiCi's barely made it into the 2000's, the Melbourne CiCi's made it until 2016, when the owner at the time lost the franchise agreement with CiCi's and decided to go independent. However, the stint as an independent didn't last long before that closed for good too, but that's a story for another day.

     Now that I'm in a mood for pizza after all that talk about CiCi's, here's one final look at the former Merritt Island Winn-Dixie. Next, we move on to the other major former tenant of this plaza: Walgreens.

Walgreens #2099
1450 N. Courtenay Parkway #22, Merritt Island, FL  - The Shoppes of Victoria Square

     Like the Winn-Dixie next door, Walgreens opened with the shopping center in March 1989. Walgreens remained a tenant at The Shoppes of Victoria Square until 2006, when a freestanding Walgreens was built across the street to replace this one. Walgreens' original space has remained empty ever since. I find it strange this space has sat empty for so long, as usually these former drug store junior anchors are popular with dollar stores, thrift stores, auto part stores, and gyms, especially in a decently located plaza like this.

     Walgreens' façade isn't looking so great either, with a giant rubber patch covering a hole where the stucco took on some damage. The damage isn't a recent occurrence either - that patch has been there for a few years now. It looks like some other cracks have formed in the stucco on the front of building too, and it seems the landlord isn't interested in fixing any of it.

     Even though the damage erased part of it, we can still see some of the 'Walgreens' labelscar on the building, specifically the "reens" part.

     While the stucco work isn't looking so great, the remainder of the Walgreens space isn't in disrepair, with the interior having held up well over the last 14 years of abandonment. Seen here is the front walkway, looking toward Walgreens' entrance (located in that little alcove up ahead), with Aldi visible in the distance. Also, look carefully at the above photo - do any of you sharp-eyed readers notice something odd about it, specifically in relation to the Walgreens space?...

     If you looked carefully at the previous photo, you should have noticed that one of Walgreens' doors was propped open! Actually, there were two doors propped open when I was here - one going into the main store, and the other going into the attached liquor store. I was certainly taken by surprise seeing this - it's like I was being invited in!

     However, the only reason these doors were propped open was because someone was in here doing something. What exactly was going on I don't know, but the back doors were propped open too, as I could see sunlight coming in through the back of the building. I'm sure it would have been extremely awkward trying to explain to whoever was in here why I was wandering around taking photos, so as tempting as it was, I stayed out on the sidewalk. However, since the doors were open, I had to use that to my advantage somehow. I did stick my arm through the open doors and take photos that way, giving me some nice, non-glared, clear overviews of the interior.

     Getting some nice clear pictures in here was great, as the interior of this building still has Walgreens' late 1990's/early 2000's décor on the walls! This décor is essentially extinct in operating Walgreens stores, as Walgreens typically remodels all of their stores in waves to the latest design. We had one Walgreens locally that held onto this décor until 2015 or so (even after most stores removed it in the early 2010's), but of course, that Walgreens had to remodel to the current décor before I thought to get some pictures of it! Oh well, I make up for that here.

     Anyway, seen here is the interior of the old Walgreens liquor store. Of all the major drug store chains in Florida (aka CVS and Walgreens), Walgreens was the only one to operate liquor stores. Just about every strip center Walgreens had a liquor store attached, and select freestanding ones still do. However, when many of these strip center Walgreens relocated to freestanding locations, most of them lost the liquor stores completely at the new location.

     Jumping over the liquor wall, here's our first glimpse into the main store. Looking straight ahead after entering, we find the space that would have originally been home to the cosmetics department.

     Using the open door to my advantage, here's a better look at the cosmetics wall, with the remains of the pharmacy counter visible in the background.

     Unlike the liquor store, all the tile in the main store was ripped up for some reason, but the old carpet by the entryway remains. Anyway, here's a look at the left side of the former Walgreens space, where wee see the remainder of the pharmacy counter and the Health Care department. Even empty, this place still had a really strong classic Walgreens vibe to it (but a new musty odor, which I could sense thanks to the open door). Today's Walgreens stores have a very sleek, white, sterile feel to them, which to me is a much different feel than the company had when stores like this were modern. To me, this was a neat little glimpse into Walgreens' history, getting to see this design I haven't experienced in years.

     Returning to the parking lot, here's one last look at the Walgreens space. It would be nice to see both the Walgreens and the rest of the Winn-Dixie find some kind of new life after 15 years of nothing. The area is really busy and Aldi is a huge draw to the center, so I don't know what's kept these anchor spaces dark for so long. The potential is here, but there's something holding back this plaza from being the draw it once was again.

     Before leaving the main part of the shopping center, here's a look at the plaza's northernmost tip. At this end of the plaza, the building swings back to accommodate room for more smaller tenants, as well as another small junior anchor (which occupies the storefront furthest to the right in the picture above). While it looks empty, that junior anchor space was in preparation to become a second location for Fitness Club Merritt Island, a locally owned gym. Fitness Club Merritt Island took over this space from Sunbay Fitness, which was a local chain of gyms that began to close its locations slowly until this one, its last, closed in April 2019. Fitness Cub Merritt Island opened in this location in September 2020. Prior to Sunbay Fitness, Dollar General occupied this space until they moved across the street to a new Dollar General Market around 2006. Sunbay expanded the Dollar General space into a row of storefronts spanning to the right, doubling the space Dollar General once had. I couldn't determine what was in here prior to Dollar General, although documents from the plaza's original construction designate this unit as one set aside for a "hardware store".

McDuff SuperCenter / Goodwill Industries of Central Florida
1550 N. Courtenay Parkway, Merritt Island, FL - The Shoppes of Victoria Square

     For the last part of today's post, we'll jump over to the outparcels. The most interesting of the outparcels at The Shoppes of Victoria Square is this place - while now a Goodwill, this building was built in 1992 as a McDuff SuperCenter. For those of you unfamiliar with the company, McDuff was a chain of electronics stores in the Southeastern United States. Founded in Jacksonville, FL in 1944, McDuff was acquired by RadioShack's parent company Tandy Corp. in 1985, under whose ownership McDuff peaked at 235 stores in the early 1990's. While McDuff sold similar products to RadioShack, McDuff was different from its sister chain in that McDuff also sold appliances, as well as operated larger stores than RadioShack. While those larger stores, called "SuperCenters" were the bulk of McDuff's operations, McDuff also operated smaller, electronics-focused stores in malls, sometimes in malls that also had sister store RadioShack nearby. The Merritt Island McDuff replaced a much older store further down Courtenay Parkway, a building that still stands in nearly original form (but operating as a pharmacy now). Unfortunately, the McDuff SuperCenter of Merritt Island was a short lived store, closing in 1995 as part of a restructuring plan by Tandy Corp. as a glut of competition in the consumer electronics industry plagued the company's finances. Unfortunately, only a year later Tandy Corp. would pull the plug on McDuff entirely, bringing McDuff's 52 year run as a company to a close.

     For fun, I had fellow MFR contributor Cape Kennedy Retail pull this McDuff ad from This ad dates back to November 1992, and was valid at the Merritt Island McDuff SuperCenter, as well as the other Brevard and Volusia County McDuff stores listed at the bottom of the ad. If you click on the ad you can see it in full size, and take in all the details of some great deals on some wonderfully 90's electronics. A free tape rewinder with any VCR purchase - I'll be there!

     As far as I'm aware, the Merritt Island McDuff SuperCenter sat empty from 1995 until Goodwill took over this space in 2011, relocating from a former Eckerd across the street (if there was anything in this building between McDuff and Goodwill, it didn't last long). Unlike the chronic vacancies in the plaza behind here, at least after 16 years, something found some use for the old McDuff building! While Goodwill's exterior still uses the design from McDuff, the interior was stripped of pretty much anything McDuff could have left behind. Interestingly, Brevard County's other McDuff SuperCenter, located in West Melbourne, would eventually become home to a thrift store too - but one that preserved a little more of McDuff's interior than Goodwill did here in Merritt Island (not much more, but a little more, as can be seen scrolling though those photos). I believe Cape Kennedy Retail may have a post of his own to do about the former West Melbourne McDuff SuperCenter in the future (not 100% sure on that, but I thought he may have mentioned something about that before), so hopefully we'll see some coverage of that store appear on MFR one day as well.

     Anyway, all that aside, the photo above is our view looking into Goodwill from just inside the front doors. Goodwill's registers are located in an island just out of frame to my left, with clothes taking up the front half of the building.

     Like we saw at the Mill Creek Mall Goodwill, this store uses Goodwill of Central Florida's very common 2010's decor, which uses a variety of colors throughout the store. Goodwill ripped out the tile floor in favor of bare concrete, the bare concrete in here not looking too bad for a floor that wasn't designed to be exposed like this.

     As usual with a thrift store, there was no shortage of stuff here!

     The windows you see on the front and side of the building aren't original - those were actually added in by Goodwill. Google Streetview actually has a nice capture of this building from early 2011, before Goodwill moved in, showing the place in its original form.

     The extent of the electronics sold in this building these days is seen here, delegated to a few shelves of randomly strewn whatnot in the back right corner of the building. Some of these items looked to be old enough to have come from McDuff, some newer, and some (like the speakers at the bottom left of the image) probably pre-date this building by quite a while!

     Goodwill's new windows do a really nice job of brightening up the building, however it doesn't help to reduce glare when out taking photos!

     While I didn't buy it, today's retail-related thrift store find of the day is this Sears fog light attachment, which by the look of the car on the box, probably dates back to the 1970's. While a fog light attachment designed for a 1970's vehicle is probably a tough sell these days, the box alone is actually a neat little piece on its own with the retro graphics. However, for the $8 or whatever they were charging for this, that's much more than I'm willing to pay for a box! But if you happened to hang onto a classic car like the one in the picture, $8 probably isn't a bad deal for an accessory like this you can get some use out of.

     Here's one final photo of the interior, looking back toward the entryway and the check out counter.

     Since there wasn't much from McDuff left inside the Goodwill, I figured I'd conclude our post with one final McDuff's ad - this one from the 1970's. The Merritt Island location listed at the bottom of the ad is the older location I linked to earlier, those other stores listed in Titusville and New Smyrna Beach long gone by the time the other ad we saw was printed in 1992. So remember, if you're in the market for a snazzy new 8-track deck or a portable color television - don't fret - head to your local Goodwill McDuff today!

     So I hope everyone enjoyed today's post, this interesting little glimpse into some long abandoned Merritt Island retail and one of the many electronics store chains of the past. Most likely my next MFR contribution will be the blog's 2nd anniversary post coming in mid-November, but who knows. I'm always finding new places to visit and write about!

Anyway, that's all I have for now. So until the next post,



  1. While the two abandoned anchor stores were of course the best part of the post, I'm actually glad you photographed that Aldi; I'd forgotten what that décor package looked like, even though it hasn't been all that long since it was in my local Olive Branch Aldi! To be honest, I think I actually prefer that look to their current look. The new look is nice, too, though.

    Until you mentioned that Aldi is a huge draw to this plaza and quite popular, I was going to comment that that other Aldi that just opened might instead be a reason to close this one permanently, rather than simply temporarily for a remodel! Aldi seems quite out of place with so much else in this shopping center vacant (and, in the case of the Walgreens, not well-kept by the landlord), but I guess if they're content with doing business there, that's as good a reason as any to stick around.

    Anyway, speaking of those other two anchors... as always, it's great to see all those old décor remnants intact, including especially your great luck at the Walgreens! I wouldn't have walked inside either, but it's very cool that the doors were open, practically inviting you to take pictures. Glad you got to see that package again, and document it. And the Foodtown story is definitely interesting as well; I guess you're right, and the lease was simply too cheap to pass up the opportunity. Better than paying loads more and still having it fail, anyhow! Finally, I agree that the old Sears box graphics at the Goodwill/former McDuff are really neat.

    1. Yeah, that Aldi décor is actually a rarity these days, so it worked out that I was able to photograph it! It wasn’t too long ago when that décor was really prevalent, but Aldi has been on top of remodels recently. Even some of the last few stores the open with the older décor seen here have been getting remodels, so Aldi is quite serious with their modernization spree. Some of the remodeled stores can come off as a bit dark from what I’ve seen, which is my only complaint about the new look. The new décor has a bit more substance to it than this older one, which fit in more with the bare-bone feel Aldi was going for.

      Both Aldi stores were meant to co-exist, as Aldi has started doing some infill in my area recently. I think Aldi wanted a store in Cape Canaveral/Cocoa Beach, but couldn’t find a site over there, so they had to come inland a bit and settle for a second Merritt Island store to serve that area. Maybe Aldi has a good deal on rent or something being the only draw to the plaza, which keeps them going.

      Since that Walgreens décor is essentially dead these days, I enjoyed seeing that very much! The W-D décor remnants were fun too, but since Marketplace décor is still floating around out there, it loses some of the spectacle that way (although putting the décor in an abandoned setting is always an interesting juxtaposition). The Foodtown connection here was a bit odd, but it’s not the craziest story (or fastest failure) I’ve ever heard of in relation to Floridian supermarkets!

  2. Part I:

    McDuff! I know that you hinted about this post a few weeks back when the subject of McDuff came up in the comments at the Mid-South Retail blog. Certainly this post does not disappoint, thanks for the coverage!

    It's a bit funny that this McDuff was built in 1992 because I feel like McDuff was almost on their way out of Houston in 1992. According to a newspaper clipping on sale on eBay, my local McDuff store announced it was closing in January 1993. The other one down the road in The Commons across from Willowbrook Mall might have lasted about a year longer, but it didn't stick around for much longer. Here's a link to that eBay photo if you want to see what my local McDuff looked like:

    McDuff was a Circuit City/Best Buy type store, but it didn't quite look like either on the inside. I would say that it looked more like a plug-type Circuit City store than a Best Buy of the time since the salesfloor was more oriented towards showing off the products for sale and allowing customers to interact with the products rather than the Best Buy model where the salesfloor had cartons of product out on the salesfloor like a supermarket. The Best Buy model likely led to lower prices, but the Circuit City/McDuff model led to more impressive looking stores. Circuit City stores were more flashy. I would say McDuff stores felt more like a big living room, lol.

    The exterior design of this McDuff, and also the West Melbourne one, is a bit different than how I remember ours looking. These Florida ones almost have some design aspects of the 'plug' style entrances of late 1980s/early 1990s Circuit City stores or Conn's stores from the 2000s (Conn's is from this part of Texas and was a competitor to McDuff over here - Conn's was a more upscale retailer at that time than they are now and they only sold electronics and appliances back then). In fact, with the way Goodwill has done things, it looks like an old Circuit City in some ways.

    Although Tandy owned both Radio Shack and McDuff, they were quite different stores. Of course, size was the biggest difference, but Radio Shack stores of the time would have sold mostly their own brands of products like the Realistic, Optimus, and Tandy brands. Since a lot of consumers in those days were wanting name brand electronics (Montgomery Ward sensed this early on and had a lot of success with their Electric Ave. store-within-a-stores), there was a need for a store like McDuff which sold the major brands. Tandy also operated VideoConcepts stores at around the same time that were smaller, usually mall-based stores which sold name-brand TVs, VCRs, and Hi-Fi.

    It seems Tandy knew McDuff wasn't working and so they came up with the Incredible Universe concept. They tried to blow Circuit City and Best Buy away with a much bigger, fancier store. Incredible Universe stores were, well, incredible, lol. They took a Disney approach to their stores and tried to make them feel like an amusement park. Employees were known as cast members and such. We had one such store in Houston which opened around 1995 and it was a complete failure. It was just way too much and the prices weren't competitive. I don't know if Incredible Universe had any stores in Florida, but if so, they might be worth covering.

    1. Part II:

      Both of the local McDuff's near me were turned into Computer City stores, another store run by Tandy. Computer City stores were like CompUSA clones. It's possible that some Florida McDuff's were converted into Computer City stores. That might be worth investigating. The McDuff in the above eBay photo was turned into a Radio Shack clearance store initially, but then was turned into a Computer City Express (a small format store). The Willowbrook area location was eventually turned into a full Computer City and then the Express store down the road was closed. One thing about Computer City that sticks out in my mind is that if you had their free discount card, you could get a free floppy disk each time you visited their stores. I have several Computer City brand floppy disks because of this which I still have, lol.

      Those McDuff ads are great. I wonder if it's too late to get that Pioneer 50 wpc stereo receiver for $137.87, lol. I wouldn't mind that Walkman either, but I had a Walkman from McDuff. Those VHS tape rewinders weren't worth it even for free. They had a bad reputation for breaking tapes. When you rewind on a VCR, it senses when the tape is almost at the end and slows the speed down to prevent the tape from breaking off the reel. Most rewinders did not do that. They ran at full speed until the tape stopped which sometimes led to the tape breaking off the reel! Those tapes could be fixed if you knew what you were doing, but it wasn't the easiest thing.

      Most of those electronics at the Goodwill are far too new to be from McDuff. The speaker closest to the front is too old to be from this McDuff at least as you say, but that other speaker could possibly be from this McDuff. I have a pair of Design Acoustics speakers which were purchased from McDuff in about 1989 which have a similar shape, but mine are smaller and have a different finish.

      One thing that Goodwill Houston started doing earlier this year was converting some of their stores to be clearance stores. These clearance stores get clothes which don't sell at the regular stores and they are just rolled out onto the floor in big bins in a mostly unsorted fashion. People fill their bags with all the clothes they want and then pay for it by the pound. I'm not sure if any Goodwills in your area have switched to that format.

      I like the colorful walls at this Goodwill, but the concrete floors kind of ruin the colorful look, IMO. All in all, this isn't the nicest Central Florida Goodwill that I've seen.

      OTOH, I like the way the Aldi looks. This Aldi looks a bit more spacious than our Aldis. The tall ceilings and tiles give the store an airy feeling as well. I hope Aldi does not try to do too much with this location because that would be a shame. The front facades of this, and especially the ex-Walgreens, do need some renovation though.

      That's neat that you were able to take a look inside the old Walgreens! It's strange seeing a shopping center Walgreens with that decor because most of ours relocated to freestanding locations before that decor was used, but we still have a few shopping center Walgreens. Here's one next to a Randall's which was around in the 1970s at the very least. The store has modern decor now, but there's still some retro features in the store such as the racks and especially that tobacco display. Link:

      Check out this retro shopping center Walgreens over near the Deerbrook Mall in Je's part of Houston. That flooring might be from the 1980s or earlier! Link:

      Houstonians much preferred Eckerd over Walgreens, but Walgreens was/is still a major player here and has a very long history in Houston including having some Globe stores which was Walgreens' attempt at a Kmart type store. How well did Walgreens perform when Eckerd was still around in Florida given that Eckerd was the local company?

    2. Part 3:

      Here's just a quick addendum to what I wrote earlier. In part 1, I mentioned that Tandy had some mall electronics stores called VideoConcepts which was a sister chain to McDuff. In part 2, I mentioned Eckerd.

      Well, does anyone want to guess who owned VideoConcepts before Tandy bought them in the early-to-mid 1980s? Yep, Eckerd! I bet you didn't think that Eckerd once owned mall electronics stores!

      The Mallwalkers Blog has some images from inside a VideoConcepts store from 1991 at the Ridgmar Mall in Ft. Worth, TX. The inside of a McDuff, at least the one across from Willowbrook Mall here in Houston, looked somewhat similar. Of course, the McDuff was much bigger and had more products to sell like computers. Link:

      That Mallwalkers Blog is worth checking out. They have some photos from inside a Burdines store which I'm sure some MFR readers will enjoy.

      But, yeah, I thought I would add that little bit about McDuff's sister retailer, VideoConcepts, since it is also quite related to Florida retail.

    3. Response to Part 1:

      I knew you were interested in McDuff after that prior conversation, so I figured this post would be a good way to get some coverage of the chain on the blog for you. Glad you liked the post! That photo of your local McDuff is neat too, seeing what a McDuff would have looked like while in operation.

      Thanks for all the info on McDuff as well! I was never in one, so I really don’t know anything about how the store was designed on the inside, or what the atmosphere was like. Most of my impressions of McDuff comes from some newspaper ads. Circuit City was a big deal in the 90’s, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Tandy was trying to copy some of the elements (and even store design features) from CC with the later McDuff stores to make them more competitive.

      Incredible Universe is a really good example of a concept that crashed and burned really bad. Those stores sounded impressive, but with all the frills, certainly made it hard for them to turn a profit. I looked into it, and it turns out Incredible Universe had two stores in South Florida: Hollywood and Doral. The Hollywood stores was turned into a Home Depot, which uses the original building, but is completely unrecognizable. The Doral store was much more interesting, as it became another electronics store after Incredible Universe called AAAA Universe (which seems like some kind of low-budget ripoff of Incredible Universe). AAAA Universe lasted into the mid-2010’s, although the building (which remained in incredibly original condition), was torn down recently so a new hospital could be built on the site ☹. Here’s what the building looked like shortly after AAAA Universe closed, per GSV: Yelp has a few photos from inside AAAA Universe from when it was open. While AAAA appears pretty bare bones, the interior was left pretty in-tact too: And even better yet, there’s also an exterior photo of that store from the Incredible Universe days: That would have been such a cool store to cover, so of course it had to get torn down!

    4. Response to Part 2:

      Funny you mention Computer City – I was actually looking into the history of a building (completely unrelated to this post) prior to seeing your comments, and that building actually spent some time as a Computer City. I would like to visit that store soon, as it has an interesting past and current use, and is near some other stores I need to cover and get some updates on. The West Melbourne McDuff did become a Computer City and later CompUSA, but searches for both of those chains in Merritt Island come up with nothing. It appears this McDuff just closed outright and sat empty for a long time. The Computer City free floppy disk promotion was a neat way to get people into the store, and I’m sure those make for some good souvenirs too!

      Sounds like you need to hurry into your local McDuff before those great deals in the ad disappear forever! 😊 I actually never understood the point to having a special VHS tape rewinder, considering that every VCR I’ve ever seen had a rewind feature built in (unless some really old or really cheap VCRs lacked internal rewinding capabilities).

      I was hoping out of all that stuff on the shelf, something could have been old enough to date back to the 1992-1995 range. At least one of those speakers could have been a possibility!

      Goodwill of Central Florida does have clearance/outlet centers, but I’ve never seen a regular Goodwill around here convert into one. All the ones around here were either opened as a clearance center from scratch, or have one attached to a regular store. They use the same format you describe, selling clothes by the pound, as well as featuring some other odds and ends like furniture, books, and bicycles that must not have sold at the regular stores.

      The older Aldi décor is a clean and colorful look, and not totally cheap and boring. If this store were to get remodeled, it would probably get a similar treatment to the Aldi in North Tampa posted to AFB a few weeks ago (although it’s a toss up if the drop ceiling would stay or go). With the new Aldi not far away, I feel a remodel will be happening here soon. Aldi typically closes their stores completely for a period of time to do the remodel, so with the new store open, it seems like the time would be right for the remodel to happen.

      We had a number of shopping center Walgreens with that look down here. While Walgreens has been actively replacing the old shopping center stores with freestanding ones since the 1990’s, a good number lingered on into the 2000’s, and a handful survive to this day (a good number of those remaining ones are down in South Florida where land for a freestanding store is harder to come by). That Walgreens you linked to, even with the current décor, still has an older vibe to it. And that tobacco display is a relic too! The Deerbrook store is quite the throwback as well! Here in Florida, Walgreens and Eckerd were mostly equals. Both have/had been in Florida for many, many years (Walgreens has had stores in Florida since the 1930’s at least, and I believe Eckerd relocated their HQ to Florida in the 1950’s). Florida was one of the best performing markets for both chains, and Florida is still one of Walgreens top markets (alongside their homeland of Illinois). Walgreens and Eckerd managed to drive Rite Aid out of Florida after a short 7 year run in the late 80’s/early 1990’s, so those two had some power between them.

    5. Response to Part 3:

      Eckerd buying a home electronics chain was certainly a strange move! And those photos of the Fort Worth VideoConcepts store are really neat! I really enjoyed looking through those photos, and I’m sure that store was quite the futuristic looking place at the time. Some good stuff on that website too – I’ll have to look through more of those posts when I get a chance.

    6. Part I:

      I certainly appreciate the coverage of McDuff. I suppose it's hard to prove without there being any photos of the inside of a McDuff, but it was a neat store even if it ultimately didn't standout from Circuit City. Even if you were young at the time, you probably remember how much excitement there was at electronics stores in the late 1980s/early 1990s with all the relatively new stuff that was out in the market during those times like PCs, VCRs, camcorders, and portable audio. That goes along with established products like stereos and TVs.

      I attended the grand opening of the Houston Incredible Universe and it was, well, incredible! Unfortunately, I knew from the prices that they wouldn't last long. I also got the sense that since McDuff didn't last that Incredible Universe probably wouldn't either. Tandy seemed to be trying a lot of things in those days, but they weren't very committed to anything aside from their bread and butter RadioShack stores. There are some videos and photos online of IU stores so at least you can get more of a taste of those than you can of McDuff.

      AAAA Universe, wow. That's even worse than STØR, lol. That name reminds me of when plumbers and such add As to the beginning of their names in order to get at the top of the yellow pages listings, lol. That store looks just like an IU on the outside and the interior is very similar as well. The IU would have had some fancier touches, but it's not like the AAAA was too basic. It's too bad it's gone now because that would have been something great to add to the blog, but at least there are some photos of it. Without those, the story of AAAA Universe might have been too crazy to believe!

      We had CompUSA in Houston before they were even CompUSA. They started out as SoftWarehouse. I liked CompUSA, especially in the early days, but I preferred Computer City. The stores felt a little nicer. I spent a lot of time, and money, at Computer City! The least they could do was give me some free floppy disks, lol. If you think that a photo of those disks might help your future post about the Computer City, let me know and I can e-mail you a photo of them. I know exactly where they are so it wouldn't be a problem.

      I'm guessing Tandy had some leases on those McDuffs that closed and needed something to put in them so Computer City made sense. Computer City probably did better than McDuff due to the great growth of computer sales in the 1990s. I'm not sure why the Merritt Island location was abandoned completely by Tandy. Maybe it just didn't do very well, but I don't know.

      I just looked and it seems Florida does not have any MicroCenter stores. MicroCenter is a great computer store chain which we've had in Houston since 1994 (though they aren't in their original location now). As much as I liked Computer City, MicroCenter is much better. MicroCenter is coast-to-coast, but they still only have a small number of stores.

      Eckerd owning an electronics store certainly is strange! I bet a lot of Eckerdphiles didn't even know about their involvement with VideoConcepts. You're right that the store felt futuristic. A lot of electronics stores at the time felt futuristic. Add that to futuristic products and it was a real experience. I don't know about you, but I think those who were born after the Internet was already popular really missed out on experiencing the excitement of the 'digital revolution' and certainly electronics retail was part of that. I've been reading the comments on Je's blog for many years now and there have been a number of people talking about remembering buying their first PC, CD player, etc. from certain shopping centers/malls.

    7. Part II:

      On the topic of electronics stores with surprising ownership, are you familiar with the Lechmere chain? Some quick research shows they had two stores in Florida (they may have had more) which opened in 1987 in Sarasota and Clearwater and then closed not too long after that when the chain was sold. The Sarasota store seems to have been a concept downsized store for the company. To say Lechmere was an electronics store is not quite correct, they were more of a hardlines department store. That said, they're best remembered for their electronics. Anyway, they were owned by Dayton-Hudson (now known as Target Corp.) for many years including the period where they expanded into Florida. When Target sold the chain, the new owners had to close the SE US locations. Eventually, the chain was sold to Montgomery Ward and the chain failed under Wards' ownership, but I don't think they had any Florida locations at that point. Here's a great Atlanta Lechmere commercial from 1986. The Florida stores, at least the Clearwater store, likely would have looked similar. I'm sure you'll like this. Link:

      It's funny that you mention that Aldi normally closes for a while during renovation because I remember one of our Aldi stores remaining open during reconstruction. It was one of the first Aldis to open in this area in the early 2010s, but then they added on to it a few years later for some reason. Maybe it did close for a while, but it was also open for a while during some serious construction. Fortunately, Google seems to have an image of this. Check out that hole in the wall! Link:

      Oh, and if you look at the area near that Aldi, you'll see a closed fairly modern freestanding Walgreens which is now apparently a Wigs R Us, lol. You'll also see a Sun's Club. It's kind of like a knockoff Sam's Club and it's on land which used to be a Wal-Mart before Wal-Mart moved across the street!

      As for why tape rewinders were popular, well, they never should have been really. Many VCRs would keep the tape spooled around the heads when a tape was rewound or fast-forwarded. The thought was that maybe this would lead to premature head wear, but I think those fears mostly proved to be unfounded under normal use. Those rewinders did a lot more damage than the VCRs did!

      Oh, I should say that I like that picture of the Sears fog lights! That's a great Sears Roebuck logo in the middle on the fog light lens. I usually see that old logo on old Sears cameras, but I suppose it was on all sorts of things.

    8. I never grew up with McDuff or any of these smaller/specialty/destination electronics chains. The only electronics store we ever went to when I was younger was Circuit City, and it was a big deal if we went there, as electronics weren’t something my parents bought often. I do remember Circuit City being quite the showplace though, although I’m only old enough to remember the tail end of Circuit City’s glory days (before the company began its downward spiral in the mid-late 2000’s).

      I can only imagine what the grand opening of Incredible Universe was like, especially with how showy that store was supposed to be! Yeah, I’m disappointed the Doral Incredible Universe was demolished, as that would have been a really fun place to document.

      I haven’t made it out to the old Computer City yet for pictures, but hopefully in the next few weeks I’ll make it over there. That building I want to visit actually as a weird past, starting out as a toy store before Tandy bought the building for Computer City, which then converted to CompUSA before turning into what it is today. If you get a chance to photograph one of the floppy disks that would be neat, as it will help with the story of the building’s lineage. No rush though!

      I’ve heard a lot about MicroCenter, and people who are really into computers/tech stuff swear by that place. It seems the closest MicroCenter to Florida is by Atlanta, although even for a small chain with a decent national representation, it’s weird they don’t have a store here.

      It's not the same feeling buying an item online compared to when it was a big deal to venture to the store for a big purchase. My family never really got into online shopping until the early 2010’s (we’re always late to the party technologically!), and even still, I prefer to buy in a store first before turning to the internet to make a purchase. It’s just a different, more rewarding feeling having to buy something at an actual store!

      I’ve heard of Lechmere, but mostly associate them to Montgomery Ward’s ownership. I never knew the company spent time under Dayton-Hudson’s ownership, as I always thought Lechmere was originally a part of Montgomery Ward. So yes, that’s certainly surprising! (And wow, was that a very 80’s commercial too – that was a fun watch!) I wouldn’t be surprised if the Sarasota and Clearwater stores were the only Lechmere stores to operate in Florida, since the company only lasted from 1987-1989 in Florida. I’m not turning up any additional locations either. While Lechmere didn’t last long here, Atlanta-based Richway operated a nearly identical store to Lechmere in Florida called Gold Triangle, which had 6 or 7 stores around Florida from 1968 until the late 1980’s. I wrote a little about Gold Triangle at this MFR post:

      Depending on the situation, Aldi will close a store entirely for a few weeks to do the remodel, or it will stay open for most of the remodel, and close completely for a much shorter period of time. If it’s a really busy store they may keep it open the entire time, but it’s most common for the store to close for a short period to get the bulk of the more difficult work done faster. As you saw in that picture, Aldi’s remodels can get a bit involved, so it’s no surprise they’d want to shut the store for a while and not have shoppers in the way of the work! Wigs R Us and Sun’s Club, some interesting retail knockoffs there! It’s ironic that Sun’s Club is in an old Walmart. With the current Walmart across the street, I wonder how many people who are unfamiliar with the area see Sun’s Club and think it’s really Sam’s Club!

  3. Incredible Universe was going to open in Manchester, CT, I had an offer to work there, but I was working at Caldor (a northeastern Department Store Chain), so I decide not to go to the interview. Another electronic store chain was Lafayette Radio - a Northeastern chain based in Long Island. I wonder if there is a blog for the Northeast. I'm not sure what happened to AmesFanClub forums.