BEST Products Store Architecture: Seeing Is Believing!

Seeing is truly believing, but you won’t believe your eyes when you see the amazing architecture design of Best Products Catalog stores.

BEST Products: History Lesson Time!

BEST Products (it is important to capitalize “Best”) was a catalog showroom retail chain, founded in 1957 by Sydney and Frances Lewis. Headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, BEST was in business until 1997. Sydney Lewis worked with his father, managing an encyclopedia sales operation, and came up with idea of selling additional merchandise along with the encyclopedia bills. The first catalog went out in 1957, with the first showroom opening at 4909 West Marshall Street in Richmond.

The store employed a catalog showroom model. I shopped at a location near my grandparents’ homes as a kid, and the concept was like nothing I’d ever seen (and haven’t seen since). I recall finding merchandise on the showroom floor, taking a slip to a counter, and the product coming on a conveyor belt from the ceiling. To a kid, this seems like magic. I loved this store the way most kids love Toys R Us. Don’t get me wrong, I love Toys R Us, but seriously, the magic conveyor belt from the ceiling was truly an structure of amazement. Like I said, there’s nothing quite like it, and hasn’t been since.

BEST Products filed for bankruptcy twice – once in January 1991 (re-emerged June 16, 1994) and again in September 24, 1996. The second time was the last, with the entire chain (169 stores, 11 jewelry stores, and a nationwide catalog) closing by February 9, 1997. Many of these stores are now Best Buy locations, and there is nothing of this sort in existence.

If you’ve ever shopped at a BEST store, they weren’t just known for their cool store concept, they employed a unique concept in another respect…

A Marvel of Amazing and Unique Design

In the 1970s, BEST Products contracted with James Wines’ “Sculpture in the Environment” (SITE).

Cutler Ridge, Florida location

The purpose was to design nine highly unorthodox storefront facilities; among them, stores in Houston, Richmond, Sacramento, Towson, Maryland, and Hialeah, Florida.

Hialeah, Florida

To describe is to not give it justice, but to show you…oh, I can do that!

“The Peeling Project” – Richmond, Virginia

In 1979, a documentary was produced to show the concept, construction, and public reaction to these stores. The facades are incredible. I’d say they were ahead of their time, but they’re not ahead of any time. They’re truly…different.

The Notch Project – Sacramento, California

I bet you’re wondering, “Allison, where does such a documentary exist?”

Well, newly informed friends, allow me to show you the way!

The Tilt Building – Towson, Maryland

But first, find your way behind this tilting wall!

Witness The Amazing Structures of BEST Products Stores!

Retroist friends, for your viewing pleasure, the amazing design and reaction to the incredible construction of several BEST Products stores!

Upload via azbats1

That rainforest concept is incredible, and definitely my favorite!

Final Thoughts

I’ve looked up BEST Products in the past, and usually have only come across photos. I’ve really been after commercials and videos, so to find this documentary gave me a bit of optimism to find other bits of information about the stores.

As I was finishing up this post, I came across a college video about the layout of the stores. That, my friends, will be a story for another time.

Why not close with another interesting concept?

The Antisign – Distribution Center, Ashland, Virginia

Makes me dizzy just looking at it!

Related Reading

SITE – BEST Products Store Designs

Highly-detailed photos of the structures SITE created for BEST Products!

 

Allison L. Venezio
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Allison L. Venezio

Secretary/Blogger-Writer at Allison's Written Words and Retroist
Allison is a Secretary by day, a writer/blogger by night (and during lunch breaks and in the mornings before work), a nostalgia geek (and a geek in general), worshipper of Thor (and Chris Hemsworth), and honorary Avenger (she has a pin, so it is official).She collects Itty Bittys and Funko Pops, loves anything that takes her back to childhood, and has confessed her love for Kenny Loggins.Oh, and she listens to Chicago...alot.If any of this piques your interest, she'd love for you to visit her personal blog, Allison's Written Words, where she talks about alot of the same stuff she talks about here, and more!

She can be found at allisonveneziowrites.com.You can follow her blog on Facebook (facebook.com/allisonswrittenwords) and on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut.
Allison L. Venezio
Follow Me!!!

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2 thoughts on “BEST Products Store Architecture: Seeing Is Believing!

  1. Scott B says:

    You are missing the one from Houston Texas. I lived down the road from it. Unfortunately as is the case these days the building facade is no more. Now it is just another warehouse, I believe it is a food distributor.

  2. Lucky you, Scott!!! My apologies for omitting it, I don’t think I spotted the picture, or I possibly overlooked it. The one I frequented is a Best Buy. It was not one of those awesome designer BEST stores, those are amazing!

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