Are You Familiar with BEST Products’ Store Layouts?

Well, by the end of this article, you will be familiar with BEST Products store layouts.

And if this isn’t enough, the music – er, MUSAK – is catchy. So there’s that.

First Architecture, Now Store Layouts!

I swear these documentaries about BEST Products stores just pour out of the woodwork, don’t they?

Last week, we watched a 1979 documentary about incredible feats of experimental concept architecture employed by nine BEST Products stores during the 1970s. We saw buildings with walls that literally removed themselves from the storefront, peeling facades, tilting walls, and a living rainforest.

The architectural feats were a feast for the eyes, but what happened in the store was equally innovative.

Mine had a conveyor belt that came from the upper warehouse, from which products arrived to a happy customer.

Facades of amazingness weren’t the only thing BEST was known for. They also had two different types of store layouts, and thanks to Homeplate Media, those layouts, their pros and cons, and MUZAK make for a great college project video. About Best Products store layouts.

Doesn’t get more exciting than this, folks!

The “SOT”: Store of Tomorrow Vs. Regency

Best Products employed two different store layouts beginning in 1985: “The Store of Tomorrow” (or SOT) and Regency. Each had their advantages and disadvantages. Every store adopted a certain layout.

Admit it, you came to look at blueprints! It is my contribution to “splashy visuals” that draws people in!

In 1990, Youngstown (Ohio) State University college student Ron Flaviano (of the aforementioned Homeplate Media) and fellow classmates made a video explaining each layout, their advantages, and their disadvantages.

Comparisons were drawn for each layout by examining two stores utilizing each layout – one in Parma, Ohio, the other in Niles, Ohio.

Math!

Complete with Muzak and the “spontaneous” phone call method perfected on House Hunters (look it up), this video is a total treat.

Would you like to watch it…on one of these TVs?

Of course you do!

Well, you can watch it, but not on these TVs.

BEST Products – Catalog Showroom Comparison

Upload via Homeplate Media (check out this channel!)

And now that you’ve seen both unusual architecture AND creative store layouts, I’ll back off of BEST for a while.

Unless I find something else, because you know how well I do at “backing off a topic.”

Hey, one can never have enough Chicago, David Foster, and Kenny Loggins articles!

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!

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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!

 

Driscoll and Egbert - Title

Blockbuster Video Training Video #2: Driscoll and Egbert

From the now-defunct video store chain that brought you Buster Sales, comes an obviously intentional parody of two now-deceased film critics.  The store? Blockbuster Video. The film critics? Siskel and Ebert…well, no. Not them. They wouldn’t train Blockbuster new hires. Besides, too costly. Filling in to do something less dignifying, Driscoll and Egbert!

Driscoll and Egbert: Yes You Read That Correctly!

Betcha thought I said Siskel and Ebert, didn’t you?

Nope. I did not.

In 1989, one year before “Blockbuster University” strove to create “Professional Opportunists” through Buster Sales’ training methods, Blockbuster Video created three learning opportunities through the use of fake movie clips and their own versions of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.

I don’t think Siskel and Ebert ever had this life problem…

Those guys were Jerry Driscoll (of the “Chicago Tribulation”) and Rodney Egbert (of the “Chicago Fun-Times”), and those movies? Just as ridiculous as you’re assuming they are.

Prepare to constantly mutter “Oh dear God.”

About those movies…

Beaverton Hills Cop IV

Circa 1989 Eddie Murphy should have lawyered over this. An obvious take on the Beverly Hills Cop movies (the first two were released in 1984 and 1987), “Eddie Mumford” is out to stop an illegal cartel from smuggling…Colombian Coffee into North Dakota.

Oh Good lord.

When one of the baddies gets away, Not Axel Foley chases him to a Blockbuster Video.

SERIOUSLY?!

The baddie, played by “Leo Ross,” is sneaking around the store, aided in his attempt to go incognito by employee Roxanne, who helps him pick out Marlon Brando movies.

Yes, this is terrible! It is everything you imagine, yet try to block out!

There’s also this…thing!

…and he’s packing heat!

We’re just getting started! Next up on Driscoll and Egbert

Passing Ships

Foreign and Black and White. A romance between two star-crossed lovers, searching for each other only to emigrate to the United States (on the same plane!), and find themselves in a Blockbuster Video.

All the main character wants is his happy ending tonight, and the Blockbuster Associate that helps him tries to fill the void with recommendations of movies and popcorn.

Will the lovers meet? Will the protagonist find his happy ending? Does good customer service exist in this alleged teaching point?

The end is in sight, tortured Blockbuster new hires!

How about a tale of forbidden (because of age difference) romance, youth, recommendations of Humphrey Bogart movies to said youth, and the policy on renting movies to children?

Blockbuster has this training point too!

Casablanca Summer

In this “coming of age” “film,” Josh Sanders has been renting recommendations of classic films by Blockbuster employee, Beth. Josh has the hots for Beth, and mostly because she has never steered him in the wrong direction movie-wise.

Josh’s friend, Alfred, happens to be at the video store on that particular day. He aspires to rent a “17 Plus” movie by wearing his Jason Voorhees mask to pass as his brother.Will it work? What about Josh and Beth? Will their romance bloom? Does this sound like an educational short on stranger danger?

What will Driscoll and Egbert think of these “training points”?

You’re just going to have to watch the videos, aren’t you?

Yes, you are!

Driscoll and Egbert

Thanks to DJameyson (the same person responsible for the “Buster Sales” training video), this feat of training point perfection is available for your viewing pleasure. At around fifteen minutes long, it is not as painful a watch as training videos go. It is good for a laugh (hey, we’re not new hires, we don’t need to take it seriously!), and accomplishes its point…to teach employees good customer service skills. Sure, the lessons are buried in cheese (not the flavored popcorn), but as I said, we don’t have to take it seriously. And the guys playing the Siskel and Ebert roles are actually having fun with their roles – they’re quite good without taking themselves too seriously.

See for yourself! Click on the first video to get started with your Blockbuster training!

Uploads via DJameyson

Oh yeah, for the uninformed, the balcony is still upstairs.

I can’t take credit for that cheesy line!

No, seriously, I didn’t make it up!

Have You Heard This Duet Version of “What A Fool Believes”?

Kenny Loggins. Fangirl love. Frequent topic of articles. Blah, blah, blah. What a fool believes is that I’ve never written a Kenny Loggins-themed article for the Retroist.

Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald

A Kenny Loggins/Michael McDonald collaboration is not new or novel. Their association dates back to 1978, when the two wrote “What A Fool Believes,” each recording their own version (Loggins as a solo artist, McDonald with The Doobie Brothers for their 1978 album Minute By Minute). The song debuted on the charts on January 20, 1979 at #73, reaching #1 on April 14, 1979, and remaining there for one week. For Loggins, the song appeared on his 1978 album Nightwatch. I should note that Loggins’ version is the first recorded version.

The pair first recorded together beginning with 1979’s Keep the Fire (if you’ve heard “This Is It,” then you’ve heard Michael McDonald’s backing vocals). The duo still make concert appearances together, and even co-collaborated with Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner for his 2017 album Drunk.

Surely you’ve heard this amazing song, “Show You The Way”? It definitely calls back to the days of Loggins and McDonald in the 1970s and 1980s.

I blame my friend/fellow friend of Retroist (and Michael McDonald fan) Claire for introducing me to this song:

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If you can get past the “mad man surfacing from beneath the dark waters” album cover, Thundercat really knows how to collaborate!

Outside: From The Redwoods

Outside: From The Redwoods is a 1992 concert filmed for PBS (it aired in 1993), shot in an outdoor venue among giant redwood trees. The concert features reworked versions of Loggins’ songs, as well as appearances by R&B singer Shanice, and yes, the co-subject of this article, Michael McDonald.

Second only to the beauty of the Redwoods is Kenny Loggins hair.

I haven’t had hair envy this bad since I saw Chicago at the Greek Theatre. Chicago Circa 1993 was a hair party, but Kenny Loggins clearly has them beat.

And seriously. Michael McDonald. Has he changed in the last 25 years…or ever?

I promise, this screenshot is not from a concert filmed last week. It’s from 1992.

What A Fool Believes When He Is In the Redwoods

Shocker of all shockers: I had no idea this version of “What A Fool Believes” existed. I like listening to random Kenny Loggins shuffling on my Amazon Echo Dot while I’m writing or playing Nintendo Switch. This version happened to come up one night last month while I was listening out of excitement of buying Kenny Loggins concert tickets.

Shocker of all shockers #2: I have yet to see this concert. I’ve been trying to watch newer live performances to get an idea of what to expect from a Kenny Loggins concert. This one is on my short list, so never you worry, I will watch it!

Anyway, this version of “What A Fool Believes.” It’s beautiful, moving, and Kenny Loggins has pretty hair.

Have a listen!

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The use of Xylophone is amazing. How did this one fly under my radar?!