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!

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!

 

My final trip to Toys R Us

I was not sure if I was going to go to Toys R Us before it closed. Part of me wanted to not taint the good memories I had of the store. But another part of me was curious to see what was going on during these last days at the biggest toy store there is. So I took a trip up to Everett, WA and checked out their Toys R Us.

As you can see in the above shot, this is not one the classic store designs. So already it was a little easier to approach. What I found when I went inside though, still managed to bring me down.

This Toys R Us was filled with bargain hunters. People who looked to be grabbing as much as they could. I assume many of them were doing some early Christmas shopping. Hoping to snag some deals to pad out the presents under the tree. Smart move. Others had brought their kids along for the trip and those kids were just tossing anything they could find into carts.

The place looked like it had been hit by a hurricane. Aisle after aisle was completely empty. Whole departments were cleared out. Yet it was not empty enough to be at the part where people buying the fixtures dominated the scene.

Toys R Us

Some treasures still lingered. Like this cool race car bed. I wanted one of these so badly when I was a kid.

While some areas were completely picked clean.

Other areas were still very well-stocked. Like these Fast and the Furious toys. I don’t think a single person had touched them during the entire store closing.

Or Alvin and the Chipmunks toys.

I poked around both of these toys collections. This was my first time seeing either of them. After careful consideration, I decided to pass on them.

While walking away I wondered how low would the price have to drop before someone bought them? What kid is going to open their Christmas presents next year and stare at 100 Fast and the Furious cars?

I am glad I went to check out these last days of Toys R Us and I encourage everyone to do the same. I walked the aisles, trying hard to force myself to remember what it was like when I was a kid. But so much about the store had changed, that it was difficult. Then I saw a group of kids at the Funko Pop section begging their parents to buy them what was left, that brought me back. The toys might change, but the joy that toys and places that sell them will always be the same. So goodbye Toys R Us. Thanks for making so many kids happy.

As for those Funko kids? I hope they like Son of Zorn and Westworld.

1984 Pay N Save Coupon Book

1984 Pay N Save Coupon Book

In 1984, like in many years for it and after, Pay N Save sent out coupon books. I am sure many people used them, but an equal number threw them in the garbage. Luckily some people squirreled them away. That way 33 years later I could scan this 1984 Pay-N-Save Coupon Book and share it with everyone.

Not familiar with Pay n Save? Neither was I. Founded in 1940, Pay N Save was based out of Seattle, WA and had locations and all across the Western United States. Sadly they just couldn’t stay afloat and went under way back in 1992. This was just a couple of years before my first visit to the area. So I never got to enjoy the store firsthand.

All I can do is enjoy the store secondhand from people who went there and what I can find online. In fact, pp until this coupon book was handed to me by a friend, I had very little knowledge of the store. Now, a year later, I have a place in my heart for this regional chain. This affection is almost purely derived from ephemera and online reading.

While it might seem a bit silly to feel a pull to a chain of stores you never visited. And lament their closure. I do so because I can relate to its loss. Many small chains in the northeast, where I grew up, have gone the way of the dinosaurs with very little outcry. Especially the bargain stores.

These were the places my family often went to enjoy. Place we could afford to participate in consumerism. I could spend hours strolling through their aisles looking for affordable treasures.

And when a coupon book or circular got into my hands, I would pour through it. Marking items, especially toys, and trying to talk my Mother into promising to buy something for me.

So, if you were a Pay N Save patron, just a fan of these stores, or want to see what prices in the Puget Sound Area looked like in 1984, here is a full scan of the 1984 Pay N Save Coupon Book.

1984 Pay N Save Coupon Book