Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The All-Weather Sears






Two views of classic Sears stores from the early nineteen-sixties - the Anchorage, Alaska store, which opened in 1966, and a Phoenix, Arizona store which opened four years earlier. Sears took a backseat to no one in terms of architectural design, variety and quality of construction during the postwar go-go years (or in many pre-war examples, for that matter). Fortunately, a decent number of these stores still stand, through the original signage long ago disappeared on nearly all of them. I’d love to know the fate of these two stores.

Would you trudge through the snow to visit the first one or brave the desert to visit the second? If they still looked like this, I might consider it!

24 comments:

  1. The one in Phoenix (which was somewhere near or may even be a small part of the Camelback Colonnade) is long gone. Sorry :(

    ReplyDelete
  2. The Sears store in Phoenix was opened in the early 60s on East Camelback Rd (Sears moved there from its downtown Phx store) until the opening of their Metro Center store in 1974,it was the only full-line Sears in the Phoenix area. Later in the 60s the Rhodes dept store chain (part of the Amfac operation) built a store to the West of the Sears. An enclosed mall was built between the two stores which became "Sears-Rhodes Mall". When Rhodes became Liberty House (and later closed) the mall was renamed "Colonnade Mall". The Colonnade began to decline in the late 80s-early 90s. In the early 90s the mall was razed, the ex-Rhodes site became a call center for MCI but Sears remained in operation until the late 90s when they moved to Paradise Valley Mall. The Camelback store-which looked almost the same as when it opened-was torn down and the site is now a big-box center.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That Phoenix Sears looks very similar to the ones in Mountain View, CA and Concord, CA, both still standing BTW.

    As a kid, I didn't much like those Saturday trips to Sears with Dad since they were all on one floor and hence no escalators or elevators to ride on. I much preferred the Sears on Geary Blvd, in San Francisco, which was on 3 floors plus a rooftop restaurant. Sadly, it was carved up into Mervyn's/Best Buy/etc/etc a few years ago.

    Does anyone else remember the smell of popcorn that hit you as soon as you walked into a Sears store?

    ReplyDelete
  4. "Sears took a backseat to no one in terms of architectural design, variety"

    It has always seemed to me that Sears, in that era, was the prototype of the Big Box of today. Sure, they'd fiddle with the details and the treatments - but at the end of the day it was still a box.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I would trudge through snow any day to get to that lovely script. I would also brave the desert to get a look at those palm trees with the script logo!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sarah and Anonymous - Thanks for the update and history on the Phoenix store. Sad but not surprising it's gone, what with the tremendous growth of the Phoenix area.

    Hushpuppy3 - Sears had a number of stores in the West with the palm trees through the awning and script logo. Great look! I have a picture of a store that I think is the SF Geary Blvd. one. I'll have to post it soon.

    I loved the popcorn smell. The one I remember best, Woodfield Mall in suburban Chicago, had a full candy counter as well. Great memories!

    DerekL - Some of their boxes were more interesting than others, as I hope to show -

    Didi - Sounds good to me! Wait - oh crap, the Phoenix store is gone. Guess we can skip the desert part!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Well, we'll just pretend it is still there. :o)

    ReplyDelete
  8. The Phoenix Sears is reminiscent of the old Key West Sears, except the exterior was Florida turquoise blue, but warm weather friendly nonetheless. Sadly, the only example of the script Sears label anywhere remotely familiar to me by the late 80's. The 1960's Penney's logo seemed to survive into the 80's with more numerous examples, it seems at least every major metro had at least one example of the Penney's logo through the 80's.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anonymous - It appears that Sears used variants of the Key West store look in a number of Florida and CA/AZ locations. Really nice looking stores, in my opinion.

    I remember the script on the Memphis,TN Poplar avenue store existed until around 1996. Why they changed it after all of the that time is a mystery to me.

    The 60's Penneys logo is one of my all time mega-favorites and was only in primary use for a short time - around 1962 to 1970. One example that I know of(on an awning light)survived until last year, believe it or not. The Penneys at the University Mall in Little Rock, AR, which was featured on www.labelscar.com last year. The entire store has since been replaced.

    ReplyDelete
  10. The Concord, California store is almost identical to the store in the photo. Even the stone used on the walls is the same. The flag pole is in the same place and the palm trees are still there, except that they are really tall today. The store has new Sears logos today. The old Sears logos were removed around 1990. You can see the birdseye 3D views at http://maps.live.com/ It is at 1001 Sunvalley Blvd, Concord, CA. The west side of the building matches your photo.

    The San Francisco store kept the classic Sears logos until the day it closed in the 90's. It had a tall tower that had an S that could be seen from far away.

    ReplyDelete
  11. The Sears store at Colonnade Mall was carved up into smaller stores. Of the division, it is mostly a Best Buy location. In the backside it's an indoor receiving area for the stores. The original terrazzo flooring Sears mostly featured is still intact. As trucks pull into this building you drive right onto this floor!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Sarah & anonymous - thanks for the info on the Phoenix stores, I'm a desert rat as well and it's been sad to see all the classic stores demolished in the last 20 years!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Another confirm on that sears being at Colonnade. At first I thought I was looking at Park Central Mall but I don't think there was ever a Sears there. It couldn't have been Tri-City Mall because that mall was much "taller." Once I read the comments it all clicked. I do believe the anon comment is correct that Best Buy sits on that footprint now.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I moved to Phoenix in mid-1991, and shopped at a few of the stores in the Collonade Mall (there used to be a Thrifty at one time). Later, I moved into an apartment complex right across the street (Colonnade Gardens) where I lived from about 1992-1994, when they tore it all down and put up the Best Buy (and the rest of the new mall) in its place.

    Best Buy does sit on its footprint. I don't know if they filled in the basement area or not (it used to be a fallout shelter location), but I do remember being woken up several times on Saturdays during the re-construction period as they fired up the air-raid siren on the roof. The first time it happenned, I wasn't sure what was going on, as you can imagine.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Mike - Thanks for the reconfirm on that!

    Andrew - That air-raid siren must have been something else. Not sure why they felt the need to do that!

    ReplyDelete
  16. That Sears store in Anchorage is still there and is still open for business. It's part of a small shopping mall (I used to work across the street from it.) Here's the website for that mall:

    The Mall at Sears

    Here it is on Google Maps:

    Anchorage Sears

    ReplyDelete
  17. Mike - Thanks for the update! I've received quite a few responses on the Phoenix one, but yours is the first on the Anchorage Sears.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Where is the picture of the Anchorage Store???

    ReplyDelete
  19. I've only just discovered your website , and glad I did. Thanks for the beautiful picture of the Phoenix Sears , It's much better than the one I already had in my files. When I read your comment wondering about what happened to it,I got on google maps to see if it was gone. If you type in 4904 N. 20th St. Phoenix Az and take it down to street view you can clearly see that it survives relatively intact , albeit repurposed as a Best Buy. There was one thing about this Sears that I found unique , in the era it was built Sears , Wards , and Penney's usally had automotive service centers also. Often these were detached and some distance from the store. At this Sears the auto center was perpendicular to the stores south east corner , seperated by a two lane driveway.You could drop off your car for service and pop right into the store in a few short steps. That building , of course , didn't survive.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Jonel469 – I’m glad you discovered it as well! Thanks for those additional details on the Centennial Sears and for updating us on its current status. I remember the auto centers of all three chains well – Sears had them for decades before Wards and Penneys got around to introducing them. Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
  21. That Sears store looks just like the one at Park Mall in Tucson. The same parking lot pattern exists if you stand in the parking lot and look west. I wonder if it is the one in Tucson.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Another very similar Sears is still in business at 5110 Pacific Avenue in Stockton, CA. You can check it out on Google maps.

    The palm trees are all gone though...

    A similar one stood in San Jose, CA up until the late 80's. The palm trees had grown super tall by the time the store was bulldozed.

    ReplyDelete