Thursday, March 20, 2008

Seattle Sears at Sunset

A lovely evening view of the brand-new Sears at Aurora Square in Shoreline, Washington, a suburb just north of Seattle. This store, which opened in September 1967 and still exists, featured a somewhat unusual in-line auto center. With most Sears stores of this size, they were detached. A considerably less dramatic photo shows the store as it appears today.

In 1967 Sears was near the peak of its power and influence, with over $7 billion in sales and profits at an all-time high. The effects of competition from the discounters (most notably future family member Kmart), which would become such a vexing problem for Sears in the coming decade, had yet to be felt in any meaningful sense.


  1. This is a great shot. The green neon against the orange and black background is incredible.

    Seems like all the West Coast Sears had the upward pointing script logos, but hardly any of the East Coast stores did.

  2. Steven - I agree!

    And your point's well taken on the script style. That's part of what I was referring to in the earlier post on the Canoga Park store about the "optimism" that Sears' Western store designs conveyed. Sears used script logos in all of their regions, but most non-Western locations had horizontal script logos.

    This store also has a couple of serif logos barely visible to the right.

  3. It's funny. Some of my earliest childhood memories are shopping with my family at this Sears store. It was the early 70's. I still remember the "bing" of the entercom. The rest of the complex had a Lucky Foods store, a Pay-n-Save and an Ernst Hardware store(All out of buisiness). I remember stopping at the store before I moved to Phoenix acouple of years ago. But it wasn't the same after endless remodels.
    One thing remains that I loves as a kid, the sparkling sidewalks.
    Thanks for the pics

  4. Green neon always has a dramatic effect at sunset/twilight, which makes one wonder why green neon wasn't a more popular choice among strips, it couldn't be confused with green traffic lights anymore than red neon is, and was very common. It's also easier to judge the distance of green light than red light, part of the red shift/blue shift phenomenon of light.

    Unfortunately when you're at the top of your game, you don't foresee challengers are hungry for the top spot in the food chain, and just as problematic, often become complacent. It's a fate that Sears, KMart, Woolworth's and A&P have all encountered with Woolworth's essentially none existent other than a shoe retailer, and A&P being a mere shadow of its former glory. Has the KMart/Sears marriage resulted in only slowing the decline or can it be reversed? I think it can, but Lampert's current strategy doesn't allow for growing SHC's two banners. Onre consolation, possibly that Wal-Mart hasn't learned the lessons of its predecessors either.

    One thing Sears didn't grasp was even with the shift of consumers to the discounters, most shoppers would have stayed had Sears improved its value/quality equation, keeping the prices competitive, but not necessarily the lowest and offering quality and service not found at discounters. JCPenney was able to make that turn, Montgomery Ward fumbled horribly as the cross-town also ran rival to Sears, while Sears has had stumbles and starts since its peak, already by the early 70's Sears was considered blue collar, boring and predictable and even wore that description with some pride.

  5. Raymond - Thanks for sharing your memories and the great background info on the surrounding stores, particularly Lucky, who had a decent presence there but certainly would have been overshadowed, I'm sure, by locals Albertsons and Tradewell. As far as your comment on the sidewalk, it is funny how little original details can remain even after multiple renovations.

    Anonymous - Those are great insights, thanks!

    The examples you cite, including the modern day Wal-Mart, prove the old adage "The only thing we learn from history is that we don't learn from history" definitely applies to retail.

    Reminds me of the talk that swirled around in the '70's about IBM, how they were becoming too big and that the govermnent would have to step in and break them up. Ten years later, when IBM hit hard times, that kind of talk completely stopped. External pressures and internal hubris have a way of settling these things, eventually.

    Penneys is a great success story, and I hope that Sears finds their way as well. Wards never regained the momentum they lost when they virtually shut down all growth (out of fear) in the 40's. When they finally cranked it up again in the late 50's, the world had passed them by. They spent the next 40 years trying to catch up, to no avail.

  6. There is only one Sears store that uses the Script like that today. Its the old Sears East Los Angeles store.

    It opened in the 1930's and had its last exterior remodel (and interior for that matter) in the 1960's where this script is used on three sides of the store. Its the only store I know that has the 30's lettering on top, the 60's script on the bottom, and the 70's text on the Auto Center across the street.

    You can look at it on
    Its on the corner of Olympic Bl and Soto St in Los Angeles.

  7. What a gorgeous picture, Dave!

    I would hate for Sears/Kmart to be the next Montgomery Wards.

  8. Anonymous - That particular store was attached to Sears L.A. distribution center which opened in the 20's and has been closed for decades now. The store is still open as you say. A number of prerservation efforts have been kicked around to try to save that store. recently featured another script Sears store (from 1945) in Santa Monica that's still operating, at the following link:

    Didi - I agree. I don't throw the word "lovely" around a lot, but I felt it definitely applies here.

    I don't think that Sears will go the way of Monkey Wards. At least I hope not.