Thursday, July 10, 2008

Last Spin of the Turn-Style













The mid/late-1970’s proved to be the Waterloo of a number of discount retail chains with a significant presence in Chicago. The late George Lazarus, longtime business writer for the Chicago Tribune, listed the recent casualties in a 1978 editorial – Topps (Interstate Stores), Korvettes, W.T. Grant and Robert Hall Village. In short order, Jewel-owned Turn-Style would be added to the list.

Turn-Style’s profitable run at the end of the sixties and the dawn of the seventies brought about an acceleration, however mild, of the Family Center program, where the chain grew from a couple of area stores to thirteen by 1976. The last Chicago Turn-Style stores were opened in conjunction with a new Jewel concept – the Jewel Grand Bazaar, a larger (60,000-plus square feet) supermarket format that enjoyed great success in its early years. Loosely based on the European “hypermarkets”, these stores combined the feel of an open air market with huge bulk displays of product. Jewel, widely credited with marketing the country’s first “generic” supermarket product line (in 1977), used the Grand Bazaar stores for its launch. Three Grand Bazaar locations that adjoined some of the final Turn-Style stores were located at 54th Street and Pulaski Road, 87th Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway, and at Grand and Kostner Avenues. In 1974, Turn-Style’s president, Bill Lewis, was reassigned by Jewel to head up a new group, charged with developing a "real" hypermarket for Jewel. It was to include a discount department store, pharmacy and food store under one (very large -200,000 sq. ft.) roof, in what could have been a more upscale precursor to today’s Wal-Mart Supercenters. Sadly, this never materialized.

Turn-Style, which as Lazarus put it, “(had) never been a winner for Jewel” at least held its own into the mid-70’s, but things went downhill quickly from there. In 1975, Turn-Style lost its independent division status and was placed under the Osco group, along with the very successful Osco Drug stores and Jewel’s hapless, soon to be jettisoned Republic Lumber stores.

In 1978, there were 24 Zayre stores and 38 Kmart (who had just snapped up two Korvettes and two Robert Hall Village locations) stores in operation in the greater Chicago area, huge footprints (and a correspondingly huge advertising advantage) in contrast with Turn-Style, which was standing still after all those years with only 13 area units, incomplete market coverage and far less than ideal advertising utilization.

When May Department Stores, Inc., with its growing Venture stores division came calling, Jewel was receptive. On March 7, 1978 it was announced that Jewel would sell 22 Turn-Styles to May for conversion into Venture stores, including locations in Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska. Ten of the 13 Chicago stores were included, with the other three – Harlem-Foster, Niles and Westmont retained by Jewel for eventual conversion to larger Jewel-Osco units. The handful of Boston units went to various tenants, including Zayre.

The top photo, from 1975, shows the 87th and Dan Ryan Expressway Turn-Style/Osco Drug/Jewel Grand Bazaar location. The second photo shows the Quincy, Massachusetts location, originally opened in 1966 and remodeled ten years later, in a photo taken shortly thereafter. The photo gives a nice look at Jewel’s New England family – Star Market, Brigham’s Ice Cream Shop, Osco Drug and Turn-Style. The only name missing, for obvious reasons, is a White Hen Pantry convenience store. The last photo shows one of the last Turn-Styles, the location of which I’m not sure of.

30 comments:

  1. The dan Ryan-87th Turn Style became a Zayre.

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  2. I remember seeing a Star Market that still had that style exterior in the early 90s when i was living on Boston. I forget of that store was in Cambridge or Dorchester, not that it really matters.

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  3. God how big is that store in the top photo?

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  4. Anonymous - I didn't know that, thanks for pointing it out. The '78 newspaper accounts I used in gathering my information show all of those stores initially going to the May Company(Venture). They also mention that Venture had a tough time assimilating the ex Turn-Styles they bought into their operation. My guess is that the May Co. must have disposed of the stores they didn't want (or begged off of that particular one) instead of converting them all into Ventures. Since Zayre had a decent presence in the city itself and Venture was somewhat more concentrated in the suburbs, this makes sense. Thanks again!

    Dcseain - It was a nice look, in my opinion, and at least as contemporary as the very plain look of the Star Markets today. But since there are so few "Stars" left, I guess it doesn't make a whole lot of difference!

    Charles - 100,000 sf Turn-Style, 28,000 sf Osco, 65,000 sf Jewel Grand Bazaar. There ya go!

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  5. Osco used to have a very heavy presence here in WI. My town had one, first downtown, then it moved into a K-mart anchored strip mall in 1979-1980, then back downtown (on a street corner.....across from a Walgreens). Being across from their competition ultimately did them in.

    That Turn-Style/Osco/Jewel Grand strip you pictured. It reminded me how many regional grocery and discounter chains experimented with what I'd call the 'Supercenter' format like this for years. It's something to think how Wal-Mart would do the same thing and make it successful, while all these other past attempts failed to materialize.

    Everyone was still riding the wave of the enclosed mall I guess, now matter how big or small they were. It (the 'supercenter') was too ahead of its time back in the 1970s.

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  6. Dave thanks for the stuff on Turnstyle! I was a frequent customer of the Medford store. I recall buying camping equipment like my old coleman cooler, lantern as well as my first sleeping bag there in the early 70's

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  7. The Trun-Style at 87th and Dan Ryan has changed hands many times since the late 70's. The dates are not 100% exact, it's just what I remember passing by through the years.

    1.Turn-Style->Zayre (1978-1989- chain closed) Did Ames open up here after Zayre closed?
    2-Zayre->Venture (1989-1998-chain closed)
    3-Venture->Goldblatts (1998-2003?-Chain closed)
    4-Goldblatts->Ames (2003-2004 era-Chain closed)
    5-Ames->Burlington Coat Factory (2004-present)

    Jewel-Osco is still running in the same spot.

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  8. Matt - The free-standing Oscos (a category that no longer exists now that they've become CVS stores) always seemed to suffer when pitted directly against a Walgreens.

    You're absolutely right, in my opinion, about the 70's supercenters being ahead of their time. As I recently mentioned on another comment thread, having shared checkout lanes and a single name identity for the store have probably been part of the difference, with star examples being Wal-Mart and Meijer.

    Larry - No problem, and glad you liked the posts. It's cool that through Jewel's ownership we Chicagoans had some shared retail experiences with those of you from New England.

    Will - Thanks for the timeline on that! I'm amazed that Goldblatt's was expanding at all that late in the game.

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  9. This is great stuff. I've always been curious about Turnstyle. I started following retail history after coming across a website for the long abandon Dixie Square Mall in Illinois, which had a Turnstyle. However, nobody really seemed to have much information on the company. Keep up the good work!

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  10. Mr. Burns - Thanks! Turnstyle is one of those chains that didn't get much notice nationally, and didn't really even cover the markets they were in that fully. They came and went pretty fast, especially the Dixie Square store. I've read where that entire mall was only open around 12 years or so. It would probably be totally forgotten (by everyone except those who shopped there regularly)had it not been featured in "The Blues Brothers", and left standing all these years!

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  11. TurnStyle was a name I had heard for years but never knew much about. It seems it was a venture into an already crowded field a little too little and a little too late to be much of a long term success once the initial "newness" was gone.

    I think had seen a picture of a Jewel Grand Bazaar in an old trade magazine in my college library archives, the picture wasn't reall flattering- a picture of the general merchandise section that looked as low ball as many of the old discount chains of the era. I didn't realize that Grand Bazaar was a hypermart until reading your blog. I think Jewel ultimately made the right decision to focus on the Jewel Osco combination stores along with its Eisner, Buttrey and Star Market siblings.

    Kroger opened similar Kroger Family Centers in outlying Illinois places such as Sterling and Mattoon during the same era. Most of the Kroger Family Centers were in the Gulf Coast markets of Texas and Louisiana and Illinois, Missouri, and Kentucky locations seem to be the exception to that cluster. I suspect the format was rolled out as a pre-emptive move agianst the possibility that there might be a Jewel or Eisner Grand Bazaar appearrance beyond Chicagoland. Ultimately the US market wasn't ready for a hypermarket and these 60's and early 70's stores were shortlived.

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  12. Ken - The biggest problem (among several) for Turn-Style was that they were just unremarkable stores, kind of in-between Kmart and Sears/Penneys. They never really staked out a niche of their own.

    The Jewel Grand Bazaars could have flown on a wider basis, in my opinion, but Jewel pretty much stopped building them at the end of the 70's, and their new owners (Skaggs/American Stores) had no interest in continuing the concept. To this day the Jewel-Osco combos are their mainstay.

    The Kroger Family Centers (which I don't know a lot about) do seem to have similarities to the Jewel-Turnstyle-Osco setup. Interesting that Kroger seemed to not bother with it in their core East Central and Southeastern markets.

    "Family Center" had to be the most overused phrase in the industry's history!

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  13. My hubby has a friend who's a bit older who remembers Turnstyle quite, I myself had never even heard of it until a few years ago. Great post!

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  14. Didi - Thanks! Turn-Style has been gone a long time, and they kind of fall through the cracks when people mention old Chicago retail.

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  15. I remember the Turnstyle store at Grand/Kostner. They had a huge wheel of cheese you could get samples from. I also remeber buying the latest AFX slot cars there and a Pink Floyd album!

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  16. Anonymous - Thanks for sharing that Turn-Style memory. I'm assuming you weren't into AFX cars and Floyd at the same time, but correct me if I'm wrong! :)

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  17. Dave, going thru some draws and just found an new silk scarf with the original Turn-Style price tag attached. I remember purchasing it at the Harlem/Foster store before it burned down. I remember watching the fire. Do you remember the year? I think it was 1969, 70, or 71....Thanks

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  18. The fire you're referring to was in June of 1969. I too was there the day of the fire. The Turn Style was rebuilt and Dave, I'm 99% sure that the third picture above is of the rebuilt store in the Harlem Foster shopping center. There was also a big police shootout there in the early 70's.

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  19. My husband and I have very special memories of Turnstyle. We were both in high school and working at the store on Harlem/Foster. I was working in the men & boys dept. My husband worked the front end collecting carts and working the register. Actually my husband owned a big old mail truck and he would push the carts to the store with it. We met there in December 1971, got married in 1973 and just celebrated our 36th anniversary. We also made friends at Turnstyle that we are still very close to. Hey, does anyone out there remember the Sam and the Sham concert in the parking lot? That seemed so cool back then.

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  20. Anonymous (March 14) - Thanks for that info on the Harlem-Foster store. Do you know when the replacement store opened? The reason I ask is that the Turn-Style in the third photo looks like it has a mid-70's style sign, probably one of the very last Turn-Styles built, and I would have thought the replacement store would have opened earlier than that. Thanks again!

    Anonymous (March 15)- Thanks for sharing those wonderful memories, what a great story! And congratulations on 36 years of marriage! May you enjoy many more.

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  21. I remember Turn-style growing up in Racine, WI. I remember Jewel was to the right and Turn-Style was on the left as you walked through the doors. I guess that was the prelude to today's Wal-Mart, so in my mind Turn-style paved the way. I now shop at Wal-Mart.

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  22. Anonymous - I agree that the Turn-Style format was an early forerunner to Wal-Mart, albeit on a much smaller scale. Thanks for commenting!

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  23. "My husband and I have very special memories of Turnstyle. We were both in high school and working at the store on Harlem/Foster."

    Unfortunately, I have the bad memory of getting locked in the women's bathroom at that Turn Style when I was 9. :(

    And I DO remember the fire of 1969. As I remember it, it started in the restaurant that was in the center of the original Turn Style. Does anyone else remember that? It was a snack area, in a big circle, in the center of the store.

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  24. When I was a kid we went to that Star/Osco often, though we usually went to Stop and Shop because it was cheaper and more convenient. There was a Star/Osco with a similar setup in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Boston that I went to a lot as a small child. At the Quincy location, they were separated by a wall and common lobby, but seperate entrances and then sometime in the late 80s the wall was knocked down and was merged into one store, two sides, with one common checkout area. Last time I was in there was around 2000 and was just a Star. This was very similar in concept to Big Bear and Harts in the Columbus, Ohio area and the two merged stores eventually became the hypermart Big Bear Plus, all of which closed by 2004 when the entire Big Bear chain ended.

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  25. It was so fun reading all the comments. I grew up in Rock Island, IL and there were Turn Styles in Moline, IL and in Davenport, IA. We thought TurnStyle was the bomb...so much classier than Thriftown, which was kind of a dive discount store in Moline, IL. Little did I know that Jewel owned TurnStyles. Thank you for the little bit of history!

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  26. I worked at a TurnStyle store in Omaha Nebraska in the early 70's. There were two stores in Omaha built new in about 1970. Store #718 and #721. Fond memories for me also working there through high school and college. As I recall, the stores were much nice than Kmart and Targets of that era - more like Kohls of todays era. Drop ceiling through out the store, large store.

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  27. I was in the Quincy Star/Osco and Brighams many times as a kid. Our family usually preferred Stop and Shop because it was physically closer and more convenient, I do remember going to Star and Osco as well. I was born in early 1977 so that is probably what it looked like around that time (actually, it didn't look too different last time I was in it around 1990).

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  28. I loved working at Turn-Style and I worked at a bunch of them. Quincy, MA, Waltham, MA and Brighton, MA. In 1971 I was transferred to Decatur, Illinois. I spent about a year working there and was again transferred, this time to Omaha, Nebraska where I worked at both stores.
    People in Illinois and Nebraska couldn't get over my Boston accent. LOL !!
    Greg M.

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    1. Greg, did you know a Will Clanton at the Omaha store? He was a Turnstyle manager who ended up with Venture in Omaha.

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  29. I was one of the department managers at Turnstyle in Merrillville, Indiana...store 711. I remember we had a pharmacy in the center of the store near health and beauty. I believe We generally closed about an hour before the adjoining Jewel and had to pull a curtain that separated both stores. Great management team. Annual Levi Truckload Sale was the big thing!

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