Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Save At Venture...Save With Style!

A new field of study has emerged in the past several years. Our most esteemed institutions of higher learning – Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Triton and others - have been uncharacteristically slow to recognize it and develop the appropriate degree curriculums for it. This lack of formal recognition has not deterred those who carry on this vital work, however.

I’m talking about the Retail Archaeologists – those hardy souls who brave the elements… who risk running afoul of the law…who put their life on the line, walking on brittle abandoned department store floors and roofs, amid falling debris, in order to capture the perfect shot of a day-glo wallpaper remnant, a patch of original tile, a section of a zig-zag awning. These are the people who unearth the relics, who reveal the work of the ancient masters of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, buried beneath years of neglect and fake stucco remodelings. It is they who perform these arduous tasks, while the rest of us sit in relative comfort in front of our laptops, snacks at hand, while “The Office: Season Four” episodes on DVD blare from our television screens. Where would we be without them, I beg?

There is one type of relic that particularly warms their hearts, and many of ours as well. A good many of these relics are still out there, wearing one of any number of nameplates - Kmart, Big Lots, Hobby Lobby…you name it. They have a unique identifying feature – a mesmerizing, converging and diverging diagonal pattern etched into the cement facades, placed there for reasons unknown. Had Erich von Däniken looked into this, it would have surely scored him another best seller. These were the late, great Venture stores.

Venture was a relative latecomer to the discount store world. By the time the first store opened in January 1970, discount stores were part of a well-established concept. The controversial early years of discounting, which struck deathly fear into old-line department store chains and featured battles with (and the ultimate defeat of) fair-trade statutes - laws that allowed the manufacturers of goods to set minimum sale prices - were over. By this time, most of the key regional and multi-regional players were in place, from the earliest discount chains (Zayre, J.M Fields and the other former “mill stores”), through the famous ‘Class of 1962’ (Kmart, Woolco, Target and Wal-Mart, all founded that year) and a plethora of others. Indeed, within just a few years, the Seventies economy would begin to shake out some of the weaker players, the first of many unfortunate “elimination rounds” to follow.

The Venture stores were a creation of The May Department Stores Company, a proud 90-plus year old chain of – well, the name pretty much explains it, that was based in St. Louis. In 1969, just before Venture’s launch, May was America’s third largest operator of “traditional” department stores, behind Federated (Lazarus, I. Magnin, Abraham & Straus, Bullock’s, Foley’s, Bloomingdale’s and Filene’s, among others) and Allied Stores (Jordan Marsh - New England and Florida divisions, The Bon Marché, Stern’s, Maas Brothers, Donaldson’s, Cain-Sloan and others).

At the time, May had an impressive lineup of store banners, including Famous-Barr in St. Louis, Kaufmann’s in Pittsburgh, The Hecht Co. in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. and surrounding areas, and two small operations in Ohio’s steel belt (although it was starting to rust by that point, for sure) - O’Neil’s in Akron/Canton and Strouss-Hirshberg in Youngstown. There were four divisions that operated under the May name: May-D&F in Denver (the first May stores had opened in nearby Leadville in the 1880’s), May-Cohens, Jacksonville, Florida’s largest department store, “The May Co.”, a major Cleveland area chain that was struggling at the time (See comments.), and “May Co.-Southern California”, far-and-away the largest division, with 18 stores and counting in that most vital of markets. May was also a major developer/owner of shopping centers, including Northland, South County and West County in St. Louis and a number of huge Southern California centers, such as Eastland in West Covina, the classic Mission Valley Plaza in San Diego and L.A.’s legendary Topanga Plaza, among others. (“Topanga” is thought to mean “a place above”. I hate to admit that when I first heard the word years ago, it brought to mind the sound effects from Don Martin’s famous Mad magazine cartoons. Slap me.) Then there were some newcomers to the May Company fold – in November 1965, they bought out G. Fox and Co. of Hartford, Connecticut, a downtown department store that May intended to expand into suburban locations. In July of the following year, May acquired Portland, Oregon-based Meier & Frank, a downtown store with two branches, at Lloyd Center and in Salem.

These last two acquisitions caused a problem that formed part of the impetus behind the founding of Venture. In the mid-1960’s, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission took a surprisingly aggressive stance in the area of retail mergers. The supermarket chain Winn-Dixie, for example, was barred from acquiring any additional grocery chains for a ten-year period starting in 1966. The following year, the five-year old merger between Von’s Grocery Co. and Shopping Bag Markets was invalidated altogether, forcing Von’s to sell off the latter chain. Sure enough, May’s recent acquisitions caught the unwanted glare of the FTC, and an investigation was announced. To avoid further scrutiny and the possibility of having to give up their newly won prizes, May executives offered a self-imposed moratorium on any further chain buyouts for a five-year interval. “Ten years and ya got a deal”, the FTC responded in the fall of 1966. (Note: the foregoing is not the actual consent decree language. Just thought I’d clarify.) Thus, an important avenue of growth was now closed off.

There were other reasons behind May’s decision to plunge into discounting. While there wasn’t a “deathly fear” of the discounters, there was certainly an awareness that some business was slipping out of May’s hands into theirs. More importantly, it would provide an expansion gateway into areas that May didn’t have a presence, notably Chicago.

As it happened, the timing couldn’t have been better for May to launch a discount operation, as one of the industry’s true visionaries was suddenly on the market, ready for a new challenge. This was John Geisse, who in mid-1968 resigned from Dayton Corporation (renamed Dayton-Hudson the following year), for whom he started Target in 1962. Geisse is widely credited as the originator of the “upscale discount retail” concept. The accounts vary as to why Geisse left Target, ranging from disagreement with fellow Dayton executives about expansion plans (Geisse favored saturating existing markets over expanding into new ones, according to author Laura Rowley in her book "On Target") to a snub for the presidency of Target (despite his key role, he only held a v.p. title), to the notion that Geisse vastly preferred the excitement of the start- up period versus the long haul of day-to-day operations, as retired May chairman and former Dayton vice president David Babcock later told Discount Store News.

When Babcock, who himself resigned from Dayton to take an executive position at May in 1967, got wind of Geisse’s resignation, he immediately contacted him. The two men had worked together at Dayton since the early 1950’s, and Babcock was well aware of Geisse’s accomplishments there. He told Geisse he “felt there was room for another Target”, and arrangements were made for Geisse to pitch the “upscale discounter” concept to May’s executive committee. On September 3, 1968, a Wall Street Journal article made it official – “May Appoints Geisse To Head Discount Venture”. No pun intended.

The new subsidiary, called Venture Stores, Inc., was organized throughout 1969 with the goal of opening the first store early the following year. On January 29, 1970, right on schedule, the first Venture store opened in the St. Louis suburb of Overland, Missouri. The book “On Target”, in noting the similarity in layout between the early Venture stores and Target, features the following quote from a Target executive: “John (Geisse) went from Target [to the May Company] with the rolled-up blueprints of the chain under his arm – and the first Venture store was identical in layout.” Considering Geisse’s intimacy with the concept, of course, the blueprints themselves were hardly necessary. A successful formula was a successful formula, and by mid-1971 six Venture stores were open: four in the greater St. Louis area –Overland, Kirkwood, Kingshighway at Christy Boulevard, and Fairview Heights, Illinois - and two more not far away in Alton, Illinois and Springfield, Missouri.

Through Venture’s first couple of years, its expansion was fairly slow and methodical. By the end of 1972, there were 12 stores - a critical milestone, because that was the point at which May management felt that the chain “would have sufficient volume and market penetration to support a professional central organization”, as stated in May’s 1972 annual report. Only two additional stores were planned for 1973, including a huge 162,000 square foot store in booming suburban St. Charles.

It was an approach that made sense, considering the plight of a number of several discounters and variety stores in the unforgiving economy of those years. Soon, the casualties would begin mounting – the Interstate chains (Topps and White Front), the American-as-apple-pie W.T. Grant, and more to follow as the decade wore on. Meanwhile, the focus at Venture was on brand building. A May 1974 article by New York Times reporter Isadore Barmash on the gloomy state of the discount biz features some great insights from Venture chief John Geisse on his advertising philosophy, which was to promote “images, rather than seek to capitalize merely on the merchandise advertised. Our gross margin results seldom pay for the ads we run, so that we have to gear our ads to produce a good over-all image for the company.” It’s a shame more retail chains didn’t take his advice.

The pace accelerated in 1974/75, however, as Venture pushed on into two important new markets – four new units in the greater Kansas City area – two on the Missouri side (Kansas City and Independence) and two on the Kansas side (Kansas City and Overland Park), all large stores. The big move, from a long-term standpoint at least, came in February 1975, when the company opened its first three stores in the Chicago area – in Oak Lawn at 95th and Crawford, Calumet City at River Oaks Center, and in Mount Prospect at Elmhurst Road/Route 83 (“eighty-tree” for you non-natives) and Dempster Street, on the former site of a National Food Store. This last one was close to my heart, and even closer to my junior high school – just a couple of blocks away.

(It was an interesting era to be in grade school. Some of my teachers had begun their careers in the early 1950’s, and twenty-five years later still had the demure manner and conservative style of dress one associates with that era. Then you had my math teacher, who wore shoulder-length hair, a ‘stache and an attitude and played rock music 45’s in class. The class’ favorite was “Bad Time” by Grand Funk, which I’ve probably heard three times since 1976 but still remember very well. He inscribed my seventh-grade yearbook “Eat a peach”, as I recently rediscovered. The school was torn down in the early 1980's due to a declining kid population.)

Interestingly, these initial Chicago area Venture stores were all teamed with A&P supermarkets, with A&P as a lessee to Venture. The Mount Prospect store sported the first A&P “tri-color” logo sign I ever laid eyes on, looking subtly attractive and modern against Venture’s trademark diagonal-patterned cement facade. The stores shared a common passageway, to the probable relief of A&P, who viewed the “Venture venture” as a lifeline. It would turn out to be A&P’s last gasp in the Chicago area.

Venture pulled out all of the stops for their Chicago launch, with month-long grand opening sales and a huge TV advertising blitz, each spot ending in the soon-to-be-familiar refrain – “It’s not just another discount store!!!” Venture chairman John Geisse hit the promotion trail as well, showing up at all three grand openings and giving a speech before that all-important audience – the Mount Prospect Rotary Club, as reported in the Daily Herald on February 25, 1975. In his talk, he gave a historic overview of the discount industry, with insights along the way as to why certain chains succeeded and others failed. He cited the example of one chain that “maintain(ed)a ’controlled dirt’ level in its stores indicating to consumers that it was a low overhead business”, and mentioned others that “always thought the next step was the big promotion” or “had no fashion sense” , while the discounters that prospered were “properly managed”, ‘’offered one-stop shopping”, and handled “presold” merchandise – “items purchased periodically which the housewife doesn’t need guidance in selecting”. He also addressed the special appeal of discount stores to the teenage market, where “peer needs exceed their ability to buy”. Oh, how I’d love to have been in that audience, especially since it took place so close to home. As it was, it was probably a typical weeknight for me… putting off my homework until the last possible second…lobbying for permission to stay up and watch Hawaii Five-O or whatever else was on at 9pm...ah, the life of a sixth grader!

Not long afterwards, Geisse left the May Company to start his own consulting firm. In 1976, he was appointed chairman of Ayr-Way stores, the former discount division of L.S. Ayres & Co., an Indianapolis-based department store chain. A decision by the FTC, which was obviously pretty active in the 70’s as well, forced Associated Dry Goods to spin-off Ayr-Way after its 1972 acquisition of Ayres. Ironically, ADG would itself be bought out by May in 1986, while the Ayr-Way stores would ultimately become Target units. (I should probably put this stuff in scorecard format, it would be easier to keep up with. For me, that is.) In 1983, Geisse would start up yet another company, called the Wholesale Club of Indianapolis, which grew to 24 stores and $650 million in volume before he sold it in 1990 to Wal-Mart (Geisse was a close friend of Sam Walton), whereupon the stores were converted to Sam’s Clubs. John Geisse passed away in March 1992 at the relatively young age of 71.

In March 1978, Venture reached an agreement that would nearly triple its presence in the Chicago area, making it the company’s most important market. After 17 years, Jewel Companies, Inc., decided to pull the plug on its Turn-Style discount store division, which had been struggling of late. Venture purchased 19 of that chain’s stores, 10 of which were in the Chicago area, including key locations in Glendale Heights, Schaumburg, Deerfield, Skokie and Merrillville, Indiana, among others. Also in the mix were locations in the Quad Cities and in downstate Illinois. At the end of 1978, there were a total of 20 Venture units in Chicagoland, including the Turn-Styles and two newly-built stores. Two additional new stores would open there in early 1979. With some of the finest store locations in Chicago under their belt, the airwaves were soon filled with a catchy new slogan, “Save at Venture…Save with Style”, which was adopted in 1981.

From this point, Venture’s growth settled back into a steady pace, adding a handful of new stores per year in St. Louis and Chicago, and the occasional multi-store entry here and there into other heartland markets – three stores in Oklahoma City and two in South Bend, Indiana, for example. By this time, Venture was no longer the May Company’s only “discount” division – in 1979, May acquired Topeka, Kansas-based Volume Shoe Corporation from the Pozez family. Volume Shoe was better known by their principal store banner, Payless ShoeSource. By 1985, there were nearly 1,900 Payless outlets, compared to 62 for Venture, doing only two-thirds the sales volume of Venture, but turning in more profits. In any event, Venture accounted for an impressive 20% of May’s total sales that year.

The following year, another discount chain would join the May Company fold, one with a bit more similarity to Venture. In October 1986, after months of negotiation, May bought out rival department store operator Associated Dry Goods, picking up venerable nameplates such as Lord & Taylor and J.W. Robinson, among many others. Also included were the Loehmann’s women’s apparel stores, which May quickly sold off. The “similar” operation was Caldor, the 35–year-old, Norwalk, Connecticut-based discount chain with a geographic footprint extending from New Hampshire to Virginia. ADG had purchased the company from founders Carl and Dorothy Bennett in 1981. At the time of the May buyout, Caldor was in the midst of a major expansion in New Jersey, opening five new stores there in 1986. While larger than Venture (115 stores compared to Venture’s 65), Caldor was far less profitable. May’s 1986 annual report, the first one to follow the ADG buyout, acknowledged Caldor’s problems, blaming them largely on excess inventory. Speculation arose that May would combine Caldor and Venture into a single chain, presumably to spread Venture’s winning ways throughout the entire operation.

That never happened. As the 1980’s rolled on, it was evident that the May Company was no longer interested in the discount store business. By 1989, they were looking for a graceful exit. Many factors played into this, I’m sure, including little stomach on May’s part for “fixing” Caldor, and the fact that their two discount chains combined now made up only 12% of the company’s revenue. Maybe they saw the oncoming competitive threat from Wal-Mart, but few crystal balls were that accurate at the time. And with Lord & Taylor now under their wing, they no longer needed the discounter for a foothold in Chicago, if that was a concern. A June 1989 article by the NYT’s Isadore Barmash got to the crux of the issue: “May doesn’t need to sell these discount retailers, but admittedly, they don’t fit May’s department store image”, one analyst told Barmash, and a May insider added: “The fact is that Farrell and Hays (David Farrell, then May’s CEO and Thomas Hays, its president) never really liked the discount business, with its different economics.” Enough said.

One interesting scenario that made the press was a proposed “swap” arrangement, where May would trade the Venture and Caldor chains to Dayton-Hudson Corporation (the stores would then be converted to Target units) in exchange for their namesake department store chains, Minneapolis-based Dayton’s and Detroit-based Hudson’s. While this never came to fruition, May eventually did come to own the former D-H department stores, which by that time were flying the Marshall Field’s banner, in a 2004 transaction. (Dayton-Hudson had bought Marshall Field’s from the BATUS Group in 1990 and later adopted the Field’s name for all of their department stores. Let me get that scorecard out again.)

On October 11, 1989, May announced its plan – as reported by the Times’ Barmash the following day, Caldor (118 stores then) would be sold to CAL Holdings, a new company set up by Caldor’s top management and an outside investor group. The May Company would retain a 20% equity stake in the new firm. The 73-store Venture, on the other hand, would be spun off to May shareholders as a separate company, with each May shareholder receiving a proportionate number of shares in Venture Stores, Incorporated. Delayed for over a year, the spinoff finally took place in November 1990.

Venture’s existing management, including chairman Julian Seeherman, remained in charge, and they had ambitious plans for expansion. These plans included a move into a new region that would ultimately seal the company’s fate. Up to that point, their stores had been located in or bordered the Midwestern states. In late summer 1993, Venture opened 11 brand new stores in Texas - six in the Houston area and five in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex, along with a distribution center south of Dallas in Corsicana.

The focus here would be on “micromarketing”, a beloved term at Venture of late, where merchandise assortments for each store were finely tuned to the local buying audience. (As if that weren’t already required in their existing markets, we’re left to surmise.) For the Texas stores, apparently, this meant home décor themed with “cowboy boot, coyote and armadillo designs” in wall art and on throw pillows, and “leather handbags with ‘Texas’ boldly embossed on the front”, according to an August 1993 Discount Store News article. I’ve seen lots of armadillos over the years, but never a live one, just the “roadside” variety. I wonder if they were pictured “feet up” or down. (My apologies for the preceding lapse in taste.)

Jumping into two markets that were among Wal-Mart’s strongest and best-established territories was not the biggest problem with Venture’s new strategy. Far worse was the diversion of resources that should have been used to shore up Venture’s key market, in the face of “an onslaught of new Wal-Mart and Target locations in metro Chicago”, as Discount Store News later put it. The same article revealed that “(by) mid-1995, fewer than half the beleaguered Chicagoland stores had been through major remodeling”.

It would be some time before the seriousness of Venture’s expansion miscue was fully realized, and during that interim they tried some new initiatives. One was a new logo, an update of the “equity-invested diagonal stripe concept of the previous Venture logo but replac(ing) its industrial-looking, hard-edged lines with softer ones that suggest a furled flag”, according to a July 1995 Chain Store Age article. The logo’s “softer lines’’ tied in with another management decision, a move to reposition Venture upmarket, emphasizing higher end apparel sales while downplaying consumable items. Then came a dip in the U.S. clothing sales market. Without the traffic-driving aspect of consumable items to offset this, the results were calamitous.

By mid-1997, it was painfully clear that the Texas move was a mistake, that most of the company’s stores there would not be profitable over the long haul. At that time, Venture made the decision to sell 20 of its stores to Kmart Corporation, including ten stores in Houston, five in Dallas, two in Indianapolis and one each in Tulsa, Des Moines and Waterloo, Iowa, as Discount Store News reported on June 21st of that year. The chain would now have 93 stores, down from its 117-store peak in 1996. The company’s stated goal was “to focus on its core markets of Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City”, although eight of the better-performing Texas stores – three each in Dallas and Houston and one each in Corpus Christi and Amarillo – would be retained for a while.

Not a long while, as it happened. In May 1998, after yet more store closings, the company threw in the proverbial striped towel, declaring bankruptcy and announcing the closure of the then remaining 73 Venture stores. Some 45 to 50 of them ended up as Kmarts. (And more than a few of those are now something else, I’m sure.) Discount Store News summed up Venture’s demise as the result of a string of bad decisions – “failure to move into food” or to “compete promotionally with Target”, and “turning its back on tired, old stores in its core markets and heading to Texas’’ as previously discussed. At the most basic level, the company’s management “wasn’t hungry enough to beat the competition”, and they fell into a “middle zone” of not knowing whether to position Venture as “a lead(er) in price, assortment or service”. And so they bowed out, instead of facing the fiercely competitive retail world we’ve grown accustomed to in the 21st century. But I miss those diagonal stripes.

The first two of the May Company photos above depict scenes from the earliest Venture stores in 1970. Note the old, sliding credit card machines at the end of the checkout lanes, a good distance from the checkers, something I remember seeing in a number of discount stores. Funnily enough, I can remember my grandfather’s bank-issued Master Charge card (they’ve gone by the name MasterCard for eons now) actually had a photo I.D. section, back in 1971!

While the other three photos, from 1978, 1979 and 1981 respectively, are focused on the checkout areas as well, they provide a nice overall feel for the “golden age of Venture”, as well as an interesting glimpse of some fads and fashions of the time. The music: Neil Diamond (of course), Eric Clapton’s “Backless” album (panned at the time and underrated today – I think “Promises” is one of his very best songs) and Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits (I didn’t know anyone actually bought that album – I thought it was automatically issued to every American household at the time. Whether you wanted it or not.) Atari game systems make a couple of appearances, and then there’s the ubiquitous Milton Bradley “Simon” electronic game. (With a brain. Do what it says or go down the drain.) These photos also capture a tectonic shift in American life, the aftershocks of which are still felt today – the Transition from Paper to Plastic. In the last photo, you can see a lady buying a blue-and-white striped dress. She obviously wanted to continue the “Venture experience” at home. That’s the spirit!

Lastly, a 1971 Venture grand opening ad, for store number six, in Alton, Illinois:


  1. Bravo Dave!

    Venture was a mainstay in my Peoria home as a child. We left Central Illinois in 1986 for Florida, then came back in 1992... the Peoria Venture store had changed. It wasn't the same. When I was a kid, it WAS a wonderful discount store, that was light years ahead of Kmart, and those were the only two discounters we had, save for a locally owned Miracle Mart and regional Belscot... both gone by the end of the 80s. The Venture in Peoria is now a Kmart concept store, with very unique green lettering and a logo that is distinct to that store. When I return home, I look off Sheridan Road to see the black and white diagonal stripes as depicted in the first photo, only to see various human faces and a strange, green Kmart logo now, but my childhood memories of long shopping excursions at Venture in Evergreen Square are very vivid and pleasant... as is the smell of popcorn emanating from the Venture Cafe upon entry. Too bad they couldn't hang on, they really had something going in their day.

    Again, a fantastic entry... keep up the GREAT work!


  2. I love what you do, keep on doing it. Even places I have never seen or heard of bring me back. Keep up the good work for the lurkers like myself who look forward to your latest posts.

  3. Those checkout terminals in the first color picture are awesome!

  4. May was hardly doing poorly in Cleveland during the 60s & 70s. My sister-in-law's father built the branch network during that time.

    Venture's history, in some ways, parallels that of Federated's Gold Circle chain which had its own odd history. It was a mix of very large, upscale discount stores that emphasized apparel, some of them outside Federated's core markets, and the hard goods oriented Gold Triangle chain which was in Florida. Later, they also added Rich's Richway chain in Atlanta, which had a similar format. Gold Circle occupied the niche that now belongs to Target. It was bizarrely run as part of an existing Federated division which may have contributed to its limited long-term success. The stores ultimately went to Target in some places (like Atlanta) and other chains such as Hills elsewhere.

  5. Thanks for the crash course on Venture. I've never seen one in person, and I was always curious about them.

    Venture seemed to a cut above the typical chains of the era. They definitely had some interesting cash wrap ideas and the tinted cube lighting with the globes inside was awesome.

  6. I love those numbered glass light enclosures above the checkout lines -- touch of class.

    Check out the 1981 photo: A woman's buying an Atari videogame system! Oh golly, good times!

    Gotta say, though -- I don't like those arches by the clothing (is it clothing?) department in the 1970 photo. Looks REALLY dated, even for '70. Reminds me of the set from "Are You Being Served?" They had a much better look eight years later.

  7. Feet up or down..I got the best laugh out of that Dave. I also wanted to know more about Venture and this was one of your very BEST posts. Very informative!

  8. I like Venture's concept! It's a shame they didn't make it :( The first Venture you said opened in Overland, MO- I used to live about 5 minutes away in Maryland Heights, MO (when I first moved to the US 5 years ago)... I'm trying to think wherever the old Venture could have been, although long gone by 2005? I'm guessing it was probably on Page Ave? Any ideas anybody? Just curious :)

  9. Excellent post, Dave!

    Venture was always our choice in the 80s. Better quality and better shopping environemnt as compared to Kmart and Zayre.

    I recall around '83 or so some Venture stores in Chicagoland giving up a small amount of floor space for a separate store that sold jeans. These were added at one end of the building and had their own entrances. They were only around until '86 or so.

    It's interesting that they were related to Payless shoes. The afformentioned jeans store became Payless in the Griffith, IN and Orland Park, IL stores that I know of. The Payless stores kept going long after Venture closed their doors. They may still be open.

    1. You're talking about Colonel Day's!

  10. As always , Dave, brilliantly witty post. There are so many points I wanted to bring up starting with how Anonymous #2 paralleled Venture to Gold Circle. This was running through my head the entire time I read this, I was thinking of Gold Circle specifically when you made note in your post that Venture started off as an upscale discount retailer. That to me boggles my mind. I remember Gold Circle well from living in Ohio and when we moved to Chicago in '89 we didn't immediately embrace Venture. I think we started visiting Venture sometime after we moved to Rogers Park in the early to mid 90s. (Incidentally, the Venture that we used to go to on Peterson avenue is now a Target after a brief stint as Kmart). By the 90s I was in no way thinking Venture was upscale. I actually always got the impression it was as low blow as a Zayre. None of the Ventures we ever went to (Peterson, Elston/Foster and across from Harlem/Irving)looked like they had changed or been remodeled in eons. But my parents shopped there because it was cheap. I bought a lot of clothes there as a teen, though most of that stuff is long gone. We went there til the bitter end. I still remember out last trip to the Elston/Foster location when they were liquidating. Sad times.

    I was very interested in what willinmilwaukee said about a Venture jeans store with a separate entrance that didn't last long. I always wondered about this because the location at Harlem and Irving has a little store on the side with a separate entrance (Now a part of Kmart those doors are walled off but you can still see them there). During the 90s that little location was a cheap clothing store we would sometimes visit and I always wondered about the weirdness of that what looked to be part of the store but wasn't actually Venture, sort of like an illusion. Now I think I finally solved the mystery. Phew. My life can get back on track after fifteen years of wondering.

    Venture still kept popping up in my life over the years. When I was in college we discovered an old sale paper from 96 still sitting behind a file cabinet in the library where I worked as a student aide. Then a few years later when I started dating my husband one of my friends came over and saw the Admiral 19 inch TV in the kitchen and said "That's the same model my mom used to have. She bought it at Venture." Whenever I saw stripes like that front, well, you get the picture.

    Aaah, I think my mother had a striped blue and white top like that ladies dress. Maybe she wanted to continue the Venture experience in Cleveland, Ohio in the early 80s. And the picture above that, the guy with the rainbow stripes. I think my father had a sweater like that too.

    Ok, I think I have covered it all. Except to say I am waiting for the On Target book from Interlibrary who for some reason has decided to be marginally slow on sending the books (it's been nearly 2 weeks). Can't wait to thumb through it. Although my pesky paper on the European Union comes first (Yea right!).

  11. At the bottom of the fifth photo, if you look closely, you can see what appears to be a stack of "Famous-Barr" credit card applications, next to those for Visa and MasterCard.

  12. You did it again, another exceptional piece of writing! The color photos remind me of Zayre, which I worked at from 1981~1982 in Hollywood, FL. All that brown and orange! I can't imagine a store like that anymore. Ah, the memories!

  13. It's funny you mention the expansion to Dallas and Houston. Target expanded in the exact same way, but not at the exact same time. Target made their Houston and Dallas moves in the mid to late 70's, at a time where the move was right. Venture waited until the early 90's, when Kmart and Walmart were reigning the two areas, and really more Walmart. By the time Venture moved in with their small number of stores in each of these two places (10 each in DFW and Houston), Kmart and Walmart already had 20-30+ stores in each. Ultimately, the Venture mistake led to Kmart's downfall in both cities, as Kmart took all of the former Venture sites in both. The Venture stores were smaller than the Kmart stores they were replacing, and did not have garden centers, a big money maker for Kmart at the time. Kmart pulled out of DFW and Houston in 2002 during their bankruptcy. Where there were once 150 Kmarts in Texas, there are now 19, all in smaller cities. And as you said, most of the Venture stores are something else. The Meyerland Plaza store in Houston is now....Target.

  14. Those photos of checkouts sure bring back memories. The orange laminate counters and the numbered boxes with the globe lights hanging from the ceiling. And let's not forget those bright orange 100% polyester vests all the employees wore. The photo with the Atari game is inaccurate though. I should know for I use to sell Ataris at Venture and customers had to pay for them at the Camera counter.

    I worked at the Glendale Heights, IL Venture from late 1981 to early 1983. Glendale Heights was one of the old Turn-Styles that Venture took over in the Chicago area. I initially started back in Receiving but after a few months was transfered out to the Camera counter. Along with Cameras and Electronics (and the aforementioned Ataris), I also covered Records, Books & Magazines and Sporting Goods.

    A few years after I left, I do recall a corner of the store being carved out for a Payless shoe store with its own separate entrance. Now that I know about the Payless connection, I understand why.

    After Venture called it quits, the Glendale Heights Venture didn't fair as well as other Ventures in my area. The Addison store became a K-Mart for a short time and is now a Wal-Mart. The Oakbrook Terrace store is now a Home Depot. I don't know what became of the Schaumburg store mainly because I can't remember where it was located (can anyone help me there?) The Glendale Heights store sat vacant until 2002 when it was torn down to make way for a new Menards.

    Thanks Dave for another interesting and entertaining blog. Keep 'em coming!

  15. @Anonymous - As some may be aware, various Lazarus family members were firmly in control of Federated had their fingerprints all over the chain. A good friend of mine used to work in the Gold Circle/Richway corporate offices in Worthington, Ohio and was something of an outgrowth of the Lazarus division. The stores were always very busy, even up to the moment when they were being phased out. The person I know says the problem was never with Gold Circle but with the internal metrics Federated used to assign overhead and determine profitability. Gold Circle couldn't cut it from the standpoint of internal review as department stores were far more profitable at the time. At one point even Robert Morosky (former Limited Number 2) was trying to strike a deal to purchase the chain, but Campeau decided it could make more money liquidating the chain.

    Anyway, I think this gives a little insight as to how a successful chain like Gold Circle could be wound down. It was a successful chain up from the standpoint of customer popularity until the very end.

  16. One of my favorite commercials for Venture is featured here! A few things I know...

    1. At one time, the Venture headquarters were in the basement of Northwest Plaza, a large St. Louis shopping mall now gone.

    2. A Kmart was in a former Venture I know. It's on Highway 290 in Houston. Unfortunately, it's not even a Kmart anymore as they exited the market in 2003. It's now a Burlington Coat Factory. It also comes with an empty Service Merchandise and a second-gen Toys R Us serving as a Hispanic-oriented dollar store.

  17. Is that the Crawford Ave. Oak Lawn store? It sure looks like it and if it is, it's a KMart now and sure looks like a dead ringer design wise for the current K-Mart...

  18. Interesting how these department store brands, discount stores, and in-line stores all swap owners, constantly. A few of them have managed to off their former namesakes while naming themselves after their current flagships (Foot Locker, TJX Companies, Target, formerly F.W. Woolworth, Zayre, and Dayton-Hudson, respectively).

  19. @Mike-CS: The Schaumburg Venture Store, a Turn-Style conversion, was located at Golf Road and Meacham. I don't know what became of it. I looked at aerial views online and saw that there is a "The Great Indoors" store about where the Venture had been. I'm not sure, though, if the Venture had been in the building just west of that or if the Venture was demolished and a new building put up in its place.

  20. Jack – Great to hear from you, thanks very much! The “Venture Café” – now we’re talking!

    There definitely was a huge change in Venture’s stores in the 1990’s, not for the better. One wonders what could have happened had they “stuck to the knitting” in their core Midwest area instead of spreading themselves so thin.

    I’ve seen pictures of that “green and gray themed” Kmart (or one like it), and I actually think it’s a pretty nice look. Thanks again!

    Anonymous – Thanks so much for that vote of confidence. Being nostalgic for someplace you’ve never been is an interesting thing. Happens to me a lot!

    Veg-O-Matic – I certainly agree – that was high technology, retail-wise for the time! And I love the “dual-checker” arrangement that some of the photos show. Thanks!

    Anonymous 2 – I definitely should have been more specific as to why and for how long they were “struggling”. What I was referring to was an accounting error on the part of May’s Cleveland division that forced the parent company to take a huge charge against earnings in 1966 and caused a shakeup of sorts in Cleveland. I will make a note on the post.

    Was your sister-in-law’s father there when May opened the Parmatown branch? That location featured a classic Victor Gruen architectural design.

    Thanks for the great details on the Gold Circle/Gold Triangle/Richway chains. I remember Richway, from personal experience, as a class act.

    Steve – You’re welcome, and thanks for the feedback. They really were different at the outset, and these pics, especially the first color one with orange theme, portray the quality image they were going for. And the cube light fixtures were killer, I agree! A classic 70’s design, applied to something that would never receive that kind of attention today.

    Nightdragon – Totally agreed on the light enclosures, as mentioned above.

    Atari definitely was the thing, and these photos make wonder what they cost at the time (an easy Google search away, I’m sure). I probably played Atari games for the first time in 1982 or so, in my late teens, at a friend’s house, because we never actually bought one ourselves. Of course we have generations of Nintendo systems sitting around the house now, my kids are huge fans.

    I loved “Are You Being Served”, and the arches do sort of bring that to mind, now that you mention it! The arches are probably attributable to the May Company’s department store design approach. As Venture grew, design elements like those were refined out fairly quickly.

    One more thing about AYBS - Mrs. Slocombe was way ahead of her time with the wild hair coloring! :)

    Dwayne – Thanks very much, glad this helped you learn more about Venture. And “feet up” would have been more authentic, don’t you think? ;)

  21. GlamAtomic – You know, I ‘m not sure – I do have quite a bit of familiarity with the area, and have noticed that a great deal of “old retail” exists there, a lot of it fairly well kept. It’s an older section of town, with more reuse of existing facilities than teardowns. It’s a great question, and I’ll see what I can find out, if someone doesn’t help us out first. Thanks!

    Willinmilwaukee – Thanks! I’m wondering what the jeans store would have been. I’m assuming it was an outside chain operation, since I’m not aware of anything the May Company might have owned in that regards, but I’m not sure. Payless was definitely “in the family”, though!

    Didi – I’ve heard so much about the Gold Circle stores, from yourself and others, that I sure wish I had seen one. I did shop at their sister chain, Richway, during the time I lived in Atlanta, 1987-88. It’s a shame that the Venture stores in Chicago were allowed to languish so long. They really did have some of the best locations in the area, especially in the suburbs (where most of them were, of course) – far better than many of Wal-Mart’s early sites there.

    I’m glad that Will’s information about the jeans stores has enabled you to move on with your life. And a school paper more important than retail history reading? No way! ;)

    Anonymous3 – Great eye! It makes sense that May would promote Famous-Barr at St. Louis-area Venture stores. We have good friends in the STL area, and a visit to Famous-Barr was often a fun part of the visit. Another sorely missed name!

    Portland via Japan – Thanks once again for the kind words. You’ve probably seen the Zayre posts on here that feature brown and orange color scheme, another classic! You’re right, though – it would be hard to imagine those colors in use today. Excepting Target’s bold red, everything’s pretty muted.

    Scott – Very interesting point about the fate of the “Ex-Venture” Kmarts, thanks! Had May tried to move into Texas 10-15 years earlier, it could have been a much happier story, but by the mid-90’s the die was definitely cast. Thanks again!

    1. The jeans store was Colonel Days. I worked at the Venture Corp. offices for 14 years (inc. for Mike Duke...now at Walmart, Maxine Clark...from Build-A-Bear Workshop and Coleman Peterson...Hollis). I'll never forget my early typo (and by "typo" I mean a mistake on a typewriter!)..."Colonel Day's widow" (instead of WINDOW)! :-)

  22. Mike-CS – I can imagine the memories these pics must bring back for you, having worked there in Venture’s “golden age”. A friend of mine worked at the Venture in Countryside during the same years and had hilarious “war stories” from there all the time.

    Thanks for pointing out the discrepancy between the “publicity photo versions” vs. the way expensive video game sets were really sold. These things were often fictionalized in commercials as well – I think of the Toys R Us commercials (that barely seem to run anymore, btw) as compared to the actual experience of shopping there.

    I didn’t know about the Payless connection until I did the research for this post, something I found interesting as well.
    And thanks – I’m very happy to do it!

    Danny – Interesting stuff about Gold Circle. Maybe one day I’ll find some decent enough photos for a post – the behind the scenes intrigue there certainly warrants one. Everything I’ve heard points to them as fine stores.

    Department stores and discounters really do seem to be a mismatch, as history has pointed out time after time. Thanks!

    Pseudo3D – Didn’t know about the Northwest Plaza HQ for Venture. I’ve been wanting to check the place out for eons now (my understanding is that the mall still stands for now), but never seem to have time when I’m in St. Louis.

    Regarding your other comment, looks like they may run out of chains to swap at the rate things have gone!

    Chris – I’m assuming your referring to the first two photos. No, those are from 1970, pre-dating the Oak Lawn store by five years, but basic look was extremely similar. One minor difference was that by the time the first Ventures opened in the Chicago area, the “Venture” signage consisted of white lettering on a black stripe.

    I’ve seen the Oak Lawn Kmart, and its heritage as a Venture is unmistakable, unlike some of the others on which the facades were completely redone.

    Steven – Thanks very much for that info – I remember the Schaumburg Turn-Style “Family Center” very well! Never shopped there in its Venture days, unfortunately.

  23. Newb here, but grew up a mile from the Kirkwood, MO store (also 1 mile from the Sunset Hills Korvettes) and shopped there a lot (as did all my friends)

    1. The jeans store was Colonel Day's Levi's Emporium. Don't recall much about it, but I think it was tied into May/Venture somehow...we bought jeans at The Gap.
    2. Venture had a bakery/cafe department at the front of the store. Early on they had a donut maker (one of those automated ones), but for quite a long time they did cake decorating there. They had bakery bread and rolls there too...convenient to take and go.
    3. In the 70s, the quality discount suburban choices in St. Louis were Target and Venture (there was an early-70s Target about 3 miles south on Lindbergh/Kirkwood Rd). We rarely went to K-Mart (further into the city) or Zayre (another mile south on Lindbergh). We went to Venture more because of location, but didn't avoid Target.
    4. Target did an interesting thing toward the late 70s...they added a store about 1978 as a bit of an in-fill store about a mile north of that Venture in downtown Kirkwood (upscale suburban railroad town). It replaced a couple blocks of downtown Kirkwood (including the old '20s hotel) but was a good neighbor for 20 years or so.
    5. Venture's first cash registers were big NCR mechanical ones where the checker had to enter a dept/class (6 digits) along with the price. They were subtly different than Target's (which punched a tape while being checked out). The orange registers in the picture were TRW, if I remember, and didn't have any sort of lookup (they still re-marked all the merchandise for the Sunday sale paper). They came in about the 1978 timeframe, and at that point they started taking the Famous-Barr credit card. (They were different, though, than the cash registers used at Famous-Barr).
    6. I remember being conscious of visiting my grandparents in Chicago in the mid-70s that they only had Zayre and K-Mart, while we did almost all of that type of shopping at Venture/Target.
    Needless to say, lots in my parent's house still has a Venture price tag.

  24. Gold Circle was an oddity in many ways--their original stores were enormous. Their later stores were not and there were a number of later stores that opened and quickly closed--at least one in Cleveland, and others in Western NY. They struck a deal with Kroger to operate "Gold Circle Foods" much like "K-Mart" and various operators who used the "K-Mart Foods" name, but ended up only doing this in Dayton. The adjacent supermarkets wound up with a variety of operators who used their own names. In the end, Gold Circle never built the kind of semi-cult following that Caldor had achieved in New England, up until the original owners sold out. The contemporary Target stores have achieved something similar to what Caldor had in its prime, in terms of a following.

    Venture was not quite in the same mold as Gold Circle--more like the early Target, but with more hard lines. Venture really missed the boom in Texas and that probably hurt them, as much as the amount of competition. May would have been smarter to use what they knew about their different operating areas--L.A. would have had potential for them. They were lucky in Chicago in that the discounters were more concentrated at the low end than in other places and the locals like Community and Goldblatt's were faltering. The few times I visited venture (Chicago & St L) the stores seemed to lack a real identity--nicer than a K-Mart but without any real cache.

  25. Thanks for the memories. I remember going to the Venture at 44th and Pulaski in Chicago. That store would later be converted to a K-Mart and today a Target sits on that site.

  26. @Steven Wilson: Thanks for the info on the Schaumburg Venture. No wonder I couldn't remember it since back in the day, I rarely if ever got to that side of Woodfield Mall. I would suspect that with The Great Indoors there now that the old building is long gone.

    @Anonymous Newb: I remember those big old NCR cash registers well. You needed to insert and turn a key to unlock the keypad. Of course you had to enter in all the numbers by hand. This was well before the wide use of laser scanners and credit card readers. For greater speed and efficiency, the register operators were trained to hold their hand over the number keys in a certain position so each finger would hit a certain set of numbers - much like positioning the fingers on the home keys of a typewriter.

    The big advancement of the day with the registers was the automatic approval of credit cards. Prior to then, if we had a transaction over $50.00, we had to call a credit bureau who gave us a code to enter in the register to complete the transaction. The system worked great until one particularly busy day in the Christmas season when the amount of transactions overwhelmed the system and took it down, forcing us to go back to the old system temporarily.

  27. Anonymous 1 – My wife’s grandparents lived near the Kirkwood area, and she has always spoken fondly of the town. A few years back we stopped to eat at the Howard Johnson’s restaurant there, knowing it was one of the last ones left in the chain (and is now gone, of course).

    Thanks for sharing those great memories and details about the discount scene in that part of St. Louis. I recently got a photo of one of the Korvette stores there that I believe might be the Sunset Hills location – was there a movie theatre next to it? I know Korvette had another STL area store in Cool Valley.

    Thanks again!

    Anonymous 2 – Very interesting about the Kroger-operated supermarket sections in Gold Circle stores!

    Thanks also for your other insights shared – in particular your excellent point that May would have been better off bringing Venture to L.A., where they knew the turf, instead of Texas.

    Brokecompsoul – You’re welcome, and thanks very much. I think the Target store is going to be there a while! ;)

    Mike CS – Thanks for inside info on credit card transactions back in the day – always interesting stuff!

    Note to comment readers – In one of my responses above, I mentioned in error that legendary architect Victor Gruen designed the Parmatown branch of The May Co.’s Cleveland unit. I was actually referring to the University Heights branch and don’t know who designed Parmatown. Sorry ‘bout that.

  28. Venture's hey day in Chcagoland was the laste 70's.

    Anyway, a few updates to some locations in IL. The Addison IL store was empty for nearly a decade. Walmart tore it down and built new store.

    In Oak Brook IL on 22nd st, it's now a Home Depot, on the rear and side can still see the concrete stripe 'Venture' pattern.

    Harlem/Irving is K Mart, same building.

    For the city Peterson Av. store, that was then a K Mart, but then got tore down for a two story Target blg, with parking on gorund floor.

    Some locations still have the b/w stripes on front, such as Melrose Park.

  29. We shopped at Venture til the bitter end in the St. Louis area. Venture was the first big store in St. Peters, MO when the city of about 50,000 had a population of about 600 people, and that store was open from the early 70s until the eventual demise of the chain around 1998...
    Shortly before they closed, they had dramatically remodeled their stores and changed their logo, and after Wal-Mart abandoned a smaller store to move across the street in Harvester, MO, Venture took over the old Wal-Mart and did a cheap remodel of it into a new style Venture store.
    By then, the shape the company was in was fairly obvious - they had already shut out of a good amount of their stores, and they were offering much lower merchandise then they had in the past.
    When the end finally did come, the going out of business sale went on forever, and the liquidators were bringing in cheap junk merchandise that had never been sold at Venture.
    It was a sad end for what was such a huge successful chain in the 70s & 80s in its home market of St. Louis.
    My Dad worked in security at Venture #1 in Overland, MO in the 70s, and he had a funny story about a rather obese woman who they caught trying to steal a TV set waddling out with it in between her legs under her moo-moo... He also later worked at the location in Kirkwood, MO...

    Several old Venture stores became K-Marts, and several others became Kohl's.

    There is a fairly untouched Venture store that has been abandoned near East St. Louis, IL It was closed as a Venture in the 80s, and was used as a Famous Barr outlet for awhile. It still has the familiar black and white striped facade in tact.

    I really miss Venture a lot. In the 80s, it was the best place to shop when May Co. still owned the chain. It always had the best smell when you would walk in of Popcorn and Hot Dogs cooking...

    Another St. Louis chain I would love to see more about is Grandpa's (nee. Grandpa Pidgeons) which expired around the same time as Venture.

    Grandpa's sold out to Value City, and Value City when kaput a couple of years ago...

    1. I loved Venture was so sad when they closed.I also LOVED Grandpa's and also work there for 21 years.Tom Holly was such a great guy to work for.He gave his employees so much.It was a union store,but think he would have gave us all the benefits even if it was not.We made good money got regular raises,paid holidays,3 weeks vacation,3 personal paid days a year,birthdays off with pay,2 dollars extra pay on Sundays,every third weekend off,never had to work a full weekend Saturday or Sunday your choice,Christmas bonus and the biggest benefit of all is he paid 375.00 dollars a month for health insurance for everyone of his 32 full time employees at 14 stores which is 448 employees and a lot of money.He would also come to our store for a couple of hours and work on Christmas Eve bagging and gave customers who may look needy free toys,TV's and other items and employees who had kids some extra spending money for Christmas right out of his own pocket.What employer would do that now.I can't think of one.I cried when he sold them to Value S**** as I call them.I worked for them for 2 years until they closed my store.I have had five jobs since and Kmart being one and as Rain Man says Kmart sucks and the other places I worked for pretty much sucked too.If Grandpa's was still around I would still be there.You never know what you got until it's gone.I am happy to say I am out of retail and am my own boss now.

  30. To Mary - Venture #1 is where Home Depot is now at Page and I70...The Venture was torn down.

    Venture in St. Peters, Mo at Cave Springs was converted into several stores including a Deal$ Dollar Store, a Sports Authority, and a Hobby Lobby. Venture in Kirkwood was divided in a similar manner. Portions of the familiar striped facade still exist in the front and rear of the building in St. Peters.

    All the rest are Kohl's or K-Marts.

    There is a Burlington Coat Factor in the South St. Louis location, and it is one of the locations that it is fairly easy to tell that it used to be Venture in the exterior.

  31. I remember shopping at one of the 'second six' Venture stores in Fairview Heights, IL., in the late '80s. There was a Kmart across the street and a Target around the corner, all across the street from the St. Clair Square mall. The Target always seemed cluttered and dirty to me, Kmart was, well, Kmart, and of the three, Venture seemed to be the most classy and upscale. Interesting that the roles reversed-- Target is 'trendy' (at least where I live now, Venture is gone, and Kmart is still... Kmart.

  32. Venture!!!!! Where can I begin?? Let's just say it was a oool store!!! My first venture visit was 1989 when my father and I was looking for a Nintendo system. Been going there since!!! It was in Mishawaka, In. That was about a close as you can get from Benton Harboor.

  33. The Venture store in Dubuque, Iowa is now a ShopKo store.

  34. Info on the old Venture site in Schaumburg IL, Golf & Meacham Rds. The Great Indoors is now a Sears Outlet. The building looks too tall and upscale to be an outlet store, though.

  35. I liked Venture. Back in the late 70's and early 80's it was nicer than either Walmart or K-Mart. We had no Target, but I would say Venture filled that niche in my hometown. The store always smelled of chocolate chip cookies and popcorn. The lady at the counter (some sort of in-store bakery department near the front entrance, but not in the cafe) would give me one when I went to the store with Mom and my grandma. They were so tasty! There was a small grocery store attached, and I think when I was very little it was branded as Venture. However, later on, it became part of a local chain called Smitty's. This Venture looked more or less identical to the one you posted in the blog. This store is now a K-mart.

  36. The Venture I grew up around in the 1980s & 1990s was at the Fox Valley Mall on Route 59 & Aurora Ave in Aurora, IL just west of Naperville. That store sat empty for a VERY long time, and it looked very bad for a very busy intersection. Today it's a Burlington Coat Factory, which moved across the street from its long-time strip mall location.

    Made a lot of weekend trips there including the going out of business sale in I'd say early 1997.

  37. Ah, such memories. My folks and I went to the Maplewood, MO Venture. (Located on the patch of land between Laclede Station Rd. & Big Bend Blvd. just south of the Union Pacific Railroad main line that goes through St. Louis.)
    I used to get most of my toys, games, sporting goods & appearal there.
    I went there a couple of times on the day after Christmas for their 1/2 price specials & load up on Christmas lights and ornaments for the next year. They also for a while had a Kroger store connected to Venture before Kroger shut down in St. Louis.

    A couple of other things about this location: Up until the early '90s, there were 2 baseball/softball diamonds on the Big Bend side of the property. And between the back wall of the store and the railroad tracks, there was a nice size dirt bike track for racing & dirt bike stunts. Both were removed when the property owners decided to expand the strip mall to the Big Bend side. Ah, Memories.

    The Venture became a KMart, but that didn't last long. Since about 2000, the Venture location has been an empty "Big Box" store. A sad ending to a once great store at a once great location.

  38. we had venture here in australia from 1970 until they went broke in 1994 it was owned by a south australian department store John martins they bought out another department store called waltons in 1987 and rebranded those stores to venture and norman ross (which was a furniture and electrical store) ouir venture wasnt as big as yours it only sold mens, womens and childrens clothing, small electrical and manchester

  39. I found this, because the Venture store in Fairview Heights, Illinois became a K-Mart in 1997, like you mention. However, the owner of the building is deciding to demolish it and rebuild, as it's now 40 years old. Because of this K-Mart decided to not renew its lease, leaving only one location left in the metro east (Illinois side of St Louis for those who don't know that term). The store opened as a Venture in the early-70's, and will be completely torn down by January, 2013, 40 years later. It will be sad to see that old building go, it's slightly older than the super regional 2-story mall located across the street (St Clair Square)...

  40. worked for the venture in Oak Lawn for 23 years from the day it opened in 1975 to the day it closed in 1998....someonejust told me I might be entitled to a pension from there...any info on how to check this out would be appreciated!

  41. Let's all whisper together now...1...2...3..."Venture...enture...enture..."

    1. JE - Thanks for your great comments. I would love to know more about your tenure at Venture, if would like to contact me sometime at pleasantfamilyshopping@hotmail.com


  42. Read on the Mothers Day post that Venture had bakeries. That's interesting, I wonder how long they kept up that. Did they have them in the Texas stores? What did Kmart do with those?

    The Texas move was cool (as I live in Texas) but enormously expensive and a poor business decision...circa 1993-1994 they built a huge new distribution center in Corsicana specifically for those stores.

    And one more thing--a lot of Turn Styles were connected with Jewel, right? Did they last as Venture took over the Turn Style stores?

  43. I had great fun working at the Venture in Arlington Heights. The co-workers were the best. Working that type of environment is rough. Retail service with the general public can be brutal. We had a great group to manage the stress. I remember when a new girl would start, all the guys would be sure to visit and welcome her. My favorite was Nancy Molinaro. Bright and intelligent. Very sweet person.

    I hate WalMart, Kmart is dying, and Target is okay, but nothing ever replaced Venture.

    Long live Venture 40. Thanks to all the friends who made those years very special.

  44. I still have 2 lamps I bought at Venture in 1991. The Venture on Bannister Road off of 435 was torn down and has been a Home Depot since the late 90's. The entire area surrounding it is completely wiped out, with the K-Mart now out of business as well as every other business on either side of 435 except for Home Depot.

  45. 435 and Bannister Road location was in Kansas City, Missouri.

  46. I grew up shopping at the Griffith, IN Venture from the late 70s on and worked in the Calumet City, IL Venture as a teen from 1993-1996. I still remember my five digit cashier id to sign in to the register and calling the Oak Lawn store all the time to check for stock when I worked the service desk! I miss those days - what a fun first job.

  47. I remember doing a lot of my shopping at Venture #6 in Alton, Illinois! My mom says that she went into labor with me in 1976 right there in Venture. I vividly recall the Cabbage Patch Kid riots in the toy aisle. I also recall that you could walk through the Venture cafe and into Schnuck's grocery stores. I was a Venture shopper until the very end and then it opened as a Grandpas followed by Value City. When that closed down, it turned into a Farm and Home store, and I have never been in there. Why does Alton need a farming store??? I miss Venture, but I don't miss the creepy guy that gave you a cart when you first walked in...yikes!

  48. I forgot to mention that you could use your Famous-Barr credit card to buy things in Venture. Often you would see something at the Famous-Barr at the Alton Square Mall that you liked and then go to Venture to find it cheaper.

  49. Worked at Venture #7 W Florissant/270 from 1977 to 1986. Put me through college and grad school and was first job for 2 brothers and a future sister-in-law. Was a great store and even today when I go into a Target remember how Venture seemed so much better. Made lots of great friends and had great time. Was a cashier for years and they had a monthly contest on who was fastest would get a 10 cent raise. When I left in mid-80's made had gone from $2.75/hr to $6.93 - they treated people right in those days. A number of stores still have diag. concrete on buildings - Page/170, Kohls at Olive/270.

    Thanks for the memories! One of my closing duties was to do closing announcement. Attention Venture shoppers .......