From time to time, I’ll see lists of stores no longer in business. That prompted this list of defunct retail stores I wish hadn’t gone away.
There are certain stores that I have a fondness for even though they’re no longer with us (in one way or another). Here are some of the defunct retail stores I miss the most (and one that isn’t actually defunct but seems to be headed that way).
Waldenbooks was the first bookstore I remember visiting. Every time I’d go to the mall, it was a destination for me. I’d buy entirely too many books, but it was always nice to be able to go in and browse their collection — they generally were well-stocked despite being sometimes in cramped quarters.
2. Media Play
Media Play was a retail store that combined books, electronics and a huge selection of DVDs and movies under one roof. There were even entertainment-related collectibles scattered around the store. If you love TV or films or gadgets in general, it was a great place to visit.
3. Sharper Image
Though it continues to operate as an online retailer, its brick and mortar stores were gone by about 2008. It was nice to be able to walk into a store and actually try out the tech gadgets in person before buying.
Streaming options surely killed Blockbuster, but I do miss being able to go to a store and browse titles and even purchase discount-priced DVDs. The selection generally was good in most of the stores I visited. Often, it was much better than the streaming choices you’ll find on sites like Netflix.
5. Circuit City
This competitor of Best Buy sometimes had better buys, and that’s the top reason I miss it.
6. Tapp’s Department Store
Tapp’s was a South Carolina-based department store chain that offered a good selection of clothing, accessories and housewares. In particular, its downtown Columbia store also had a basement-level cafeteria that was a Columbia institution for years. When I was working my first TV job in the early 1990s, you could still drop in for lunch and get a steak with two vegetables for about $6, and they had cornbread to die for.
7. KB Toys
There was something about walking into a toy store — no matter what age you were — and browsing around. In my case, it was marveling at all the “cool” toys available for today’s children that I never had growing up. But KB Toys was always among the best of the toy stores, and it was fun to walk through the aisles, particularly Lego and Star Wars aisles, to see if there was anything I could convince myself might just be collectible enough one day to actually purchase.
8. W.T. Grant’s Department Store
This one is a completely nostalgic selection for me. I don’t remember a great deal about Grant’s Department Store, which disappeared in the mid-1970s, but I remember it was often my grandmother who’d take me there, and those memories are enough to make me wish there was a still a store there that I could walk through. But like most things, I’m sure it wouldn’t be the same.
9. Sam Solomon Co.
The Sam Solomon Catalog Showroom was a unique shopping experience for me. You’d find what you want and pull a tag then take that tag to the cashier who’d then ring up your selection and have someone bring the item to you. I was a kid when Sam Solomon was bought out by Service Merchandise, but I remember the store fondly because it had everything from clothes to electronics to furniture to jewelry. I bought a few watches and some Atari 2600 games from that store over the years.
Yes, I know, Kmart technically isn’t on a list of defunct retailers, although it seems to be headed in that direction. Kmart was the first place that ever hired me way back when I was still in high school, so I have a special place in my heart for “The Saving Place,” even though these days, when I’ve been able to find one that hadn’t been closed down, the Kmart stores I’ve walked into have been a disappointment because there’s a feeling of disarray we’d have never allowed when I worked there along with a lack of anyone on the sales floor to ask questions of. I knew back in the early 1990s when Kmart seemed to start modeling itself to compete more with Target than with its chief rival, Walmart, that it was a wrong move. Maybe I should have been CEO instead of a lowly cashier. But I do miss Kmart’s glory days of the 1970s. It was a place a kid could get lost in (but in a good way).
Patrick is a Christian with more than 26 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.