Best Products

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animal noses

Best Products

Post by animal noses » 28 Nov 2005 14:39

Hey all,

This is my first post in a community I've been observant of for some time now; it's good to be here. Does anybody recall having a Best Products store near them? There was one, maybe two, up/down here in Grand Rapids, Michigan that closed in the late 1990's. One of the buildings sat empty for at least four years; i regret having not taken pictures of it.

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Re: Best Products

Post by Groceteria » 28 Nov 2005 15:12

animal noses wrote:Hey all,

This is my first post in a community I've been observant of for some time now; it's good to be here. Does anybody recall having a Best Products store near them? There was one, maybe two, up/down here in Grand Rapids, Michigan that closed in the late 1990's. One of the buildings sat empty for at least four years; i regret having not taken pictures of it.
Best Products was in Greensboro from about 1978 on, about a block from the house where I grew up. The store there is now a Big Lots, after having been a Heilig-Myers furniture for a few years.

This was NOT one of the bizarre late-1980s stores that looked like it had exploded...

Welcome, by the way...

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Post by TheQuestioner » 28 Nov 2005 16:53

Best was very big in the Washington D.C. area, probably due Best being based in (relatively) nearby Richmond VA. I can think of at least four Best locations off the top of my head.

In MD there were ones in New Carrollton, Greenbelt, Rockville, and Bethesda. We didn't have Service Merchandise, so Best's only competition in their market niche was a local chain called W. Bell and Company. They were somewhat more high-end, specializing in jewelry and "fine" home furnishings. Evans was another similar store on the lower end, who strangely also focused on jewelry in addition to the typical discount dept. store inventory. None of the DC stores had any of the "distinctive" architecture that was profiled in the catalogs, like the "peeling" store in the Baltimore area or the "crumbling ruin" store what was in Texas(?)

The Rockville Best was a little odd, I think it was in a building that was originally something other than retail. It has a seperate Garden Center next to it in a smaller building. All other Bests I had visited were strictly catalog/dept. store oriented, no plants. The only other time I saw anything like that associated with Best was in 1998, when I saw a sign for a (by then closed) Best "Greenhouse" store in San Leandro, CA. I didn't manage to get close enough to the shopping center it was in until years later, by which time the Best was occupied by a 99 cent Store. From what I recall of the sign, it seemed like it was specifically a Garden Center, rather than a Best Catalog store that happened to have an additional garden center. Was this something Best did elsewhere?

Thanks for the opening to reminisce...

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Best Products

Post by rich » 28 Nov 2005 18:19

Best had a number of stores in the Cleveland area. None of them were of the architecturally distinctive variety (those came in the mid- to late 70s). The one near me was a former Federal Dept Store (a low-end chain based in Detroit) that was among Best's first Cleveland stores (circa 1972). It later became a thrift store. Cleveland also had the locally owned ESCO (originally Economy Sales) chain and a local chain that had a name somewhat like Service Merchandise (Service Merchandise never had stores in Cleveland). All of these stores traded on jewelry, although none had as much of it as W. Bell did in the DC area. They also seemed to have a lot of strength in small appliances and electronics. There was another catalog store that had just one location on Carnegie Ave. in the city of Cleveland--It was something like H&M. They had a particularly strong toy collection.

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Post by Jeff » 28 Nov 2005 21:57

Best had a lot of stores in Los Angeles area, oddly, all looked the same as the next. The ones I remmeber, one in City Of Industry (burlington coat factory, then torn down when it moved), Cerritos (burlington coat factory), Torrance (burlington coat factory), Fullerton (Fullerton Toyota.....yes, the building was added on to and remodeled into an auto dealership), West Covina (now empty, but was for a lil while an OSH store).....

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Post by Dave » 01 Dec 2005 14:28

My wife worked for Best at their headquarters for some time, so I could probably tell you more than you want to know!

Best teamed with an architectural firm called SITE to produce a few distinctive stores, the foist of which was the "peeling facade" store on Midlothian Turnpike in Richmond (supposed to evoke the pages of a catalog). The "bombed-out" ("Indeterminate Facade") store was in Houston. The store in Towson (Baltimore) was designed like it was made of tilted blocks.

All of the distinctive stores have either been torn down or had their distinctive architectural elements removed with the exception of the "Forest" store in Richmond, which is now a Presbyterian church (it actually was a pretty nice effect - sort of soothing).

Best's former HQ building still stands along I-95 just north of Richmond at the Parham Road exit. The last I checked, it was leased by Capital One. It has pretty interesting architecture as well, including two giant art deco eagles that used to adorn the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York.

Their former warehouse still stands north of Ashland, VA on U.S. 1, and as far as I know, still sports one wall covered in a huge porcelain-on-steel Best sign, which was the world's largest sign of it's type at one time.

Sidney and Frances Lewis, who founded Best, were great art lovers, hence the architecture. They had eclectic tastes and gave a great deal of art to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, including a world-class art nouveau collection, some Warhol pieces, and lots more.

Three pieces of trivia - in North Carolina, Best had to trade as "Best Products, Inc., a North Carolina corporation", though the rest of the chain had a different corporate ownership. I don't know why. Also, the Lewises and the Zimmermans of Service Merchadise were great friends and had a gentleman's agreement that neither would infringe on the other's turf - so no Service Merchandise on Virginia/Maryland/DC, and no Best Products in Tennessee, for example. Finally, until the late 1960's or early 1970's, Best was a membership store like a Sam's Club or Costco.

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Post by Dave » 01 Dec 2005 20:53

Yep. I understand the Milwaukee store was retrofitted into a Wal-Mart.

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Post by Daniel » 02 Dec 2005 05:17

We had a Best here in Fresno, it became a Burlington Coat Factory. It wasn't anything significant architecturally, and looks exactly the same as it did outside as when Best was there. They had a little competetion from Ardan and Consumers, but both of those catalog showrooms folded by 1985 or 1986, and Best lived on until the 90's.

My favorite of the unique Best stores was the one in Sacramento with the sliding notch that covered up the entrance at night. Way cool! It's a shame they've (almost) all been demolished, they were certainly something more interesting than the big box crap you get today.

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Post by runchadrun » 27 Dec 2005 14:51

There is a Best store (closed, of course) in Northridge, CA, on Nordhoff just west of Tampa. The sign on the building and the parking lot sign are still there. The parking lot is mostly empty though there are a few smaller businesses in what's left of that part of the shopping center.

Wal-Mart wants to tear it down, along with some of the other business in the shopping center, and open a 24-Hour store. There is already a Wal-Mart a couple of miles to the north, but this new location is across the street from a major mall and within about 1/2 mile radius of Target, Kmart, and Costco. There is much community opposition to this store, so we will see what happens.

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Post by Dave » 27 Dec 2005 15:51

runchadrun wrote:There is a Best store (closed, of course) in Northridge, CA...Wal-Mart wants to tear it down...
I remeber seeing the Northridge store featured on a lot of the TV news reports after the earthquake. It had a good deal of damage.

If Wal-Mart thinks enough of the location, it would be an anomaly as far as most of the Best locations I'm familar with. They tend to be located in fairly "dead" retail areas and most that I know of are still completely vacant.

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Post by danielh_512 » 28 Dec 2005 02:27

While this I have noticed with Service Merchandise and Best, there were Service Merchandise stores in Virginia.

Manassas had a Service Merchandise (now a Dick's Sporting Goods, I believe), so did Woodbridge near Potomac Mills (unsure what it is now), and there was one in Chantilly (now a Lowe's on the site). There was also a Service Merchandise in Frederick, MD. The Frederick store was open for a long time, the Woodbridge store dated to the mid 1980's (a few years after Potomac Mills opened), and the Chantilly and Manassas stores to the early 90's, before Best folded. Best almost opened a store in Woodbridge, VA in 1995, but it never opened, as the chain folded while it was in construction. That would have been the first time I know of with Best and Service Merchandise head-to-head against each other.

Best never operated in Pittsburgh, that was Service Merchandise territory, as well as local David Weis and Dahlkemper's, which both closed in the early 1990's.

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Post by Jeff » 28 Dec 2005 02:42

Here, I never saw a Service Merchandise close to a Best store. They were two cities over, or so.

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Post by Dave » 12 Mar 2006 17:06

Today I went to a large antique "mall" that took over a big chunk of an older center across the street from the original Best in Richmond (which is now an indoor baseball training facility). Back in the 1970's, Best had used some of the space used by the antique place for toys and garden, as their original building had been expanded and maxed out.

At the back on the antique place, I noticed a door with a sign with the final Best logo on it and the legend "Fire Door" - the Best logo was larger than the fire door lettering. Probably the last Best logo in the Richmond area, except for the huge porcelain on steel sign covering one side of their old warehouse.

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Post by norcalraclerk » 14 Mar 2006 16:43

Daniel wrote:We had a Best here in Fresno, it became a Burlington Coat Factory. It wasn't anything significant architecturally, and looks exactly the same as it did outside as when Best was there. They had a little competetion from Ardan and Consumers, but both of those catalog showrooms folded by 1985 or 1986, and Best lived on until the 90's.

My favorite of the unique Best stores was the one in Sacramento with the sliding notch that covered up the entrance at night. Way cool! It's a shame they've (almost) all been demolished, they were certainly something more interesting than the big box crap you get today.
Was this Sacramento one in the Arden Fair parking lot(now a 2-story building with Linens-n-Things on one level and Best Buy on the other)or near Florin Mall(don't know what became of that one)?I know Citrus Heights now houses a furniture store...

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Post by Daniel » 15 Mar 2006 01:02

I really don't know! The only info I have is this photo I found on the internet:

Image

I read somewhere that the notch part was demolished when BEST folded, making it a plain ordinary building.

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