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Monday, October 10, 2022

The NARDI Construction Archives: Everything Else

Once again, hello and welcome to the Shoppes of Battery Mill once again!

On our last visit, I dug through the treasure troves of the internet to present to you an archive of Shoppers Food archives, all from their working partner NARDI Construction. I promised to excavate more hidden gems from other NARDI clients as well, and today I shall deliver on this pledge.

So what other retail projects did NARDI embark on? While the firm has contributed to Shoppers, they have also pitched in on a number of other sites across the East Coast, including such notable malls as Potomac Mills and Johnson City, as well as at a variety of commercial centers, including airports, downtowns and big-box centers.

With all that being said and done, let's take a tour of their numerous other projects. I may also note that some stores and locations have an undetermined name/location, so if anyone can sleuth these out, any such comments would be gladly appreciated. Let's step back in time now!

Potomac Mills

Located in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Woodbridge, Virginia, Potomac Mills was the first Mills mall and changed the game upon its opening in 1985, combining the savings of outlet stores with the immersive shopping experience of traditional centers. Numerous other Mills (and clones) were constructed nationwide in the decades following, and I bet NARDI was fortunate to be a part of their early history. 

Nevertheless, here is a look into the firm's gallery of retro PMills photos, coupled with some mysteries to be solved.

To start things off right, here is a view of an entrance basking in the evening glow, all the while radiating its own light onto a colorful set of icons. This image is located at the eastern entrance to Neighborhood 1, next door to present-day Buy Buy Baby. Unfortunately, this artwork has been dismantled in favor of a plain look, though the brick and lattice walls on either side remain.

We enter the center with a look at a stately Eddie Bauer outlet shop. The chain remained a fixture of the mall for many years, and is now no longer present. I believe it may have relocated elsewhere, but I cannot exactly confirm this.

The lattice ceiling fixture seen in this photo, among others, was an architectural signature and noise-cancelling item of Potomac Mills until the mall underwent a major remodel in 2005. Presently, the mall uses "sails" under the ceilings as an accent, with spotlights operating independently of these hanging fixtures.

To my best knowledge, this storefront would have been located in Neighborhood 1 (dubbed the "Fashion District"), across from the present-day Round 1 arcade and bowling alley. As of 2022, said space is home to an Ann Taylor Factory Outlet.

This is the next store we'll be passing by, known as the "He-Ro Group". One of the hundreds of shops that have come and gone from Potomac over the years, this one looks to have sold the work of famed designer Oleg Cassini. Little is known on what the history of the brand was, or where in the mall did the He-Ro Group set up shop.

We round the bend that leads to another mystery location at the mall. There are elements which can be easily identifiable, such as the shop with the neon-lit sign in the background, or the furniture store to the right. 
What complicates the search for this one, however, is that there are several points of the mall that look like this. Regardless, you can see the old-school tile floor and a car on display to the left. 
 
As a bonus, can anyone tell which model is standing there?

As we go on, we arrive at an Oriental Weavers rug store, flanked by a sign reading "URT" to the left and a cinnamon bakery on the right. This location appears to be more easily identifiable than the latter two, as this one appears to be on a diagonal portion of the mall's corridor, and adjacent to downward flights of stairs.
Before we leave this mall I'll share interior photos of an store under construction. Again, this is another mystery to be solved, though the service "boat" may be easy to identify and this most likely belonged to an in-line shop as opposed to an anchor.

Smoketown Stations

This power center, situated on the Prince William Parkway east of Smoketown Road in Woodbridge, Virginia, was developed circa 1993-1995 as a big-box complement to Potomac Mills. Utilizing the then-new cross-county thoroughfare as a clean starting pad, Smoketown Stations was able to attract numerous tenants such as Best Buy, Petstuff, Lowe's, Kids R Us, and the previously seen Shoppers grocery store. The center is divided into five different blocks/sections, some of which will be explored below.

Now that we have arrived for some extra errands, let's go get some lunch at Boston... Chicken?! Well, if you didn't know before, this was what Boston Market used to go by. Regardless, it shouldn't be too far off from today's restaurant, so let's go in and eat.

On the technical side of things, this photo is most likely dated 1994. I inferred such as this was prior to Boston Chicken's renaming, but also the rest of this phase would open the next year and was still early on in taking shape. What is also noteworthy here is that Boston Market is still open as well.

Lunch is over, and that can only mean one thing: making plans for the rest of the day. How about some, uh, what's it called...  Netflix with physical movies or something? Or at least that's what I saw when I went through those doors at this "Hollywood Video" place. 

All jokes aside, here is the video-rental standby in the Smoketown Stations habitat, manifesting the golden age of this retail format. Being early on in the center's existence, it seems to have been next door to a couple of empty spaces. The rest of Block IV is to the right, with a couple more places we'll be checking into shortly.

Upon closing, circa 2008, the HV space would be subdivided with a Panda Express, a Sears Appliance Showroom, and an additional tenant slot. The latter two are now home to a spa and realtors' office.

Continuing on with our dinner plans, we zoom over to the eastern end of Block IV. Perhaps we might dine at Old Country Buffet, finish the living room with a La-Z-Boy chair, or get something to drink at Total... Beverage, right? Looks like the store operating in the bronze-clad building is yet another ghost of retail past. But what exactly was it, anyway?

Total Beverage was another local chain in the extensive portfolio of Herbert Haft, alongside Trak Auto, Crown Books, and Shoppers Food (all of which had made their way into Smoketown Stations!). Total Beverage was acquired by upstart Liquor World in 1998, and the parent company eventually assumed the Total Wine name and logo inspired by Beverage. However, this location already was long-gone by then, having closed in April 1996 after only a year in operation. Borders would eventually find their way in, before closing with the rest of the chain as part of their 2011 bankruptcy and becoming 2nd and Charles.

We can't forget about Zany Brainy while we're here, too. The educational toy and game seller, meanwhile, became home to Ulta, which jumped ship to the upstart Stonebridge Town Center (alongside the likes of Wegmans, REI and the Apple Store), and now features a Tuesday Morning.

Perhaps if all those fancy-schmancy shops aren't up to our liking, maybe we could just unwind with some arcade games and pizza at Chuck E. Cheese's (Pizza). Another signage change to add to the list... oh joy.
 
This restaurant is in Block II. This phase was anchored by a Lowe's in its early years, before relocating in 2003 and ceding space to Dick's Sporting Goods and LA Fitness. This one is another lucky tenant that remains open today, even after a fire ravaged the building in 2018 and a remodel was conducted.

 
What do we have here? A store with the word "mobile" on the building, that I know. Perhaps we'll check out all the latest iPhone 14 Pro Max Giga Folds... wait, what are these brick phones with tiny green screens doing here? Oh, I forgot, we're in 1995 or something.

Also in Block II, this storefront continues to sell cell phones under the Verizon brand. Regardless of what's sold inside, I must admit, a lot of retail renaming has happened in the center's lifetime!
After all these peculiar retail sights of old, let's go to a place that remains rather unchanged... Best Buy. Let's perhaps get our hands on a huge TV, or all the latest albums on "compact disc" or whatever it's called.

Best Buy is the sole anchor of Smoketown Stations' Block V, but it's accompanied by a decent amount of strip shops to the side, some of which could be considered junior anchors. That interpretation is up to you, the reader though.

As for any remodels of the sort... I take that statement back, it was indeed remodeled in 2012 to feature the "Connected Store" concept, and now features a metallic sheet facade. What I find interesting here, though, are the old-school teal lamp covers on the walls.

The Mall at Johnson City

And now for something completely different, as they say. Previously dubbed the "Miracle Mall", the center has been a mainstay in the Tri-Cities area of southeastern Virginia and northeastern Tennessee since opening in 1971. NARDI participated in the mall's early-1990s remodel. 

Full disclosure, I am not very familiar with this area, so if anyone has some interesting comments or can identify the mall's layout, keep me informed.

 
We enter the mall with a rather modern (for the time) entrance area. To the left is a Ruby Tuesday, which eventually moved to a standalone space nearby and closing with the pandemic in 2020. I will admit, both facades still look quite good today!

Our first look inside will be at the Belk department store. You may have noticed the "Parks" byline here, but what does it stand for exactly? The southern retailer was known for acquiring local brands and attaching their names to that of Belk. Over 100 examples existed, so there sure must have been something going on with all those banners they had to track. This Belk stands today, but with just the "Belk" name itself.
Here is a view of Parks Belk from further away. A bit dark of a corridor here I will say, but I hope it looked better in person.
 
We thumb over to the Johnson City JCPenney's entrance, embracing the wall of black glass and an interior dotted with light fixtures. This one is also still open in the same spot it was, even as Penney's has struggled in the past decade or so.

This is what looks to be the mall's food court. Seems to be a rather stately affair, given the formal attire and a piano man at the helm!

Here are some escalators, in a quieter part of the mall. This aesthetic doesn't seem to match up to that of the previous photo, so I would have to say this was pre-remodel, though I am entirely guessing.

A nice place for a round of indoor mini-golf. I'm not sure what happened to this place, but I don't think there are any such inside Johnson City Mall today.

This is a view at this ornate combination of columns and mega crown moulding. This would likely be mid-construction, seeing the scaffolding and temporary wall installations blocking off portions of the mall.

We close this set off with a look at the end result, featuring a kiosk store selling sunglasses.

Miscellaneous

 

We return to the Clopper Mill Village Center, home of the Germantown Shoppers, to rewind back to the center's early year. Here is a space for what looks to be a Glory Days Grill, an American-themed restaurant chain with locations from here to Florida.

We catch up with (augmented-reality Netflix, in 2022 terms) Hollywood Video here at this center. At present, the space is split between T-Mobile, Subway, and a dance studio.

Speaking of this "video rental" thing, here is the interior of Giant Depot Video in the King Farm district of nearby Rockville. See if you can identify some of these posters!

We finish the post as a whole in a rather unusual place, the Baltimore-Washington International Airport. NARDI worked on the food court for its 2005 remodel, and strung together a number of fast food tenants, including Quizno's. Interestingly this one has braved mass closures, and has been remodeled over the years too!

Here is Villa Pizza, which also remains open, although with a slightly different name, again.

Thank you for choosing the Shoppes of Battery Mill! All I can say, it's been a wild ride back in time through these NARDI Construction PDFs. Remember: be kind, rewind! (if only I could figure how to work that darn "rewind" key on my computer...)

Sunday, September 18, 2022

The NARDI Construction Archives: Shoppers Edition

Welcome back once again to the Shoppes of Battery Mill, where blogging is a pleasure (or something like that!)

This blog post is part of a discovery I've had in my hands for quite some time, part of two portfolio PDFs from NARDI Construction.

Now what is this, you may ask? NARDI Construction is a firm based out of Beltsville, Maryland. The organization has attached their name to dozens of building projects in the Washington, D.C. area and beyond, making a mark in the local retail scene alongside. While NARDI has been known primarily for constructing shopping centers and malls, they also maintained a working relationship with supermarket chain Shoppers Food Warehouse in the 1990s. This is what I will be focusing on for this post, though I do plan on exploring the rest of their archives down the line.

With that being said, let's get it started! I will showcase a few exteriors of Shoppers stores worked on by NARDI, in store opening order before we dive in to the rest.

Exterior photos

The collection begins with the Takoma Park, Maryland Shoppers (store #19/2340). While this location dates back to the Jumbo Food days (pre-1980), it was expanded and remodeled in its years under the Shoppers name, most notably to the Shoppers Club moniker in the mid-1990s. This location closed in the late 2019 wave and was sold to German discounter Lidl along with several others. I do quite like the orange bevel accent at the end of the facade here.


Next, here is the Woodbridge, Virginia location (store #45/2361), which opened as a Shoppers Club in early 1994. I covered this location in 2016, prior to closing, and today it stands as a Hobby Lobby which has gutted traces of Shoppers like the Takoma Park Lidl has. To the right is a Trak Auto (now Advance Auto Parts), and in the front is an empty pad site (now a Mission BBQ).

In my personal opinion, I have a soft spot for this facade - it matched the aesthetic of the nearby Potomac Mills mall and conveys a rather industrial quality. It was unfortunately replaced with a generic facade in a remodel.

Rounding out exterior photos, we travel to the Cloppers Mill center in Germantown, Maryland (store #46/2358). This center was profiled by NARDI as breaking ground in early November 1994 and finishing in September 1995. Of the three, it is still operating as Shoppers in 2022 and is notably the only Shoppers build to feature open-truss ceilings.

To the left is a standalone Chevy Chase Bank. Not so long ago they were a major fixture in Washington, D.C.-area shopping centers, heralded by a Benjamin Franklin lookalike inviting customers over to "The Leading Local Bank". Then everything changed when the CapitalOne nation swooped in, with these buildings now disappearing due to a shift to online banking. The site is now home to a Dunkin' Donuts in place. It's unfortunate for those fancy Federalist designs - where would one be able to ask for dollars when everything's now digital?

In the words of Steve Jobs, one more thing: this close-up of the facade. This one may have been taken a few years into the center's existence, as storefront advertising has changed slightly from the plain red and white posters featured earlier on.

Before I begin these interior photos, I would like to note that they are from several different locations, none of which have been specified (although NARDI has listed several Shoppers which they worked on).

Now it's time. Let's enter through the automatic doors and travel back into Shoppers' heyday, once again.

Interior photos

 

Our savings start here, and so does this store tour! We get introduced to the inside via the pleasant aromas and sights that behold us in the floral department, clad in reflective slatted walls, swooping accents, neon, and grid lighting. While Shoppers had long invested in fresh flowers, the Shoppers Club concept expanded the selection greatly, defining the chain for years to come.

In the background, we have a partial view into the Shoppers Café dining area and a "Restrooms" sign. This layout configuration would carry over into Shoppers stores built in the 2000s.


Turning to the left, we have prepared foods counters and shelves at a glance. This was another defining feature of Shoppers Clubs which I first touched on in my overview of the College Park site. This time, however, we get a closer look at the deli and hot foods portion, with soda/coffee fountains taking center stage. I must say, SFW was quite ahead of its time here!

Here is a closeup of the "Hot to Go" counter, displaying a buffet of warm delicacies. At the left of the photo, Shoppers touts its paninis for only $2.98 - a deal, I must reckon!

This is likely from a different location than the photo above, seeing as sunlight from the café windows is present to the right. Though bear with me, I may be wrong.

Just across the actionway is another Shoppers layout standby, the corner produce department. This happens to be a shot similar to that of College Park's produce, though it appears to be slightly smaller and with fluorescent as opposed to mercury vapor lighting eminating from the ceiling.

Before we check out, let's hop back over to the prepared foods side of things, of stuff, and of sorts combined. We are adjacent to Shoppers' expansive cheese, deli meat and edge produce selections, though we can also see further into the store in greater detail. In case you forgot this was "Shoppers Club", you can go get a Club Pak of steak before rounding the corner into the rest of the supermarket.

While we have seen our fair share of neon accents, the bakery and seafood departments are where Shoppers' neon delight continues to unravel. I just hope somebody got ahold of that wavy fixture next to "Fresh Fish"!

We close out this tour at no other place than the checkouts. In this photo from November 1996, we see a good glimpse into the aisle markers, express lane signage, Shoppers instruction manual, and tabloids too.

As opposed to being from Shoppers Clubs, this happens to be a photo of a standard late 1980s-early 1990s purpose-built Shoppers warehouse. This design is smaller than what came after, and features a distinct alcove going across the front end. This photo also marks first time I've seen orange warehouse racks in this era of SFW, interestingly.

Before we head off, let's go over some of the steps we need to take to save at Shoppers:

  1.  ?
  2.  ?
  3. "U Pack Your Order"
  4. "U Load Your Car"
  5. "U Do a Little, U Save a Lot"

As you can see I can't quite get a glimpse of the first two directions, but I think it's suitable at this point of our grocery trip. If anyone could help find the rest of them to better our Shoppers store trips, it would be great. All constructive comments are appreciated, as always. Just before we get home, though...

Bonus Photos

Here is a look at the former South Valley shopping center in the Hybla Valley neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, also a NARDI project. I chose to feature this center primarily as, upon its reconstruction, it was unified with the Mt. Vernon Plaza to the north which indeed features a Shoppers.

 

The center was comprised of two stories of retail and also once featured Kmart (store #3712), which closed in 2000. Upon Kmart vacating the space, the center was abandoned and demolished for Home Depot which currently stands.

Anyhow, thanks for reading as always!

-BatteryMill

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Target - Front Royal, VA: In the Express Lane

Once again, welcome back to the Shoppes of Battery Mill! On today's edition, we are off to a quaint Shenandoah Valley town better known as Front Royal. While it has maintained its rural character, it has also gained a considerable amount of suburban retail essentials, including this sleek Target store.

Photos taken on July 26, 2020 by The Battery Mill

Store info

  • Store number: T-2297
  • Address: 10 Crooked Run Plz, Front Royal, Virginia 22630
  • Opening date: July 25, 2007
  • Remodels: PFresh (ca. 2011)
  • Features: PFresh, Pharmacy, Photo, Café/Pizza Hut Express, Starbucks Coffee, Beer & Wine

This Target location opened in 2007, as part of the Crooked Run Plaza shopping center. Its opening happened to predate Walmart's launch across the street by a year. I'll have to say, this is quite the oddity for such a town! (Nevertheless, Kmart was there long before both.)

 That being said, let's zoom on in and see what surprises this store has along its course.

Our first pitstop along the Target racetrack will be within the clothing department. This happens to be a rather standard Target softlines department with plain dolleys of clothing articles. The kicker here, however, is that it is getting to be a more elusive sight at stores that have yet to fully renovate. 

Innovation remodels, where select store departments are "targeted" for a remodel. This can involve new carpeting, light fixtures, displays, and wall paint for instance. None of the known Innovation remodels have been applied to this store.

Our next station happens to be further down the line in softlines. The centerpiece of this photo is a plain P04-era price scanner, with all the bells and whistles Target guests have come to expect.

At the back-left corner of the store, we are presented with a standard Target fitting room. Inside, it is somewhat barebones compared to later designs (which generally feature red walls, disk-shaped light fixtures and wood finishes). Given the ongoing situation, however, it has been roped off and decommissioned for the time being. Only time will tell as to if such may return.

Departing softlines, the last thing we will look at will be the shoe aisles. While it may seem rather standard and nondescript, fitting amongst many other chains, I am pleased by the open-air feeling Target has put together for this section.

Entering the hardline world, we find ourselves by the movies and music department ...what is apparently a new outpost for toys. Given the decline of physical media sales (one that especially targets CD albums) and a lack of a revised Innovation layout, Target has reallocated their offering to around one or two aisles. These changes therefore free up space for new product, and Target ultimately decided on this diversified toy display mirroring that found in deluxe versions of the P17 set.

With that being said, I do have a question for my readers. Are they doing this reset for all stores that have yet to receive the E&E Innovation package?

Gliding on down the road, we find ourselves at the very heart of the electronics department.   of which electronics team members are stationed out of. This place is a prime example of pre-Innovation electronics displays, with one special element stuck in the middle. An older Target electronics boat, that is.

Evident by the countertop design and graphic inset, this boat's design was tailored primarily for digital cameras (which were popular buys when this store opened). Since 2007, Target has implemented newer boat designs that prioritize guest services while opting to present such handheld devices elsewhere nearby.

We continue to ride the racetrack, zooming by the Seasonal department. As is now a July tradition, it is  arranged for back-to-school shopping. In spite of most area schools staying virtual, the sales continue for anyone who needs such items.

In the store's original state, the seasonal department would have been perched on the right side of the perimeter (aligned with grocery). With PFresh necesitating a large grocery selection, these seasonal shelves shifted into what was once Automotive/Home Improvement's slot. Here's a similar layout example from their Kernersville, North Carolina location (T-2134) which abstained from such a change.

Making a turn, we now have the store's grocery aisles within our sights. This is your standard PFresh department, again without the gray Innovation remodel. PFresh came to the store in a remodel which significantly boosted the store's grocery selection, and also resulted in other select changes throughout the store.

One curious fact about this department is that it has created some rather awkward support column (off-camera) situations with its renovation. With the racetrack moved several feet to accommodate these long aisles, said poles would now occupy the middle of the track. I still hope everyone's been able to cruise safely though!

Next, we'll take a different approach, meandering through center-store lanes. Here's a view down towards grocery on the store's right-hand side, with furniture and the relocated home improvement department in middleground.

 
From the same standpoint, we gander all the way down this track back to clothing.

Just an aisle away from the main racetrack, we find ourselves off the beaten path, among gondolas full of pet foods. As we savor this scene, I'll take in the bright glow of both the pharmacy's husk and the cosmetics department's fixtures.

Approaching the finish line, we come by the jewelry/accessory department. The desk is unmanned, with the display cases blanked out. With the apparel Innovation setup, Target seems to be removing such kiosks - and perhaps retiring the business at stores which happen to still have it, such as here.

...and finally, we have arrived at our victory lap! While we've come to rake in the rewards, I've stumbled on another Target curiosity around here.

These express checkouts are yet another rarity. In recent years, they have been eliminated for self-checkouts, of which were first tested at Target Canada. Following the chain's exit from the aforementioned country in 2015, these machines began to trickle in to their U.S. store base alongside all-new shipments. 

Upon my visit, all four express stands were offline. I am unsure if this had been ongoing, but I'd presume it had recently been in use given the presence of Plexiglas shields.

-

Thank you all for enjoying this presentation of the Shoppes of Battery Mill! Be sure to stick around for more retail content heading your way.