Dollar store near Capital Mall, Olympia, WA

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Super S
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Dollar store near Capital Mall, Olympia, WA

Post by Super S » 23 Oct 2009 20:27

I was in Olympia today, and had a few minutes so I stopped at the Goodwill in this strip mall. Very obvious is the fact it was a grocery store, I would guess a Safeway, but possibly also Albertsons. A few doors down was a dollar store of some sort which baffled me though. In the left front (as you walk in) there was a lowered ceiling "island" which wasn't connected to the wall, and the whole store had 8-foot fluorescent strip lights which were mounted directly below recessed light fixtures which I assume were defunct mercury vapor lights, which just looked strange. The only clue of a former anchor was the checkstands, which have signs that Pay 'N Save used until Payless took over. The mercury lights got me though, and that makes me wonder if this spot operated as Ernst. However, there is also an Ace Hardware at the other end which I did not visit which could be a contender for Ernst. Anybody know what this dollar store used to be?

tkaye
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Re: Dollar store near Capital Mall, Olympia, WA

Post by tkaye » 24 Oct 2009 16:07

Based on your description, the Dollar Store was definitely a Pay 'n Save. The bird's eye view of the building shows it was still a Rite Aid quite recently. Obviously, they (or PayLess) never remodeled the place. This center is one of many Pay 'n Save-Ernst-Safeway (and sometimes Albertson's) combos that sprung up in the late '70s and early '80s. (To be specific, this one was built in 1979, according to the county assessor.) Ernst would have been in the portion now occupied by Big Lots and Ace Hardware.

The section with the drop ceiling to the left of the entrance would have been the cosmetics department, which was also delineated with a different type of flooring (usually brown, either tile or linoleum) than the rest of the store. Around the front facing of the ceiling island there were square posters featuring close-ups of models wearing cosmetics (almost always Revlon, as I recall). Staying in the front of the store, the right hand side would have been the camera and music department, also sectioned off with a darker-colored floor.

Those mercury vapor lights were installed above the fluorescents in many Pay 'n Save and Ernst stores in the late '80s... I have no idea what the purpose of them were, as they didn't ever seem to be turned on. Perhaps they were part of some sort of backup lighting system in case of power failure? Regardless, they are a dead giveaway you are in former P 'n S or Ernst store.

A very similar (albeit smaller) development is the Wheaton Mall in East Bremerton, which was built in 1975. The section that was a Big Lots when the photo was taken (and is now, ironically, a Dollar Store) began as a Pay 'n Save. (Rite Aid dropped the location shortly after taking over in 1997, as it was one of two PayLess stores only three-fifths of a mile apart on Wheaton Way.) Grocery Outlet was a Safeway store through 1996 and the part now split between Value Village and Stupid Prices was Ernst. Ernst bailed out of this store a couple years before the whole chain folded, so they left around '94 or '95.

Super S
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Re: Dollar store near Capital Mall, Olympia, WA

Post by Super S » 24 Oct 2009 19:36

I have never visited a 70's build Pay'N Save while it was still in operation, the drop ceiling makes more sense now. I seem to recall an Ernst store somewhere in Idaho, possibly Pocatello or Idaho Falls, having that exact lighting setup back in the 80s, with the 8 foot fixtures below them. I have noticed many stores, Home Depot and Fred Meyer are good examples, are abandoning mercury vapor lights inside in favor of fluorescents these days, I guess because of the fact they get dim over time and are more expensive to operate compared to flourescents. Pay'N Save might have realized this early on, it makes more sense than being a backup system because mercury vapor lights take several minutes to reach full brightness.

Super S
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Joined: 07 Jan 2006 00:40

Re: Dollar store near Capital Mall, Olympia, WA

Post by Super S » 05 Feb 2011 12:49

I stumbled across this Pay 'N Save commercial on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_LQNTip6XI

It appears that my suspicion about those mercury vapor lights being switched to fluorescents later on is correct, as the store in the commercial appears to be completely lit up by the mercury lights. The commercial appears to be from 1977.

The store in the commercial is very similar in appearance to the Olympia store I mentioned.

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