Who needs the Kwik-E-mart? Not me.
November 10, 2009 2:46 AM   Subscribe

Re-inhabited Circle Ks - an exhibit of identical storefronts abandoned by a national chain of convenience stores and re-purposed by new businesses.

- The photographer's Google map of former Circle Ks.

- Some commentary on the exhibit.

- Previously: Not Fooling Anybody, a chronicle of bad conversions and storefronts past.
posted by mullacc (61 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Strange things are afoot...
posted by pompomtom at 2:49 AM on November 10, 2009 [12 favorites]


In reference to the last link: For years there was a donut shop in West Mesa that used to be a Winchell's.

What was it called?

Vinchell's.
posted by Target Practice at 3:21 AM on November 10, 2009


Random over-personal leftfield hate: Fuck Karl Eller.
posted by carsonb at 3:55 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Whew! Outside of that, a neat project. You could probably do something similar with old Pizza Huts.
posted by carsonb at 3:55 AM on November 10, 2009


Here's a photo set of the distinctive sign of a local brand repurposed by new businesses.
posted by rottytooth at 4:49 AM on November 10, 2009


The Kristina Market that has replaced a long-departed Christy's by Wellington Station in Medford is similarly not fooling anybody.
posted by pxe2000 at 4:50 AM on November 10, 2009


The old Pizza Hut in Middletown, RI is now a neon pink-and-green tanning salon... and still has the funky pizza hut roof.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:20 AM on November 10, 2009


Circle-K broke into Canada, too, during that expansion phase in 80s. Given how franchise retailing ends up working in Canada, often you only see smaller companies like this (smaller compared with, say, 7-11 at the height of their popularity) regionally. So it was with Circle-K. The stores were mostly in Western Canada, clustered in and around Winnipeg.

I used to frequent the same one regularly, driving on my way to job sites. I even had me a C-K travel mug, the base glued onto the dash of my van. I always nopted how, well, /American/ the whole experience of going to Circle-K was. unlike the aforementioned 7-11, which was a classic bland corporate environment, tuned for each region and country. Circle-K kept its mid-West US vibe going even in Canada.

So, no abandoned stores from the 50s there, but most of those iconic stores are not similarly abandoned as Circle-K, and most of the inconvenience store businesses (remember Mac's Milk? The small IGAs?) dried up in the late 80s, early 90s.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:24 AM on November 10, 2009


This one is now a beer store selling the "Bud Family Twelve Pack."
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:28 AM on November 10, 2009


When I lived in Tucson, there were CircleKs about every 4 blocks, down the main street near my house. It never made much sense to me.
posted by Goofyy at 5:42 AM on November 10, 2009


This is a great post. I smile every time I see a former IHOP or Howard Johnson's enjoying a new lease on life. The architecture is still very distinctive, but the context has changed: Maybe they painted the whole thing or just the roof. Maybe they even used the same shape sign but just repainted it. Whatever it was, you can tell that someone got a good deal on the building and is now attempting to live their dream of running a restaurant. I won't discuss what "dream" one often ends up with, restaurant-wise, but you gotta give respect to the family who turned a Western Mass IHOP into a darn fine Indian restaurant (or at least one that was darn fine seven years ago.)
posted by Spatch at 5:44 AM on November 10, 2009


I like the temporal waypoint concept best.
posted by Smart Dalek at 5:45 AM on November 10, 2009


There's a repurposed... I call them burger shacks, places that are drive-in or take-out only--can't even remember the brand names now, they didn't last long--on a main artery in my town. It's a paycheck loan place now. Definitely not an improvement.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:45 AM on November 10, 2009


Hot 'n' Now?
posted by jock@law at 5:53 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


These buildings do not show a linear progression of the corporatization and homogenization of suburbia, but rather serve as evidence of a more circular system - a system driven by a delicate negation between same and different, between complicated sets of actions and choices that shape our built environment.

Mmmf, huh? What. Sorry I must have dosed off.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:18 AM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ha, Not Fooling Anybody was actually the subject of my very first question on the green. One thing along those lines I've always wondered about are the Catfish O'Harlies restaurants I've seen around here. Seems awfully close to Catfish Charlies.
posted by kmz at 6:21 AM on November 10, 2009


It always makes me happy to see anything re-purposed, rather than abandoned. Around here (NW PA), there's plenty of empty stores and strip malls, but no one uses them - they'd all rather build new, and rip out yet another farm field.
posted by dellsolace at 6:22 AM on November 10, 2009


Here in Salt Lake City, an ice cream shop closed and was taken over by a sandwich chain. The 15 foot rotating ice cream cone on the roof was painted black... but it's still up there, and still rotating.

I don't get it. Even if it was cost-ineffective to remove the thing, why didn't they at least stop feeding it electricity?
posted by Joe Beese at 6:27 AM on November 10, 2009


I don't get it. Even if it was cost-ineffective to remove the thing, why didn't they at least stop feeding it electricity?

They're not. It's powered by Moroni.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:29 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I once stayed at a hotel called the ARMADA.
posted by peeedro at 6:40 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ugh, html is stripped. Imagine it as aRmada.
posted by peeedro at 6:40 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Kentucky Fried Chicken Marijuana Dispensary.
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 6:50 AM on November 10, 2009


Heh. I've stayed at an aRmada, too.

I love it when I see a motel turned into a series of small shops or an antique mall, a gas station that is now a restaurant or little boutique or artist's studio/gallery, or an old restaurant that is now a hardware store or a community center or has gone from the golden arches to upscale dining. I wish more of the so-called green builders (many of whom only do the green building techniques that save them money or are low-cost PR wins) would focus on renovating and modernising existing buildings instead of letting them founder and building whole new structures.
posted by julen at 6:56 AM on November 10, 2009


Hot 'n' Now?

Yes, and I think that Checkers was one, as well. They may still be around, but I just haven't seen one in a while.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:57 AM on November 10, 2009


McDonald's in my hometown is now a car dealership. It's strange seeing cars parked where there used to be a giant Grimace on springs.

And from the last link, I am sad to say that the Thai Town Express in the Red's Hot Dogs building is no more. It was briefly an insurance dealer before becoming unoccupied.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:02 AM on November 10, 2009


Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.
posted by illuminatus at 7:13 AM on November 10, 2009


This is disappointing for people who decide to hole up in their local Circle K when the zombie apocalypse breaks out. Instead of finding safe refuge with food and supplies they will instead find themselves in Uncle Al's Carpet Emporium.
posted by cazoo at 7:20 AM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm half a block from a repurposed Pizza Hut. It still has the funky roof and windows, but is now a locally owned Mongolian Grill. But, even better, before that it was a crematorium. No lie.
posted by The Deej at 7:25 AM on November 10, 2009


My personal favorite is right next to the Galleria in Houston: the Zone D'Erotica that started life as a Whataburger.

The roof has ZONE D'EROTICA on the roof in enormous letters. It's delightful, right next to the Neiman Marcus and Saks and whatnot.
posted by Neofelis at 7:28 AM on November 10, 2009


This is a great post. I wish I had done this project.

I grew up in Phoenix and the Circle Ks were as ubiquitous as, well, ubiquity. Or Starbucks.
posted by djeo at 7:38 AM on November 10, 2009


I saw a Taco Bell turned into a Jackson Hewitt tax preparation office. Unmistakably Taco Bell.
posted by anniecat at 7:39 AM on November 10, 2009


(Note to self: start taking pictures of any retasked Starbucks that I run across)
posted by djeo at 7:44 AM on November 10, 2009


One of our favorite (mostly due to it being closest to our house...but the food's good, too) sushi places used to be a Denny's. (Or was it Bob Evans? Crap. I forget). They've Japanese-d it up a bit but it's hard not to see the architectural bones underneath.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:54 AM on November 10, 2009


You Can Tell Area Bank Used To Be A Pizza Hut
posted by interrobang at 8:06 AM on November 10, 2009


One old convenience store in the heights in Albuquerque is now a revivalist church. Not sure of the exact address, but I know exactly where it is ...
posted by krinklyfig at 8:14 AM on November 10, 2009


The roof has ZONE D'EROTICA on the roof in enormous letters.

You forgot to mention that said roof is BRIGHT PINK.

Here's a picture courtesy of Google Street View.
posted by mrbill at 8:16 AM on November 10, 2009


Reminds me of this Brian Regan bit from Dr. Katz.
posted by milquetoast at 8:20 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


And last time I went back to my hometown, the Pizza Hut had been converted into a Taco Mayo - all they did was paint it yellow. However, it looks like they've now redone the top half of the building to get rid of the Pizza Hut look.

It's the only town I've ever seen where they had to build a BIGGER Pizza Hut just down the road (literally).
posted by mrbill at 8:22 AM on November 10, 2009


Until we moved to Arizona when I was 13 I totally thought Circle K was a made up convenience store from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. I was so excited to find out it was real!

For about 2 days my sisters and I punched eachother every time we saw a Circle K like you do in that VW game. We gave that up after we realized that we would be hitting each other every 50 feet.

I'm happy to see my neighborhood favorite, Friendly Market in the collection. I'm surprised I never recognized those buildings as previous Circle K's - pretty hard to miss.
posted by Lapin at 8:23 AM on November 10, 2009


It's a meticulous job this man has done.

"If it's not worth doing, it's not worth doing well."
posted by Meatbomb at 8:25 AM on November 10, 2009


It's strange seeing cars parked where there used to be a giant Grimace on springs.

As a non-suburbanite (not lately anyhow), it's all the tarmac I notice in those photos. So much paved flatness given over to the good ole internal combustion apocalypse that's killing us all slowly ... and yet undeniably beautiful in a detached, formal sorta way.
posted by philip-random at 8:38 AM on November 10, 2009


back in high school, i was a proud member of 'the circle k army'...a fake cult my friends and i started...we wore badges made from the logo cut off the matchbooks with a safety pin glued on the back and cheap bracelets we found in a whole bag by the dumpster (they were like those spiral twist chains, but with a piece of black polyester cord running down the spiral...god they looked cheap). that was pretty much the whole of our activities.

what was that beverage called that they sold? the one that was supposed to be like a slurpee but was a whole lot more like gritty plain ice nuggets floating in syrup? that shit was nasty.
posted by sexyrobot at 8:51 AM on November 10, 2009


There's an old Taco Bell near my father-in-law's place that was closed due to a new, more modern Taco Bell being built about half a block away. The old one was purchased and made into an El Pollo Regio restaurant. Last time we drove by there, the building had been modified to the extent that it didn't really look like an old Taco Bell anymore, so good on them.
posted by owtytrof at 8:56 AM on November 10, 2009


I really wish someone would do this with old Taco Bell buildings from back in the day when they were all cut from the same brick template that seem to be able to withstand a nuclear blast.
posted by birdherder at 9:13 AM on November 10, 2009


In Long Beach the venerated Bertha's Donuts became Bartha's Donuts and last time I was there, Martha's Donuts. I love the thriftiness of it all. In fact that idea of using the old name with a bit of a twist featured in a short story I wrote: Whiteoak BarBQue ----> Oak Bar.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:18 AM on November 10, 2009


Even better: the local yarn and quilting store that moved into an old bank. I'm putting pressure on them to open up the first drive up yarn teller window.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:37 AM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


This one is now a beer store selling the "Bud Family Twelve Pack."

That is pretty awesome. Part of me says it's only a sampler pack of beers from the Budweiser lineup, but the other half is all "Going home to your awful hellspawn and that wicked, cheating wife of yours? You're going to want to drink at least a 12-pack for that - and we've got you covered."
posted by porn in the woods at 9:51 AM on November 10, 2009


Until we moved to Arizona when I was 13 I totally thought Circle K was a made up convenience store from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. I was so excited to find out it was real!

Until I moved from Arizona, I thought that Circle Ks on every corner was normal and it was like that everywhere.

When I was 3 my parents told me that the K in Circle K stood for Kirk. Imagine my surprise when I found that it didn't mean I didn't get free stuff.
posted by birdherder at 9:56 AM on November 10, 2009


"How Buildings Learn" had a chapter on re-purposing suburban big box stores and strip malls. Artists who need large, cheap space and who were priced out of downtown lofts were at the forefront. Coffee shops to follow.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:26 AM on November 10, 2009


If you like this, you might also like Big Box Re-Use.
posted by box at 10:40 AM on November 10, 2009


I once stayed at a hotel called the ARMADA.

Somewhat related, this process can happen with just a single party involved. There is a large motel in Lake George, NY, called O'Sullivans. It is run by the Sullivan family. They commissioned a huge elaborate stainless steel and animated neon sign, that is just barely peaking into the upper left of the first pic in that link.

The sketch they provided the sign maker showed an Indian tending a fire near his teepee, with animated smoke rings rising up. One of the smoke rings was misinterpreted as the O in O'Sullivan's, so they changed their name to match the sign.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:42 AM on November 10, 2009


Man, I miss Tandoori Hut.
posted by khaibit at 11:22 AM on November 10, 2009


When will people learn? You can't improve a circle K. All of these new businesses are forced to live in the shadow of what they once were.
posted by Mark Lee at 11:26 AM on November 10, 2009


Who needs the Kwik-E-mart?

I dooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
posted by blue_beetle at 12:57 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Saw this at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. It was part of a larger exhibition on Suburbia. Pretty amazing stuff.
posted by matkline at 1:35 PM on November 10, 2009


This was a Pizza Hut. Now it's all covered with daisies.
posted by item at 1:54 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm putting pressure on them to open up the first drive up yarn teller window.

Better yet, make it a 24 hour drive through: "For all your yarn and yarn-related emergencies."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:38 PM on November 10, 2009


This Korean restaurant has done a pretty good job hiding it's former Taco Bell-ness. From the inside you definitely don't feel like you're in a Taco Bell. (and Real Ice Cream behind it is excellent.)
posted by vespabelle at 8:39 PM on November 10, 2009


A bunch of defunct big box stores in the metro Boston area were temporarily repurposed as seasonal Halloween stores. The former Circuit City I pass on my way to work has already been de-repurposed and has a big "FOR LEASE" sign on it now.
posted by the painkiller at 9:13 PM on November 10, 2009


what was that beverage called that they sold? the one that was supposed to be like a slurpee but was a whole lot more like gritty plain ice nuggets floating in syrup? that shit was nasty.

those are called slush puppies and if you find a store where the machine isn't behind the counter and you're able to fix one yourself, put just a single pump of the cherry-flavor syrup in a large cup and fill the rest with ice and then tell me it isn't incredible (you might also have to somehow become six years old for this to work).
posted by i'm offended you're offended at 10:14 AM on November 11, 2009


Ohhh yeah Slush Puppies! There was a machine at the convenience store next to Hunan Chinese in college. Nothing, NOTHING beats cheap shrimp fried rice and a lemon-lime Slush Puppy with a sneakily-added extra squirt of syrup (you might also have to somehow be back in college for this to work).
posted by infinitewindow at 11:30 AM on November 11, 2009


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