October 12, 2009 11:09 AM   Subscribe

Wonderful documentary on the art inspired chain of Best retail stores designed by Site architectural firm in the '70s and early '80s. 1::2::3::4
posted by vronsky (17 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Nice! I'm pretty sure this is the one I went to as a kid in the Baltimore suburbs. Several times I've tried to tell people I went to a store like that as a kid, and they always kind of look at me like maybe I just had an overactive imagination.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:19 AM on October 12, 2009

I recall seeing pictorials about the Best stores all over the place back in the day. While clearly a product of their time, seeing them again still makes me smile.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:25 AM on October 12, 2009

thank you, vronsky, this is great. had never seen this before!
posted by noway at 11:34 AM on October 12, 2009

those are some seriously awesome buildings. am I correct in seeing that one of them has a corner that somehow can be pulled away from the building?
posted by shmegegge at 11:35 AM on October 12, 2009

My first job ever was as a second story warehouse monkey fulfilling orders from the showroom below at one of their more mundane stores. Imagine the shelving in a Costco, with only 3 ladders for 7 order-pullers. It's a wonder no fell to their death free-climbing those shelves and carrying dorm-cube fridges back down.
posted by NortonDC at 11:39 AM on October 12, 2009

Best of the web?

I remember a Best retail store outside Philadelphia, and going there when I was younger. But I can't remember any architectural details like these.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:40 AM on October 12, 2009

Yes shmeggege, check out part 2 of the doc :)

I was surprised to learn from the second link that Best sores would take art in exchange for merchandise. Can you imagine trying this in a Best Buy today? "I'd like to trade this sculpture I made for one of your plasma screens" They would laugh you out the door.
posted by vronsky at 11:43 AM on October 12, 2009

Fantastic architecture, reminiscent to me of buildings like WonderWorks, the Orlando Ripley's Believe it or Not museum, and yet plain and intimidating like the bank in Edward Scissorhands (I was hoping to find a pic online, but no dice). I really love watching video of real people (not movie clips) from the '70s. It's a glimpse of another time. Attitudes were different then, but not so different that we can't relate today. The bits with people rappelling down the front of the building with Spider-Man were pretty awesome.

I wish there were stores and buildings like this today, outside of the touristy-type stuff I linked to.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 11:53 AM on October 12, 2009

From the Best Products Wikipedia entry...
As of 2007, some of these distinctive buildings have been converted into conventional buildings by removing the architectural embellishments, or in a few cases, demolished.

Best went under in 1998.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:54 AM on October 12, 2009

This just jogged my memory of going to the "Forest" showroom in Richmond when I was little. I also remember they had a kind of distinctive headquarters building on I-95 at E. Parham Rd. in Henrico county that apparently had a shitload of art in it.
posted by ghharr at 12:05 PM on October 12, 2009

I frequented the Cutler Ridge store as a youth. You could drive between the layers of the facade; it was kind of annoying, though, because as a pedestrian trying to get into the building the sight lines sort of sucked.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:26 PM on October 12, 2009

The Best store on Roosevelt Boulevard in Northeast Philadelphia was actually an old Basco store. You could tell because the huge three-story letters that spelled BASCO were still there. Best just wrapped the letters with a kind-of Best wrapping paper, such that you could still make out the letters of Basco. Odd.

Guess they were load-bearing letters.
posted by inturnaround at 2:53 PM on October 12, 2009

Best went under in 1998.

Well, that didn't make the buildings vanish in a puff of bankruptcy smoke.
posted by dhartung at 4:12 PM on October 12, 2009

Best went under in 1998.

And until 2007 or so, there was a still-standing, still empty BEST store in Northridge, California that was eventually converted to a 24 Hour Fitness next to, ironically, a brand new Best Buy. Talking out of my ass, I'd say that, the store being in a prime retail area, must have been tied up in some kind of legal limbo before the property could be sold.

Not that this contributes in any major way to the conversation, I just wanted to try out the BEST logo in HTML
posted by eyeballkid at 4:46 PM on October 12, 2009

Thanks for posting this, Vronsky. I remember saving a clipping from Time magazine back in the early 80s about these stores. IIRC, one of them had a row of cars that were submerged into the pavement of the parking lot, so when I first moved to Chicago and saw the Berwyn Spindle, I thought it might've been a Site piece. But though it was very cool, it wasn't, and alas, the Spindle is no more.
posted by Bron at 6:02 PM on October 12, 2009

Very cool. I've seen some photos here and there, of some of these buildings, but never really put it all together. Great post, vronsky, thanks so much!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:41 AM on October 13, 2009

"almost all... have now either had their facades removed or have actually been demolished."

posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 8:51 AM on October 13, 2009

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