The shelves are almost empty and I would wager that Starkville’s Fred’s Discount Store will be gone by sunset. It’s closure follows on the coat-tails of other Fred’s stores in Mississippi and system-wide.
I’m sad beyond words and wondering where I’ll go in the future when a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup craving hits me without warning. Or it’s raining and I’m out of coffee. Or I need some potting soil on a Saturday morning and don’t want to stand in line at Walmart.
Fred’s, my “go to” for 20 years since I returned to the Golden Triangle, is taking its last breath. This little neighborhood store has been a regular destination in my world no less than three or four times a week- sometimes three or four times in a day! Being a bit unorganized, it has been a lifesaver on numerous occasions to the extent I became close personal friends with the manager and all the employees and most of the customers.
I fear this is only the tip of a mounting greedy iceberg as changes in shopping habits continue to erode neighborhood stores where we can pop in on the spur of the moment… in our pajamas if need be and know no one will judge us.
I guess I feel a close connection to Fred’s because it made its debut the same year I did – 1947! Seriously, It was a very good year for country girls, and it was born in my home state in Coldwater, Mississippi.
Fred’s opened as the Baddour Bargain Centers, conceived by three brothers who were Lebanese immigrants. I went to college with Paul Baddour, the second generation who took over from his father as president of the company in 1970. I remember the family was well known for its philanthropic contributions, especially these which are close to my heart:
•Hero Hats” – As a memorial to victims of the September 11 attacks, stores run an annual fundraiser, donating the proceeds to local emergency services programs. Profits of sales on September 11 each year are also donated to the program.
•The “Panda Pals” Program – the campaign is designed to benefit animal care, conservation and research at the Memphis Zoo. Customers at the 182 Fred’s stores located in a 200-mile radius of the zoo generously donate during the annual event. Since it began in 2003, the Panda Pal program has contributed more than $750,000.
Fred’s announced in April, that 159 stores would close by the end of May due to declining sales and timing of lease expirations at the affected locations. It subsequently announced in May that an additional 104 locations would be liquidated by the end of June. The two rounds of closures will cut the company’s 557 store count as of April 2019 by nearly half.