Unlettered capitalism: Circuit City has yanked its signs
The Circuit City location in the Albemarle Square shopping center has closed, and, according to a witness, the giant letters were removed by crane-carried workers on Tuesday, December 30.
Part of a company-wide shedding of stores announced November 3, the closing of the Charlottesville store and 154 others didn't stop the electronics retailer from declaring bankruptcy a week later. Its stock was trading at 13 cents a share at post time.
Back in the late 1980s, when the Richmond-based company embarked on a national expansion, its branding strategy included making the store entrance look like a giant red electrical plug. However, by the time the local store opened in the mid-1990s, Albemarle's rules on facades in so-called "entrance corridors" precluded the company from using its trademark bright red color; thus, the muted maroon facade at Albemarle Square.
The store apparently didn't seem to affect cross-street rival, Crutchfield.
"Surprisingly, Circuit City was never a serious competitive factor for us," says Crutchfield founder Bill Crutchfield, who opened his store at Rio Hill shopping center in 1993.
"After [Circuit City] opened their Charlottesville store in the mid-nineties, our sales actually increased," says Crutchfield. "After they closed the store a few weeks ago, our sales remained unchanged. I suspect that the Circuit City customer was very different than the Crutchfield customer."
Now, the 28,000 square-foot space stands empty.
"We are actively marketing that property," says Michael Plotkin, an official with Dumbarton Properties, which manages Albemarle Square. Plotkin recalls that earlier a Safeway store occupied the Circuit City spot.
Before creating the large vacancy, Circuit City's local closing sale created a shopping frenzy of sorts, though the Hook's consumer columnist found that the deals may have been less than spectacular.
Correction: The original version of this story misstated the opening chronology of the store. It has been corrected above.
–last updated 5:30pm, January 12