Do You Remember Shopping at the Huge Service Merchandise Store in Owensboro, KY ?
You know that conveyor belt was the absolute BEST. THING. EVER!
When I was a kid, I used to love visiting Owensboro's Service Merchandise store with my parents. It was the anchor store at the south end of Towne Square North. But, you'll likely recall, shopping at Service Merchandise wasn't like shopping at other stores at the time. It was totally different from stores like King's. Remember that one? Or, here's another, Heck's Department Store! How about that blast from the Owensboro retail past?
At Service Merchandise, you couldn't buy off the shelves and racks like you could the other stores. No, Service Merchandise was a "catalog showroom." Everything was basically just on display. They were strategically merchandised samples. If you wanted something, you could buy it, but the process was completely different. And that's where that conveyor belt comes in and we'll get back to that in a few.
But first, here's a brief history about the chain. The roots of Service Merchandise date all the way back to 1934 in Pulaski, Tennessee. It literally began as a tiny "five-and-dime" store. Over the next few decades, it evolved into the catalog and warehouse business that we all came to love. In fact, it was in the early 1970s that Service Merchandise began to house its actual stock in warehouses adjacent to the stores. And that's where that conveyor belt came in. If you saw something on the showroom floor you wanted to by, you could place the order, proceed to check out and watch that item come barreling down the conveyor belt. It was so different and so fun and, though you always knew what you had ordered and what you were getting, it was always a thrill when the box came rolling out.
And, of course, let's not forget that absolutely insane Service Merchandise catalog. It was the gateway and source for electronics, toys, sporting goods, jewelry and more. I found this really fun video on YouTube. It's a virtual flip-through of 1992 edition. Take a look! And, yes! That's a Polaroid camera.
I remember loving it when we would get that catalog in the mail. The company, by the way, used to send out millions of copies of them. When my family received ours, I would immediately flip to the toys and electronic games section. For me, it was right up there with Christmas catalogs from Sears and JCPenney.
Service Merchandise in Owensboro had its official grand opening on April 26th, 1984. By the way, a shout out to Deanie Smith (Angel's former next neighbor) for the great photo of the Owensboro location. In 2002, the company announced it was going out of business and shuttered all of its remaining 200+ stores. For years, the Service Merchandise sign remained here in Owensboro. The store, however, simply lives on in our memories of shopping there.