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A long-awaited resolution to a surprisingly contentious issue…

November 18, 2022, 10:00 AM

Sometimes, when it comes to elections, the ones that we lock onto most are little local issues.  For me, it was the courthouse issue in Augusta County, Virginia.  For those not familiar, Augusta County is the area where I grew up, and the courthouse is located in Staunton.  That means, due to all cities’ being independent from counties in Virginia, the Augusta County courthouse is technically located outside of the county (though that is not unique to Augusta County by any means).  As I understand it, for quite some time, Augusta County has been short on space for its courts, and has been looking to replace its courthouse with something bigger and more modern.  Then to add another wrinkle to this, the rest of the Augusta County government had moved out to nearby Verona, located just north of Staunton, long ago.  When we moved to the area in 1992, the Augusta County Government Center was a relatively new building in Verona, and since then, a regional jail has been built in Verona, the sheriff’s office moved to Verona, and the school system headquarters moved to Verona (though the schools moved from elsewhere in the county, not from Staunton).  The only thing left in Staunton was the courts.  The kicker there was that the location of the courthouse determined what town was the county seat, and moving the county seat required a referendum to be placed before the voters.  And as you know, voters can be an odd bunch.  Sometimes they perform the way you want or expect them to, but sometimes they don’t.  And generally speaking, some things will never pass by referendum.  If you’re raising taxes, for example, it will fail when taken to the voters, because in all fairness, who is going to vote to raise their own taxes?

The problem with the courthouse in Augusta County has been longstanding.  The Augusta County courthouse had fallen below state standards for court facilities some time ago, and because of that, the county had been given a “show cause” order to improve the courts.  County leaders also stated that they were unable to renovate their existing court facilities to meet current state standards.  Thus it was necessary to build a new courthouse.

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Walmart circa 2006…

November 15, 2022, 1:17 PM

Recently, a commenter on my post about the 2005 remodel of the Lexington Walmart remarked about the evolving interior of these stores.  They said, “It’s so interesting seeing as this company is a backbone of America, but people barely document the constantly evolving exterior and interior of a place that millions of people visit every day.”  It’s true.  Walmart looks very different now than it did ten years ago, which is also very different from the way that it looked ten years before that.  After all, ten years ago, in 2012, Walmart stores were mostly blue and yellow on the inside, as the Project Impact store design had been rolled out to most stores.  Ten years before that, in 2002, Walmart stores mostly used a lot of blue and red, and had white or gray walls.  What we think of when we think “Walmart” constantly is evolving.  In the early 1990s, they used fairly simple red signage for departments.  Then they switched to larger signage with patterns and photos on it.  Then there was the black decor, and Walmart’s switch soon after from red, gray, white, and blue to a brown color palette.  Then there was the era of the large wall signs, with small signs that looked like pylons scattered throughout the rest of the store.  Then there was a short-lived variation on that wall-signs package that incorporated the new logo.  Then there was Project Impact\, which was rolled out in a very concerted effort chainwide, and really made use of the new logo on everything.  Project Impact was surprisingly long-lived, with some stores’ being remodeled to the design twice.  Then there was another design that we called “Black 2.0” which was fairly minimalistic, and now uses a much warmer color palette and lots of signage.

All of this serves as something of a reminder that what was considered cutting edge one day is considered vintage or otherwise outdated later on.  Back in 2006, when I still worked at Walmart, the company had announced their newest store prototype, which had a completely different signage package than my store had, and looked quite flashy for the time, and represented the latest attempt by Walmart, a pretty lowbrow company, to try to convince people that it’s highbrow.  I later learned that the Walmart in Culpeper was being remodeled, and was getting this new store design.  So on Sunday, September 17, a day that I was off of work from my own store, I headed up to Culpeper to see what it looked like and document it, because I’m a bit of a nerd like that.

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Categories: Virginia, Walmart

And the outer walls begin to fall…

November 3, 2022, 8:09 AM

On October 26, Elyse and I took a one-day trip down to Augusta County in order to change to the “permanent temporary solution” for my car problem, i.e. Mom’s Scion xB, following the HR-V’s untimely demise in an accident two and a half weeks prior.  I don’t necessarily like doing these sorts of trips in a single day because it’s a lot of driving and I’m not 25 anymore, but that’s all I had time for based on my schedule.  I also couldn’t really postpone this trip, because things were going to get a bit more expensive for me if I didn’t do this trip when I did.  For those not familiar, when you have Progressive for your insurance and your car is totaled, your rental coverage ends three days after you are notified of your car’s total loss.  That notification occurred while Elyse and I were on a weeklong trip to Tennessee, and so Progressive, taking my length of time as a customer (18 years!) into consideration, they extended my coverage until the day after we got back from our trip.  Then Enterprise Rent-A-Car would let me pay the insurance rate for my rental for another week beyond that, after which I would have to pay the (much higher) retail rate.  My original plan was to switch cars on the way back home, returning the rental car in Staunton, and then doing the last leg of the return trip in Mom’s car.  As the trip continued on, though, I soon realized that we would be cutting it far too close with that plan, considering that it was also our Roanoke day, so I opted to postpone the car swap by a week and do the visit with my parents on the way home as we had planned to do it prior to the accident, i.e. it would just be a visit.  So the primary focus of this trip was just to swap cars, on the day that the retail rate would have gone into effect, i.e. if you don’t return this car right now, you will be paying a lot more for it going forward.  The addition of this new trip down also changed the plans for the last day of the Tennessee trip.  Since there would now be an extra trip down to Staunton, I skipped a Staunton Mall update that I had planned for the return trip to save time, since I would be going right there the following week.

For this particular Staunton Mall visit, noting the pace of the progress that I had observed in June, August, and September, I already had a decent idea about what to expect.  I figured that by my next visit, the remainder of the mall’s interior would be gone, and they would probably then start working on demolishing the exterior walls, which had remained mostly intact up to this point, which meant that Staunton Mall still largely looked like Staunton Mall from the road during most of the demolition up to that point.  I also knew that I didn’t have much time on site this time around, and that the demolition crew would more than likely be on the property.  Therefore, this was to be a high-level visit solely by drone, flown from well above the property where I could see my vehicle around the entire mall without having to reposition myself, and staying well clear of the demolition crew, since I didn’t want to get in their way at all, and I also didn’t have any time to discuss any special access with them, as I did in September to photograph what remained of the mall’s interior.  All of that said, I made a quick ten-minute flight where I flew from the Orchard Hill Square shopping center across the street, and made a pass across the front of the mall, looped around the entire property, and then dipped down near the Belk entrance where there were no workers present for a momentary peek at that area before returning to the launch site.

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