Friday, September 22, 2006

Fiberglass Fabric Roofs - Bullock's San Jose and San Mateo

Nothing is more unusual than seeing a tent as a roof for a department store. Bullock's did just that. First, for their store at San Jose's Oakridge Mall. The single-level store was flooded with natural light using uber-cool space-age technology. Of course, the unusualness was a draw; everyone wanted to see inside. Later, Bullock's expanded the idea and built an even larger Fiberglass fabric roof on its new San Mateo store. Unlike the Oakridge store, the San Mateo store had freeway visibility. Thousands of commuters passed the "circus-tent" everyday. Regrettably, freeway access to San Mateo Fashion Island mall was terrible. Many of the commuters who wanted to stop and see inside just could not get there.
One significant downfall of a Fiberglass fabric roof was the heating and cooling. Cold temperatures soaked right through the tent and made the store unbearably cold. During summer, the opposite occurred. Hot stores were just uncomfortable.
The first picture is an ad in a Progressive Architecture magazine from 1981. It expounded the virtues of Fiberglass fabric roofs. The ad goes on to mention Bullock's was planning an even larger store using the concept. That, of course, we know is the San Mateo store. The second picture if an aerial view of the Bullock’s in San Mateo. If at anytime you passed this area off the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge, you will certainly remember it.
Regrettably, neither of these architectural landmarks survived. Both stores met their fate with the wrecking ball.


Georob said...

Are you sure about Nordstrom taking over Oakridge's Bullocks for a brief time? That part of San Jose just didn't seem like "Nordstrom material", at least back then. Of course, that may have been before Nordstrom came to Valley Fair.

I just don't see Nordstrom closing stores, though I'm sure they've done it. BTW, I think the Stanford Nordstrom is an ex-Bullocks, too.

BIGMallrat said...

Isn't that crazy? Nordstrom at Oakridge built a store from the ground up. Wikipedia says it closed in 1996, but a friend of mine who lives down there said it closed in 1992. Nevertheless, I, too, would say that particular area couldn't support a Nordstrom... of course, things have changed. But, my bet is they opted for Valley Fair, seeing the potential. I wonder if they kicked themselves since Oakridge is really Valley Fair II since the expansion.
Nordstrom bought quite a few Bullock's locatons and plain knocked the buildings down. Stonestown, Broadway Plaza, and so on (I think the complete list is on Wikipedia). Come to think of it, they replaced the old Nordstrom at Valley Fair with a new one and now plan to do the same at Stoneridge. Seems excessive.

Georob said...

I know for a fact that Walnut Creek and Stonestown are the original Bullocks buildings, and I'd guess that Stanford and Oakridge were too. Bullocks had just built them in the 70's, so it would have made no sense to demolish them less than twenty years later, as the format and layout was ideally suited to Nordstrom.

Ironic that the stores Nordstrom replaced(or plan to) with larger buildings are ones that they DID build themselves (Valley Fair and Stoneridge)

As I said, Macys was scared to death of Nordstrom then and ended up buying a few Liberty House stores in response. The Macys Mens Store in downtown SF was one, Sunrise Mall in Sacramento was another.

But the one that really showed their desperation was Coddingtown in Santa Rosa. Macys had just built or was building Santa Rosa Plaza across town, and I remember thinking at the time that Santa Rosa wasn't big enough for TWO Macys.

Still, Nordstrom was not yet in either Downtown SF or Corte Madera, and I'm sure there were a lot of affluent folks in Marin who would gladly make the trek up to Coddingtown had Nordstrom went there.

The only thing Macys had then was a small store in Downtown San Rafael. But Nordstrom had to be stopped, so two stores in Santa Rosa it was. And still is!

buff said...

Thanks for sharing this. I wasn't aware of the fiberglass fabric roof.

And thanks for posting to my blog. Great comments.

Anonymous said...

Yep, those are the funky roofs. Thanks for posting those! :-)

BIGMallrat said...

I remember Broadway Plaza as a kid, but not Bullock's for some reason. My mom preferred Liberty House, I suppose. The building looks older, but the one at Stonestown looks newer. I don't go to Stonestown often enough to remember what it was like before being enclosed.
I'd bet Nordie's tore Oakridge down because it was too small (just one story). The new(er) building is two floors (Sears, now).
Oh, and hey, the Nordstrom in Pleasanton will be 10 next year. I've heard construction workers say those big-box stores are only meant to last 10 years. Gives some creedance to that theory. Nevertheless, it's still odd. The new Nordstrom will only be two floors instead of the current three. I guess the two-floor concept at Walnut Creek and Corte Madera seem to work well. You know, I have no idea *what* they are thinking!
It's funny that Santa Rosa has two full-scale Macy's stores just a few miles apart? I was reading the other day that a mall in Houston will have two full-scale Macy's (and not separate Men's and Women's stores like elsewhere). Can you imagine? "Can you call the other store and see if THEY have it?"

dean said...

I always thought this was the coolest building. It had such a great look to it. Oddly enough I got to drive by the demolition of Fashion Island on a regular basis as I was commuting to one of my construction sites. One place being built as the other gets torn down -- strange world.

hushpuppy said...

Nordstrom's Oakridge store was indeed the old Bullock's location. It could've been a package deal (You want Stonestown, Stanford, and Walnut Creek? You gotta take Oakridge too) in order for Federated to walk away from that location.

In Santa Rosa, Macy's has operated a 187,000 sf, full-line store downtown in Santa Rosa Plaza since 1981. The Emporium opened a 203,000 sf store in Coddingtown in 1966. Liberty House opened a 100,000 sf store in Coddingtown in 1980, which was sold to Macy's in 1984, and operated with mostly just soft lines. When Macy's absorbed The Emporium in 1996, they sold the Coddingtown store to Gottschalk's and moved into the larger Emporium store, establishing their second full-line store in Santa Rosa.

Georob said...

To this day I don't understand why Macys has two stores in Santa Rosa, especially with two in Marin.

I know that Emporium used to own a lot of their store buildings and Coddingtown might have been one of them. If that's the case Macys has very little overhead there(they probably own it free and clear by now) and doesn't need to do that well to keep it in the black.

....while still keeping Nordstrom out of the North Bay as well.

Anonymous said...

I'm posting this way after the original post but I just wanted to add some info: Bullocks Oakridge was a two-level store. The fiberglass roof was on the second level.

Part of the fiberglass roof also arched down to form the roof over the mall where the Bullocks mall entrance was. In fact, from the mall, you could see into the second level of Bullocks, kind of like a loft if you can imagine. Also, there was a really 80s tube-shaped elevator that went from the ground floor of the mall up to the second "loft" level of Bullocks. The best part of all is that the elevator shaft was tube shaped and covered in almost neon-orange high-gloss ceramic tile! Ah, sweet memories...

Finally, the original building is still there. Nordstrom did renovate extensively but they left the original structure of the building sans fiberglass roof. Sears did the same thing when they took over from Nordstrom.

Anonymous said...

Oh, one more thing to add about the Oakridge Bullocks: there was a in-store boutique for those Trolls dolls (remember the crazy hair?)that were so popular during the 80s. Cheers!