Treasure Island Retail Giant; An Iconic Mid-Century Discount Store
Learn the history of Treasure Island Discount Department Store, a short lived retail giant with an iconic Mid-Century folded plate roof line. Click Here for the video version.
By Marissa Howard, Programs and Membership Coordinator
Treasure Island, or The Treasury (in some states), was a chain of discount department stores that offered groceries, consumer goods, beauty salon, drugstore, photo studio, dry cleaning, and auto and garden centers. The stores were 200,000 square feet (60,000 square feet larger than the average Costco!) and the four metro Atlanta locations employed 1,900 people. The cost for building the first three stores was $17,000,000.
Treasure Island, a division of J. C. Penney Company, moved into the Atlanta market from Wisconsin with its four brand new stores in 1968. The stores were located within minutes of I-285 and in new suburban areas.
The first three locations opened simultaneously on July 31, 1968. The Locations were Treasure Island South (Jonesboro Rd), Treasure Island Northwest (Marietta) and Treasure Island Northeast (Doraville).
The fourth location, Treasure Island East (Decatur) opened on January 31st, 1969.
Advertised as a discount store, Treasure Island emphasized “Total Savings” and convenience, especially for young families. Before the “discount store” concept, groceries were purchased at smaller markets that only sold food and essential items. Housewares and clothing for example, were usually purchased at department stores or small specialty shops. Discount stores offered everything under one very large roof at competitive prices.
Intense advertising hit the Atlanta market in 1968, emphasizing the savings and explaining the new concept of “self serve.” While grocery stores weren’t a new notion, the “Super Market” and discount store concepts exploded after World War II. Richway, Zayre, Kmart, Target, and Walmart are just a few examples of other discount stores that started in the 1960s. Suburban growth meant there was ample room for grocery stores to grow and offer more products. A survey in 1960 showed 70% of shoppers used these supermarkets for their shopping, a huge uptick from only 35% in 1950. Shoppers had vehicles to bring larger quantities of food and goods back home and larger houses often had more storage. Shoppers were also able to charge goods to their J. C. Penney Charge Card.
The massive store offered a snack bar and a conveyor system for delivering your groceries outside; after paying your items were placed in a numbered bin so you could drive up and an employee would put your purchases into your car.
Under the Squiggly Roof
Designed by Architect Jordan A. Miller of Milwaukee, these buildings were unique, recognizable, and modern. The concreted folded plate roof provided for open floor plans, with plenty of room for merchandise. Support columns were spaced 70 feet apart. Bright fluorescent bulbs illuminated the interior and speakers provided a shopping soundtrack. The Squiggly Roof, as it would be called, was featured in advertisements and the logo – its trademark.
Treasure Island South, Jonesboro Road-Forest Park.
The exterior is nearly unchanged since 1968. The building is 541 feet wide, making it difficult to get the full scale of the building on a camera. The folded plate roof is on full display.
The interior of this location has barely changed since its grand opening in 1968. The lights were originally more concealed in the corner of the ceiling fold. Today, looking at the ceiling and the vast geometric lines it is overwhelming, vast, and dizzying. Despite the lack of skylights, the lights reflect down the fold of the ceiling, created an illusion of skylights. The original fluorescent lights were blinding, according to those that remember shopping at T.I.
Treasure Island East, Memorial Drive-Decatur.
Treasure Island Northeast, Buford Highway- Doraville
Treasure Island Northwest, Terrell Mill Road-Marietta
The folded plate roof was heavily used in pre-war European warehouse applications, but it was slow to take hold in the United States. By the 1960s it was beginning to be used in residential applications such as the Wexler House (1961) and in larger scale projects like the Miami Marine Stadium (1963). The folds in the roof allowed for heavy weight bearing and freed up the interior from clunky support columns. You can test this theory by taking an unfolded floppy paper and folding it in half noticing the difference in rigidity. This concept is also used in corrugated cardboard.
The very first Treasure Island location opened in November, 1961, in Appleton, Wisconsin. The folded plate roof was striking and unique.
The folded plate roof is still used today as an inexpensive and decorative roof system for large-scale projects.
The Garden Center
The V shaped roofline motif continued over the 16,000 square foot garden center which included glass greenhouses and decorative structural beams.
All of the previously mentioned T.I Garden Centers became Pike Nurseries after Treasure Island left.
Treasure Island also included a complete Auto Service Center located in the parking lot. The Auto Centers were two stories, 16 bays and 20,000 sq ft.
Within the next decade, gas shortages and discount store competition (Richway/Kmart/Zayre) negatively impacted Treasure Island’s market share. The enormous overhead of the stores also contributed to their decline.
In 1979, a struggling Treasure Island leased some of its square footage to a new DIY concept, the home improvement store. The Home Depot debuted at Treasure Island’s Memorial Drive and Buford Highway locations. Home Depot eventually moved into the other two locations, Marietta and Forest Park.
By 1982, the doors of Treasure Island closed permanently. Home Depot eventually expanded, moving on to new buildings.
Post Home Depot, many of the buildings were subdivided into several other stores, including Zayer’s or Havertys.
Treasure Island as a retail store was short lived, but its iconic and recognizable architecture remains.
Location and current use for the referenced Treasure Islands:
Buford Highway Farmers Market Shopping Center
5600 Buford Hwy NE
Doraville, GA 30340
DeKalb County Government Office Park
4380 Memorial Drive
Decatur, GA 30032
Atlanta Expo Center South
3850 Jonesboro Rd
Atlanta, GA 30354
Burlington Coat Factory Shopping Center
1901 Terrell Mill Road SE
Marietta, GA 30067
Parcel Pick Up: https://www.flickr.com/photos/78111739@N00/332107211/
Home Depot History: https://corporate.homedepot.com/about/history
Home Depot History: https://www.businessinsider.com/home-depot-first-stores-photos-2019-4