Bargain Town USA
Bargain Town USA was a stock liquidator and discount retail chain founded by Morris Barstein and Max Corenblum in 1957, initially doing business as War Surplus Stores with a first location at 1810 4th Avenue North in downtown Birmingham. After Morris' son, Marvyn Barstein joined the company, the chain expanded across north central Alabama.
The chain specialized in relatively small-footprint (12,000 square foot) stores convenient to low- and middle-income consumers not served by larger discounters, but did not shy away from locating near retail giants like Wal-Mart, counting on customers who needed to make quicker stops. The store was famed for its advertising jingle, "That's why people from all over town say 'if you like bargains, you'll love Bargain Town'."
In November 1965 Bargain Town USA boasted that it had brought Hurricane Betsy to Birmingham with $179,000 in merchandise that it had purchased at a steep discount from insurance underwriters covering losses on the Gulf Coast.
The chain grew to 60 locations in the Southeast by October 1987, when it was sold to Montgomery's KinderCare, Inc. (later renamed Enstar). The company, which operated several other retail chains, experimented with different retail formulas for apparel sales under the Bargain Town division. A few stores, specializing in apparel, were named Bargain Town R. P. (for "Right Place, Right Price"), but those were quickly converted to the Max $10 nameplate, selling mens and women's apparel for no more than $10 per item. The biggest success, however, were the smaller-footprint "Simply $6" women's clothing stores, where all items were $6 or less. Typically one of these stores would be located adjacent to one of Enstar's "Shoe City" footwear outlets.
Enstar's chairman and board of directors resigned in 1990 amid a securities fraud scandal related to dealings with convicted trader Michael Milken. The company filed for bankruptcy and sold the Bargain Town USA chain to closeout specialist Variety Wholesalers of Henderson, North Carolina.
The Barstein family bought the Simply $6 chain out of Enstar's bankruptcy and converted it into Simply Fashions. Bargain Town USA is unrelated to "Children's Bargain Town U.S.A.", a Chicago toy store chain, also founded in 1957, which was one of the forerunners of "Toys 'R' Us".
Birmingham area locations
- 2000 2nd Avenue North, Bessemer (closed January 2023)
- Midway Plaza, 1201 Bessemer Road, Birmingham
- Village Green Shopping Center, Gardendale
- 2820 27th Street North / 2629 29th Avenue North North Birmingham
- Pell City
- Kelly, Mary Ellen (August 1, 1988) "One-price clothing chains set to slug it out." Discount Store News
- Kelly, Mary Ellen (February 20, 1989) "Bargain Town's Max $10 debuts; one-pricer features new wrinkles ." Discount Store News
- "Small size & convenience are draw - Bargain Town USA, discount store chain." (May 8, 1989) Discount Store News
- Kelly, Mary Ellen (March 15, 1993) "Barstein: dreams can be bought … back - Bargain Town USA." Discount Store News
- Crenshaw, Solomon Jr (February 1, 2023) "Bessemer’s Bargain Town, Once Part of Large Chain, Closes Last Store for Good." The Birmingham Times