Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ghost of "Bradlees" Haunts Bristol


Ocean State Job Lot, a lone anchor to the locked-up Mall at Bristol Centre, whose awaiting fate with the big wrecking ball.

It probably won't take a grand deal of reasoning to compell all of you that Bristol is certainly, amongst other more notable things, the unparalleled spent Bradlees shopping cart capital in the state of Connecticut. Chances are pretty good that if you've shopped any of Bristol's plazas, you've been bound to see a crashed and/or neglected once-Bradlees department store-owned cart sometimes doning the barely-changed logo over the decades, often times blacked-out and lobotomized by future owners.

Those future owners, Ocean State Job Lot, known widely for "lobotomizing" shopping carts or painting, scratching, or placing cheap logos over the fallen retail store's carts to pass as their own, have struck yet again. Currently, two Ocean State Job Lot stores litter the city keeping these 1960's-era far-off retail specters alive with their junk store appeal; one by the long-troubled Bristol Centre Mall, which has been emblazed in battle to keep its lease this past year beyond the city's eniment domain and willingness to rid the city of the decrepit vacant mall, and the other, which mostly currently occupies the former Stop & Shop in Bristol Plaza whose lease is soon to expire. Pending a reprisal of lease hangs the company's fate in Bristol; a possible future to be soon rid of the fleabag retailer.

Just today, The Caldor Rainbow explored the central motherload territory; Ocean State Job Lot by the Mall at Bristol Centre.


A series of red-clad Bradlees carts from various eras including a reuniting with one Stop & Shop-owned diagonal-logo version we spotted behind Stop & Shop in early 2006.

Other stores who are known husks for containing older carts are low-offenders; Salvation Army Thrift Stores and Goodwill across the street who keep their premises orderly, keeping most antique carts stored in the backrooms used for overstock holsters. Just yesterday, I strolled into my local Salvo Thrift Store, which are fantastic holdings for old retail findings whether it be adopted former carts, products, or price stickers amongst other things.

Once a prominent discount department store market along Route 6 in Bristol with Caldor, which became home to Kmart, now Price Chopper Supermarket. Bradlees, once a proud affiliate of 1961-established Stop & Shop Companies, essentially Stop & Shop, Bradlees, and Medi-Mart; since sold off to Walgreens. Bradlees soon fell on hard times when the company divorced from the financially-stricken discounter in 1992, ending the Companies partnership. When Bradlees fell, and Stop & Shop continued to expand, the former site became a newer, larger Super Stop & Shop in the shadow of their once partnered history.

But those days of cancerous Chapter 11 discounters are long past, partially swallowed in a gaping hole that is Wal-Mart on the Bristol-Farmington border who built on a fresh site. Amongst it all, the ghost of Bradlees continues to haunt the city in nearly every shopping plaza along the 6 corridor with it's overstock of identity-morphed,
abandoned shopping carts.


A host of carts spotted in the rear of Big Lots! in the Bristol Farms plaza. The sea-green one belongs to active tenant Sears Hardware while the primarily metal one belonged to Wal-Mart.

Over the past year, I've been documenting various carts from discount retail history sighted in Bristol, and certainly to this day, there's no shortage of them littering the streets and plazas in various forms. You can see all of the known variants of Bradlees carts, most of which sighted in Bristol in my Shopping Cart Sightings of 2006.


A rare and equally bizarre "Wal-Mart Discount City" cart


An ordinary font found on the handle to this Bradlees cart.


A Bradlees cart seized by Target?!


Bradlees cart straps (illegally) recovered from the prongs of Job Lot captivity.

While Bradlees, almost as fond a memory as iconic rival Caldor, does jog the memory well whenever I walk into a Target (or hijacked by the must of Kmart) upon the smell of salty popcorn which once permiated the air at most Bradlees as the customer walked in. Ah, those days...

9 comments:

Marc said...

The only thing I ever like about Bradlees was their snack bar, which was never rebuilt after the fire in 1990 :(

I was more of a Caldor freak.

Marc said...

I think.

Nicholas M. DiMaio said...

Like Caldor, Bradlees was further hurt by the abandonment left by Stop & Shop dumping it from their once "Companies" brand. As a result, many of their stores, and acquired ones in the S&S era (from King's, Two Guys to Jefferson Ward) ended up cosmetically outdated mostly leaving 70's and 80's designed stores to trek through decades without seeing revitals. They were so behind, in fact, you can see it in pictures of their many stores closed in 2000 looking vastly outdated.

This was most likely due to both companies suffering from Chapter 11 (yet, surprisingly Bradlees survived for a short time) and with it the inability to revive many existing stores by design and trends. They both attempted; adopting simplistics from competitor playbooks (brighter stores, catchy/trendy slogans, etc).

Caldor was undeniably more foolish and overzealous in that they tried to invert their woes by investing too much into building and renovating additional stores. Bradless did not, but then it only gave them another year.

Part that into the equation to the rise of Wal-Mart's better selection and prices and Target's trendy approach and the picture because vivid why both failed around the time of each other.

The only reason Kmart didn't follow, which I believe they should've and are currently in post-mortem right now, is because of ol' Sears, Roebuck to the rescue.

Jude said...

Just stumbled across your blog - great. I've been in CT since 1983 and have lived in Bristol, Southington, Danbury, Waterbury, and now Hartford. I drive by the old Caldor's pretty much every day, and I actually recall shopping there once when it was a Caldor's.

Not sure if you have seen this one but you might appreciate: http://www.strayshoppingcart.com/ - the artist had an exhibit at Real Art Ways a few years back.

Anonymous said...

Nick, Thanks for the trip back in time. I worked at the West Hartford Caldor from 1975 to 1979. It was an unusual store due to the fact that a good percentage of stock entered the store on the ground level,then was send upstairs to receiving via an ancient conveyor belt. I remember a TV set rolling down the belt and crashing to the floor after it got hung up on a metal support pole midway up the belt. I also remember Caldor opening the Southington Store on Sunday in defiance of the blue law. The store was open about an hour before the police arrived and the manager closed the store. -Bert G.

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I want to go there because I've heard there are ghosts inside of that building, it would be perfect because I love those adventures.

Weatherman (Sonic) said...

Wal-Mart discount city. We sell for less.

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