Saturday, March 10, 2007

Torrington Parkade Hits All-Time "Lowe's"; Everything Must Go!

516 Winsted Road has been silent for years.

Ever since Ames closed all it's stores in 2002, the bizarre, three-scaffold complex with all sorts of off-colorings, possibly sealed showroom windows will soon be no more. The otherwise vital remains beside it, anchored by a Big Y Supermarket (complete with outdated "Super Big Y" road pylon) continues to see plenty of shoppers while the other side largely does not. But developers have drafted a plan to make the decades antiquated plaza, one of the town's eldest, under renovated retail sites, a future site for a more vital retail to truck along with far-off times most of the town is steeped in. Anyone who's driven down Winsted Road knows of the flair of the antique, neon-lit Torrington Parkade road sign, which has been there since the 1960's and shows it's age well in 2007.

Torrington is a town that's fascinated me for a while now. It's certainly an out of the way town, located in the Northwest portions of Connecticut near similar, further north town Winsted. The city itself is well known for its vastly antique, industiral working-class landscape with much of it's retail offerings in an interesting, equally time-ravaged position. As far as their retail goes, there's a lot of history within. The central area of Torrington, outside the CT-4 and US-202 influences of Price Chopper, Wal-Mart, and BJ's Wholesale Club, is also home to one of Connecticut's few surviving, vital "Big K-Mart" stores, an outpacel JCPenney within a blown-clad Super Stop & Shop plaza, but most of all The Torrington Parkade.

The Torrington Parkade contained two anchors beginning in 1968 with Sears and an outpacel Sears Automotive Center. Sears moved out a few short years later selling its store (likely for one at the Naugatuck Valley Mall), selling the site to discount department store, Caldor. After extensive renovations, the chain opened the store on October 1, 1971.

On the other side, the plaza was anchored by Super Big Y. When Caldor when out of business in 1999, a not-too-long succeeding discounter, Ames took over the location for a few years in their scheme to occupy a bulk of fallen Caldor locations which helped sink an overzealous retailer. Ever since then, the parcel on the furthest end of Torrington Parkade has been vacant, unable to attract even an Ocean State Job Lot into the space. But now, there appears to be a future for the fallen site, and a plan that might have some Torrington residents cringe.

Eventually, it was once said Lowe's Home Improvement was to occupy the space left by Ames to enter the Torrington market. Now it appears their agenda has gone fourth and will see to have the Torrington Parkade, as it's been known for many decades, to soon be no more. Having drafted a revitalization plan; Lowe's has negotiated to demolish the entire Parkade site, beginning with a phased repositioning of the entire plaza which will result a newly-renovated, relocated Big Y on the site of a soon-to-be-demolished Ames; which will take place before Lowe's begins it's own construction on the current Big Y property. Big Y of Torrington renovated in early 1990's dropping the "Super" addage to the building's frontal identities, while still existant on other portions, has not since updated much as it's seen other stores in the state expand and renovate.

A mysterious former anchor store occupied by Caldor in its prime; could it have possibly been subdivided into three at one point?

As a result of the draft, remaining smaller stores inbetween the anchor placements, and even those within a dilapidated miniature faux mall scape between the anchors feature quad-bench seating, otherwise distressed concrete planters, and home to much graffiti as well. These stores, including a Radio Shack, who has their old company signage around back of the store, now have an ultimatum; close or move elsewhere. Unable to determine the fate of the current smaller parcels, two locations, Jo-Ann Fabrics and Burger King outparcel among a few other dark storefronts have complied to close their stores with any certain plans to open elsewhere in town. There aren't any plans yet to include the once strip offerings in the proposal.

Jo-Ann Fabrics is wooing shoppers with rising store closure sales and informing them to shop their nearby Waterbury store. Jo-Ann, who's only occupied the space formerly occupied by the fallen House of Fabrics has seen a short-lived term in Torrington. Everything Must Go!

The largely antiquated and neglected faux indoor mall portion, located behind the strip stores, will soon go.

Behind the site is but another story; lots of dilapidated, forgotten but noteworthy leftovers from the plaza's earliest days including this since dismantled "Exit 45" signage where the former tenant displayed it's advertisment.

The franchise-operated Burger King, who recently had two locations in town; East Main Street and the now departed Parkade site on Winsted Road sought to close in lieu of Lowe's proposal. Unlike Roy Rogers, Burger King is not exactly downsizing, but it seems they have no plans to reopen a store elsewhere in town. Like a recently abandoned Roy Rogers in Newington, Burger King had been reported mysteriously vacated without warning.

Unlike most Burger King locations around the state, this particular one had much of the early decor most chains have updated since; wooden-trims and draped seating, wooden warehouse-style ceilings, brown and tad clad tiles, and even the company's 1970's-era logo on the doors which was phased out widely in the late 1980s.

The current realtors of the Torrington Parkade, Paragon Realty Group, like the site itself, has not updated their website lately, seemingly since the closure of Caldor in 1999. The plaza doesn't seem to have changed much since its origins, presumably the 1960's. Do you remember what the Parkade was like before? Judging by it's tired appearence today, it couldn't have changed too much since.

The future adaption for the site seems to follow this schedule; the first phase would see to demolish the vacant Ames, build the new Big Y in its place, demolish the current Big Y, and then Lowe's will begin its construction. A deal with the operating strip stores hasn't been determined; relocation or closure?

Paragon hopes to begin the long-planned project in April 2007.
Additional Resources
Most photos taken March 9, 2007.


Anonymous said...

Hey Nick,

Great photo essay. Photo #4228 appears as if the Ames had an open door. Was that the case? Still some signage in the store; were the door decals still present?


Nicholas M. DiMaio said...

I've visited this Ames in its vacancy about five times. The first few times, the windows were almost completely papered off to the outside. The last couple times, the paper was peeled off revealing skeletal "Ames" channel lettering sitting right there in the door way.

Just this time, I've discovered the inner vestibule doors were open as well revealing some Ames carts, and some remaining department signs!

There were also many Ames carts lingering around the building, more so than any other time I've visited in the past. It seems someone has been inside of the building lately or regularly.

I've only been to one site where the doors were wide open; but there were dozers inside so I didn't proceed (for reasons of also crossing a legal border).

Does anyone know some history of the Torrington Parkade? There's next to nothing on the 'net...

Anonymous said...

The existing tenants will "stay" in thje shopping center but will be housed in a newly constructed building.

A tidbit on the history of this shopping center, according to my father where Jo-Ann Fabrics is located was an enterance to a movie theatre which was part of the Ames/Caldor building at one time.

Those other two now blocked off enterances at the front of the building could have been other enterances into the movie theatre he was talking about. He made note of the style of the lamps on the wall near Jo-Ann Fabrics and the other areas that have those modernistic square holed boxed overhangs over the now walled off areas. I remember that the place back in the early 1990s had a barbershop on the same side where Jo-Ann Fabrics is and on the corner across from there there was a Liqour shop (I remember the beer signs in the windows). It also had a few other small local stores,one of them was a candy shop I think but the problem was that the spaces were cramped and kind of small but even then the place looked kind of desolate,and by sometime in the mid 1990s pretty much a majority of the tenants were already leaving. The Candy shop and the barbershop left first,then the liquor shop got in trouble with the law (I don't remember how) and closed the one that stayed the longest was the book shop but that soon shut down soon after probably due to competition with now defunct Encore books in the Stop & Shop plaza. pretty much from there on then the area in the back became mostly vacant and the only spaces that were focused on improving were Caldor and Big Y. Then when Caldor left the plaza was for a number of years supported only by Big Y and the small shops in front. Around mid to late 1990s Strauss Discount Auto opened and that revived the plaza somewhat. Then finally when Ames took the Caldor space they did a complete rehaul of the building inside and out (the building used to be white red and grey) and at that time Jo-Ann Fabrics came in. around 2002-2004 I think Strauss Discount Auto closed. The Ames was one of the longest remaining stores to stay open during the liquidation of the company in 2002. It first started it's sale just doing the selling on the inside of the building but when it began winding down they were selling bikes,clothes,toys and almost everything outside. I think the store lasted until about November or December 2002 I remember it was pretty warm during that season. The store was finally vacant in early 2003.

Nicholas M. DiMaio said...

Mark, you are the light!

I couldn't find an article articulating the future of the site, so I imagined, judging by the scale of Big Y and Lowe's, the stores were to be automatically displaced and/or relocated. So you say they're going to preserve and restore that mini-mall portion? I imagine Jo-Ann's soon to be vacant territory will be taken down for the larger Big Y as well.

Interesting back history there; so the Caldor/Ames building was once a movie theater extending into the Jo Ann territory? Must've been a small, 70's theater; maybe 3 or 4 screens (guessing three because of the three inlets/entrances, two of which sealed up)? You say Ames repainted the building too? I wasn't aware they did anything beside add a green tarp over the former Caldor entrance overhang.

So when it was Caldor, which "era" signage did it present? Also, can you recall when it became Caldor? My guess is maybe late 70s or early 80s; and it had the orange blocky logo. Why did they leave the Torrington market? Pressure by nearby Kmart? Is it possible they relocated?

Anonymous said...

When it was Caldor it had the 1990s latest years of signage (the white on red logo with the wedges in the D and the R) This was a Caldor since at least the 1970s (the building inside distinctly had the rainbow "C" near the front entrance still there in the early 1990s however today it has been since repainted over by the Ames signage) One thing to note the Torrington Caldor closed years before the company went out of business around 1993-1995 I think it closed. (I remember this because when the Torrington Caldor closed I thought the whole company went out of business,but I found out later on in the 1990s it was still around) Ames bought the property and opened it's store in 1999 and closed in 2002 so that Ames was only in business for three years but it was vacant for five,pathetic isn't it?

BTW the whole Parkade is going but the current ternants will be housed in a newly constructed building on the same lot the shopping center is in. (think in the terms of how Walgreens,Stop & Shop,and Bob's Stores were relocated in the redevelopment of Farmington Valley
Mall)I haven't read any plans that say the plaza is going to be renovated/restored at all.

BTW I was born in 1987 so my memory has it's limits you know,I'm not really really old.

Anonymous said...

Torrington Parkade did have a movie theatre but it was kind of small,it only had two screens I think. The Caldor building I believe was a Hybrid of Caldor and the movie theatre which was called Parkade Cinemas I think it was there until 1993. Parkade Cinemas used to display the movies under the Torrington Parkade sign and had a Sign of it's own which was identical in style to the Torrington Parkade sign.

BTW I believe the signage that Ames used were the same signage originally used by Caldor,note also that the Ames enter and exit signs have that short tall rectangular shape that has been used by Caldor for it's Enterance and Exit signs.

The rooftop "Exit 45" sign I think was used for displaying Parkade Cinemas and the rectangular sign to the left of that I believe was used by Caldor.

I have no clue why thaey closed the Caldor it seemed to be in a prime location to me.

One more thing to note left of the Parkade is a building (right across from the KFC)with a blue roof and grey walls that is the former Grossman's hardware store location. I remember the store pretty well outside it had a wide vertical striped orange and white color scheme and yes it did have the famous big signage also unfortunately it was taken down. Also Quality Inn used to be a Days Inn and interestingly enough it used to house a Subway on the first floor on the left front hand corner looking from the street. So as you can see this area of Winsted Road used to be a shopping mecca but once Caldor and Grossman's left followed by a few other stores it never has seemed to get back to it's previous thriving condition.

One thing to note the Torrington
Parkade sign never has seen to light up correctly at night you always get somthing like "-orrington Parkade" or "To--ington -arkade" sometimes it gets really pathetic like "Torr--------" or just "P------" so yeah the sign needs to be fixed or replaced soon.

Anonymous said...

Edit: it was called Parkade Cinema not "Cinemas"

Anonymous said...

UPDATE!: Jo-Ann Fabrics is now gone and it's April now aaaaaaaaannnnnnnddd.............................


you heard me right NOTHING is going on right now zip,nada,zilch!!!

not one inch of activity has happened so far....

No "coming soon" signs,no demolition happening to the buildings,not one bulldozer is moving,no fences put up,not even a SINGLE BRICK has moved!!!!!!!

WTF!!! they said they were going to start at the beginning of April and NOW IT'S APRIL 5th already!!!! YES APRIL 5th!!!!!

Do you know how FRUSTERATING it is to see NOTHING happening? I would at least expect Ames to be half demolished by now!

Whats taking so long? oh wait let me guess, they didn't supply the funds for the demolition yet. (I'm taking a guess)

MORE SO it seems that it STILL might be delayed because of this cold weather that came out of nowhere! Guess what it started SNOWING today yes you heard right SNOW IN APRIL!!!! it was brief and not much but....

This weekend its been predicted that we'll get MORE SNOW!!!! this'll probably delay the demolition unfortunately.

This is after we'd had spring like weather for a couple of days, I swear it's crazy over here!

(Bristol's plan to demolish their mall also seems to be delayed,something about money for the redevelopment.)

CWhittaker said...

Spooky, the place looks like the former Vestal Plaza (Now Vestal Park) in suburban Binghamton, NY, with the covered Faux Mall sections.

Patrick said...

I just wanted to update some of the errors in the comments to this post. The openings in the front of Sears/Caldor/Ames are all related to Sears having display windows. On the right side of that section is a separate blocked off doorway that was a kind of "mall entrance" for when the back court was much more active.
The fabric store was a theater, but it didn't overlap into the dept. store. By the 1980s it was a second run theater and closed in the mid 90s.
The exit 45 sign on the back of the building is from a former Bonanza restaurant that was located where the Dollar Tree was located most recently. In between it was a drug store.
The vacant auto parts store space to the left of the dollar store wasn't always so large. It was classically a bank (with the night deposit still accessible in the walkway, and possibly visible in some of these photos). This is different than the more recent vacant bank space to the right near the grocery store, and also separate from the vacant bank building in the parking lot, which is not documented at all in this post. The auto parts space was also Card Gallery store, like a Hallmark store. At the end of its life it was a dollar store of its own called Dollar Gallery. Then it all closed, and the developer merged those store fronts to create Strauss in the 1990s.
Radio Shack, the laundromat, the Grog Shop package store are all tenants that date back to at least the mid 1980s.
The Big Y grocery store was Warehouse Foods in the 1980s, become GreenFields, before finally becoming Big Y. That store didn't always occupy everything to the right of the hallway. There was originally other stores in that corner before they were absorbed in expansions. Also, the grocery store had a similar "mall entrance" leading into the rear courtyard. I think that's visible in some of those shots, actually.
There is a large parking area behind this plaza, and a rear entrance existed to the grocery space, even in the Big Y days, but was closed off in one of the expansions. That led to the rear parking becoming dangerously abandoned.
There were never really any successful rear tenants except for the gym. In the late 1980s an indoor miniature golf course came and went in one store front, and remains rotted there for years in public view, but are now long gone.
If any of this jogs anyone's memory, I'd love to chat with you!

Anonymous said...

Thank thank you thank you for that info doseman!

Sears had display windows? WOW talk about classy!

I clearly think that Eblen's was one those stores that was located to the left of Big Y before Big Y's expansion, since there clearly is a Eblen's labelscar on the left side of the Big Y store that I took a picture of.

Anonymous said...

Hello. I like your blog. Personally I hate the process of home improvement. The thing is that home improvement companies tend to provide poor services. But on this great site I found this company - Lowes. And I liked it. The wide selection of cabinets, cabinet hardware, countertops and paint offered by Lowes cannot be easily compared to any other company.

Anonymous said...

Back in the 1970's the Torrington Parkade was full of shops. I believe for a short while prior to the 70's Sears was located where Caldor & Ames were. It was Caldor in the mid 1970's, I'm sure of that. There was a small movie theater in the rear of the plaza. You have a picture of the walkway to the theater. The box office window was basically where the doorway to Joann's fabric was. At the opposite side of the rear plaza was a clothing store, geared to teens & young women. I believe it was called Mr. B's. There was a gift shop, barbershop, liquor store (which is still located in the plaza, as well as Radio Shack) One of the other comments left by someone metions a book store that closed. If they are referring to Annie's used books, the owner moved to New Hartford in Marandino's shopping center. For a number of years, the unemployment office & Gold's Gym were located in the rear storefronts. It's nice to finally see improvements being made to this location. I've lived in the area all my life. I'm beginning to think that various businesses will construct a shopping loop in Torrington, from Winsted Road Parkade, up Kennedy Drive, (which is doctors & various offices). Kennedy Drive connnects to East Main Street in two locations. In either direction, you can find practically every major car dealership there is in Torrington. Shoppers can travel to WalMart, Target, BJ'S & Home Depot or choose to follow East Main down to the center of Torrington, maybe for a show at the refurbished Warner Theater, or stop at the brew pub. On their way back to Winsted Road they can stop in at KMart, which still has its doors open for business. There's been discussion about improving the downtown Torrington shopping plaza as well. It would be nice to see some of the old downtown buildings, such as where Howard's Shoes was located, have some new life brought back to them.

Anonymous said...

I was born in 1960 and grew up in Litchfield. Our family made frequent trips to Torrington, for weekly piano lessons, clothes shopping, dinners out, etc.

I distinctly remember the Torrington Parkade -- it was a big part of my childhood and teenage years.

Caldor was where we bought jeans, shoes, winter coats, etc.

We often went to the movies at the Parkade Cinema, and there used to be a great Chinese restaurant a few doors down from the Cinema, in the little mall.

The restaurant was very elegant -- lush Chinese wallpaper (deep red, I seem to remember), tablecloths on the table, the owner dressed in a suit and very solicitous of his clients. The food was excellent. I seem to remember the year as 1970 or so, maybe 1971 or 1972.

The Cinema was popular. I don't remember how many screens there were, but I think there may have been two. The last picture I saw there was "Out of Africa," in 1985. I also saw "The Color Purple" there, the same year.

About that same time in the 80's, a fitness studio opened probably where Gold's Gym was located. It was called "Woman's World," and specialized in the newest exercise craze at that time -- aerobics classes. My best friend was an instructor there and used to wear leg warmers for class! HaHa.

Of course, Radio Shack was a leader in electronic technology back then, and we got all our stereos, VCRs, etc. at the Parkade Radio Shack.

Sadly, those days are gone. I just saw the YouTube video of the destruction of the Parkade in 2009.

Haven't been to Torrington since 2001 but I'd love to know what's happening at the Parkade and what's new in town.

Thanks for the photo essay Nick!

Michele said...

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consejo comprar yate said...

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scott d said...

i have to say great job I haven't been back to t town in almost 35 years and heard it was gone . I use to go to the parcade cinimas evderfy sat afternoon before the movie I would hit the arcade.tony was a good caring man and always had great movies.its sad that they tore rhis down the memories I have are all good and will never forget them

Anonymous said...

And to make this go back even further, there was once a Newberry's in part of the Big Y, long before it was Big Y. There was also a pet store just to the other side of the walkway that led to the theaters.

Anonymous said...

you should see the place now, lowes is there, and big y has a new store. Radio shack is still there. Jo-Anne's has reopened in another part of Torrington.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember the actual name of the Gift Shop that was located inside the mall back in the early 70's? They had all kinds of home decor, glass display cases with coins, collectibles, etc.?? A few of us have been straining our brains to remember the name. We used to shop there all the time as teenagers...thanks!

Anonymous said...

The gift shop you are talking about must be Card Gallery. I was born in 63 and we spent tons of time at the Parkade. Some stores I remember. Robert Hall, Newberrys, Thom McCann,Scuffys Pet Store, Fountainbleau which is now Platinum Salon on Main St. In the early 80's Camel Greens was the place to go to play arcade games. Such fond memories

Anonymous said...

The gift shop you are talking about must be Card Gallery. I was born in 63 and we spent tons of time at the Parkade. Some stores I remember. Robert Hall, Newberrys, Thom McCann,Scuffys Pet Store, Fountainbleau which is now Platinum Salon on Main St. In the early 80's Camel Greens was the place to go to play arcade games. Such fond memories