Sunday, June 10, 2007

Ames Demolished at Torrington Parkade

As part of a phased demolition to make way for Lowe's Home Improvement store and an expanded Big Y Supermarket, the formerly four-years silent vacant Ames department store on 540 Winsted Road is -- at least -- halfway gone.

Back in March, The Caldor Rainbow brought to light the story of the Torrington Parkade, a vintage shopping center whose hung on for years along Winsted Road in Torrington, a town rich with heritage, roots and a historically youngest elected 23-year old mayor. The Parkade, whose scope could be sighted briefly off Route 8 (South) and a barely visible "Ames This Exit" sign would still signal patronage from off the highway beyond its years. In a few short months, upon years of awaiting change, the Torrington Parkade will soon fit an adaptive "today" incarnation of its former self.

For almost four years now, the Torrington Parkade was frozen in time beyond Ames' vacancy. An incomplete "AR TREE" (Dollar Tree) channel sign with a scaffold underneath stayed in the same stagnant disposition for over a year. At least they knew what was up; the end of the Torrington Parkade would soon be near.

A partially-active shopping center whose suffered for years after one of its parent anchors, Ames, folded with the rest of the chain causing a gaping hole in the distressed old plaza leaving the lone anchor Big Y and a fleet of soon fleeing smaller stores to hold it together. In early 2007, Lowe's Home Improvement announced in a joint plan with Big Y Supermarket to do a 200X-centric "big box" revival of the plaza whose charm, formerly set to the backdrop of its 1960's flair and a neon-clad road sign no Torrington resident didn't recognize, was to become a soulless, plastic soul of its former self. An antique sign, still visible along Winsted Road might is hanging in the balance with question if it may see past Lowe's tenure.



Following the plan sanctioned by the plaza's anchors, some smaller chains as well as some well-known ones like Jo-Ann Fabrics, who took over the placement of House of Fabrics, a fallen fabric chain dating to its latest years upon the 1990s, was in the husk of one Parkade Cinema, whose small number of screens were no stranger to the trend of many 1970's-era plazas soon becoming a victim of absent trends dictated by larger, more accommodating "mega-plex" theater chains by the 1990s, which helped clear out those few screen cinemas boomers remembered from their prime ages.



Upon my photo shoot, a red-shirted middle-aged women holding a cigarette overlooking the wreckage from a dank mini-mall portion of the Torrington Parkade asked me what happened to Jo-Ann Fabrics, whose former self was now a pile of rubble behind wired, tarped fencing. Having closed not too long ago in April, she didn't seem in the least bit satisfied she might have to shoot down to Wolcott Street in Waterbury to find the nearest location.


At the dawn of June, the commissioned wrecking crew of Plainville-based (where I spent my earliest years) Manafort bulldozers began to dismantle a mantle of Torrington for decades. Trailing as far back as SEARS department store in the mid-1960's (possibly leaving for nearby now bygone Naugatuck Valley Mall in Waterbury), discounter Caldor (who reportedly lived up the earthly rainbow motif for decades) swooped up the short-lived location in the early 1970's and managed to hold its own up until the entire chain entered bankruptcy in 1999.

Not too soon after, a rising rival discount sprawler, Ames, purchased eight former Caldor locations, inheriting this rustic Torrington location who had a history and not much renovation to speak of over the years (with further reports of oldness inside until Ames plastered the walls). The overzealous Ames chain, who took a heavy blow after gobbling a staggering Zayre chain in the late 1980s, soon went the way of Caldor as expected, when they collapsed in 2003. Apart from some paint jobs, (A+) decals, and other minor fixins, a decades-old department store who has sealed showroom windows under two white-clad canopies from the Sears-era building has shown its age up until the very end -- June 2007.


We were there for first phase: the demolition of Ames. Lowe's will be placed right here once the clearing in established, which includes the days-numbered mini-mall portion which staples itself between the anchors. For the first time, upon our various former visits, we were able to see the interior of the store along with many signature Ames decals and department signs. For the current time being, you can watch it happen before the entire place gets a reface especially since they haven't yet removed those "Entrance" and "Exit" signs plastered with the Ames logo as well as the inverted road pylon.

Come on, folks, there's no need to mask our bias here at The Caldor Rainbow. We understand if the people didn't want big box havens, they wouldn't pop up in such quantity all across the land. But our regressive spirit knows this big box-lifestyle trend of emptiness that's campaigned greatly from renovation removal projects at malls and shopping centers, painting over colors for endless fields of white paint, dating back to 2000s coming is just sweeping the corners of America's unique shopping centers, ridding it of every last vestige of places like the Torrington Parkade. These cookie-cutter plazas don't have a legacy. They don't have character like many stores we grew to love but which we've seen fall before our eyes. So please, bask in the mourning of another revered center as we watch this plaza fall into the black hole of retail's past.

You can view the entire demolition photos taken on June 7, 2007 hosted on my Yahoo! Photos account as well as the March 9, 2007 visit and the accompanied story.

7 comments:

Mark said...

Thank you for covering this story.

How did you figure out Ames used to be a Sears? I never realized that.

While it is disappointing to see to the Parkade being demolished, and sort of sad to see it go. I'm just glad that finally something is happening to the plaza. I am excited to see that this area is being rejuvenated to a busy shopping area like it was before it went into decline, and I'm hoping the new shopping center will be attractive.

However I won't be happy if they remove the large sign, it's too unique to me. In fact I think that sign was the only thing that was truly eye catching to me in that shopping center.

Before when I saw zero activity at the shopping center, it seemed downright depressing, especially seeing that completely dead mini mall part, that place used to be thriving with stores, but now it was just completely empty. I doubt it was feasible to attract new stores for such tiny spaces compared to today's standards,unfortunately.

However, it's frustrating that they forced Jo Ann Fabrics to close, and not kept them in the plans for the new shopping center. I find it ridiculous that they forced one store to close permanently, while including the rest of the stores in the future plans.

It also irked me that they haven't shown any renderings nor any site plan blueprints for the site, just talk. It's also annoying that the plan was approved under-the-table without involving the public beforehand.

I'm not upset about the demolition compared to the one in Waterbury because this place, while it was unique was very plain looking.

Ironically probably when this plaza was brand new many people might of called it cookie cutter or bland, how ever today it's unusual and odd-looking.

Mark said...

Never mind, I figured out that you got the information from someone who has a lot of reliable information on the forum.

BTW good thing that you got pics of the entrance section because I drove by the Parkade today and they've already tore off the green overhang by this afternoon! The entrance is just about gone!

They're really making rapid progress already.

Funny thing about that Ames previously being a Sears, ironically whenever I shopped at that Ames store it always looked like band felt like an old Sears to me for some reason. It was perhaps the racetrack layout it had.

So the movie theater was what was Jo-ann fabrics used to be hmmm, sounds about right.

I was also proven wrong about the date about Caldor closing, it did last to the very end, that part where I thought a store was out of business because it closed in my town, now that I remember correctly wasn't Caldor it was Bradlees! around 1992 or so Bradless closed it's doors in Torrington, so mistakenly I thought they went out of business permanently in 1992, until my dad said he found another Bradlees location still open in 1994.

How I'd wish that would still be true today,sigh.

Shame Ames didn't last any longer, if it did, the plaza would probably be full capacity by now,sigh one can dream, one can dream...

Mark said...

What a waste I think the buildings skeletal structure was still salvageable AT LEAST.

Now the period between complete demolition and final construction will probably be longer since they have to completely build from the ground up.

Oh well at least they might still use the building foundation :P

Mark said...

Theres nothing left of the Ames building at all now, progress is being made at a more faster pace. It's really eerie and wild to see it at night time if you at the exact area where Ames used to be you can see ALL THE WAY back to the hill in back of the parkade, instead of seeing a store you see a clear full dark outline of the hill really neat once you see it, almost surreal in a sense, to bad the view won't last for long.

I can't help but oddly be reminded of empty space left by the Twin Towers on 9/11, because it's almost like that, you expect to see it there but it's not there, it's like a gaping hole!

Half of the plaza gone now, and it looks like some eraser erased the left side of the plaza!

It's weird with the Big Y still being open while the rest of the plaza is basically DEAD.

Just now I realized that the plaza has indeed looked dumpy in it's final years, they didn't really take care of the place, sigh.

Orochimaru said...

That's what they did to the Ames in Newington. They just flattened it and built Price Chopper.

Mark said...

New information!

There is a Eblen's labelscar on the left side of Big Y (I took a picture of it,it's in my negatives of one of my B&W photography assignments), this means that the Torrington Parkade was the first location of Eblen's and possibly Big Y was Eblen's before it was a supermarket (I remember reading somewhere about Big Y's history that it was a Grenfeild's or some supermarket name that began with a G) Big Y bought around the 80's. Eblen's in the early 90's had been located in the spot where Torrington Billards is in the plaza across from Taylor Rental (that has Cost Cutters in it) and to the right of Meineke Muffler (that used to have the smiling Muffler logo sign from the 60's and 70's), then around after May 29, 1995 (thank you News Bank :) ) when the A&P right next to Star's (now BJ's) closed(and where Dollar Tree is today), Eblen's took that spot, it only recently that Eblen's closed and was replaced by Dollar Tree.

WHEW!!!!

BTW off topic but the Stop & Shop in that Torrington Plaza (along with the rest of the plaza) was only recently repainted to that light brown color around somewhere between 2002 to 2005, Because I remember around 2001 after 9/11 the Stop & Shop was still that early 1990s dull yet sort of rustic gray color with the trim at the top being white still. It also had those red oval signs with yellow trim and yellow text that read what type of things were in the store like "Cheese Shop" and "Pharmacy" ETC. I also remember that the entire plaza was a duller brown or grey from the 1990's to the repaint, also the Taco Bell's main color wasn't tan but white, but the rest of the signage is still early 1990's original, which I still like to this day.

Oh! I almost forgot! The Burger King's sides in the Torrington Parkade used to be a brown wooden color before it got painted over in white, with the signage shortly changed thereafter around 2003 I think.

Another thing the Burger King on East Main used to have a brown roof and orange lettering, it's back where the restrooms are it used to have a long brown wooden paneled hallway to the bathrooms, which had brown wooden doors and walls, the sink and toilet were white though.

and You know where The Coffee House is next to Burger King? (with that funny looking standing rectangle sign on top? which used to spin) That was originally a Bess Eaton

About the Freindly's on East Main it used to be a red building with white trim, until it was repainted recently.

Oh and on East main where Subway and Sprint is was where Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken was.

Also you notice that little abandoned brick building with the black slanted roof near the Torrington Parkade sign?, that's where the Car Phone Store used to be.

I've finally pinpointed where Parkade Cinemas was, according to my father it was where Jo-Ann Fabrics used to be.

Also the Donut Station across from the Parkade that also use to be a Bess Eaton, the Quality Inn was a Days Inn.

I think that's all the info I have, LOL.

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