Friday, December 22, 2006

Wolcott Street And Elsewhere; Waterbury

Over the month of December, I’ve kind of made a deal with myself: wait until at least a week or two after the new year to tackle some projects on the radar. Since it’s the single most heavy shopping season of the year, I’ve decided that my main focus, anything retail, is in focus by too many others this holiday shopping season. As a result, malls are decked; with people and decorations for Christmas, there are more obtrusives; cars, people, and importantly [mall] security counter-measures. It’s a bummer and I cannot wait until it’s over so we can resume progression on our regular projects here at The Caldor Rainbow.

Being the anxious one I am, I've violated my own tenant in deciding to deeper explore a retail strip I’ve been fascinated with for a while now; Wolcott Street in Waterbury.

While I’ve been cautioned and often preferred to stay away from the Brass Mill Centre, due it’s unsavory [crimey] area, or any of the dilapidated neighborhoods for that matter. But Wolcott Street, along CT-69, is a fascinating place to see a spotted retail evolution caused by those changing times caused by the Brass Mill Centre. Formerly home to the Naugatuck Valley Mall; a smaller enclosed mall which predates the Fall 1997-built Brass Mill Centre, essentially luring all it’s anchors (Sears and Filene's) and leaving it, like most one-level malls in a super-regional mall area, near dead. Needless to say, the mall closed it’s doors shortly after business moved a lot of Wolcott Street traffic to up the road to the new blossoming [2.5-level] mall.

Kmart plaza

Big Kmart of Waterbury

A visible Little Caesar's label scar. Little Caesars, a former companion to most Kmart stores, purged post Sears merger due to their own financial woes.

Jo-Ann Fabrics operating out of a former Kmart Foods; a now defunct grocery subsidiary of Kmart stores.

Once, they were a family. [Big] Kmart and it's grocery subsidiary sit beside each other, since widowed.

Wolcott Street has plenty of history, and it shows. Shortly after Waterbury proclaimed the Brass Mill Centre, life was indeed being slowly sucked from Wolcott Street. Over the past decade, the street has been under an evolution. When the Naugatuck Valley Mall was de-enclosed, Super Stop & Shop purchased the space and signed on a slew of anchors to take the place of the former enclosed mall with some usual big boxers; Bob’s Stores, Wal-Mart, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and the like.

A formerly brown-roofed, rainbow-striped Toys R Us store moved into a “concept 2000” store in a center beside Brass Mill Centre, easily visible from the Interstate, leaving it‘s former plaza and space in shambles. Along with the Naugatuck Valley Mall’s revitalization effort, the former Toys R Us plaza signed on a bevy of other big boxers as well as a supreme façade renovation thanks to Price Chopper Supermarket, who succeeded Toys R Us’ old space along with some other stores which survived from the fallout of Naugatuck Valley Mall.

Price Chopper plaza

A former Toys R Us road sign masked by now anchor Price Chopper advertisments.

The other plaza sign.

Remains of the Naugatuck Valley Mall

Satellite imagery of Naugatuck Valley Mall, circa 1990 (courtesy Microsoft Virtual Earth).

Satellite imagery of Naugatuck Valley Shopping Center, circa Present (courtesy Google Maps).

Naugatuck Valley Shopping Center; formerly the one-level enclosed Mall displaced by Brass Mill Center now a discount, big box outdoor center.

As it stands today, there’s a lot of history to look for on the street. The Kmart plaza beside the Price Chopper one, remains reminiscent of the earlier eras; complete with a former Kmart Foods store sitting right beside it. When Jo-Ann Fabrics left their original, lesser visible and volume space on Sharon Road, in the “Mall View Plaza” behind the former Naugatuck Valley Mall, they succeeded the space left by Kmart grocery subsidiary. So far, this is one of the two lasting locations in Connecticut with the other in Cromwell, which had been anchored by an Xpect Discounts discount supermarket.

Mall View Plaza

Remains of the Mall era with Mall View Plaza.

An annexed strip of stores (to the left) added in the mall's later times, replacing once additional theater parking.

A vacant, former site of Jo-Ann Fabrics who moved to Wolcott Street, in the Kmart plaza.

The former outparceled [Mall] Holiday Cinemas.

As for the “Mall View Plaza”, a sorry little shopping center formerly eclipsed and behind the now Naugatuck Valley Shopping Center, lies vestige from the enclosed mall era not without it‘s outdated movie theater and usual vacancies.

Target, Chase Avenue

Just a few months back, Target opened it’s first Waterbury store, expanding on Chase Avenue a little ways off Wolcott Street and Lakewood Road on the former site of departed Bradlees. While we didn’t make it in time to capture the vacant store, we did see it’s last remains as well as it’s future as Target.

In lieu of Target, this plaza will be receiving a cosmetic makeover which might include renovating this old-styled Super Stop & Shop from a time when they owned former neighbor Bradlees.


Anonymous said...

I remember how Wolcott St. looked like back in the early 1990s vividly.

The original mall contained a G.Fox at the eastern end as a anchor which changed to a Filene's in 1994, the Sears at the eastern end of the mall still retained it's 1977 decor with a single red stripe running on a white wall.Outside on it's eastern wall it had a white lettered on black 1962-1984 Sears logo sign. The interior entrance to the mall contained an all-caps version of the logo.

The Sears had an extensive inventory everything which included things such as carpetry,video games,furtniture,tools,and toys.

It had it's own Midas/Sears Auto Center which is seen northwest a few feet from the mall (Sears is on the western side in the old photo).

Sears was 2 floors while G. Fox was three.

G. Fox had a huge overhang over a seperate pick up/drop off lane.

The NVM's decor was certainly dated,(globe lights on poles were used for the majority of the lighting at night) with brick walkways and shingled roofs over each store (excluding the anchors) it also had very intricate larger water fountains (one had a waterwheel), one in front of each anchor store.

The mall according to my father a person who frequented the mall with my mom often the mall used to contain it's own 2 screened movie theatre located far back from the the middle of the mall (possibly via a connecting corridor),but later on the theatre was seperated from the mall to where it currently stands.

The mall housed a Kay Jewelers,a Suncoast,a Pizza/ Italian restuarant another restaurant which was pretty fancy,a very small freestanding News Rack,a Radioshack,and possibly a toy store.

I could be wrong but I believe behind the mall there used to be a place called Fiz Kids a business that was similar to Discovery Zone. It served pizza and had arcades along with those tube slides kids used to always play in.

outside the mall the area was radically different.

Where Bernies is today was a much larger Caldor,and where Goodwill is housed was the original location of Barne's and Noble.

If I'm not mistaken, K foods was LONG gone by the 1990s and where Jo Ann Fabric's is today is possibly where Service Merchandise used to be .(the Kmart signage does not look like a standard Kmart design)

In the early 1990s I think Kmart was in the process of moving the remaining inventory out of a much smaller Kmart , an older one (which was put up for sale,later demolished)into the current one today.

the plaza next to the current K-mart(where Price Chopper is now) also had a Boston Chicken where Applebee's is today,American Steakhouse used to be housed in a much larger building,Funcoland was housed in a very small former John John Silver's (which has been demolished). Shaw's was located in a much smaller building in the same plaza

Bernies was located in the K-mart plaza, around the area where Friendly's is today used to be a Pie Plate.

Overall, the area changed dramatically,which although seems to be thriving there is still some regrettable news happening.

The Rag Shop in the Naugatuck Valley Shopping Center is already closing,the Lay-Z-boy furniture store is closed,and the Mobil station has been recently abandoned.

The future of the A.J. Wright store in Waterbury is in question, since no one knows specifically which exact locations A.J. Wright plans to shutter.

So much for revitalization,even AFTER the the area was totally redeveloped it's still losing businesses.

Anonymous said...

please note: I made an error, Sears was on the WESTERN end of the mall NOT the eastern end which I mistyped on the previous post.

please note also that the Sears sign was located on the WESTERN wall of Sears NOT eastern side!

Sears was on the WEST end of the mall G.Fox was on the EAST end of the mall.

I hope I cleared that up for you.

Anonymous said...

Somewhere online I saw a press release that said the only CT AJ Wright that is being shuttered is the one in the Manchester Parkcade in Manchester.

I remember several years ago that the Bernie's sign short-circuited and burned out half the plaza.

Not long after Pie Plate re-opened (after the fire), they bought the long-abandoned Friendly's on Route 229 in Bristol (across from ESPN). They opened as Luiza's Diner a couple years ago. Friendly's in turn bought the old Pie Plate.

The Waterbury Price Chopper is much smaller than the ones in Southington, Bristol, Vernon, and Newington. I've been told by my co-workers (I work at the Southington one) that they were in a hurry to opening a store in Waterbury and that really wasn't the location they had in mind.

Nicholas M. DiMaio said...

Fantastic background there, Mark. You've helped paint a picture of the mall I never had seen before. It seems anyone who remembers Naugatuck Valley Mall was content with it.

Furthermore, that satellite image is precisely from 1991, from TerraServer/Virtual Earth.

Lastly, to anonymous' comment (but I know who it is): like stores in Southington (a former Kmart), Vernon (former Ames), Torrington (former Caldor), Newington (former Ames), Bristol (former Caldor) they all had the volume this store and more supermarkets need which wasn't a big box discounter but a Toys 'R' Us, which don't quite match the size of those type big boxes.

All in all, it seems that Wolcott St. is a fine depiction of market change over the years with many stores moving and changing face.

Anonymous said...

Part of the Price Chopper in Waterbury is the old Toys'R'us, the other part of it is the old Shaw's (previously, like the one in Southington an Edwards).

Anonymous said...

Another thing, according to someone from the Ames fan club the plaza across from the former mall site used to be a Two Guys discount department store.

Later on the store after it closed was subdivided into Toys R' Us,Edwards,American Steak House,a pet store and possibly a space that housed a much smaller Kmart store temporarily used until the large Kmart was fully constructed in possibly the early-or-mid 80's?

The plaza sign is orginal even though the tenants have changed.

There was also a carpeting place in K-mart plaza and in the current Price Chopper plaza was a small Yellow Pages store.

Skinny Little Boy from Cleveland, Ohio said...

K-Mart foods was not a subsidiary of K-Mart. K-Mart licensed the name to supermarket operators in the 60s and early 70s. In exchange, they had to run "discount" supermarkets (no stamps, no games, none of the promotions common at the time). Many of these stores were operated by Allied Supermarkets of Detroit, esp. in the Midwest & Florida. Other operators included National Tea, and Colonial Stores. Grand Union may have been the oeprator in Connecticut. Later, they and K-Mart co-located stores in various parts of the Northeast & the DC area. The last Grand Union to open in Central CT, was next to the K-Mart at Shunpike Plaza in Cromwell (c. 1979).

Anonymous said...

More historic accurate info on this shopping area:

From a group of photos taken at the area of Wolcott Street circa 1986 the previous tenants in the plaza containing the Toys R Us was this
going by the exact same big plaza sign seen in this photo: the tenants had the following signs from top to bottom: Edwards Food Stores (now Price Chopper) Toys R Us (now A.J. Wright) American Steak House (now American Steak House) and Motormart (now Petco) I believe Funcoland used to be on the fifth one later on (now Casual Male XL) either that or the fifth ones a brand new add on.

About that sign thats covered up by the Price Chopper ad this one:

that sign may or may not have been used by Toys R Us in the 1970s but it's last usage from 1986 onward (according to the photograph)was for the store Fantastic Sam's. That signs shape matches identical to the one covered up by the "4000 low prices" ad. I definately remember seeing the Fantastic Sam's sign (at night it wasn't lit up) after the Naugatuck Valley Mall was demolished (around say 2002-2004).

Fantastic Sam's is a haircut place it had a location on Wolcott Street in Waterbury heres what the sign looked like (except imagine the swirly symbol in a red color)

If you want to verify the time period the photos were (at least two of them were) taken the following movies are listed on the big Cinema sign in the background (in two of them):

Aliens, Flight of the Navigators,The Fly,One Crazy Summer and Ruthless People.

put any of these titles into a google search and see what year you come up with.

these photos I am talking about are 100% real and so is this information (except the part about Funcoland) the problem is I don't have a scanner to scan any of these photos.

Anonymous said...

Service Merchandise was what is now Jo-Ann Fabrics:confirmed!

heres two reliable resources proving it!

first about when it closed:

New Haven Register (CT) - December 16, 1998

Struggling retailer closing store
Service Merchandise Co. will close its store here - one of six in Connecticut - at the start of the new year, officials at the Nashville - based retailer said Tuesday. The Wolcott Street store, which opened 10 years ago, will cease its normal operations on Dec. 31 because it failed to meet sales expectations, company officials said. The store will reopen again, albeit temporarily, Jan. 3-7 to sell off any remaining merchandise. The store employs 70 full- and part-time workers. A store

and heres one mentioning Jo-ann fabrics store moving in.

Waterbury, Conn., Merchants Await Revival of Downtown Thoroughfare.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Waterbury Republican-American

Byline: Brenda Marks

Dec. 4--Down the road from the Church of Hope and Chuck E. Cheese's on Wolcott Street stands JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts in one of many strip malls spread along the stretch. Its front windows sport seasonal merchandise, as customers throng inside at midday.

While Wolcott Street lost many big name retailers after the Naugatuck Valley Mall closed, and was later torn down, JoAnn Fabrics endured as a success story. The store moved across Wolcott Street to its current location in August 1999, taking over a spot left vacant by Service Merchandise and more than tripling its size.

"When we opened up here, business picked up immediately," said Ellen Muccino, assistant manager of the Ohio-based fabric chain. Traffic on Wolcott Street flows by the store at a steady pace. But the traffic jams brought on when the old mall was booming, are a distant memory.

Now, developer Starwood-Ceruzzi LLC is trying to bring more prosperity to the thoroughfare that is accented by mismatched retail plazas, acres...

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember what use to be in Caldor's place before Caldors? I'm hearing it was Scott's

Anonymous said...

Naugatuck had most of the standard package of Connecticut mall stores - KB Toys, a Friendlys, a Waldenbooks, a Radio Shack, a MusicLand, etc.

In addition, there was a McCrory's department store (with one of those biorhythm machines out front), a funky candle store, a pet store, etc.

Every year or so there'd be a bunch of craft people who'd set up booths. I particularly remember a glass artist who worked with flame to shape the glass.

I believe I saw Star Wars and Superman at the theater when it was in the mall. The theater was on the 'outside' of the bend of the mall; the newsstand and pizza joint were on the 'inside' of the bend. Or maybe it was the other way around.

I think the last movie I saw there was Innerspace in the late 80s.

There used to be a Chuck E. Cheese over in the plaza where Price Chopper is. I'm not sure which property it was in.

amaron said...

@ mark

You are correct. Before the theatre was build outside of the mall there was a 3 or 4 screen cinema inside the mall. The corridor for this cinema exited facing the existing Holiday Cinema that is there now.

Coming outside of Sears into the main mall there was a fountain which always had a ton of change in it.

The stores that I can remember are: McCory, Suncoast Video, Kay Jewlers, Szbarro, Burger King, McDonalds, G.Fox/Filenes, GNC, Global Village, a sports memorabilia and shoe store near Sears, and Foot Locker.

Before Applebees was a Boston Market it was vacant for a number of years, and at one point it was a Roy Rogers.

Pie Plate burned down once or twice if I'm not mistaken. I had a lot of good memories of that place.

Service Merchandise was in fact where Jo-Ann is now. Also, where Joey'z is on Chase Ave. now use to be an old store in the Service Merchandise vein called Consumers.

Anonymous said...

I remember the store next to Caldors used to be Everybodys market. The store like Service Merchandise on Chase Ave. that Mark talked about was called Consumer Distributors.
The theatre in the Naugatuck Valley mall was called cinema 1 2 3. I remember going to see Jaws with my father in 1975. Before the Naugatuck Valley Mall was built the area was occupied by the Pine Drive-in theatre, it later moved to the top of industry lane off of lakewood road, it added a screen and called itself the Pine Twin drive-in. Before the Kmart plaza was built a scrap yard occupied the spot. I dont remember a K foods next to k-mart I do remember a place called Shoppers World.

Anonymous said...

The supermarket next to Kmart was the original site of Everybody's Market. That moved up the street into the Caldor Plaza in the 80's.

When Everybody's Market vacated the space next to Kmart, Consumer Distributors moved in, and that eventually became Service Merchandise. Both stores were "catalog stores". They had samples of their merchandise on the store floor, but you had to place your order from a catalog and the items would come out on a conveyor belt. As a small child that seemed so cool. Service Merchandise went out of business in 1997-1999

A little ways up from the Kmart plaza on the same side used to be the Two Guys plaza. Originally it was the most (all) of that plaza but they eventually cut it in half. I remember as a child when they went out of business, 1982, 1983? all their stuff was deeply discounted. I remember toys - Megos, Micronauts, Star Wars, that would go for a small fortune now being sold by the boxload for a couple bucks.

When Two Guys left, Toys R Us moved into the southern end of the building. Edward's Food Warehouse moved into the middle, and at the Northern end there was a Chuck E. Cheese. Back in the early-mid 80's that Chuck E. Cheese was the place to be - it was a real arcade, with all the latest games. I remember they would give you free tokens for stuff like a good report card, or a picture of your pet, and they'd stamp your hand. We'd go, get our free tokens, spend them over an hour, go to the bathroom wash off our stamp, and repeat the cycle.

Mark said...

I remember the Toys R Us plaza well, I remember a pet store and an American Steakhouse in that plaza, and Edwards later became Shaw's and then Shaw's moved to The Brass Mill Commons along with Toys R Us and Barnes & Noble.

Unknown said...

It was a great Mall.I saw many movies there and we always shopped at Sears. It was THE mall to go to in the 70's and 80's.

Twin Mall Rat said...

As an original mall rat of the 80s's (and even prior to that, in my earlier years), I can say that the "Waterbury Mall" and Wolcott Street were positively jumping in the mid 1970's - mid 1980's. EVERYONE was a that mall/strip. Either working there or hanging out.
My sister and I often joke about creating a Monopoly-type board game of the "old mall" using Baker's boots and Espresso Pizzas as the game pieces.
My Mother worked in:
GNC, Hallmark, East-West, Susan Terry (who remembers that!) and I believe Worth's.
I got my ears pierced at Foxmoor Casual and bought yarn with my Gram in the back of McCrory's. I probably kept Espresso (the pizza place) in business, not to mention "County Seat" (size 14 slim, back in the day). We used to LIVE at that mall. Good times. And, don't get me started on Caldor and the Pie Plate, etc.

Anonymous said...

Everybodys was located in plaza across from caldor. It was at the top of sharon rd on the corner. It use to be next to grossmans lumber. In later years it was a gym now just an empty building like most of wolcott rd