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 fa├žade 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.