Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sundown for Roy Rogers?

"Thank You, Newington! Please Visit Us In Manchester."

is the only explanation a snowcapped Roy Rogers on the Berlin Turnpike served up last week.
So what's going on over at Roy Rogers on the Berlin Turnpike? It's not just the US-5/CT-15 location that's abrupty closed it's doors to the lunch rush along the ever-heavy Pike.

Early this year, it seems Roy Rogers will share a limited future with the state of Connecticut as it has shut down its "old-fashioned" style fast food dining along the Berlin Turnpike which has served customers for a few decades. Fellow Ames Fan Club forum posters have rung in on the shock of the sudden closure of a North Haven location as well as the Newington location, which was discovered and reported shuttered early last week upon its property not having been cleared from a wintry storm early last week.

No explanations, no appearent warnings. Signage has now been removed from not only the somewhat architecturally outdated wooden-grooved facade but also the nearby stucco-faced trashcans lining the edges of the parking lot along with the sundown-canyon logo doning its attract pylon to forecast motorists coming along the way. Some people are walking in-and-out of the place, but not serving customers any longer.

Roy Rogers, whose well known for its old-fashion, old-western way of doing things, like successful rival franchiser Wendy's and other Arby's, offers a "Fixin's Bar" which allows customers to add as many toppings or and condements "Fixins" as they pleased.

But in a more health and bacteria-centric world of today, the liberty of the idea might be host to a contributing decline of Roy Rogers. Their stores are generally left behind; distressed, often dingy, neglected, and never really on the continued zeal and edge the other fast food restaurants hold today. Ideas don't keep the company fueled or pressured to market "low-carb salad" trends which keeps them down. But some people might've liked that casual devoid-trendy-atmosphere at Roy's. Appearently, not enough.

The next phase is this; who will fight for the prime placement the fast food retailer had along the Berlin Turnpike? There's very little doubt this space won't be occupied by Summer as its location at the junction of The Pike itself, 173 and a host of prime retailers' traffic; Wal-Mart and then Lowe's behind it.

Is the company suffering? It might seem that way as we've seen the company purge locations over the years, like its once dominant placement at the Meriden Square; it was one of the first quick food places to open the mall's new food court in 1993 before it closed a few years back.

Roy Rogers now has one, remaining location left in Connecticut; Manchester is the lone, remaining cowboy in the state which shares a close proximity to the Northern end of Connecticut along the Tolland Turnpike. They also operate in many travel plazas upstate New York, which was my last outing there in recent time. Better get your "Fixins" now...

Got any memories at Roy Rogers? Will you miss them?

Friday, February 16, 2007

[Groovin'] Fox Run Mall; Glastonbury, Connecticut

They don’t quite make them like this anymore.

The fox certainly ran, at least at one point in time at Fox Run Mall. Located in Glastonbury, Connecticut; and shortly off CT-2, the town is widely known as Hartford's upper-eschelon neighbor whose town's commerce is otherwise shaped by its unique layout of geometric buildings and unusually crafted, non-pareil versions of dominantly uniformed franchise chains hearkening back to an appearent boom of sharp-angled 1970’s and all that’s come along way with it. Its developer, New Plan, has indeed a new plan for Glastonbury’s Fox Run Mall as it will soon be recognized beyond it’s once captivating, now long-outdated design when a remodel ensues with the arrival of a third Whole Foods Market for the state.

As of December 2006, Shaw’s Supermarket operated one of their more unusual looking locations on the furthest end of the strip when it succeeded an independent grocer in 1998. Following a company downsizing of Connecticut-wide existing stores, it's become vacant along with a handful of other stores in other regions of Connecticut. But the prospect for a vacant anchor has taken flight by New Plan; the proposed Whole Foods will be constructing its own parcel outside the timeframe of a decades-old supermarket of past which will begin a sweep for entire center.

Beginning with the advent of Whole Foods, the once architecturally vital center will feature more a contemporary renovation to give the once hip, brown-shingled center a refreshing, hopefully devoid of visionless, empty appearance like most shopping centers have become today for fear of bringing fourth unique presentation. As trends have changed by decade, times of past have conditioned developers today to drop importance of mere shopping centers, getting the job done constructing safety and simplicity over richly diverse style.

There was once a time when design and shopping centers were pinnacle to presentation. Back when shopping centers where in their prime, and seemed culturally and architecturally relevant, their developers had vision as centers like Fox Run show today. They were shaped by the conformity of the new age; a new frontier of design back in the 1970‘s whose peak of experimental and often eccentric science-fiction-inspired design was on high. Fox Run Mall was quite frankly the swankiest presentation around and still showcases as an outliar. While Fox Run was certainly cutting-edge then, its groovin' design tells of an appearent lost trend.

Like it windows back into a galaxy far, far away, there’s all the vestige; sloped and shingled hut roofing with other bizarre, grandiose shapely roofs makes it almost something islandic this side of Star Wars. Throw in some oddly-painted murals at the former Shaw's, brown-draped everything, Euro-aqueduct-style brick arches, and you've got a portfolio of Fox Run's richly groovy texture. There were no Ewoks to be found in the frontal facing landscaping areas, once sought to be a highlight of Fox Run's cunningly different atmosphere, which still bare foreground accentuating its strip presentation of shops.

They certainly had a thing for these Italian-inspired aqueduct archways, more or less a staple of 1970's trends.

Just one of Fox Run Mall's few time-expired tenants.

While Fox Run isn’t quite a traditional "shopping mall", given its scale, the design is certainly one that may have been ahead of its time with the regional malls (especially Westfarms). When a trend of enclosing (existing and new) malls sweeped the land in the early 70's, developers at Fox Run wanted to invite a different idea. They didn’t exceed the expectations of a regional shopping mall given their alloted space and project goal, they made something of a hybrid strip mall concept; essentially a strip mall-based center complete with some amentites of a shopping mall including (non-faux) landscaping, benching, but also a scaffold to protect shoppers from weathering all under a true blue sky to promote an outdoor feel.

Early phase of development threw in a "Mini Mall" for good measure.

The other angle to Fox Run is its traditional indoor-style; a "Mini-Mall" on the right side of the center which features a small corridor-length indoor portion catering to just a few other shops not featured along the showcased strip. It's nothing big at all, and probably something that could've benefitted from being expanded. Feeling the shadow of past today, most of those shops are now small-time community-based or within vacancy like Arrow Drug; whose Walgreens-esque wooden "mortar and pestle" logo still decors the outside. On the contra; all the strip shops are fully occupied; ranging from unique "lifestyle" shops; a bank, laundromat belonging to someone named "Luba" (couldn't help thinking "Jabba"), and unique dining like Elisa on The Ave to chain stores, like Radio Shack.

Could it be Fox Run’s space-aged design was a forecast to the sweeping “lifestyle” concept that’s embraced today? One could only hope, whatever the future brings to Fox Run, it might still retain its independence in the bland space of shopping centers.

Digest on the Yahoo! Photos-hosted photoset of Fox Run Mall. We visited it just before the big snow storm so these are freshly recent. My treat for neglecting you all this past week. Have a superb, possibly long weekend!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

983 New Britain Avenue; West Hartford, Connecticut

Following our report on an uncovered former Caldor in Groton revealed by a Connecticut local, and a forecast of slow reporting this week due to ridiculously chilly weather in the Northeast which prevents me in my idle time from shooting much of anything new. So, we've decided to dig into the best of 2006 archive and introduce a segment on The Caldor Rainbow; a half-vacant site I had visited repeatedly last year.

983 New Britain Avenue is now home to fallen retail stardom. A plaza most formerly belonging to department discounter Ames has seen brighter years of the past, but not too much since. Ever since its final vacancy in 2003 the building stands devoid of retail traffic today in a mostly dilapidated area in the outskirts of West Hartford. While not originally, it's most notably known as having once been home to Caldor, which was later purchased by Ames.

Signature green of Ames logo peeks from behind the black-out.

Located just no more than three miles from Westfarms Mall, the plaza is located on New Britain Avenue, along Route 71, near some mainlines into the southern end of the capitol; New Park Avenue being one, which trails right into central Hartford, but too far off easy and/or more direct access via Interstate 84.

Apart most of West Hartford’s flourishing historic retail scapes, whether it be the Main Streets, upscale West Hartford Center, the Northernmost shopping parkades including Bishop‘s Corner, and big box areas surrounding the [Westfarms] mall, even going further into Hartford with the brand-new Charter Oak Commons, there could be more than obvious reasons why this neglected, islandic defeated property continues to degenerate into forgotten territory. It would appear the dowdy town is quite ashamed of it's Elmwood side, often times forgetting the somewhat isolated retail beyond the old railroad track underpass.

Within the lesser glamourous sectors of West Hartford, often referred as being more apart of the suburb Elmwood and bordered on the southern end of Hartford, amidst a rustic industrial landscape of the Southern tier of the town, this is an area less traveled by most anyone looking to shop. But it's got a history, maybe one that has shifted demographics over the years into a servant of scrap and alternative retailers, auto centers, government and commerce businesses nearby.

Apart from the town’s otherwise richer population on the other ends, this shopping district tends to cater more towards lower-eschelons; may it be lower-income or minority ethnic groups of the neighboring Hartford and Elmwood. Today, the location is more or less a testiment to poor location versus a sunken socio-economic consumer and collapsed retail plane dominated by big box survivors of the post-millennium. Factor that into an overall uninvitingly doomed and
degenerating landscape and you're up against the current situation.

Dollar Dreams; self-proclaimed "Largest $1.00 Store in Conn." operating a former Waldbaum's supermarket.

Built in 1961, this unique structure was not quite the self it promotes today. Originally housing a local department store chain, Family Fair and in 1962 was purchased by the Star's Discount Department Store chain which hosted a Popular Super Markets within. Star's was more or less a typical discounter of its time ranging in many goods you might find at a Target today. This particular location was branded Star's Family Fair.

An elusive Star's Family Fair advertisment from the January 5, 1964 edition of The Hartford Courant (click to see full size).

An "Opening Sale" of Star's Family Fair from the September 2, 1962 edition of The Hartford Courant.

The chain, who shared it's heyday in the booming discount era of the 1960's, presumably had a few other locations across Connecticut, but fell down by the early 1970's. The building style, however, belongs to later tenant, Caldor, with once evident identical buildings in New Britain along Farmington Avenue, and Southington along Queen Street; both long-demolished homes to the mammoth Wal-Mart who was once successor who snatched up a bevy of fallen pinnacle Caldor sites around their falling.

Not too much is known about Star’s legacy, apart from being an department retailer much within it’s own time, sharing mostly forgettable, scattered history today, and was eclipsed by emerging Norwalk, CT-based discount department store Caldor, who purchased a few of their shuttering locations in the area by the early 1970’s. In its time, Caldor, like Wal-Mart currently, sprawled in the discount department store market and had the advantage for snatching up some of the best locations for retail traffic commonly located in highly visible areas which included along major routes and highways. This store wasn’t entirely the case, but in it’s own time, it might’ve been serviceably stationed for the other end of West Hartford but not less travelled areas.

The enormous pebble-faced, concrete-looking box still surely sets itself apart from a long-gone architecture with a decidedly eccentric design; namely rhombus and triangular-shaped scaffolding pillars as a frontal façade. Remarkably, the former super-sized discount store building has no easily identifyable label scarring from before Ames, whose rectangular logo shadows the bulding’s furthest right end today. It's hard to imagine any significant improvements over the years beyond a few paint jobs.

There are plenty of ghastly elemental scars from weathering, including immense amounts of water damage on the building's frontage, most likely seeing a few paint jobs and subtle patch works over the years. Today, the building can't hide its dilapidation with pockmarked walls, gaping holes, and an overall degenerating façade.

Along the sides and rear of the complex show more dire circumstances as most vacancies share; dumping grounds, graffiti-laden, and other unusual items and litter. Along with the rest of the plaza, tenants on the outskirts, all of which have fled years ago include a former Piper Brook Restaurant, and a now dilapidated vacant auto center from the 1960’s.

The remaining neighboring tenant, whose home was once a Waldbaum’s Supermarket, shuttered all Connecticut stores around the departure of Caldor, now houses a Dollar Dreams; a self-proclaimed “Largest $1.00 Store in Conn.” who's patched some local vacancies of past with other locations in New Britain and Manchester. Despite the current anchor woes, Dollar Dreams is the only one left keeping parking spaces filled - and they are in fact fulfilling the objective. Even their property has signs of elderly distress.

When both Caldor and Waldbaum's collapsed around the turn of the century, the entire plaza was soon falling into alarming vacancy rates. It wasn't too soon when an overzealous Ames snatched the site in 2000 in their attempt to house themselves in one of many various former Caldor locations, finding overspaciousness to ensue. The gargantuan complex, which housed a volumous girth, was apparently too large-scale for Ames’ stock causing them to purge unused store space by a good 25 percent.

Ames, who purchased the troubled site, eventually adopted the curse of the Caldor closure in 2003 causing the building to become what's now a borderline vacant eyesore with an equally hazardous parking lot. When last I visited Ames in the store's final week before closure in 2003, it was evident the place was destined for bulldozing. The surrounding area smelled of something rotten just within the parking lot and beside a distressed creek.

Currently the building has an owner; and one that seems to have legal troubles of their own. In 2005, the building was converted and gutted to suit a climate-controlled storage facility seeing the property had no forseeable progressive future beyond demolition. Despite this, the building resembles it's former retail occupants with no alterations done to the original exterior.

A plaza which was serviceable at one point in time seems to be living on the brink of an expired contract. The times have changed, and long beyond the years of the plaza's structures. Hindered today by it’s inability to attract and adapt to both developers and patrons. Drudgey surroundings or the lack of retail support keep it down, adjacent to a branch of the Postal Service, or beside it, Shield Street and its other commerce. Shield Street Plaza neigboring it, once a destination center, is now dominated by an alternative array of Asian commerce including an unusual ethnic otherworldly A. Dong Supermarket who might not be seek your average demographic either (like Stop & Shop of the third, alternate world).

How much longer will the plaza at 983 stick around? Perhaps until the building itself falls.

See more photos of 983 New Britain Avenue on Facebook. All pictures were taken in Summer to Fall 2006.

EDIT (July 8, 2007): Vintage advertisments for Star's Family Fair added.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Surviving Caldor in Groton Confirmed

One of our local readers, Greg, has checked up on a suspected long-vacant former Caldor site in Groton, Connecticut he mentioned a while back in an earlier comment posted here. Located right off I-95, along Kings Highway, behind a bowling alley, this site has been long overshadowed by future developers for it's somewhat obscured placement apart the other retail establishments along Groton's retail corridor. After we pursued his claim about a "dead 70's plaza", he further offered to photograph the site known for containing a Caldor and Shop-Rite supermarket. After looking a little more into it, some feedback on the Ames Fan Club had presumed the site was purchased and converted into something other than retail which caused us to further investigate.

It was conclusive through some research, the once vacant site was purchased by Pfizer Pharmacutical Company and was misinterpeted as having been converted or demolished for a Pfizer Kings Heights Global Research & Development branch. As it turns out, the information was partially true based on some inconclusive information from a town report, predating back to 2002. Greg has confirmed the former Caldor building is in fact still standing!

Picture from town report displays entrance (red dot) behind the former Shop-Rite while former Caldor (blue dot) is unaltered but currently owned on current Pfizer property.

In the report, which vaguely captions a picture from the "former Caldor Shopping Center" actually displays the former Shop-Rite which has since been dramatically converted into the research center. Greg also states stores in between the two anchors are now nowhere to be found, most likely demolished in the renovation for the former Shop-Rite. Our reader went by the facility today and took some superb shots of the secured former shopping center to reveal a highly unusual looking former Caldor which is certainly an oldie!

Pfizer has done some cosmetic enhancement to site including what looks to be newly paved asphalt and their new facility practically leaving everything else standing including a vacant outparcel bank and some security measures. To our dismay, the site is heavily secured by chain-link, barb-wire fencing, reported security cameras in addition to a main steel gate covering the entrance to the lot to detract traffic flow.

As it turns out, this Groton location was one of the 12 that closed just months after Caldor declared Chapter 11 in 1996, in the first wave of the company's purge. Judging by the sloped brown facade and appearent label scarring on the building, a fellow Caldor enthusiast, Caldor1999, over at The Ames Fan Club forums has made note that this store closely resembles one former 1976-built store at the late Fairfield Mall in Chicopee, Massachusetts.

Greg believes the bottled beverage machines seen in this picture were held over from the store's life. We believe these were placed here recently for Pfizer employees.

The label scarring, and a difficult one to make out, it appears this store was unlikely a "rainbow" era store, perhaps an orange-letter era but features plenty of patch work likely from graffiti. Does anyone remember what it looked like in its heyday? We hope to visit the site in the future, but of course given it's new ownership, will have to exercise extreme caution.

Currently, there very few former Caldor locations left in Connecticut with Newington, almost complete as Stew Leonard's future home as well as a former location in West Hartford, most recently used by Ames. When Caldor went out in 1999, other big box titans of the times including Kohl's, Wal-Mart, and Home Depot have snatched a bulk of the former sites.

The Caldor Rainbow would greatly like to thank Greg and his reporting and images which were taken by him and used for our site at his behest.

Last edited: February 5, 2007; 12:37 AM.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Everybody Likes Photo Albums

The Caldor Rainbow has compiled some photo albums of a few recent sites we've visited lately, or in the past few months. Beginning with the Caldor-Pergament Express plaza in East Patchogue, New York (Long Island), which we first reported in our one of our first posts way back in September. Since we were in our infancy back then, we suspect the story may have been overlooked so we saw the opportunity to revisit the site back when we were in the area back in December 2006 and took a slew more photos of one of New York's remaining former Caldor sites now home to primarily potholes and pigeons (or seagulls but it doesn't rhyme well).

As we've mentioned before, this presumably decade-vacant site came as a tip off from a poster, Caldor1999 at Ames Fan Club forums who discovered a gallery on the 'net from some Long Island natives who actually found a way inside the building. Unfortunately, we didn't find a way in to the hollowed out building, but we scored a fine number of images of the building's exterior, site, and the horrendous pending destruction conditions it's currently in. To our dismay, no enormous bird nests were found this time around...

The site, not entirely vacant, has suffered losses from the bankruptcy of dependable anchors, Caldor and Pergament Express; the latter a now defunct compact hardware store chain. The collapse of such magnets
drove-out other smaller stores; Vision World, a local eye doctor's as well as Genovese Drugs; whose since been purchased by Eckerd. With Eckerd, a cramped old store, to soon merge into Rite-Aid, there's a good chance this location will shutter sealing the fate of the long-troubled site.

As of December 2006, the site is pending destruction to make way for Lowe's Home Improvement Store, who has filed a site plan to occupy the entire volume of existing site. In the meantime, you can see the progress on a site which is progressing, Focus East Patchogue, who has confirmed Lowe's is, in fact, coming soon.

The plaza has a rich history of housing pinnacle discount department stores which Pac-Manned their way throughout the decades. Opening in 1968 with W.T. Grant later becoming home to Woolco, who opened many former Grants, before Caldor snatched it up like it did with many former Woolco locations. Judging by the building marks, we also suspect this was an "orange-lettering" era Caldor before the "red/accent era" took place in the mid-90's. It was also most likely painted-over white during the 90's trend. Please comment if you've got any light to shed.

View: The Mall at Bristol Centre (1.30.2007)

Just a few days ago, we decided to revisit the dead Mall at Bristol Centre in Bristol, which is also in the twilight of destruction. Earlier this year, we visited the long-alarmingly vacant, outdated mall and took a slew of interior shots which are viewable on Facebook, and mirrored on Yahoo! Pictures, with some outtakes over there (due to Facebook's limitations).

The mall, a few months now shuttered to the public, sits awaiting a plan to further Bristol's urban renewal project which has taken flight on North Main Street in the past few years. We last heard the site might sit vacant for a few years awaiting the funds to demolish as well as the draft for the site's future, which hopes to keep a vital "lifestyle" component of retail and offices. As for
remaining reluctant-to-leave anchor Ocean State Job Lot, the days are numbered as the city has fought to evict the anchor who operates apart the mall.

As we recently reported, Ocean State Job Lot currently has a lease renewal coming up later this year for their other Bristol store currently operating the former Stop & Shop on
Route 6.

Have a fine weekend!