Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Vintage SEARS Uncovered in West Haven

A few months ago, upon the sunset of my venture from shooting various procrastinated sites in the New Haven area, I was trekking northbound on I-95 and noticed nothing short of a marvel; a red-lettered Sears building.

Around Exit 42 on Interstate 95, on the West Haven (Connecticut) border, I peered off to the right and noticed in all caps, a red-clad, thinner "SEARS" logo shimmering (in its age) from behind skeletal shrubbery. Knowing of no malls in these areas, flabbergasted in surprise, I immediately veered off the highway, attempting to make ways to finding out more of this estranged Sears building, located a good distance from Westfield Connecticut Post, who has its own, well up-to-date Sears anchoring the mall. Unfortunately, my flawed navigational woes trumped my finding of it (how hard could it be to find something visible just off the highway?). Pressed with time, I made my way back to Farmington.

Upon a recent trip out that way, I made it a bulletpoint to find it, and grab an elusive photo of 1970's-era Sears signage in all its glory. We probably couldn't have arrived in worse timing seeing as a West Haven Police patroller was camped in the rear of the lot and workers (one of which apparently screamed at me as I grabbed that close-up) flanked the sides of the building. Nonetheless, I exercised a journalistic drive of "leave no(t too many) image(s) behind!" Despite its visibility from the highway, it takes a good couple minutes of making a huge loop around to actually arrive at it among the sea of an industrial sector it's located within Frontage Road.

Upon doing some research, we found this facility is actually a Sears Appliance Outlet which also serves as a Home Central. It's rather isolated, which explains its neglected appearance and equally rare red-lettering dating back to the early-to-mid 1970's, when the signage was common on many mall fronts, lastly phasing
out to the brunt of many mid-to-late 1990's renovations, long beyond its (commonly known) "chunky pinstripe" logo which debuted in 1984. Over the years, other variants released in this style consisted of red, white and black over its time (much like the 1984 logo seen in excess today, also phased by the company's new "lowercase" version) which now find themselves either scarred on older locations or almost extinct on many Sears locations across the country.

I don't know what it is but I've recently become fascinated with many Sears storefronts which really haven't changed in mold over the years with a staple-framed interior entrance who've since been faced uniform into tiled and trimmed designs today (with more sale and clearance signs than the company would've liked to see in their futures). Those exteriors, however, have certainly been left behind or appeal heavily vestigial appear to be overwhelming at many of today's malls.

Here's a collection of some favorite oldies we've captured ourselves in travels, which don't even strike a match at some wickedly old ones around middle America and mirrored on the ever-resourcefulness of the pictorial Ames Fan Club forums. Don't forget about Malls of America, who has their assorted collection of respective era shots of better times for Sears and even our pals at Labelscar who've recovered many images of the company's today looks.







Anonymous said...

The 70s style Sears logo was used from 1962 to 1984. In 1984, they changed the logo to the italic capitalized lettering. However, the letters weren't blue, they were originally RED. The Danbury Fair Mall's Sears exterior sinage use to have red trimmings, now the red faded to white, like red usually does out in the sun. In the late 80s early 90s the red was changed to blue. This logo was used up until 2004 when they decided to lowercase the EARS part of Sears.

Nicholas M. DiMaio said...

I managed to leave this observation I had before I swooped out the door shortly after the completion of this article that Sears seems to have had switched between a lowercase version with lined box around it while also having this widely known thin caps version (seen here) simultaneously through the 1960s~early 80s. I also didn't know the Danbury Fair Mall location had red trimmings...

I'm planning a trip back to the Syracuse region next week and will get some shots of the rare, remaining red "chunky" 80's Sears logo at the mall (Great Northern Mall) there. From what I see, a good deal of the upstate Sears have the remains of the red logo for some odd reason. Upstate New York is an interesting place to find some forgotten relics (including the last brown-roofed Toys R Us).

Anonymous said...

If you were excited in discovering this rare dated Sears sign from the 70s you would of went ballistic if you saw the old Sears in the (old) Waterbury mall in the early to late 1990s.

That store was covered in outdated-ness in all its glory.

The exterior had that exact type of caps logo except it was white,and it was mounted on a black rectangle.

The inside entrance had the same logo except it only had the Sears lettering. On the reverse side of the entrance heading into the mall was a red lettered on white wall greeting that said "Thank you for shopping at Sears" which had the 1984 logo in red. The difference in the logos on front and the back of the entrance was amusing since it looked like Sears couldn't decide on which signage to choose.

but the size of each sign was HUGE!!!

I'll give you a little picture of how the old old Sears experience was.

the design:
Okay imagine a store a bit like Target or Caldor except with a noticeable high ceiling. The theme was a red on white color scheme. The walls only white with a red continuous double-stripe near the top and a red wall at the bottom. The floors were pretty basic white walking paths made of tiles with red stripes on each side. If I remember correctly on the left was a single red stripe,and on the right was the double red stripe. These paths were typical of the decade they sort of "zig-zagged" diagonally left and right like curves,and surrounded grayish patterned carpeted areas. I remember this store had problems with missing carpeting in some areas where clothing was located.This store was one of the brightest and possibly cleanest looking stores I've been to.

The layout: Strangely I almost remember this by heart. towards the front and center was clothes,clothes,clothes. Kids & teens clothing was at the middle far right area and overlapped a bit into the center, womens clothing was at the middle and far left center area and partly in the front left area mens was at the far right area and towards the right front area. All I remember was that how the clothing was laid out was extremely confusing,but anyway enough about clothes lets get to the good stuff. Okay, I remember the rest pretty well. On the the far right middle sort of near the back but not quite, was the seeming-surrounded-by-kids-clothes video game section. I'm guessing this is what was considered part of the electronic section, I remember vividly it had a black Nintendo and Sega game system display case that was where the video games were shelved,this was placed behind a glass counter. it also had playable Super Nintendo demo system as well as a Sega Genesis playable demo system. Strangely enough across from the kids clothes and video game area was where the jewelry and watches area was, this section was located in the center within the women's department (as it always seemingly has been). heading towards the back right area a little further down was the appliances and home accessories area. At the front of this area was the appliances,then,powertools,followed by carpeting and rugs, this place had rolled up rugs and carpeting on the back wall where the exit was, it wasn't a straight exit it went out into a hallway that headed right and out the door.

however I'm not done yet!

behind the right wall was a room for things for layaway such as mattresses,couches,furnitire,anything and etc. and where yo came to pick up an item you put on layaway. to describe the room to is think of a place with somewhat dim lighting with avocado green walls,with plastic seats,a counter where a clerk sits and in this waiting room it had a cigarette dispenser (yes you've heard me correct) and a coffee machine, I think it also had a snack machine as well.

Thats not the whole store though I'm not finished yet.

Now I'm going to describe to you the second floor of this building.

the escalator to upstairs was located around the center but a bit more to the front and left. THe upstairs was pretty simple compared to downstairs. In this area was where the novelty items and furniture was. (I know it's a bit crazy that they put furniture up there) The best I remember of this place is a sort of dimly lit room with white walls and primitive small signage black lettering on white pointing to each department, it was if they focused so much attention on designing the ground floor that they didn't have time to spruce up the top floor.

That basically sums up what the store was like and Sears image back then.

Anonymous said...

Here's a link to a picture of an old 1980s RED sears hardware building that closed recently, according to the article....

Anonymous said...

....Oh by the way. Sears sucks, I will never buy anymore hardware/tools/appliances from there again! I have a great memory of the broken items my family, friends, and I have bought from Sears. Especially there Garage Door openers, they seem to love thunder and lightning storms, for some reason....

Nicholas M. DiMaio said...

Vivid description, Mark... to the endth detail! If only we can convert your memory of Naugatuck Valley Mall into photos that'd be splendid. It's fascinating how many retail scapes forgotten for decades lasted up until just around the millennium when things were rapidly being updated and adapted into today's white hole of retailing.

Joseph, I've never liked Sears a lot myself either upon upbringing. Nothing ever really appealed to my family beyond maybe the tool department and/or auto center. Even today I try to see what they've got but unfortunately I'm turned cold by their rather bland offerings which mirror JCPenney by nature.

They're not targeting younger audiences or those who're more inclined to be attracted to unique offerings and design (like Target). I give them some credit; they're attempting to adapt with the prototypes and adding of such brands like Land's End.

Sadly, brands like Land's End don't really click with people under 35.

I'll keep waiting and giving them a chance to lure me in. They've been around over 100 years so they must be doing something right. No matter how you look at it, Sears is multi-generational and its dependably almost makes it apart of the family.

Anonymous said...

well in this pic you can get a sort of good idea what the old interior looked like notice the red stripes near the floor paths

another typical example late 70's I believe.

hers one of the best pics illustrating the old Sears look.

Anonymous said...

Sorry that picture of Sears Hardware does not show the original 1984 Sears logo, as I remember all Sears Hardware stores had that red Sears logo on them including mine which opened in 1995 (closed now)

The original bold Sears logo had the broken lines in the A's and S's here, let me show you an example:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mark!

Anonymous said...

Oh and that description you've made mark. That was amazing. The floor plan is typical in most 1980s era sears. Danbury and Crystal mall have their escalators located in the front-left-center area like you said.

The Sears in the Crystal Mall sounded just like what you've described with the clothes in the front center and the appliances in the back. Around 1997 the sears changed their colors and their floorplan. All I remember was when you went down the escalator, the room was dark with no lights and all the TVs were practically lighting the whole room, with blue walls. AND The original logo to the Crystal Mall had the Pre-1984 White "Times font" logo. Because of this, I'm guessing that the mall was finished being built in 1983 or early 1984.

planckzoo said...

I used to work pretty close to the Sears outlet you explored. These photos bring back hellish memories of driving through downtown West Haven, to make bank deposits.
I grew up in Hamden,and we went to the Sears on Dixwell ave. from time to time. My parents didn't like Sears,so we rarely went. I do recall the Ted Williams line of Sporting goods,but not much else.

Chox said...

You should see the Sears at Richmond Mall in Richmond Heights, Ohio. It was built in 1966, and had the red SEARS sign until about five or so years ago. I love the fact that you notice old signs...I thought I was the only nerd who noticed stuff like that.

Tim Parry said...

I think that's always been a distribution center for Sears (the West Haven one), and they just had a few appliances in it. I know I used to have to bring my weed-whacker there for any repairs, etc. So it was never really a full-blown Sears. That one was down 162, a stand-alone store on the Orange-West Haven line, where a Burlington Coat Factory now sits. It closed when the CT Post one opened.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Sears is underrated. Never had a bad experience. I guess some people think Sears is in its shadow of its former glory, when the only thing thats changed is, when people do have complaints, they can always just rant about it online. Too bad, some people are missing out

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