Tuesday, June 26, 2007

We're On Flickr!

And other news...

A contributor to The Caldor Rainbow, Joseph Rifkin was kind enough to track down an old photograph (or blown-up into a poster?) of the Crystal Mall from his personal collection for us to present on the site. It's fetching! Apart those gaudy, but groovin', floor tiles (which certainly had more flair to them than the endless white we see today), decor at Crystal Mall really hasn't changed too much beyond a paint job or few, has it? See the full gallery of shots taken in January 2007 and compare.

Like all of our contributions, we value all of them greatly. From memories of your own; physical and in writing, we can enrich the quality and quantity of our existing pages and retain accurate facts about our retail rainbows. When I originally constructed the Crystal Mall page, it turned out I had a lot of facts wrong by my own cloudy memory of a mall I had visited long ago. Let the Crystal Mall page be a testament to what we can achieve here if we have the scope of our valued readers chiming in on each report.

I'd like to publically thank Joseph for sharing his elusive photo with us and I'd like to urge everyone and anyone to use all their resources to make this site beyond what I can make it alone.
Keep them coming! You can send your stuffs right to my email, XISMZERO@yahoo.com.

Finally, we're now on Flickr. Now, you will be able to enjoy all of our existing galleries on Flickr. As you may already know, Yahoo! has recently chosen to close its "Photos" division, giving users the option to transport their existing libraries to other services sanctioned by Yahoo!. They happen to own Flickr, and are hoping to direct more focus (pardon the pun) on a a site whose gained much momentum over the past year apart the somewhat languishing Photos service. Despite future costs, we chose Flickr, and once you discover the site and tour it a little for yourself, you'll see why its the fastest growing photo sharing service out there used by all kinds of quality photographers; amateurs and experts alike.

Furthermore, please excuse any broken links in past reports, we'll be working to fix them all in time. Thank you for your patience!

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Languishing Latham Circle Mall

In case you've ever wanted to read a lengthy novel, do some homework, or perhaps audit your stamp collection in a campy, social, public setting and the library is a tad too stuffy for your suits, your the next best option may not be too far away. It may just be at the local, languishing Latham Circle Mall.

Yesterday afternoon, The Caldor Rainbow took what amounted to be our latest and likely last field trip to the Capital Region of New York in the small, quaint town of Latham.

Times used to be good for Latham Circle Mall.

Opened in 1956 as an open-air plaza following suit to the enclosure trend in 1977, the mall fell on rickety times and dramatic anchor shifts throughout its life but managed to stabilize up until the late 1990's when many of its juggernaut anchors went bankrupt. In a few short years after, surrounding malls upgraded their presentations causing this one to slug behind considerably.

Slipping in a side corridor where most stores were vacant; red-trimmings of a former, since moved CVS/pharmacy are sitting darkly. Folks are strolling along the twilight corridors of the mall in their twilight years. Mixed use offices overlook a Burlington Coat Factory. Musak plays softly over the speakers and all the while not much else but a depressive, funky air can be heard and breathed. Before you know it, you're flanked with mirrors, pinholes and scars above dark storefronts stacked with vacant shelving, uneven and often scruffy looking foamboard ceiling tiles, and hanging-by-a-flimsy string globe lamps, some cracked, leftover from some 1970's alterworld.

This is Latham Circle Mall, and without understatement, distressed and kind of strange in sight and smell.

Arriving at the peak of afternoon after what round about became a two-hour jaunt, we came to see for ourselves a mall whose seen its fair share of internet infamy by our fellow affiliates but especially one report done at Labelscar and some archivist ones at Dead Malls. Helping catch our attention due to its otherwise interesting history, being the first enclosed mall in the Albany region, having off-kilter and haphazard architecture and most of all faltering placement in the shopping mall race for the region. Like most dying centers who've lost fame and populous to other malls surrounding it, this forgotten mall is running on a decade plus now and is hanging on just yet barely. To its own sad fate, the ambush of closure of key anchorage helped hurt Latham Circle Mall apart from aged storefronts (some with red, frilly carpeting) who eventually left their spaces dark, tenants trickling down and becoming highly vacant in past years.

Caldor and Stein Mart, who were once at the mall as prime anchors during the 1980s up until the tip of the 90's, drove out many smaller stores subsequently due to their luring absence. Since then, Lowes Home Improvement has managed to help resuscitate the dying mall in the former area left by Caldor, while leaving the Stein Mart space but has chosen likely for their own good, not to open into mall like Caldor did. As a result, patrons will head first themselves into a wall now.

Following a trend trailing other big box or power center superstores began shortly after the 2000s, new-age competition like Home Depot or discounters Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy have chosen to largely disassociate from malls at which their prime anchorage serves and saves. There's more or less a testament or perhaps an implicit agreement between big boxer and mall to the tune of 'we'll help you get your traffic back but in return, we don't want to be apart of your mall'. These big boxers are demanding their own parcels and operating by their own guidelines outside the bounds of yesterday demands of mall ownership to have all anchors open into the mall.

Slowly losing the grasp of surrounding towns to other malls, like Colonie Center, who models like most upper-range, up-to-date centers today, and the medium-tier Crossgates Mall, Latham Circle Mall has been sort of dwindling between times past and lost in something of a funk, riddled with the inability to adapt and evolve with trends other malls have and one whose continually since the late 1990's has been unable to rebound. So much, that the mall has more or less become a vacuum to the forgotten and disarray.


Because of this, Latham Circle Mall lives as an interesting and equally bizarre mall not quite like any other. Those who've come to the mall have noted its unusual design and mismatched decor-ridors. From dead ends to dead fronts, mixed use areas, parcels laden with vacancy, oddly-positioned office spaces and wall murals to strange oversight office areas plagued with one-way mirrors to often unusually high and variously differed acute angled ceilings, Latham Circle Mall isn't a conventional mall by far.


One area in particular, above the mall security offices, can be accessed by an ancient zig-zag staircase which leads to multiple levels with various balconies to more office space. Unfortunately, this part was barred off and while we had great temptation to explore the upper netherealms of the mall, we eventually abstained for reasons we'll later divulge.




No more than minutes before the top of the hour, we were matched presence by mall security who gave us a bitter reception. Like an RPG (Role-Playing Game -- not the explosives), our sights locked as he approached.

He was a stocky individual whose name I failed to capture. Beyond middle-aged, unshaven, generally unfit and unkempt and was also missing a good number of off-colored and ghoulish teeth likely due to tobacco habits to which resonated in scent as he spoke. Wearing a white button-down shirt a few buttons loosened from the top and slightly slurred in speech, his provincialism lacked prominence as he approached me, awaiting my reprimand. In something of a let's-play-detective manner, he whips out what looks to be a badge likely commissioned to him by the mall's dollar store and proceeds to lay down the protocol or something to the effect of 'what do you think you're doing'?

I thought he might be Police, but seconds later I realized he was definitely not.

I play out, knowing what I'm to be told as I carry my pocket camera having just been caught capturing a wall decal next to an active office space. No pictures, I get it. Well it didn't stop there. The eager guard, enthused by the chance he may get to use his interrogation skills or to stir up some drama at a dried-up setting further asked a few more questions as to why I was taking pictures of the mall to which I gave him my verbal credentials. Noting it was strictly non-profit, whose gain was merely to capture and preserve retail history in lieu of a proposed renovation (which is pending approval by the town and is slated to begin Summer 2007), I understood his skepticism but soon realized how silly this could become.

He thereby demanded some form of written credentials or a business card, to which I don't carry around as I'm not in business, telling me that if I wanted to take pictures, asking mall management was paramount.

Silly me, I had left my wallet in the car.

He asked me to stay put as he turns aside to whip out his gray clamshell cell, talking to what was believed to be a superior, who likely didn't seem very busy only taking about a few rings. Wondering what this guy was going to tell me next, he blurbs 'The Caldor Rainbow' over his phone to which the next immediate response was 'No.' Not surprisingly, I had predicted that my request to document the mall would be shot down faster than unauthorized aircraft over Groom Lake.

After all, that's why I shoot first, ask later. If not for that, some of our other stories would've never been possible.

With something of a sour demeanor on my part, I decided it was likely time to leave. He continues his line of questioning which led to something of a mild argument between the two of us about something relatively simple which I should have aborted early on. Him stating that I was on "private property", I amended that I was on public private property, which is technically anywhere outside your yard, right?

Private property, or so he told me, was the defense for not taking photos at a shopping mall.

Last I remembered, one is not prohibited to snap photos in a parking lot much less a park. That's one of the joys of civil liberties and my freedom of press. In a somewhat stubborn and belligerent tone, he continued to pound that I was on private property and there was no reasoning beyond this. I acknowledged, and then notified him that if the mall's policy was so stringent against the use of cameras, there might be a sign telling those to refrain. Otherwise, there's no inhibitions and no defense. There's no law other than some garbled
implicit one about photography in shopping malls unless stated in writing, like some malls. In that scenario, I would've been caught and my defense would've been bleak. My loss.

He wasn't finished with his two-bits which he then gave me a tired example of me probably 'not wanting people to take photos of my house'. Fair enough, except my house is not open to the public, malls are open to everybody. Do I want strangers to take photos of my house? No. A stranger taking a photo of a shopping mall versus a house obviously present different degrees of security issues, no? Are we now comparing public settings like shopping malls to people's private homes?

Not pleased with most press about Latham Circle Mall, and what he called 'bad press and bad photos' floating around out there (please take no offense Labelscar or Dead Malls; especially the ladder whose photos are quite elusive of a former Caldor), I then informed him that the mall was undeniably in a decline but reports had surfaced about a rebound, which was the focal point of our article (actually I don't think he knew what I talking about). He didn't seem happy with the realty that Latham Circle Mall has become a bottom-feeder of Albany's surrounding malls, and the ensuing press it created on its own. As a matter of fact, he felt the need to remind me of just how obscure my page was by saying he had never heard of it. Hopefully, we'll have gained a new reader or two.

He finally asked -- no -- told me in not so many words not and somewhat disgruntled mall "guard" who decided to make things escalate to realms of unprofessional. We to share or post my photos on the site. However, we believe the cause of Latham Circle Mall transcends beyond a disheveledcould've handled things better, but he decided to make things difficult and go beyond into a territory of overzealous.

Upon leaving, we managed to capture the road pylon, laden with character.

The mall is currently slated for a $12 million renovation and lifestyle adaptation which will see an end to much of the mall's antiquated oddities and hopefully patch up many vacancies throughout.

If you happen to be that security guard who played sheriff with me yesterday afternoon, by all means, welcome to the site and enjoy the pictures!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Chronicles of Caldor To Stew's

Spring has come, and Stew Leonard's has finally opened the former Caldor on the Berlin Turnpike in Newington, Connecticut. It's been a long time in the making -- luckily we were there for it all.

Many of my readers may not understand my kinship to the building at 3475 Berlin Turnpike.

I've seen it come, go, and grow into what it is today. Like many of those who drove by it daily, saw a nearly vacant plaza once hung by Caldor just sit by for almost seven years as prospective buyers passed up a tough to sell area of the mighty Pike.

Coupled with my first digital camera (since departed) and the spirit of an amateur shooter, I made way to a familar site; the almost notorious, defunct Caldor site in Newington.

Beginning in February 2006, I became enthralled with capturing what amounted to be Connecticut's last remaining Caldor. As months passed, I soon caught word of certain fate planned for a historically ill-fated site and the coming of Stew Leonard's fourth store and a future set in stone unlike a few other proposal before it which had failed. Thus, I established a project then having no official name but was nothing short of a goal. A goal whose since shortly after morphed into a project: "From Caldor To Stew's"; an introspective photography project tracking the progress of a long-dead Caldor building and to watch it resurrect into something greater, something desirable once again.


Caldor, which opened its Newington store in 1994, fell on hard times when the chain, who entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy one year later finally closed all its stores in 1999, leaving a ripe store on the Berlin Turnpike to suffer through more of its afterlife in vacancy. The store model was adherent to those built as part of the company's 1990's expansion with two large entrance pillars and stretching window panes in the middle to give the chain's newer stores more natural light; something which was lesser considered on older discount department stores in general. The new wave also prompted the unveiling a new logo and brighter color scheme (departing from all things toned around brown and orange) amongst other interior modifications like a "Cafe Court", or snack bar area, and even a Carousel. The Newington store was also unlike the droves of other aging, remaining stores located around the state.

Ever since Stew Leonard's announced their plans to turn Newington's short-lived Caldor husk into a "Fresh Farm Market", I was on the case for almost every step. Approximately one year away, we saw the little things to colossal changes, and ultimately many questions answered. One of them centered around demolition plans: when would the orange dozer come through a take the place down? Never really happened. Most of the store's skeletal remains stuck with the future of Stew's, a little known factoid.



Mid-Summer was undoubtably the highlight of findings and intrigue for the project. I'd make my trips down to the Berlin Turnpike, preferably on Saturday and/or Sunday evenings but as you'll find, all times of day and night throughout. We encountered the best and worst of weather as well during our reporting: from gray days, glaring ones, even got caught in a downpour or two, but was also lucky enough to be able to be there on silent, peaceful albeit humid Summer evenings when the entire plaza was, in a matter of speak, all mine.
When Toys "R" Us had closed at 6, and all the building's workers were at home readying for tomorrow's day of construction to continue. We eventually skipped the fence and secured some elusive interior photos and with it, managed to make away with some souvenirs like leftover receipt paper sitting in a pile behind the fenced, gutted building.
By intimately documenting stages of its early transformation to the days before Stew's ever sunk its "coming soon" pike out front to the current day of Stew's enabling Newington Fair to flourish once again. I sunk my efforts into the project and a very intriguing experience I can now look back upon. Now, I would like to share my quest all of you in a project I am very proud to have been apart of. In addition, I look back and see how I've evolved as a shooter while watching this place grow and evolve.

We've reported on the story of The Newington Fair aplenty, and the progress it has made in just one year. Stew's is doing very well, and has successfully made a future for a plaza of fallen promises thrive again. Currently, the clearing is being made for Sam's Club to establish itself somewhere inbetween Stew's and Stickley Audi & Co. (a former Service Merchandise), additional freestanding retail and the rumors continue of Toys "R" Us renovating its current store, which replaced Heartland Drug in 1996.

While we haven't brought ourselves to the attention of Stew Leonard's staff, we've assessed the store on a few occasions. We have chosen to respect their wishes not to shoot pictures (with the other mere factor of their being many eyes) inside the store. I've got one better for ya, go check it out for yourself and see why Stew Leonard's isn't any ordinary place to shop for more than just food.

ATTENTION: Yahoo! has recently announced the closure and discontinuation of the photo-sharing host, Yahoo! Photos. To our dismay, this means all of our existing albums, which were hosted on Yahoo! will soon become defunct. However, we have chosen to transfer all of our albums to Flickr, a subsidiary of Yahoo! where all of our previous albums will be able to be viewable in the future, and in much better quality. In the meantime, we apoligize for the delay and will inform you when the transfer is complete.

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.