Monday, October 08, 2007

Holyoke Mall History

"The Future is Now."

Well, was. And if the future were filled with space-aged, wooden-trimmed planter pots, faux terrazzo flooring tiles and a cavernous food court or what Heather Brandon of Urban Compass called a "feeding troth," well then take me back!

Back in July 1979, what would become the largest regional shopping mall in New England still reigns today as one of the largest and a certifiably stamped-with-pride Pyramid Center. With over 85 stores at the start, four anchors, and fine to quick-serve restaurants and an eight-screen cinema, Holyoke Mall quickly became a shopping beacon and a threat to all the malls around it when it made its impact (except for its junior Hampshire Mall a little ways north).

If it wasn't owned by Pyramid Companies, the outfit who later built Crossgates in Guilderland, N.Y., the Carousel Center in Syracuse, N.Y. and the Palisades Center in West Nyack, it wouldn't be so ginormous! This, my friends, is the grand-pappy blueprint for all of those copycats.


Unlike those built in the '90s, in tradition of many early Pyramid Centers, the place is draped in a wooden-fantasia of trims, grooved concrete, and a completely varied anchor history whose decor changed very much throughout the years. This mall has had it all, and you can see where its humble beginnings were even if you, like me, came here as a tot and remembered such things like the hanging arrow signs from the ceilings, directing patrons to anchors and such. They're still there, even if they've been replaced, and you'll occasionally spot a dead, former anchor on some of them.


Unsurprisingly, this was a class-A mothership, as Devin de Gruyl on Labelscar proclaimed a "grand old lady", even back in the days were things were perceived as humble and teensy-weensy - just enough to get Connecticutions (people from Connecticut?) already bored with Westfarms, Enfield Square combined to take a ride up I-91. Even before its 1995 expansion, Holyoke Mall was grand and also had a swanky stacked-'h' logo, which is now an artifact of the mall's past. Fret not, the same old Mary Tyler Moore-era lettering still shows itself on the mall's Interstate-91-facing frontage (if you dangerously try to look over, that is).

Holyoke Mall at Ingleside is still a mammoth today, sitting on the edge of Holyoke, Mass. in but who would rather have had the neighboring charm of Ingleside in its title. Like its fascinated mall geeks would have you know, this mall is typically armed to the teeth with security which makes capturing ganders even more difficult due to their stringent, albeit non-documented no-photography policy.



It didn't stop The Caldor Rainbow, which was back in April 2007. It did however lead me to my very first parking-lot reprimand. Ah, the memories. Share yours, we appreciate it...

All Advertisments Courtesy of The Hartford Courant, 1979.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Bristol Mall Job Lot Closes, Mall Demolition Countdown Begins

October 7, 2007 is the final day for Ocean State Job Lot on its Bristol Centre Mall property.

Shoppers have been picking away this past week at a disheveled interior, finding off-brand nick-nacks slashed down to the ends-of-the-earth prices in their marked-up, multi-colored, multi-history shopping carts (mainly those of retail ghost, Bradlees). A building no longer dons the channel lettering (and let's face it, it will probably be reused on another store they eventually swoop up) that's been up for over a decade, and the sides are laced with graffiti.

End is near, and after an exhausting year, end is here.

Following a long, emblazoned court battle over a year now regarding the fate of Ocean State Job Lot to remain on the North Main Street property, the otherwise lone remaining anchor at the year-plus, locked-up Mall at Bristol Centre has been ordered to close-up shop for good.

Job Lot and The City of Bristol have been fighting for over a year following the City's acquisition of the mall property last year with hopes of continuing the revitalization of the long-troubled site along an otherwise improved North Main Street.

Ocean State Job Lot has two outlets; North Main Street and an inherited an additional site out of the former, original Super Stop & Shop on Farmington Avenue it had acquired in 2003. The Mall property was, at best, a staggering eye-sore along with the rest of a deteriorating Mall which has had a history of halting further forward-motion progress within Bristol as a whole. Job Lot sought to challenge its lease to the City, going head-to-head to retain its property on the mall's awaiting-demolition, post-mortem lot for over a year.

While keeping the ill-fated mall vital long beyond its empty later years, The City wanted Job Lot out so it can further plans of getting North Main Street back on track for revitalization.

Job Lot was what Frank Johnson, chairman of the Bristol Downtown Development Corp. called "a final obstacle" in demolishing the mall, which was once predicted to sit vacant for years ensuing court battles between the retailer and The City. The Bristol Press reported that the State Supreme Court has ruled in favor of The City for retailer Ocean State Job Lot to move out upon the City's behest early last month.

On October 8, the site will be largely silent and up for grabs to the highest demolition contractor.

Ensuing the vacation of its mall-side property, the company leaves its other store to hang in the balance. While unconfirmed, Job Lot's Farmington Avenue property in Bristol Plaza had it's lease renewal challenged by plaza owners after reports of not keeping in line with the rest of the plaza. Job Lot, who knew they would eventually lose their North Main Street property, and surviving many court battles with The City, it hoped it could strike a deal to move into the nearby TJ Maxx property on the outskirts of the Bristol Plaza, earlier this year. TJ Maxx, just last Summer, gave their property a renovated treatment after operating for over a decade out of a rotting-away, former, 1960's-crafted D&L department clothier. No such dice?

Activity at the mall this past year has been grim ever since The City locked its doors to the public in early Summer 2006 and continued to negotiate with other reluctant tenants including Center Mall Pizza, which has since successfully relocated across the street. The City has been compliant in working with other remaining businesses once tenant to the mall in relocating to other parts of town. Surviving outparcel tenants including Discount Food Outlet and a long-time McDonald's restaurant, formerly owned by the late Andrew Santacroce, who passed away earlier this year, still have not found new homes.

A forward by The Bristol Press story: Mayor William Stortz reports "the mall will be down", and hopefully begin by mid-December. The City's purchasing agent, Roger Rousseau, estimate the mall be razed completely before Spring 2008, in February. The Mayor hopes to have the project done by January, with most of the work done at the bend of the '07-'08 swing.

Discount Food Outlet and McDonald's, both privately-owned, will not further halt the mall's demolition. City officials have proclaimed Job Lot to be biggest hurdle thus far, as well as those who've put up a ballyhooed and rigorous battle to keep their property the longest. The former movie theater/Sherwin-Williams outparcel beside Job Lot will also not be in the outline at this time.

Still no official word on what will eventually become of the site. As per developments, The Caldor Rainbow will be there.

Thanks to Marc Bramhall for the forwarding the initial details of the Bristol Press story.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Crystal Mall Adds Two New Anchors

Following a report we picked up from the forums at Ames Fan Club months back, there was a rumor afloat about two new anchors signed on to succeed the fallen Filene's at the SIMON-owned Crystal Mall in Waterford, Conn., which saw closure in late 2006. Our Norwich-based informer, Joseph Rifkin dropped us a note about the two anchors coming and are to be subdivided out of the original double-level Filene's into Bed, Bath & Beyond and Christmas Tree Shops.

The subdivision will likely feature a configuration of upper and lower access, with respective levels for each anchor.

An official statement from SIMON about the plans for the future site(s) of the vacant Filene's remains vague and does not denote when the anchors will be open to the public.

Originally, we at The Caldor Rainbow had disbelieved the possibility of two unusual anchor stores grounding at the Crystal Mall, and a two-level space whose had particular trouble finding anchors to succeed the dark Filene's space. Bed, Bath & Beyond, a chain whose typically located within power centers and strip plazas shares equal scarcity inside indoor shopping malls along with Christmas Tree Shops, who notably has a location in connectivity with Holyoke Mall in Holyoke, Mass. Both retailers follow the tradition of unique anchor offerings at Crystal Mall from Filene's to Jordan Marsh with both not located inside any other mall in the state and elsewhere.

Christmas Tree Shops, the Cape Cod-based close-out bargain chain has only three Connecticut stores in Danbury, Manchester and Orange and currently boasts a gaggle of new stores coming in Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts.

We all know the story: Federated Department Stores, since become Macy's, Inc., shuttered the Filene's location in 2006 following the controversial, unpopular "Macy's" rebranding campaign which took place in finality September 2006. The company decided to focus on its other Macy's store as the prime successor, which had become Macy's from the now defunct Jordan Marsh chain in 1996.

CRYSTAL MALL OPENS ITS DOORS ON THE BRINK OF FALL, 1984 (Photo: Hartford Courant; Sep. 25, 1984)

Filene's at the Crystal Mall was not only an original, but the premiere, flagship location for the now fallen Boston-based company which opened its first Connecticut store to coincide with the mall's 1984 opening. The name eventually became ubiquitous, storming the Connecticut mall scene when the Hartford-based G. Fox succumbed to Federated and all stores converted. The Waterford store, renovated very little throughout the years had shown true on the now darkly-set, vintage respective-era woodplanked and rockfaced art deco-inspired interior entrances, while an exterior facade had gone through a refurbishment to do away with most of the weathering and deterioration shortly before the store was shuttered.

The store, once sharing exclusivity, was also well known for having never reformatted to the thin-typed logo the Filene's chain took on in 1993 when its corporate parent May Company merged with Federated, keeping the 70's-era, deco-inspired typeface all the way up until its 2006 closing.

The Caldor Rainbow visited and pictorally detailed the Crystal Mall in January 2007.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Nordstrom to become succeeding anchor at Danbury Fair Mall?

Joseph Rifkin has informed The Caldor Rainbow that the much shaded, mysterious, succeeding anchor to a vacant Filene's at Danbury Fair Mall is possibly to become Connecticut's second Nordstrom.

The upscale department clothier, Nordstrom, currently and exclusively anchors the Taubman Company-owned Westfarms on the West Hartford/Farmington border. News comes shortly after Nordstrom was mentioned a few months back, speculatively planning to roster as anchor space as part of a proposed expansion at Westfield Trumbull, as we reported last month.

The space is deemed by Macerich as a "new shopping experience in progress."

A few rumors have been floating around on the internet, speculating as to what the fallen anchor might become in the midst of the mall's on-going renovation; a Border's, Dick's (upper-lower combo?), Bloomingdale's, and a readily believable, none-of-the-above 'grand entrance' and parking garage combo to attach to the newly planned central court.

None of these rumors have been officially addressed by Macerich.

Currently, the space formerly held by Filene's has been rented out to a Halloween-themed store, and will soon give way to a Christmas-themed one in November. Those who lamented their chance to see Filene's upon its fateful closing days back in 2006 will have their last chance in to step inside a largely preserved interior in the coming months. The store will likely shutter again in January 2008, where plans on the site's future will presumably be set in motion.

The Macerich Group, owner of the Danbury Fair Mall, has continued to remain silent on the details of what's to come regarding a year-plus vacant Filene's, which faces the mall's frontage serving largely today as a temporary trailer lot (and possibly, suspected bird-feeding terrain). While shadowy about the anchor news, the company has been very open about the renovation process, and has pledged in the past it will not disrupt shopper's at a transitioning mall which has most of its work done after hours.

Seemingly snail-paced from a macro picture judging by what we reported (with pictures) back in early July, the The Macerich Company development is showing progress; the food court is been partially opened but will complete in November, and the renovated bathrooms now relieve shoppers from crowding into anchor stores facilities. The slated renovation, whose goal is to celebrate and rejuvenate a 20-plus year old Danbury Fair Mall is still on to complete by Spring 2008 though many new stores have opened throughout 2007, in the midst of the dust.

The Caldor Rainbow has no visuals of our own to put fourth, so please refer to Joseph's Flickr gallery of pictures taken September 30, 2007 (with the new Sony DSC-T200!) to see the differences and developments.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Toys 'R' Us Regresses To Childhood?


Here I am doing a vicious uphill exercise on the treadmill at Planet Fitness when I glance over at one of the line of TV's and in surprise, I see an ad that catches eye. It's from the (once) beloved Toys "R" Us corporation, showing off their stuff in a new advert. Since I don't watch much television at home, I couldn't have possibly reported this any some odd week later when it unveiled itself. I usually end up getting my hodgepodge of idiot box entertainment whenever I'm not - and with an array of channels simultaneously flanking your periphery, you're bound to see something whilst shielding my eyes and preserving my respectability from an otherwise obnoxious vacuum of crapola i.e. VH1, MTV, et. al (you know, Cable).

In the ad, kids were *gasp* playing with toys! You know, like when kids played with toys back in 1985 and not gizmos like iPods and laptop computers. In the lower corner of the screen, the secret revealed itself: "" Huh? At the end of the spot, a new logo is revealed and out pops a classic-looking Jeoffrey, like one such you might remember from your childhood given you were born in, at least, the late 1980's.

Has the disease known as "Concept 2000" been cured, salvaging what it could after its warpath of lobotomy that helped destroy the chain into all the periwinkle-tones it is now!?

Toys "R" Us has a newer, simpler, jovial logo that refuses to stay in line like those logos of past days. While keeping the trademarked backwards 'R', they've retired the original yellow and canned the quotes around it. At the end of the spot, Jeoffrey pops up from the middle of the iconic 'R'.

Shockingly, it reminds this child of the 1980's that the chain might have finally realized all the dement it's caused upon itself, and reverted right back to it's humble, rainbow-striped motif roots? Not quite. Do you remember when ol' Jeoffrey had a long, long neck, you know, like the giraffe is known to have back in the early 80's?

Throw a striped jacket in there, and you could have made my year.

Roughly twenty years ago, Toys "R" Us had stores that looked very much like one we've attempted to 'celebritize' here in the past on the Caldor Rainbow in both Clay and Horseheads, New York. By the 1990's, the company reworked the image of the chain for the first time, largely abandoning a double-decade worth of brown-draped cultural infatuation for a newer, trendier, opposite dark colors. It came at a price though, Jeoffrey's building-front, Plexiglas imagery 'downscaled', specifically cutting his neck right off to conserve "space." From this dreadfully wrong move on, each "era" of marketing sought to further in the disassociation and the super-strike came in the form of a package which hit in 1996 with the advent of "Concept 2000." By now, Jeoffrey was on the decline. Slowly phasing by halfway through the 1996, remodels were catching up to older stores and before we knew it, we were seeing what was happening. Poor Jeoffrey, the beloved mascot of Toys "R" Us was not growing up in tandem with the children.

In our previous exposes on Toys "R" Us, The Caldor Rainbow has brought it firmly to attention of the worldly audience that excluding Jeoffrey is unacceptable to the preservation of the company's lovable, rich heritage. The once prided mascot was being trampled by the pencil-neck decisions of those poorly representing him slowly converting him into a large, doofy, dolt-like figure who employed a somewhat cynical attitude, reflecting that into a living theater of a percentage of today's arguably misdirected youth.

Following a move of regression, Toys "R" Us has at least through advertisement managed to regain some shed of what's been lost ever since they removed rainbow-colored bars from their storefronts. Don't stop there, Toys "R" Us, start ending this ho-hum slump of corporate blandness of cheap and lazy remodeling jobs that's struck your stores like small pox over the past decade plus!