Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Slew of Left-Behind Toys “R” Us Stores Found

This has nothing to do with zebras or Fruit-Stripe Gum. Instead, it's about an animated giraffe and a lovable chain of toy stores.

Yet again, we at The Caldor Rainbow must give a super-nod to The Ames Fan Club forums member Daniel Fife, who led the movement for almost a decade now in documenting older, left-behind Toys “R” Us stores across the country, which hearken back to the original look.

Fife's efforts have been an immense inspiration for our own goal in covering and promoting the preservation of older, original existing Toys "R" Us stores across the land when we first pursued the effort beginning March 2006.
Thanks to his relentless mission of capturing stores across the mid-to-eastern U.S., we’ve been able to seek-out, in-depth and further document various stores such as CLAY and HORSEHEADS in New York and WOBURN in Massachusetts here at The Caldor Rainbow based upon his initial findings. Since then, Fife has found many more stores beyond the Eastern-tier of the U.S., allowing us to see many stores at eye level but most importantly identifying stores with brown-roofs and (some formerly) “striped” frontal facades.

Stores including various traits pertaining to the stores within the original mold are those lacking significant remodeling with largely evident brown-rippled roofs and rainbow-stripes adherent to stores built between from 1978 to 1989.

As we've reported, the company has stepped up shortly after the millennium to do speedy remodels of existing, older locations built during the late 1970's and onto the 1980's expansion boom. Those that have skipped out on any touch-ups in a good near 20-year span still exist even if the company, in the midst of a zealous remodeling effort, has done-in many stores over since.
Questionably, some older locations have featured multiple remodels in their time while others like one in YORK, PENNSYLVANIA; built in the early 1980's (1982 or 1983), and CLAY, NEW YORK; built in 1988, have not had any remodel efforts while others, some older ones have featured multiple, prompt remodels to skimpy paint jobs or slight modifications.

Just last month, Toys "R" Us Inc. unveiled a new marketing campaign and along with it for the first time ever, a retooled company logo to go along with a theme of "Time for Childhood" roots (sadly, no reprisal of rainbow-stripes along store frontages). Commercials are now centered around clever, tender moments of parents, their children and their imaginations - staples of the bond between Toys "R" Us and childhood.

One of the nations first stores to see a new design with an inclusive Babies "R" Us hybrid is the store in AUBURN, MASSACHUSETTS, to which Fife has pictured on Ames Fan Club forums. Auburn was one of the first Toys "R" Us stores in Massachusetts, built in the late 1970's but is already on its third major remodel as of 2007. Meanwhile, a sister store in Woburn, Mass, which survived the thinning of 2006, resulting in many Boston-area stores close, was built in 1979.

The Woburn store has seen next to no remodeling efforts but instead, has seen here and there shades of paint jobs over the years and remained almost entirely preserved up until an unfortunate blue-toned paint job in late 2006.

Here’s an updated list of new, confirmed stores within their original molds across Michigan (1), Illinois (3), Ohio (1) and Iowa (1). If you know of any left in your state, let us know by dropping an e-mail over to or simply leave a comment.

Scale through forums pages 44-48 for pictures and locations.

Opened: 1989
Brown Roof: Yes
Rainbow-Stripes: No, repainted White.
Road Sign: White, Concept 2000 “R”
Contains: Side by side Exit and Entrance.

MOLINE, Illinois
Opened: 1978
Brown Roof: Yes
Rainbow Stripes: No, repainted White.
Road Sign: White, Concept 2000 “R”
Contains: “Children’s Bargain Town ” sign, four-rippled roof, original pastel lettering across building side.

PEORIA, Illinois
Opened: Unknown (possibly late 1970’s?/early 1980s)
Brown Roof: No, ridged steel white, contains large ripples
Rainbow Stripes: No, repainted White.
Road Sign: White, regular “R”
Contains: Located in strip plaza, contains brown/rainbow “Entrance” and “Exit Only” signage. An unusual variant.

Opened: 1987
Brown Roof: Yes
Rainbow Stripes: No, repainted White.
Road Sign: White, regular “R”
Contains: Unusual rippled “curtain” stripes along frontage edges. Oddly, no concept 2000 “R” designs anywhere on store.

PORTAGE, Michigan
Opened: Late 1970's, early 1980's?
Brown Roof: Yes
Rainbow Stripes: No, repainted Blue.
Road Sign: Brown, pastel-colored
Contains: Unusual white outlined building signage, removed Jeoffrey sign (formerly right side) yellow-painted original doors, white older Jeoffrey “Entrance” sign. Also contains protruding slots under roof, evident on early stores (ex. York , PA ).

Opened: 1987
Brown Roof: Yes
Rainbow-Stripes: Yes
Road Sign: Brown, pastel-lettering
A richly-preserved original store, resembles the Clay, New York store.

We invite you to cycle through The Ames Fan Club forums excellent compilation of pictures (mostly from Fife) on the Toys "R" Us thread to see stores from all over to get an idea of stores that have received some shoddy, gruesome hack remodel jobs since their beginnings of brown roof and rainbow-stripes.

Also, check out our archived study on original Toys "R" Us stores (updated recently), including our glorified piece on the Clay store.

Monday, November 12, 2007

K-B Toys 2-B Closing 156 Stores

Is the end almost near for K-B Toys?

According to a disheartening news story unearthed by Ames Fan Club forums member Daniel Fife, the Pittsfield, Mass.-based toys-and-games chain is clamping down yet again, closing 156 stores nationwide and liquidating its "Toy Works" name face which began late last week on November 8, 2007.

Pictured: TORRINGTON, CONNECTICUT at Torrington Plaza earlier this year

In Connecticut, the chain recently quietly shuttered all remaining strip plaza stores in TORRINGTON (Torrington Plaza), NEWTOWN, STRATFORD (The Dock), PLAINVILLE (Connecticut Commons) with ENFIELD (at Enfield Square/Mall) and VERNON (at Tri-City Plaza) soon to follow in a few weeks. Enfield will be the only announced mall-side closure while the others formerly located in strip plazas will close seeing the chain's focus of keeping stores within traditional indoor malls, where they are most likely successful.

The Caldor Rainbow has little doubt more stores won't soon follow shortly after the Christmas season 2007, as most of the survivors appear to retain by their indoor mall-strengthened associations as opposed to the move to liquidate existing, underperforming strip plaza stores in Connecticut.

Stores that will be sticking around for now are DANBURY (at Danbury Fair Mall) and mostly new(er) locations in MERIDEN (at Westfield Meriden/Mall) MILFORD (at Westfield Connecticut Post/Mall), TRUMBULL (at Westfield Trumbull/Mall), WATERBURY (at Brass Mill Center/Mall), WESTBROOK (an Outlet store at Westbrook/Tanger Outlet). You can see the full-list here complete with upcoming Black Friday hours.

The Milford store recently had its store relocated and redesigned in accordance with a new store model at the Westfield Connecticut Post Mall in 2006, despite the company's woes.

When I was a kid and shortly after, most of the stores were known as Kay Bee Toy Works, Kay Bee Toys, KB Toys and KB Toy Works. Today, the chain is somewhat muddled in what name they choose to present themselves until now, widely known as KB Toys following the most recent closure.

When the veteran toys-and-games merchant and rival to mega-retailer Toys "R" Us ceased the selling of video games around 2003, something was up.


LEOMINSTER, MASS. inside THE MALL AT WHITNEY FIELD lives with another wacky, unusual logo.

PATCHOGUE, NEW YORK lives with unusual block-lettering logo

NEWBURGH, NEW YORK at Newburgh Mall lives with old-skool logo

JOHNSON CITY, NEW YORK lives inside Oakdale Mall, because it's a Southern-tier tradition!

If you were (or had) kid(s) growing up in the 1980s and (mostly) 1990s, you knew that apart Toys "R" Us, KB Toys was a junior alternative but no less a joyous toy store with immense selection but often steeper prices than big box Toys "R" Us. Competition has sought to do in K-B Toys, whose lost much market share to many of it's discount-oriented competitors. Then, when the chain liquidated its remaining, withering selection of competitively priced video games into more or unused space for toys.

In 2004, K-B Toys filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, closing 365 stores nationwide.

Other Connecticut stores that have disappeared in lieu of Chapter 11 were BRISTOL, FARMINGTON /WEST HARTFORD (at Westfarms Mall), NEWINGTON, NAUGATUCK, DANBURY (Berkshire Shopping Center) and SOUTHINGTON, STAMFORD (at Stamford Town Center).

A years bygone BRISTOL, CONNECTICUT store (still vacant) still has its "TOY WORKS" logo displayed on the road pylon on Route 6's Bristol Commons

The cancer that the company was suffering was bestowed upon Chapter 11. Within the next year, more stores would prove it by closing due to not only competitive pressures and exorbitant leases but the same problems Toys "R" Us have faced per the millennial shift: the inability to reinvent or adapt to a changing industry of a rising electronic age.

We saw the chain change dramatically, for the worse, when the electronic age took flight and around the same years Toys "R" Us lost its clout to kids other diversions and the big box revolution of Wal-Mart and Target, where prices were offered lower. Pile on recent outbreaks of quality control issues in products sold at the various chains including K-B Toys following many lead-paint/Made In China products have caused for a further damning for the company's bottom line.

A poisonous equation, and one that has almost sent K-B Toys into cancerous defeat.

There are no plans for K-B Toys to close any more stores beyond ones announced on their website. Head over to the K-B Toys site to get a list of stores still alive, closing or dead (no longer listed).

The Caldor Rainbow hopes to secure pictures of closed locations in the near future.

UPDATE: November 2008; K-B Toys is finished.

Title image KEENE, NEW HAMPSHIRE (still open, but liquidating/closing), taken November 10, 2007.