Sunday, January 07, 2007

Over The Rainbow

At this time, we'd like to share a few points of interest and forecast some stories here at The Caldor Rainbow.

Just recently, as in last week, Renee and I took a trip to Horseheads, New York; located in the Southern tier of New York (near Elmira) to document one of the remaining old-styled Toys “R” Us stores in the northern tier of the U.S. While down there, I was also able to snag a whole set of shots from the nearby Arnot Mall. I have posted a full gallery of both journey’s on my Facebook account, as there are just too many to post here. In the near future, we will do a short expose on the Arnot Mall and area. For now, you can view the galleries with commentaries by myself.

On the way back to Connecticut, we stopped in a few malls along the way including Newburgh Mall, located in Newburgh, New York. It’s about 15 minutes from the CT border, along I-84, even with that information, we had to duck off the highway last minute as there were no warnings. Upon arrival, I recognized that this was the mall with a particular interest; it once housed a Caldor. What was once a Caldor, now a plentiful New York department clothier, Bon-Ton. Another thanks to D_fife, whose pictures provide a wide view of retail along the upper ends of the country on The Ames Fan Club forums, has provided a hint of a rainbow-era labelscar right on the front of the building which we went ahead and shot ourselves.

Bon-Ton, a former Caldor at the Newburgh Mall neglectant to remove a rainbow-era Caldor labelscar (to the far left end).
The mall, like too many other lower-eschelon centers, was outright about shunning photographers. Luckilly, my lens was destined to snag a genuine shot of a surviving rainbow label scar. Renee hurried me along as she informed me an officer (not mall security) was approaching my six.

And if you look close enough, you can see were they patched holes from the "CALDOR" lettering. This one hung so low, I could've once touched it!
While the mall itself wasn’t any sight to see, it sure was like most of these smaller, forgettable malls, had relevant vestige of history within a strict regime of anti-cameras. All in all, the mall was lame which didn‘t prompt me to steal many shots (since there was a good lack of security patrol inside). It’s discouraging when malls have these silly policies but I suppose this is what happens when your management institutes these codes of conducts being over-protective arses.

An age-old, wooden-facade CVS inside Newburgh Mall is surely a relic from the mall's conception in 1980 complete with redundant CVS-sign label scars (click and gaze at the full-size).
No offense to Urban Properties Growth, but your mall sucks as it is upstaged all around the map. No one would want to steal your trade secrets; you have no highway signs because of this. Perhaps your policy should be to invite people instead of shutting them down with a litany of codes before entering for harmless photography that would only do you free advertisement. Perhaps a little biased, but I’m really getting sick of these malls and their overzealous policies. End rant. Needless to say, their hapless rules didn't stop us.

Eastfield Mall; Springfield, Massachusetts is a contender for biggest anal bum covers in security patrollers and anti-photography but not without a groovy scrolling-marquee road pylon I ended up getting anyway.
Within the next couple weeks, we’re attempting to visit a few lesser-traveled Connecticut malls we couldn’t get in the past few months due to the holiday season and extreme amounts of traffic and decorations. Just today, we visited the Eastfield Mall in Springfield, Massachusetts; another mall which has very strict policies against photography.

The mall, which is also flooded with surveillance (including those flashing parking lot patrollers), but most likely because Springfield is higher on the crime scale. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to score any interior shots - especially the way-back center court (even after asking the chief security guy watching the cameras) but I did obtain a slew of exterior shots of a fascinating, relic of a mall. These guys are so overprotective of their mall, they even don it on their website!

Least likely mall to see the new Sears Gwinnett prototype? This 1960's-era Sears still had the "Sears, Roebuck & Co." decals on the doors!
Next week, we will be unveiling new chapters in our Toys “R” Us history accounts we’ve begun just this Saturday. If you’ve come to the page and found the update to be too big (i.e. your computer freezing or lagging), you were right. We’ve scaled down the update and decided to divide it into a more organized series we’ll be rolling out over the next few weeks.

Until then, we'll see you soon!

I'm a Toys "R" Us Kid

The Caldor Rainbow reflects the legacy of Charles Lazarus' TOYS "R" US

As most former (or still) boys and girls around their 20’s now can remember, one thing essential to our childhoods aside from Saturday Morning cartoons, Count Chocula and other sugary cereals, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and sprite-based Nintendo(s) was Toys ‘R’ Us. Nothing is as American and proudly so as ‘The World’s Joy Store’ could compare. Not the malls, not Skooters or any other video arcades, nothing.

As I awoke after an early Saturday of playing Super Nintendo, we were out to grab lunch; a kids meal occasionally at Burger King, mom would then take us up to the store where, for around an hour, we’d be invited into a majestic world of toys, games, even if that giant suited Geoffrey never made an appearance in-store. Needless to say, it was magical. We didn’t have a care in the world aside from going to school all week just to be greeted with a weekly (and sometimes, bi-weekly) visit to Toys ‘R’ Us; a world in itself for any child with limitless imagination.

Walk in the doors (the swing-opens, before sliding doors became the standard), through a horseshoe pattern and into double-lined walls of board games, costumes, franchise-branded stuff, walk to the premiere aisle. Behind the glass displays were demonstrations of fancy game consoles, some of which are long forgotten [Turbo-Graphix 16, Lynx, all three versions of Sega Genesis] even if stapled among those same hardcore gamers once wonderous children today. The next aisle over was incredible which took me a little more into later childhood to apprechiate thanks to my brother.

Rows of these plastic video game tags along the walls, stacked high, double-sided with little slips under them. Just take it to the register, and follow to the counter where a clerk would bring it to the front and it’s all mine!

“I wanna be a Toys ‘R’ Us kid!” occasionally blared over the P.A. system, reminding all of us; adult and child we were in a special place.

A few aisles down, rows of playsets, action figures, costumes, plastic weapons, LEGOs, and all that pink stuff and Barbie for the girls on the outer ones. Little Tikes “peddle” carts, bikes, skateboards and those horns for bikes; you knew who you were when you got yelled at for riding them around the store. The far end of the store was not entirely exciting; gift wrap, stickers, baby apperal and stuff.

This is the store I remember. Not the store that’s still there in Corbins Corner, West Hartford (and all the rest of them around Connecticut).

Walls painted; some white-periwinkle combo, register aisles mostly vacant except around Christmas, a store with emptiness you would probably stage a football game in where the actual video games used to be now filled with cheap head-level gondolas. Scars all along the floor from where the old ceiling-high shelving was from years off. Toys ‘R’ Us, as I knew it, lobotomized from the ground up.

Throughout it’s golden ages, about 1978 when stores began to sprout all over the country, Toys ‘R’ Us has kept a wonderful track record of supplying all the needs of a child today. Before iPods, $600 game consoles were the thing a 10-year old needed, the liquidation of board games like Candy Land, Crossfire, and Monopoly, Toys ‘R’ Us was unmatched by the competitor market today; Wal-Mart, Target, and of course, Best Buy and those other electronics stores.

By the mid-1980’s, Toys ‘R’ Us was expanding largely; strategically and commonly placing stores right across epicenters, primarily malls, favoring high-traffic, often big box saturated areas. It was perfect; nothing in any mall had what the Toys ‘R’ Us across the street offered and it made out to be the perfect formula.

Kids didn’t need Nintendo games as much as they do now, but stores like Wal-Mart and Best Buy were far off and Electronics Boutique (EB, EBGames, later and now owned by GameStop), Babbage’s (later branded as GameStop) were for the big boys; not the kids or even teens. They had the market in their hands; a video game market which was largely skewed towards children and teens, through the changing times pioneered by Sony PlayStation, adults play them now. The games were affordable and the selection was unstoppable; nothing any other department discounter [expensive for video games, at least] Bradlees or Caldor could offer. But the market has changed drastically today, this and a few other things could explain the long lost friend that was once my Toys ‘R’ Us.

The company, which has gone through a few corporate alterations throughout the years, including John Elyer, who bungled his own once competition as CEO of FAO Schwartz, was stationed as the new CEO of Toys ’R’ Us and envisioned a new, eventual ill-fated direction for the Toys ‘R’ Us name. One of the prime movements was to redesign most stores in accordance to what was once reffered to as the Concept 2000-model, and has become the store standard presently.

On January 9, 2006; the company announced the closure of 87 stores (including Babies ‘R‘ Us conversions). While none in Connecticut were hit, many stores across country saw their eventual closure as soon as Early Spring to the purge.

This startling news echoed back to my childhood store chain, on the verge of what I saw to be trouble, prompted me that the past is certainly dying; as is a part of me! With this news and a recent dream of a distant memory shopping at my local store with my dad, my wake up call from a vivid dream came to me immediately thus my indescribable infatuation for Toys "R" Us brewed strong since. In March 2006, shortly after my bizarre revelation, I launched a personal campaign to traverse the Northeastern tier of the U.S. searching for older stores, and some that have closed recently. I would lie awake at night attempting to remember the year my near and dear Danbury, Connecticut store remodeled from a once discribed "haunting" brown-rainbow facade, swearing it had only been years off.

I then began to remember everything that made the store so special to me then. Little details from the far off; the grandfather taking my brother and I on a Friday evening and not getting a $60 LEGO Monorail, playing with those Tiger LCD Handhelds, the launch dates and pre-sales for games, arriving on Saturday afternoon to see if they got any new G.I. Joe Street Fighter II action figures in, and in the later years, picking up some superb deals $20 Nintendo 64 games.

Leading up to my trip to meet ends with the soon-to-be-(now) departed Holyoke, Massachusetts store, which was closing in just a few months soon led to a two-hour plus trip to Woburn, Massachusetts to reunite with a surviving store resembling a childhood memory.

A now vacant Medford, Massachusetts store, succeeded in one of a fallout competitor, Child World. This store, like many others in the Boston area, was a victim of the 2006 wave of closings.
Please join The Caldor Rainbow as we unveil more knowledge in our quest of Toys "R" Us stores in the near future.