Thursday, April 12, 2007

Stew's in Newington: Arriving Fresh in April

In 2006, long unfinished plaza along the Berlin Turnpike in Newington, Newington Fair, would share its last year as a borderline ghost town.

Motorists passing up or down the Berlin Turnpike, whose had a shuffled past few years of in and outs most recently being Roy Rogers, might've wondered when that empty Caldor would be filled, if ever. The years chugged by as uninterested buyers shrugged off the plaza down the hill; one who's pavement was crackled, tenants and layout were disjointed and the plaza anchor was dead silent, running on seven years. Just last year, a slow emerging change happened at the site as it was finally claimed by a future tenant to end a long, vacant chapter in the plaza's life.

DECEMBER 7, 2006

Early on in it's conception, Newington Fair had a plan. With a newly anchored Caldor, a drug store; Heartland Drug, a relocated, larger Sam's Club beside Caldor; which currently operates right over the Berlin line, and Service Merchandise, whose since shuttered in 2002. Times dictated the fate of most of the anchors, now all of which finding future tenants in time.

FEBRUARY 6, 2007

A list of belly-up retailers flocked the Fair by the mid-later 1990s. Heartland Drug vacated for one of Connecticut's smaller, off-mall Toys "R" Us locations, Service Merchandise ceased all store operations for online retailing but have recently disappeared (like other once booming catalog-based retailers including Montgomery Ward) but soon made way for a upscale furniture gallery, Stickley, Audi & Co. While Sam's never happened, heaping portions of the plaza continued to degrade and overgrow while Toys "R" Us and Caldor kept parking spaces filled - but not for too long.

FEBRUARY 6, 2007

Caldor, which opened Newington in their company's brand-new look in 1994, didn't last long when they went bankrupt and out of business in late 1999. Ever since then, a plague of fallen retailers spread. Toys "R" Us, who slipped into the plaza hoping to capitalize off a magnetic Caldor, was soon swept by the closure only years later.

FEBRUARY 6, 2007

With many anchor shifts around it, Toys "R" Us managed to do well all these years serving it's area well, and still does, despite the plaza's own black sheep syndrome; one which has kept the plaza down and deemed largely unattractive by unwilling prospective tenants for many years and criticized for it's location, (lack of) visibility and isolation status. Clearing away a once juggernaut retailer wasn't ready to be taken on by the usuals; Kohl's; who hasn't a location along the mighty strip while Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Target already stand prominently on the Turnpike. A flurry of rumors surfaced about the site; a subdivision including a fitness center and smaller retail, but they died quickly as the building continued to languish.

Then Stew's came along. Along with a new plan for the Newington Fair; one pushed aside for years but also one, if seen through, could become one of the more stunning revival prospects for Newington's retail market which looks to be finally coming together on behalf of a vital, new anchor; fresh to the central Connecticut market: Stew Leonard's.

MARCH 1, 2007

Stew Leonard's, a Norwalk, Connecticut-based, self-proclaimed customer service champion and local grocer chain brings its values along with it to Newington, slated for Early 2007. Caldor, who was also Norwalk-based, picked up early with vast expansion before its fall while Stew's is humbly working to open more than its three stores across two states; Connecticut and New York. With hopes of opening other stores in and outside Fairfield County; Stew's has drafted stores in Orange, Connecticut and Farmingdale, New York; two of which have been red lit for awhile now.

From CALDOR to STEW'S...

April 26, 2006: Caldor sits vacant for the last months of its long, empty life.

September 25, 2006: In a twilight of conversion.

Even before we established The Caldor Rainbow, we've been keeping a pictoral track record (see: Resources below) of the status seen on the site ever since before ground was struck on a vacant Caldor. We've watched it from the very beginning; from the fencing arranged around the building to the slow dismantling of a Caldor husk to the skeletal structure of Stew's advent. We've even been inside the hollowed out building, and continue to watch its progress today.

MARCH 1, 2007

So when will Stew's open? A source suggests the chain is pushing for April 23, 2007 as a grand opening date, even if the current look of the store might conflict with it, there's still weeks to go.

APRIL 9, 2007

APRIL 9, 2007

What was once a staggering property will surely soon become the thing to see on the Berlin Turnpike; a fresh offering which hopes to revive once filled the hearts of everyone with glee like those once standing in snaking lines for doughnuts right off the belt at the short-lived, now long-gone Krispy Kreme.

Even after Stew's opens this month, the plaza itself still has quite a ways to go. Sam's Club has not yet broken ground aside Stew's site and most of the plaza is in still in shambles. Toys "R" Us, who continues to thrive despite all around it, is also looking in need of some improvements, not having received much of a touch-up since their opening in 1996. Hopeful from traffic garnered by the ever revitalization of Stew's, it would seem the story of Newington Fair will be an onward success and hopefully a brighter chapter in a somewhat muddled history.

Earlier last year, I had a chance to visit the Danbury location full of amazing looking foods, animatronics and other unusual findings (including two defunct Ames shopping carts) at a grocery store. The closest comparison to their approach might be similar to another chain of new-age trendy markets like [a decidedly organic-centric] Whole Foods Market, Stew's isn't any ordinary market (lord no!), and soon enough you'll see why.

Join us soon as we cover the grand opening of Stew Leonard's in a few weeks. In the meantime, go catch a glimpse of what's to come if you're around their other Connecticut locations Norwalk, Danbury and Yonkers, New York.

"Now Hiring In Newington"