Monday, December 01, 2008

Retro Toys "R" Us Round-Up

It's been too long since we've featured a Toys "R" Us related update, and thanks to plenty of badgering by our own reader Jonah Norason, a regular who always provides worthwhile feedback in our mall sphere, he provides us with his own array of photos captured from a vintage store still out in Waco, Texas, which appears to resemble one such store in Horseheads, New York and a now (still?) vacant one in Battle Creek, Michigan.


The Caldor Rainbow knows of most of the vintage-looking, left-behind, or unremodeled stores left in the country in large part to our own research and on-site of Ames Fan Club board member Daniel Fife, who'se just about raided the entire eastcoast in confirmation of these stores. This year, we've visited one such location in Boardman, Ohio and have no updates regarding other stores we've since exposed here including Horseheads, NY; Clay, NY and Woburn, MA. We've also got a superb set of shots submitted by Steven Swain, another friend of ours, whose taken shots direct from the Roanoke, Virginia store.





Below is a compiled list of stores we know of that still feature original build date design elements, though some may be painted over, signs and other features removed or replaced.
HORSEHEADS Stripes repainted white

WOBURN Stripes repainted blue

BANGOR Stripes, roof repainted white

BOARDMAN Original; removed Jeoffrey
SAINT CLAIRSVILLE Stripes repainted white

ONTARIO A real oldie! Roof repainted white, stripes removed
RICHMOND (VACANT) Stripes removed; roof repainted white, then green

CATONSVILLE Stripes, roof repainted white

INDIANAPOLIS / 4575 W 38th St. (VACANT) Stripes removed
LAFAYETTE Original though roof ripples removed

BLOOMINGTON Stripes repainted white
MOLINE Stripes repainted white, signage updated to "Concept 2000"

CEDAR RAPIDS Stripes repainted white

BOISE Roof repainted red, removed ripples

PORTAGE/KALAMAZOO Stripes repainted blue

BOWLING GREEN Rainbow stripes removed



BRADENTON Stripes repainted white, roof repainted blue
GAINESVILLE Stripes repainted white
ORANGE Roof repainted gray, stripes repainted white

DURHAM Stripes removed



ROANOKE Stripes repainted blue

SPRINGDALE Roof repainted blue, stripes repainted white
If you have an update or one we've forgotten, please inform us.

Hey, You! We like on-site photography here and since our resources limit us from traveling halfway across the country, you'd be swell to lend us your digital eye for The Caldor Rainbow and its audience. Just enter any information about old-school Toys "R" Us stores -- we've become synonymous with any information and, of course, the best images out there.

If you missed our report on the now twenty-year, classic Clay store, see it here. Look at my personal collection, a gallery of stores on Flickr. And of course, tons of user submitted pictures on the Ames Fan Club forums.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Black Friday 1978

BLACK FRIDAY is here again.

Fresh on the minds of those who dozed off from turkey (not tofurky) at the early noon hours of Thursday, they were caching up on sleep, ready to cash in on the dawn-breaking deals, gearing up for camping outside, snaking lines around buildings of the big boxers and malls early Friday morning, awaiting hearty deals and avoiding stampedes of people wanting to bombard the Walmart at 4am for a $79 giant-screen thirdworld LCD TV or quite possibly access to a Wii.

They weren't thinking about this stuff... in 1978. Or were they?

Roll your cart back down the aisle -- if you can fit it down the aisle!

The "Black Friday" retail tradition has more or less been hijacked over recent time, specifically by the material age and isn't the same as the day in history Steely Dan eluded to on Katy Lied, instead, the day is typically heralded as one of the biggest shopping days of the year. In fact, it's not, but it's the one and only day were dedication to standing long hours in frigid outdoor lines and getting sick deals on high-priced goods they may or may not get upon arriving at the gates. Don't worry about its meaning, it's "Black" largely in part of the immense volume of would-be spenders, but conversely the very climate of dead-cold darkness before conventional opening hours -- not necessarily crippling sales for retailers as you may have been lead to believe in the past.

While the term wasn't officially a household term back even ten years ago, the day after Thanksgiving is the prized grand slam, kick-off to shopping for the Christmas season -- even back thirty years ago.

However, in 2008, the retail and financial crisis of this [unofficial] holiday seem to be merging with the current dour spending climate in the U.S. (and comparable to one era of "stagflation" back in the late 70's), as well as the sour retail market amidst some big name closures and cutbacks this year. It's not likely to break tradition; meaning droves of people at the malls, especially with some retailers teetering on extinction, Walmart and Best Buy will predictably continue to lure the most bargain hunters long before, into and after the sun wakes.

The electronic age of the 2000s exploded with the "must-haves"; LCD TVs, MP3 players, all-in-one cellular gadgetry, an impossible-to-find video game console, GPS devices -- more distractions, more things people will fill their closets with and toss out before Black Friday 2009. And you know what to expect: the annual Walmart trample, the midnight tents, foaming mouthed zombies, and lines in below freezing late November temps (while asleep in my warm slumber) and newsstories of caffeine-maniacal early morning shoppers who picked up a radical deal.

Should you go, have fun shoppers and bundle up, maybe consider body armor. If you're not going or waiting it out until afternoon (like me) and you choose to stay home cozy at wee hours of morning, get a load of what consumers were saving their cents on back in good old '78 at our favorite defunct retailer Caldor: toys for the little buckaroos, portable black-and-white TVs, wood-trimmed "stereo" FM radios, power tools, hot $5 LPs (Steely Dan Greatest Hits, anyone?!) and more.

"The Big Holiday"; Caldor advertisements that ran on in the November 23 (above) and November 24, 1978 (below) issue of The Hartford Courant ("Black" Friday 1978).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lights Out For Circuit City?

I'd first like to apologize to my readers for a long delay in updates around here. I've recently begun experimenting with other ideas here and abroad while being generally busy and unable to travel much while the retail world shows continual slowdown. As you know, The Caldor Rainbow is dedicated to mostly that of on-site reporting and photography in the realms of focuses over the past couple years. Just to let you know, even when updates are slow, I read all your e-mails (even ones the spam blocker throws aside), page comments and appreciate input on all of our pages.

News that piqued my interest as of late was that of what our fellows at Labelscar (and most of the retail sphere are) bringing about -- the impending downfall and drudge of big box electronics retailer, Circuit City -- who seems to be just another but one of the big namers to soon engulf in darkness. Thus far, the 2008 year has been rough for the retailers with a year full of turmoil -- from a troubling economy in part due to rising essential costs that have been squeezing everyone (gas; which has remarkably fallen to two and a quarter as I write this). It's not all the economy though, on the upside, its competitor Best Buy has been doing quite well. Other fellow electronic-centric retailers like CompUSA, which pulled out of many markets, became decimated to just 23 stores and as an online outlet.

Last week, The Consumerist broke the news of Circuit City closing of 155 stores nationwide; with only one store, in Orange, closing in Connecticut. The Constitution State held the fewest hit with closings with one of the ten surviving stores -- evidence now suggests soon may follow in the near future. The company's far-reaching ones on the Westcoast like Arizona and California got whacked while some other (smaller) markets held onto its share.

Just today, Circuit City announced its falling into the quicksand of retailing; Chapter 11 in addition will cut 700 jobs. Few retailers ever find solace from the doom, and even when they do, it never extinguishes the possibility of failure like late retailer Bradlees, who fell shortly after its own recovery.

Critics said this moment was bound to come -- not because its category rival Best Buy has been outselling and marketing the second-tier electronics retailer but because of a much ballyhooed, controversy whereby the company axed 3,400 "overpaid employees" in early 2007. Editorially, this inept move from former company CEO Phillip Shoonover seems to have delivered the company's karmatic blow.

Self-proclaimed consumer warrior and radio personality Clark Howard discussed and addressed the Circuit City issue more eloquently than I could have on his November 4th show (link directs to free MP3/podcast download). Clark would naturally have you stray from "extended store warranties" anyway but now more than ever, we urge our readers caution.

To be frank, I've never really shared a customer bond with Circuit City as with other retail stores in past and present, and have preferred Best Buy (though I have plenty issues with their company policies, employees) but pop in there every now and then and am often surprised at their odds and ends and discounts. When the company made that fate-breaking, despicable move to fire its experienced, loyal employees (and thinking it would be a good idea to do so), my demeanor of their company model has been nothing less than of dour and disdain.

For more on Circuit City, check out the Consumerist's "Death Watch" timeline.

As with all retailers, I hate to see failure even when a company makes a grave error as it did with CEO Shoonover. Furthermore, will you miss Circuit City should they go? Where did they go wrong? Share your thoughts.

Title image: Trumbull, Conn taken by The Caldor Rainbow.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Vacant Bradlees In Hazlet Remains

It's not easy for Jersey residents to forget the eight-year defunct, Connecticut-originated Bradlees discount department store chain -- especially when they're reminded of its history as Two Guys or just seeing the sites upon passing to work or in everyday travels -- like one in Hazlet, New Jersey.

Located on the Poole Avenue-Route 36 split, the withered, cracked pavement, red-shingled topped plaza sits as its done for almost eight years and counting. Anchored by Bradlees, the late New London, Conn.-originated discounter, is one of five remains of the late chain in New Jersey which max out any other state where Bradlees entered.

The semi-boarded up, wasteland plaza along the much traveled arteries sits in the back (and front) yard(s) and for many locals is serves many travelers as a peaceful rest stop where few venture.

A scarred "Bradlees" logo is burned onto the white-painted brick husk with a nearby, seemingly active looking road sign. Above is a cavity of sign placement, once shared by co-tenant Foodtown, a local grocery chain who moved out shortly after Bradlees collapse. Since, the eyesore plaza has faced many difficult years attracting enthusiastic tenants, its value and property declined began before neighboring tenant Foodtown closed up in April 2002, a year and a half following Bradlees closure, citing the plaza's landlord being unreasonable to strike a deal to renew its lease in the half-vacant lot.

A couple weeks back, The Caldor Rainbow took a rather costly jaunt down to the retail-saturated New Jersey to capture one of the state's many leftover, vacant Bradlees sites. Well I for one didn't expect it to cost $8 to cross a traffic-congested George Washington Bridge (amongst other "penalties" for missing exits, toll booths... I digress).

Besides Hazlet, a slew of other remaining sites exist: Toms River, Woodbury and Bordentown, specifically leave their vacancies behind with largely unclaimed territory. Other sites recently vacant have found new futures, like one in Ventnor City, which recently became a subdivision of two smaller retailers and ones in Turnersville and Stratford, both formerly Jefferson Ward, a fellow fallen Jersey-heavy discount chain Bradlees also swallowed upon its expansion in the early 80's. Both have found new tenants in mixed fields, one a black-painted closeout chain and the latter a medical facility, still donning the recognizable white-and-red tones.

Though much speculation has gone around about the future of the site, it ultimately remains unknown. Anyone who might know more about the history of the site, shine some light on it by dropping a comment.

Find out more about Bradlees, specifically on our extensive spotlight in our hometown of Connecticut or our other recent session in New City, New York.

Just a minor announcement folks, I will be away from August 7th through August 15th. In my absence, enjoy the complete gallery of photos taken of the vacant Bradlees site in Hazlet, New Jersey and others you might've missed on our Flickr.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Look Back At "Pavilions at" Buckland Hills

One of our readers, Joseph Rifkin, sent me an email with a few attached images one of Connecticut's newer shopping malls: Buckland Hills. Curious about the history of the nearing 20 year old mall, he brought light to some "vintage" images that certainly bring back some memories of a mall I frequented aplenty.


"The Pavilions at Buckland Hills" as it was originally known by opened in March 1990, and has since renamed to "The Shoppes at Buckland Hills" following an extensive decorative renovation shortly after the mall's tenth year, largely in retaliation to a fledgling outdoor center (who stuffs more fluff words than usual to boost its cache) built on the South Windsor line which later threatened its precurosy to a "faux-main streetscape" trend in the neo-mall landscape to which it later joined in image with a post-millennial remodel.



Many might not know the full history of what's now one the dominant aerial malls that has been tagged for its crippling and devastating of many surrounding centers including one rotting away ghost town plaza on the other end of town, East Brook Mall in Willimantic, Enfield Square in Enfield and even Auburn Mall in Auburn, Mass. right up on I-90, and shortly over the Connecticut line (sorry, I blame the awful I-90 access and annoying Pike tolls to skim the surface of this mall's troubles).

After the development and opening of Crystal Mall in Waterford in 1984, one year later talk rose of another mammoth mall project and pseudonymed "Winchester Mall", proposed on the (South) Windsor and Manchester lines, on a plot of endless farm land on the outskirts of the towns. The folks turned it down, holding it up for years, until it was given the green light in the late 80's. At this time, the closest thing to what was soon to become a new mall was the Caldor-anchored "Burr Corner" plaza, constructed in the mid-1960's, polar to the once thriving outdoor Manchester Parkade near the center of town.

By the early 90's, The two-level Winchester Mall project bloomed (no, exploded) into The Pavillions at Buckland Hills.

How the fates have turned -- in just ten years the "Buckland Hills", comprable to farmland as far as the eye can see has become what's known as the explosion of Americana emporimania, squashing the town's slogan "A City of Village Charm". Soon after the advent of the two-level toppler to the surrounding malls, plaza after plaza popped up around it, including the big blue monster Walmart, who sprung up with its first, albeit humbly-sized Connecticut location in 1993 (which is coincidentally slated to close up soon and move down the street for, you guessed it, a larger complex).

While I still frequent Buckland Hills today, I've watched it grow and change throughout the years and it doesn't share the same zeal as it did back then despite it being more grandiose than ever. Anchors including G. Fox eventually became Filene's a few short years later (then Macy's), and SEARS and JCPenney are still there (exteriorly unchanged, of course). Steiger's, D&L are but memories while Dick's Sporting Goods opened one of its premiere outlets at Buckland, additionally was one of the first to have remodeled drastically from an original wood-floor clad, cramped albeit two-level interior.

The overall temperature of the mall was ho-hum darker shades of blue and monochromes, often attracted unsavory crowds at night (got a few stories to back that up), but the offerings were different from what Westfarms had.

'The Pavilions' couldn't capture a 90's mall any better than it did.

Today's upscale image has done it over well cosmetically, and has taken a sharp turn from what it once was especially in its later years adopting a rattier image. In spite of its original design provincialism, Buckland Hills was considerably the fun mall compared to Westfarms.

Distinctively, its developers made it top of the line for a 90's trendy center: a food court, alien to many malls around this time with all the quick-bite junk food trimmings like Panda Express, McDonalds, Taco Bell, Sbarro, and more mid-range stores instead of Westfarms somewhat highbrow offerings. Time-Out videogame arcade couped up in the rear of the food court, which centered itself around my childhood experiences here especially with it being a selling point for my mom dragging me here originally.

Buckland Hills, the more community-based mall on steroids, had its charm and challenged shoppers to all new destination.

Today the arcade, Panda Express and Sbarro "wall" have gone the way of the dodo, completely demolished for a carousel, the food court has been rearranged (Burger King took over McDonald's space) but still has an exorbitant amount of unused seating, and the decor has gone much classier. Some of the offerings have dipped into the "discount" and ordinary realms, gaps are evident from fallen retailers which thrived into the 1990's -- KB Toys having closed up last year, Suncoast now taken over by the always exciting indie Cambridge, Mass.-based Newbury Comics and its first Connecticut shop, and a furniture store operating out of a years departed Sam Goody and recently a hole left by The Disney Store -- whose been with the mall since the very beginning no more.

These shots are property of the mall's original contractor, Fusco Corporation. We're not sure how far they date back to but they mine as well be dated 1990. Also check out this shopping bag from Fox N Allen's collection. The mall once had kiosks which sold these custom logo-printed handlebags for a quarter (or two?) -- I used to have a ton of these.

If you've got any memories (or better yet, photos) shopping here in the 90's, perhaps ones that have eluded my recollection, share them with us!

See also: Labelscar's piece on The Buckland Hills (disclaimer: author Damas' visited the mall "in progress" of final touches on the remodel).

Sunday, July 27, 2008

There Will Be Bulletins

Greetings, readers. I share with you on this weekend a few points of somewhat long overdue news around the towns and in regards to the website itself.

Firstly, we are currently working on polishing the site. Due to an absence earlier this year, we've realized some of the pages have gone by the wayside in terms of corrections. Additionally, we aim to fix those and other things. Will we improve our insipid decor? Probably not. Until then, we would still encourage you to look into our past entries.

And now, some news.

Avon, Route 44 former "The Pie Plate" location to Become Car Wash Site

AVON -- The once long vacant blight on Route 44, originally home to long defunct local Connecticut restaurant chain The Pie Plate, on outskirts the of the former Caldor, now Walmart plaza, was demolished earlier this year and is soon on its way to becoming a car wash. The Caldor Rainbow was there last July for what we didn't know was to be our last glance of the site, which had sat vacant for over ten years as the property slowly dwindled.

It's a shame really, apart from a friend of mine whose mother painted the mural inside the sunroom portion of the restaurant to my brother becoming wickedly ill after an afternoon meal, we will miss what's understandably last vestige of a beloved, bygone Connecticut eatery who, despite cafeteria-grade cuisine had memorable pies, given their namesake and groovy signage and yellows and browns I will never forget inside the once Westfarms mall location.

Route 44 "Munson's" Demolished for "Best Buy," Renovated Munson's strip mall
WEST SIMSBURY -- Bolton-based gourmet candy and chocolate retailer Munson's has gotten a full revamp of their distinctly-shaped Route 44 property, in West Simsbury outside the Hoffman's Auto dealership. The brown-clad, cylindrical-shaped, shingled-roof showroom was purchased by Munson's in addition to their Simsbury Drake Hill Mall location once apart of Hoffman's property in the late 1980's. The site was razed earlier this year for electronics juggernaut Best Buy, who celebrates its first property on the mighty strip sharing the space with a strip-mall styled location for Munson's.

Construction which began late 2007, has been completed (and farewell to that gem of a road sign pictured to the right, complete with shingled hut roof).

Thanks For 18 Years: Westfarms "Footbeats" Closes
W. HARTFORD -- A rapidly transforming Westfarms Mall on the West Hartford-Farmington line will see another long-time tenant leave in place for classier clientele. Footbeats, a children's-based shoe retailer has closed its Westfarms location after 18 years of service, leaving nearby Westfield Meriden, Enfield Square mall and Waterbury Brass Mill Center locations to remain.

Many children who grew up in the 90's will remember buying their insect-print, slip-on loafers and Keds' stock there will now have to explore other options as the Taubman-owned mall pushes out yet another veteran tenant for its target of luring upper-scale tenants.

The Return of Bristol Ocean State Job Lot: "TJ Maxx" Relocates to former "Job Lot," accompanies rumored "Borders Books" at Bristol Plaza
BRISTOL -- Well, folks, Ocean State Job Lot, the Bristol chapter lives to reign another day.

That's right, New England's favorite retail roach is coming back to Bristol and back to Bristol Plaza location. This time, it will be moving across the way in what's currently space for TJ Maxx, who took over the property when clothier D&L (Davidson & Leventhal) declared bankruptcy in 1993.

D&L "PROTOTYPE," MAY 1965 (Photo courtesy: The Hartford Courant).



D&L, who opened its doors in a 1965 prototype location, saw its facade completely renovated in 2006 when after a 12-year stretch, TJ Maxx renovated the once crumbling, space-aging building. Job Lot, who rarely puts the bucks into remodeling repossessed sites, will have the work done for it as it moves into the old building this Fall 2008.

Late last year, we reported Job Lot's planned closure as it failed to renew its lease on what originally had been the property of a decades old Stop & Shop before they moved into a former Bradlees location in 2003, on the opposite side of the plaza. The former Stop & Shop/Job Lot has been renovated in uniform with the current TJ Maxx to accompany a subdivision: a relocated TJ Maxx and mystery anchor.

Rumors continue to persist Borders Books has eyed the site, but nothing is etched in stone.

Oh and about the mall, while it may be gone, the property is still fenced-off, and in limbo.


Stay focused for at least one last juicy article before we depart for an August vacation.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dunkin' Donuts: Store Number One

The Caldor Rainbow visits the first "Dunkin' Donuts" shop in Quincy, Massachusetts.

After all these years, the first shop is still intact, located at 543 Southern Artery and Brackett Street, next to the Super Stop & Shop plaza.

What began as William Rosenberg's "Open Kettle" in 1948, a coffee house restaurant quickly became "Dunkin' Donuts" in May 1950 and a few short years later as a chain operation in 1955. By 1963, the chain had 100 established "restaurants" across the U.S., today they have over 5,769 shops.

While the humble building has likely been expanded, renovated in-and-out through a few design eras, the foundation of the first store ever remains right here after 68 years in the birthplace of Dunkin' Donuts -- Quincy, Massachusetts.
The building itself is largely inconspicuous, with its 1990's prune-and-orange, ridged-plate facade look, sits snugly on a cramped corner. The millions of motorists who pass by may not even realize its history in a sea of 14 other locations for Quincy alone. The building beside it, now a service garage contains a once conformed brown-shingled look is painted over darker shades from an earlier look the chain once (and still, leftover) donned.
Everywhere you look, there's no wonder why "America Runs on Dunkin'"...

A chain that has expanded rapidly in just short decade has won big over the past years with an aggressive and wildly appealing join-us-or-die-trying marketing campaign that has reached outside the realm of coffee drinkers. What was once dad's coffee 'n doughnut lounge and smoke shop is no more.

While rival avant-garde Seattle-based coffee-and-crumpet chain Starbucks is closing 600 locations, the franchise-based Dunkin' Donuts continues to grow in size and appeal -- not closing but often relocating and remodeling. With the northeast flooded in brewed coffee, the spill is trickling into markets where the chain was once a scant entity like Florida and lesser served parts of the Mid-West.

If you don't believe us Northeasterns, check your town on the corporate page store locator for all eight to ten plus locations in your area whether they be in gas stations, supermarkets or just on the corner.


Back in March, The Caldor Rainbow made a pilgrimage to a bygone landmark in another Boston suburb Brighton for a shop whose authentic, vintage 1957 neon road sign had stood for decades but had faced recent rumors of being replaced. Taken down just four days after our visit for a modern, plexiglas one, corporate oversight cited the 51-year old sign had deteriorated beyond suitability.
Word has it the franchise owner of the North Beacon & Market St. location still has it in storage.

If you'd like to see what the Quincy store looked like in its heyday, find out here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The 'C' And The 'O'


Back in March, we presented a slew of wondrous photographs from the personal collection of a former Caldor employee, Jim. Jim or "Jimmy," was a long-time employee at the late New Britain location who often took photographs (that's right, film, ladies and gents) of the store in-and-out over the course of a decade plus.

Following a story (which seems like history now) that ran in our local newspaper, The Hartford Courant, Jim had contacted me via email about a girth of photos and memorabilia he carried on with him throughout the years as a Caldor employee.

These "time capsules" are one of my proudest offerings for the site seeing as my inspiration for was built upon the late rainbow-icon discount store Caldor, but specifically the bygone location on Farmington Avenue in New Britain. One of my goals with the site when I began, was to do whatever I could to find tangable evidence of this very store and others.

Because of Jim's personal photos, he's helped visually remember the store in ways I myself had not due to often spotty details of memory and its fallacies.

On Jim's final day of work, he recounted to me how it was one of the most horrifying days of his career at the New Britain Caldor -- as parts of the plexiglas lettering came falling down from the withering, old stucco and rockface facade that seemed cutting-edge back in 1972 and as the chain's 21st store for the 21st Anniversary.

They, like most of the store's remains in 1999 went to the landfill. Except for a few morsels Jim has kept them snugly in his garage for all those years: the 'C' and the 'O', wonderfully preserved in their burnt-orange goodness.


This sign, another iteration of the well-known "rainbow" motif, was the second one used on this store, likely replaced from the original one sometime during the 1980's.

All photos are the respective property of Jim and were given permission to use on The Caldor Rainbow only. As with all of Jim's photos, do not reproduce or share on any other website.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Kmart Re-Introduces Umpteenth 'Store Remodels'

The corporates at Kmart have seen the wave of the future -- all around it. From the designer-chich, hip Target to a sun-shinier, new "Walmart," who recently unearthed what's been identified as a "sunburst" logo, it's time for the decades sinking department discounter to step up and show some competitive edge -- this time it could be for real.

Kmart Store Remodel: Promises including Wider Aisles (!) will accompany the umpteenth concept

(Re)introducing "Kmart Store Remodels," a little tab on their webpage which promises customers an all-new shopping experience with various neo-lifestyle amenities to assure its customer base they can still be cool and hip. All-new and Kmart? Its hard to believe, especially with the reputation the chain has dragged along today across the nation with many of its notoriously yesteryear-looking stores disorganized, somewhat dilapidated, cosmetically challenged and decoratively dated by decades plus. Some stores even suffer with various unappealing and often reminiscent odors of diseased retailers still lurking down the aisles.

As Donald Fagen of Steely Dan said in "The Last Mall"; "roll your cart back up the aisle!"

Say hello to the in of internet cafes (out with darkened Little Caesar's corners), brighter colors (lots of red but will they keep the olive green, brown and tan linoleum tiles?), an expanded Craftsman section (which will likely take over the vacated Martha Stewart acreage) and possibly the biggest surprise of them all: the return of the auto center -- with Sears nameplate attached.

This could mean, soon, you won't have to stare at the eyesore, abandoned garage yards otherwise used to stockpile disused gondolas, garden equipment at the sides of your Kmart stores anymore thanks to Sears...

Attention Kmart Shoppers, this ain't the first time you've seen this.

If you didn't know better, or had a "Sears Essentials/Grand" unrolled in your town to mask over a distressed, underperforming Kmart store in the last couple years since the infamous merger, you're going to see what's looking like a glorified Sears-Kmart discount store concept -- all over again.

Since over the course of the 90's, Kmart has been searching grand for the perfect image ever since they unveiled their iconic red-and-green "K mart" face in the early 60's. They've tried so hard since, in fact, they suffer from an identity crisis with today's generation. Unable to settle with anything firmly distinct beyond the somewhat flopped, tacky "Big K" movement, the company has struggled more than any other major discounter since with concepts to move its look towards a confident look for the chain. After over a decade, the chain has attempted to dump the Big K moniker despite the storefront logos, move back to the classic "kmart" (all lowercase), and wants nothing more than simplicity -- like its ever-expanding rivals Walmart and Target, who've spun Kmart off its once domineering position since.

The "Store Remodel" tab which lurks hidden on bottom end of the page

So which stores will be getting the treatment? Kmart's page has a list, seemingly ensuring at least one store per state will be getting the facelift. Apparently, only the highest profile stores will see the changes up front, and the only one in Connecticut granted this premium treatment: Southbury.

The two-level Southbury store, located at the town's I-84 exit will be the lone ranger to get the grade-up treatment -- leaving the remainders in the state who could much use the remodel to its advantage.

The Southbury store, which is the furthest advanced store in Connecticut in contrast (just to be fair) to the nearby towns Waterbury, whose early 1970's canopy look dates it beyond a monochrome paint job but not nearly to that of an age-old Straits Turnpike, Watertown location which retains its original 1976 red-and-green logo still plastered onto the old Grants building it replaced oh so many years ago. Apart from its marvelous time traveled look that might otherwise appeal to retail history enthusiasts or make your grandma feel at ease, the company will be favoring stores that clearly have bold futures instead of the ones that really need it.

With deep financial pressures hard to escape in the face of the merged Kmart-Sears, a very troubled spending economy with many prominent chains purging this year alone, the parent sees the need to make or break. Sears itself isn't peachy either but instead of closing locations or initiating a kaput of the entire Kmart label all together as urged by 'financial experts,' having their shot at reviving a faltering company in twilight -- is in the works. for yet another round.

For more pictures of Connecticut's Kmart stores, look towards our "Kmart Collection" premium photo gallery set on Flickr.

If you haven't, you really need to see Pleasant Family Shopping and their various segments on Kmart with full-color vintage photography.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Toys "R" Us Comes To North Haven, Leaves Hamden

Hey kids! Toys "R" Us is coming to a town near you -- if you live in/around North Haven.

NORTH HAVEN, C.T. -- That's right, the iconic giraffe-toned mega toy retailer is planning a new Toys "R" Us-Babies "R" Us combo at the forthcoming North Haven Commons shopping center along the fledgling Universal Drive shopping district adjacent the I-91 corridor to I-95.

Developer Ripco, whose crafted the siteplan for the under construction North Haven Commons also includes a few new entrants including Best Buy, Petco, and an unleased parcel as major anchors amongst others.

Toys "R" Us-Babies "R" Us in North Haven will be the chain's newest in over ten years for Connecticut and the first newly-built since one built from a relocated Waterbury location in 1997, at the Brass Mill Commons. Both stores shared the peak of the company's image; Waterbury was the state's first "Concept 2000" and North Haven will be the first combination store crafted in the company's bolder image.

In accordance with the company's plan, many existing Toys "R" Us stores, most of which who haven't received any significant remodels in over 15+ years, have since undergone a campaign to reformat under the guise of CEO Storch and his fresh marketing campaign with hopes to rebound the once dominant toy retailer to suit a branding combination following the success of the chain's sister Babies "R" Us brand.


Some stores which have already reformatted into the hybrid type which includes Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us stores under one roof, including one "left behind" location we once planned to visit in York, PA (but got there too late), Salisbury, MD and Auburn, MA (pictured above).

Other long-time stores as well as new ones currently up for the transformation include a veteran location in Manchester, NH, which is currently enduring its third remodel since its 1982 opening into a hybrid location.

The Caldor Rainbow has since swooped up a couple locations in Ohio; one wonderfully preserved store in Boardman-Youngstown and a white-clad repaint in St. Clairsville, both still largely time-warped, still shadowing the chain's iconic look from the 80's with brown ripple-roofs and multi-colored striped exteriors like one we've tirelessly promoted here in the past in Clay, N.Y.

Though no stores have made the current generation remodel in Connecticut, changes are expected to make their play inevitably. The market has been golden for the chain in our state, who saw little to no closures since the chain entered the Connecticut market. Apart from a bygone East Haven location, a relocated Waterbury one and one such in Westport, which closed earlier this year, will likely rebound with the coming of the new North Haven store -- with the possibility of a 12-year old Hamden location getting the ax.

The Hamden Mart, which houses the county's other Toys "R" Us came about in 1996 when Stop & Shop moved out of the plaza. Rumors persist the chain's strategy includes a future with the North Haven store making the forefront, leaving the the Dixwell Ave. location to not renew its lease.

Toys "R" Us currently has 9 locations in Connecticut, Babies "R" Us has 5 all standalone locations making the North Haven store a first in the state as well as becoming the state's tenth location, replacing the late Westport store.

If you haven't already, please check out our in-depth case study of classic stores and Pleasant Family Shopping for an incredible full-color shot of an early 1970s shot of the beloved rainbow-striped glee the chain is classically known for.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

New City 'Bradlees' Last Remaining Vacancy in New York

"Coming Soon -- A Complete Renovation and Modernization of this Property"

...greeted The Caldor Rainbow upon its recent visitation to one of New York's earliest Bradlees sites in New City (not New York City), which has remained vacant for over seven years since the chain's closure.

NEW CITY, N.Y. -- With half the ghostly "Bradlees" building side logo in tatters, peaking behind florishing trees from the road, the elderly and dilapidated "Mini City" plaza site on the North Main Street-Cavalry Road split apparently has a plan for the future. A nearly forty-year, former Stop & Shop Companies relic hopes to seek new tenants and a new life after its neigh decade of vacancy and ages of age.

Bradlees, the New London, Conn. discount department store chain quickly expanded under the banner of the Stop & Shop Companies in the early 60's with a progressive expansion plan shortly after, opening one of its first New York state outlets in New City back in the mid-1960's, apart of a "Mini-City" with Bradlees, Stop & Shop and Medi-Mart. Sharing success for many years, the plaza fell on hard times when the bond ended in the early 1990's, but even deeper as the decade went on.

Bradlees shared a good level of success in the state of New York, with its earliest sites in Poughkeepsie and New City with one of its last vacant sites in southern-tier Elmira-Horseheads formerly anchoring at the Arnot Mall.

Today, the New City site is only half-diseased. still hanging in there as a well-known town blight.

A former Bradlees, sitting silently, boarded-up against a caramel-toned brick and signature early rockface facade since the liquidations in early 2001 following the chain's December 2000 closure. The encompassing "Mini-City" site, now a mere ghost of its original self is a lot now used for vacationing truckers, breaking construction workers at the outparcel, nearby McDonald's, and patronage to an outdated Walgreens on the far-side of the plaza. Its largest tenants sit rotting away in addition to the long-fallen discounter including a neighboring, long departed Stop & Shop which has become home to a future supermarket before its label-scarred vacancy.

News last year came about with Stop & Shop purchasing the lot to build a new store -- but almost one year later, nothing has happened. Town talk has hopes to build an entirely refaced plaza, complete with landscaping and total facade renovation.

New City "Mini City": Bradlees, a vacant former Stop & Shop and Walgreens

The Mini-City site, like many others built around this time, began in the mid-1960's under the banner of the Stop & Shop Companies: with (left-to-right) Bradlees, Stop & Shop and Medi-Mart. With Bradlees lasting until the final days in 2001, Stop & Shop had left earlier following the divorce of 'The Companies,' while Medi-Mart was sold off to Walgreens in the late 80's.

Nearly forty-years later, the fate is still blurred, but not without hope to start anew.

Enjoy our pictures on a beauitful late May afternoon. It may be some of the last shots you see here of Bradlees in New City, thus ending the dead discounter Bradlees' saga in New York as this site edges closer to being revitalized. Luckilly, we were able to avoid a line of questioning when my trusty sidekick picked me up upon the sudden sighting of a local police patrol (bottom right corner of the header photo)!

Currently, there are still a handful of remaining Bradlees in New Jersey including ones in Bordentown, Woodbury, Hazlet and Toms River. The Caldor Rainbow seeks to bring you those updates as the Summer months move along.

For more on The Stop & Shop Companies and "Mini City" sites including outstanding full-color vintage photos of Bradlees in its youth, we urge you to view the excellent Pleasant Family Shopping site, who provides many valuable visuals from their respective eras.

For more info on Bradlees in Connecticut, please visit our Premium Store Locator.

UPDATE: Site entirely demolished.