Sunday, January 06, 2008

West Hartford-Elmwood 'Swept Wing' Caldor Dismantled

What's going on over at 983 New Britain Avenue in the Elmwood section of West Hartford?

Reader Jude of the Caldor Rainbow and local resident who runs a site of her own, "Scenic Root" swung by the oddly-sloped facade building of fallen retailer Caldor at the former "Piper Brook" area to notice it surprisingly being dismantled and felt compelled to inform us.

Chances are, if you're local, you've seen or remembered having shopped the now time-warped, weather-damaged, pockmarked stucco-nightmare which has been hailed as a infamous town blight and a continual haunt to residents in a plaza whose pavement is akin to shattered glass -- and shattered [dollar] dreams.

Surrounded by those signature yellow cranes, the building is apparently finally being "taken down," piece-by parallelogram-piece.

The Caldor Rainbow has taken a trip to the gravesite this Sunday morning, and brings you these pictures -- the final images of Connecticut's final memory trip to the golden age of Caldor expansion.


Locals have questioned for years about the usage of the site, who hasn't seen much success after Ames left it vacant in 2003. An area of much distress, includes the dual-tenanted plaza. A dollar-centric "Dollar Dreams;" a neighboring the vacant husk continued operation out of an equally crippled store space held by Waldbaum's and before it, Stop 'n Save. Then in late 2007, word came about of a phantom supermarket chain hoping to dominate the long distressed space, and it might happen soon enough.

Late last year, we suggested if someone didn't rip it down, it might fall down given the hazardous, withering condition it has suffered and endured since before and after the end days of late retailer Caldor, who crafted the iconic, yet equally bizarre "swept wing" look that became synonymous with the then rising retailer in 1972.

A typical Star's spot advertising questionable "Around The Clock" business, shown in The Hartford Courant in November 1972.
Before Caldor took it over, renovating it extensively, the site hadn't much long-endured success when it was Star's Family Fair and a Popular Supermarket, which opened in September 1962. In it's later years, Star's Discount, who practiced business unusually was oddly open around the clock only in Elmwood, offered just about every odd and end. When it closed the Elmwood location in the early 1970's, retailer Caldor snatched up the space and had decades of success until the chain closed up.

Star's Discount, who later became known as Nu-Star's, had two other regularly operated locations apart the closed 24-hour Elmwood location in Wallingford and Torrington. The chain closed up for good in the late 1990's.

WEST HARTFORD-ELMWOOD as it looked, pictured on MAY 30, 2006.
On November 2, 1972, the Caldor Corporation crafted what's referred to as the "swept wing" facade look on its proud 21st Anniversary, 21st chainwide store on Farmington Avenue in New Britain. The company then unveiled the ever-reminiscent rainbow-motif to go along with the angled facade look spawning an experimental and certainly distinct look for the ever-popular department retail chain.

Others like it spread to this West Hartford-Elmwood location as well as Southington in 1973. All but this lonely location has been snatched up by Wal-Mart in 2000.

When Caldor met its chainwide closure in 1999, the building was quickly swept up by the overzealous Ames, who met ends with its expansion ills in 2003 when they announced their own chainwide closure. Despite the building's enormous volume, a good percentage unused by Ames' needs, the building's deteriorating state wasn't much a concern for the acquisition.

With the site at 983 New Britain Avenue coming down, there's only one former Caldor left in Connecticut in Groton, which is currently under use by the Pfizer Corporation (you can find details on that one here and here).

We honor the former site as a window into the distant past -- the rich heritage of Caldor. Ever since the early days of 2008, the building served as a floodgate for memories long beyond what it was built for. We'll certainly miss it, but hope the site sees prosperity in the near future.

If you haven't already, please review our premium Caldor Store Locator and our report on the now late site at 983 New Britain Avenue.

UPDATE / FEBRUARY 5, 2008. The former Caldor site will become a PriceRite discount supermarket. Existing land which includes demolition of the vacant, outparcel Piper Brook Restaurant will be "a new building that would house either a retailer or a bank." Also, wondering what happened to the "swept wings?" Appearently, they were "...knocked down... because it was a safety hazard." Read more on The Hartford Courant.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Westfield 'Meriden Square' CVS Closes After 36+ Years

Well folks, January is the most dead time of the new year. Like any new year, and winter itself, among the post-Christmas exhale it's a season of closures, a time to loosen the ol' belt for some companies.

Upon walking into a long-time tenant of the mall for a couple of towering $.99 cans of Arizonas, a simple sheet of computer paper said it all in a modest font/size sign at the gate. Thanking patrons for years of service, the chain urges its veteran customers to seek out the newer, other stand-alone stores in Meriden; on East and West Main Streets.

CVS inside the Westfield Meriden shopping mall, formerly known as Meriden Square, will have it's last day of sale on Sunday, January 6.

(Photo: Hartford Courant)
CVS, a leading national drugstore chain based out of Woonsocket, Rhode Island opened its mall-side CVS store in 1971 in conjunction with the opening of the Meriden Square, a premiere enclosed shopping mall at the edge of Meriden, Connecticut whose since changed its name and size since by the Westfield Group. Back then, the chain was more humbly known by its real identity "Consumer Value Stores," but most widely known by its acronym, CVS.
Having survived a trio of decades plus in action inside Meriden's premiere mall, CVS retained itself as the mall's eldest tenant. By today's standard, its last remodel, which pre-dates back to its 1980's-rich facade of striped grays and reds shows in-and-out. Its indoor features are rapidly deteriorating and distressed, including rotting, falling-down ceiling boards in a bunkered, cramped setting apart recently replaced aisle signage.

The chain now has three locations in Meriden; two on East Main Street, and one on West Main, excluding the soon-to-be-closed mall location.

CVS, like many other chains including its rivals, want their own stores on their their own sites.

Stores that are larger, brighter, and located at bustling junctions are what they're after these days and polar what company strategy sought no more than ten years prior. CVS, like its counter Walgreens and two lessers Rite Aid and Brooks Pharmacy, have begun to thrive post-millennial, beginning a takeover of the long coming pharmacy chains including Eckerd, having many locations rebranded into Rite Aid stores. Other ghosts of past include Genovese and Heartland Drug; both of which faded by the mid-90's.

Keeping their competitive edge in these times with the mammoth Walgreens, whose been popping brand-new locations up left and right, CVS hopes to phase out many of its aging locations within strip and indoor malls for these new-aged, XL/big box-styled stores that are far from what most CVS stores have historically been about.

Part of the move seeks out diminishing these smaller, indoor mall locations -- especially when the chain has since aimed to place two to three stores per town. Unlike the voluptuous, clean and vital looking locations down the road from the aging mall site, the Meriden Square CVS hadn't ever a pharmacy, like most mall-side stores which is now and evermore a staple in the CVS chain's marketing campaign, which seeks to promote a friendly, knowledgeable staff of pharmacists (to remedy, if you will, recent controversy surrounding the uncertainty of distributed medicine at shops).

CVS continues to operate various locations within major shopping malls in the state including Danbury Fair Mall, Crystal Mall and The Shoppes at Buckland Hills. Stores in Enfield Square and Westfarms Mall may be long gone and there's no word if any of the aforementioned will be closed soon along with Meriden and Trumbull (at Westfield Trumbull).
Yours truly worked as a CVS employee and could tell you of another dire, dire store in Unionville, Conn...

UPDATE (1-5-08): Westfield Trumbull store closing (are we detecting a trend?).
UPDATE (1-6-08): Recent photos added, title image replaced.

All newspaper advertisements courtesy Hartford Courant. All original/on-site photos by The Caldor Rainbow.