Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Vestige of Norwalk Kmart "Hanging" In There

Does anyone remember a Kmart at 330 Connecticut Avenue in Norwalk?

"There's always something there to remind me."

At least that's what the U.K. new-wave group Naked Eyes said in 1983, earning their chart topper which was likely once available on cassette at this long fallen former Kmart site on the Route 1 strip in Norwalk.

A plaza whose since lured a few tenants to occupy what was once home to a Fairfield-area Kmart, partitioned within the ailing vestige of Kmart's shadow -- with nothing but one of their signature mid-70's-era rooflines hanging above a dark sidewalk, sandwiched between future occupants TJ Maxx and Best Buy.

Upon an investigation, we had discovered the site at 330 Connecticut Avenue, which also goes by the name of "Norwalk Plaza," was in fact once anchored by Kmart entirely -- but not for too long. A heritage has apparently never left the plaza.

Here's where it gets stranger.

Best Buy, who succeeded now internet-banished, New York-based Nobody Beats The Wiz, or known in later years as simply "The Wiz" (which will share eternal fame on the count of many a Seinfeld re-run) removed only a couple of the "roof plys" on the right end to accommodate remodeling for the Best Buy store, a task The Wiz neglected.

Both retailers were negligent in removing the entire facade, including Best Buy who only sought to remove less than half of it.

A Kmart "roof ply," representing each segment on the overall roof facade which began rolling out in 1975 until 1980s iterations of the chain's look.

Beneath the forgotten scaffold roof, which just hangs there, is a walled off, former tight-squeeze entrance/ways and showroom windows many discount department stores were well known for before the advent of mega-sized vestibules (to possibly accommodate mega people, mega items) and sliding doors. Upon visiting a Kmart these days, you'll be notice the doorways and the rich, chime of age old motors working too hard to open the swinging doors as you squeeze yourself and your cart through to get inside the store.

The entire site is nothing short of an oddity today, serving no purpose, largely unquestioned by the many patrons of the plaza today. There's even an interesting elderly "Fire Lane" sign.

As seen in this earlier set of photos, likely taken during the later 1990's, by the ever-resourceful property management outfit SiteRide, one can see the once signature five-ply roof scaffold comparatively bogged down to just the three it retains today. Why not just take the whole thing down?

The world may never know.

But you may know. Perhaps someone might be able to fill us in on when the Kmart opened, when it closed and how long it was closed for. It obviously was not successful, believed to have been over 15+ years within vacancy.

Currently, there are a good handful of vacant, original Kmart stores left behind in recent years' waves of closings and other retail use which include Orange, Manchester and East Haven. A former site in Derby was recently cleared away for an incoming Lowe's Home Improvement. Norwalk further bolsters the fact, adding yet another chapter of shame in that the New Haven-Fairfield market is not a good one for the Kresge Company.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Beginning of The End of The Bristol Centre Mall, Job Lot Saga

The Bristol Centre Mall is finally coming down. No really. It is (or has begun to).

A couple weeks ago, The City of Bristol got its act together and finally threw the ball through the mall -- at Bristol Centre.

The first knock in the wall dealt with everything that gave the City a headache for over a year plus -- beginning on the far-right end where a stubborn Job Lot held the mall's impending destruction up for years. But it was not without complete and total silliness on the part of an involved Mayor Art Ward himself reenacting some "Rocky" (we're not sure why) masquerading, in a height of melodrama, the first pockmark was made. We did not make it there on that day (though in hindsight, and for rare, live downtown Bristol comic value, we wish we had).

So roughly 30 degrees warmer and beneath wonderful, lush blue skies of one late February afternoon in which one would, if not for the chills of Winter, find contrails galore above, we stopped by and took some snowcapped pictures of the partially wrecked mall, which has officially begun in its demolition phase -- striking hard on The City's most difficult angle of the mall or the plot formerly held by fleabag retailer Ocean State Job Lot, which attempted to stop the presses, and the world's spinning, held it up in courts for over a year plus.

Job Lot snubs final day customers on January 20, ceasing operations days earlier than originally predicted -- empirically does entire City of Bristol, seagulls a great service.

With this glaring news for the Rhode Island-based cockroach cabinet (no really, we like Job Lot) another former Job Lot in town is getting the axe and grind after it ceased operations late January at the very same time -- and the future tenant who may remain unknown is getting to work on ripping down an ages old, former Super Stop & Shop facade.

Dedicated Bristol Plaza seagulls unimpressed with demolition efforts, vacancy remains almost comparable to when Job Lot was actually in business at the former Route 6 site.

Seagulls hoping future tenant keeps unwanted motorists off their parking lot/basking territory.

Bristol, which had two Job Lots this time one year ago now has none and currently has no plans to reopen (or repossess a faltering, old retail complex) a location within town. Rumors persist of TJX Companies TJ Maxx, located across the plaza in the space once held by D&L, and its desire to migrate to the space formerly held by Job Lot and mostly Stop & Shop since 1960 until 2002.

You can read all about what happened on the ground breaking ceremony here, but you can view our wonderful photo gallery on Flickr. We expect more "progress" on The City's future when the weather patterns become more steady but until then, we'll provide regular, sporadic updates regarding the slow departure of the mall which has ways to go.

As for the future of the site? Could be used again for retail...

Thanks for memories, Bristol! Here's to hoping we can find another former supermarket to inhabit/inhibit elsewhere!

After the mall is destroyed, perhaps The City might get working on the level of obnoxious stop 'n go traffic lights on the North Main (and 6) strips, maybe consider more flashing yellows after 11PM?

If you missed it under our ramblings, here's the photo gallery. All photos were taken February 24, 2008.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bradlees: Evolution of Logos

Here's a history unearthed of many logos used by the late Bradlees department store throughout its life. As with many retailers in the days of print-dominant media, retailers would display and mainstream their week's sales and specials through the monochromes of newspapers.

After an experimental decade, Bradlees finally settled on a destined iconic, groovy logo far beyond the limits of groove's allowance (which is almost precisely the year disco refused to leave, becoming a subculture). As it turns out, the 1970s-centric logo we all knew would become the company's image all the way up until the dark day of defeat. Kind of told a story about the retailer who endured troubled times in the final decade of its life.

Upon looking through these, you'll find throughout the 1960's, the company began to craft a style they has branded as iconic: notably an arrow within the 'B'. It was then, in 1973 they had realized they had their own sleek, modern alternative to Caldor's "hip" rainbow motif.

1960: Before "Stop & Shop"

November 1960: Bristol Plaza; Bristol, Conn.

December 1960




"Mini-Pricing" Years: 1965-1968

"Mini-Pricing" Years: 1965-1968

"Mini-Pricing" Years: 1965-1968

"Mini-Pricing" Years: 1965-1968






Stay tuned for the relaunching of the Bradlees Store Locator and related Bradlees updates in the near future. If you've not already, be sure to explore our findings of former Bradlees locations including our newest find in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Caldor Rainbow meets The Hartford Courant

And we're sharing the same page as The Spice Girls.

The Caldor Rainbow has made its first media appearance on Monday February 18. 2008 in the Life section, courtesy of The Hartford Courant.

We would like to welcome newcomers to the site -- we hope you'll participate, contribute and make our site more content rich and relevant. Explore our backlogs on the sidebar (yes, I know it's not entirely user-friendly), and our many original photos on Flickr.

We would like to thank Courant reporter Daniela Altimari; who originally approached us last year about doing a story, Carolyn Moreau; for her online video segment, and Shana Sureck for the "album cover" photographs.

Additionally, our true thanks goes to our retail enthusiasts circle which includes Chris Fontaine, of Ames Fan Club, Daniel "d_fife" Fife (an abundant poster at the Ames Fan Club forums) whose compelled us to take distant road trips, Jason Damas (Caldor) and Ross Schendel (Prange Way) of Labelscar, Keith Milford of Malls of America (still alive, Keith?) and of course the pioneers Pete Blackbird and Brian Florence at Dead Malls Dot Com, who I like to think inspired many of us to keep our eyes on dying retail from the start. Without you guys, I might not have been here sharing similar passions.

Golden thanks is reserved for family; my mother Rose, my father Nick, and my brother Michael whose driven us places and Renee Morrisett, who insists upon coming along for every one of the missions.

If you just stumbled across the site, you can read all about it on The Courant's online mirror, or go grab a copy of the print edition at your local newsstand/supermarket (where we are proudly displayed next to The Spice Girls).

If you've got questions or comments, you can drop us an e-mail at XISMZERO@yahoo.com.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Last Remaining Vacant Bradlees Found In Foxborough

Thanks to some research by us, with great help to Microsoft Live Maps, we've confirmed a lone, surviving former Bradlees department store nestled within Foxborough, Massachusetts -- which is also the last vestige of a completely in-tact, vacant Bradlees within the state.

For some time now, we've been fascinated at the marvel that is Live Search Maps apart of Virtual Earth here at the Caldor Rainbow. When we began using the program created by Microsoft last year, there weren't many advancements in Microsoft's satellite imagery program that hadn't already raised eyebrows since Google's own Satellite feature.


But now, we see many states are now apart of the most impressive feature the program sanctions: Birdseye Imagery.

Because of these impressive steps, we're now able to make researching far outside our scope more convenient. While not absolute and often times uncertain, our range of visual research has been extended to further investigate sites we don't always have local watchdogs to scope out.

As we've trumpeted before, the New London, Conn.-based Bradlees department store chain was beloved among northeasterners before it shuttered all remaining locations in early 2001 following a day-after-Christmas 2000 announcement of ceasing to continue business after a half of decade of retailing. In its later years, Bradlees housed it's corporate affairs within Braintree, Mass., roughly ten miles outside the state's capital of Boston.

In 2001, Bradlees left a hefty 33 vacant properties within Massachusetts as opposed to only 17 in its neighboring, origin state of Connecticut. By 2008, all but one property has been swallowed by today retailers which have included Wal-Mart, Kohl's and Burlington Coat Factory -- but not Foxboro.

While taking almost ten years to almost fully secure new homes for the former holes left by Bradlees, the question remains: Why doesn't anyone want the empty Foxboro location at 30 Commercial Street?

About a mile off Interstate 95, along (MA) Route 140, the secluded Foxboro Bradlees sits vacantly beside a somewhat dried up, islandic Foxborough Plaza, anchored by the bargain bazaar Ocean State Job Lot, a handful of smaller stores and an outparcel Papa Gino's restaurant.

Bradlees opened its Foxboro location at the height of its expansive years on April 22, 1982 and made it all the way to the chain's finish line in 2000. It has since been banking of eight years of vacancy.

The store is a true relic apart being brown-draped, with brown-and-caramel toned counters and a rarer white-faced logo, escaping the typical red used by the chain throughout the 1970s until the end. With inexplicable recent Stop & Shop bags seen at the checkouts, we suspect the husk was recently used by the former parent for limited use/training facility despite the plexiglas Bradlees logo still up there.

The Caldor Rainbow took the trip in early January (on a surprisingly balmy afternoon for early Winter), so we hope maybe some of our southeastern Mass'ers can tell us more about Foxborough Plaza, and maybe a little more background on what was here before Bradlees took over. There's a label scar of sorts, but it's largely indecipherable so we're hoping you can help.

UPDATE: April 2009. Believed to have originally been a King's, became Bradlees 1982. Lease was purchased by Stop & Shop in 2001.

You can see the entire gallery of photos taken on January 8, 2008 on our Flickr.