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.