Monday, September 07, 2009

New Britain Walmart Closure And Aftermath

Well, that's all folks!

That's pretty much what the Bentonville, AK-based juggernaut big box retailer Walmart said to its entire staff and patrons of the nearly ten-year Farmington Ave., New Britain location on August 31st, 2009. Citing many reasons other than the company line of "economic reasons," others are speculative, some phoned-in from local residents and even a turned-down request for store expansion, the New Britain location which opened in 2001, shortly after a 27-year, dilapidated swept-rockface 70's 'rainbow' Caldor had gone belly up with the entire chain, had shut it doors for good.

Two days after the closure...

The parking lot now largely barren, a rich dark green scar where the white-clad sign once displayed in front of a scene with the least amount of cars ever seen for 3PM on a Tuesday. Two New Britain Police cruisers in the fire lane, presumably surveying the area. Kids released from nearby school walk past the now vacated Walmart along Farmington Avenue. One asks me 'is it closed?', another 'is it going to be Kmart?' -- only one of those I was sure of.

Uncertain of the fate of 655 Farmington Ave., the store posters awareness on the cart-only entrance of six other locations within the 15 mile radius of the newly dark storefront.

This makes only two closed Walmart stores in Connecticut -- both in New Britain.

There's something about the city of New Britain and its unlucky history with Walmart. The first Walmart opened on the corner of Slater and Hillhurst Roads in 1997 on the site of a recently departed Price Club (and before that, a long-time Stop & Shop-Bradlees plaza). Shortly after the closure of Caldor, Walmart shuttered the Slater Road location, moving to the Farmington Ave. location shortly after the demolition of Caldor in 2001.

With the late, beloved Northeast discounter Caldor spent, it always seem to come back to that earthtoned rainbow we can't get enough of. Back in November 1972, Caldor had celebrated its 21st Anniversary by opening a rather unique concept store with a enormous earthtoned rainbow company emblem apart a memorable angular facade that haunted its own architectural flaws all the way up until its 1999 closure. Here's a bit we wrote back on January 6, 2008...
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.
One of our readers shared a slew of old pictures from his personal collection from 655 Farmington Avenue's Caldor days just as I remember them (rainbow and all). In case you missed it, he still has some prime memorabilia from the building -- namely the "C" and "O" plexiglas letters.

Walmart has been on a remodeling frenzy lately.

A sprawl if you will, all throughout the country with many stores in our fair Connecticut getting 11 out of the 34 with the new look. Reflective of their massive ad campaign that began last year, the company sought to combat negative media reflections of the chain corporate and otherwise -- the otherwise otherwise being that their stores were always so darned messy, the root of all of America's evil. We don't share this view, knowing my own bias for rival discounter, Target.

The Caldor Rainbow does not know what will happen to this site. Once a prime piece of real estate, we believe that this will likely not stay vacant for long.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Shirley Not Mistaken: A Free-Standing Roy Rogers

Roy Rogers himself may be dead and I think his burgers, chicken and roast beef chain seems to be following down that road. In fact, I was ready to accept Roy Rogers restaurant as an endangered specie, in critical condition of extinction.

Just recently upon my travels off Long Island, I stumbled across a free-standing 80's draped Roy Rogers in the town of Shirley, near the Route 27 stretch. Thinking it was vacant upon first glance, it didn't appear to me that an empty parking lot at 9:30 AM would suggest Roy's still doesn't have a breakfast menu.

This particular location is such off-the-radar find, it even has a weirdly-placed, double-sided, now mangled road sign that's just hangin' in there -- sporting the retro sunset-over-the-canyon logo I would love to have on t-shirt.

When I was a kid, we used to go to the formerly Marriott-owned Roy Rogers restaurant chain at the Meriden Square, near (then) upper-level G. Fox (now "Westfield Meriden", ugh). Sure, it was one of the only fast food eateries at the mall at the time, but they had some distinction over the meganauts McDonald's (never really liked McD's) and Burger King (whose fallen from grace). OK, the large portrait of Roy with a wheat stem in his mouth on the wall kind of scared a tender, younger me but I always dug the unlimited, free fixin's bar no matter how smelly handed/sneezed in sanitary disaster it might've been.


Ever since the later 1990s, the franchise-run Roy Rogers has been slowly dwindling out of many markets, leaving one oddly-newly built one in (nose-bleed) North Stonington (I know, where?) including the once well-off Connecticut market. Since 2007, free-standing locations have pulled out of Newington (US-5 & CT-15), North Haven (US-5) and Manchester (I-84, Exit 63) to name a few. A good number of former Roy's became home to up-and-coming rival roast beef chain Arby's, whose seen sizable expansion in recent years.

Now, someone go wake up the webmaster at the "hip" newly painted Roy Rogers website, tell them Manchester has been closed for over a year.

Go see more pictures on our magnificent Flickr!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Toys "R" Us (Finally) Opens In North Haven, Closes Hamden

Remember that story we did over a year ago about Toys "R" Us putting a store in North Haven? Remember when we breached the story early? So early, in fact, we had doubts it would ever come to fruition, which is why we almost retracted the story.


Toys "R" Us of North Haven opened as the thirteenth store in Connecticut, but only the ninth succeeding store (see the list below, folks) to date.

The bright, vivacious location along Universal Drive opened with somewhat dim fanfare on July 3, 2009 and is the newest Toys "R" Us in the state since 1997. Not since 1997 has the company opened a store from the ground up; the relocated Waterbury store which was, at that time, a "Concept 2000" store.

Unlike other states, North Haven is the only store in Connecticut sporting the new 2008 logo (as seen above, taken from the Bay Shore, NY store).

Ever since that disastrous CEO dropped out for the new guy, he decided to take the company's greatest (highly profitable) asset, Babies "R" Us, and mesh the stores together into one superstore -- and its taken place in many markets though not entirely in our little, albeit fertile Toys "R" Us market of Connecticut.

Seeing the greater of opportunities, the company simultaneously shuttered its 13-year Dixwell Ave. Hamden location in place of the North Haven store, which is planted in the posh, new North Haven Commons, right off I-91, which also opened ripe in Spring 2009. The now dark Hamden location, apart of the well-established and "historic" Hamden Mart recently underwent its own umpteenth remodel to escape the once ghastly balloony red-tarp motif they had going on there for decades, succeeding a long-standing Stop & Shop which once flanked the center's far right end many moons ago.

Here's a bevy of shots from the now closed Hamden store, taken recently in August 2009.

Just last Summer, the company closed up another well-established, yet oddly placed Westport location, once along Boston Post Road (US-1) which has since become a Homegoods. While some have closed, many more across the country have remodeled into the ambitious new age of Toys "R" Us/Babies "R" Us combo stores.

And now, our known list of stores in Connecticut, now with more pictures!
History of Toys "R" Us in Connecticut

WATERBURY | OPENED : 1979(?), CLOSED : 1998
WATERBURY / Brass Mill Commons | OPENED : 1997

*All stores before DANBURY (1988) contained the brown roof, rainbow-striped palette, and have all been remodeled since.
A nice looking store, no doubt, but I can't shake my obsession for the past -- especially when it comes to what used to be the greatest toy store.

Oh, if anyone has any fond memories of their Toys "R" Us experience(s), leave a comment. Leave as many as you want if you have information (especially opening year) on the troubled, "sinking" former East Haven location and of course any photographs of the original Waterbury store.

PHOTO CREDIT: East Haven, CT (Unknown), Milford, CT (Milford Town Assessor Database)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Silver Lane 'Pizza Hut' Back From 7-Year Silence, Flaming Doom

For the past many years, plenty have seen that vacant Pizza Hut on Silver Lane. Or perhaps you've taken the diamond lane before Exit 58 on I-84 Eastbound, glanced over and witnessed that familiar red-topped restaurant and its vacant lot held by self-proclaimed "America's Favorite Pizza" chain, Pizza Hut.

Upon today's shocking discovery driving along Silver Lane, it would appear Pizza Hut lives again -- as "The Hut".


Pizza Hut along Silver Lane closed after a two-alarm fire sought to seal its fate one (hot) February evening back in 2002. The red roof became an actual, animated red roof that night, eventually seeing the restaurant to remain closed up for a very long time. Ever since, the location had been sitting there on the stretch nearby Taco Bell and the revitalized Rensselaer Field (thanks Cabelas), boarded up, without any public plans to re-open or sell off the deadbeat property.

For roughly 7 years, the silent property has astonishingly opened its doors for patronage once again -- and with a new look: "The Hut" (though as you can see, only on the road sign because they know this marketing scheme won't last).

"The Hut" is the chain's (silly) ginchy new attempt at market rebranding, especially to those who've not seen an "Italian Bistro" Pizza Hut (a "classier" looking mask for the chain with like menu offerings , as seen in states like New Hampshire) or are ingrained with somewhat grungy, aging look and appeal of their red-roofed restaurants. They all do it, though not as pitifully as KFC trying to hawk grilled chicken or even hide the focus of their restaurant's, well, fried claim-to-fame. This, of course, makes the Colonel roll like a rotisserie chicken in his grave-y doom!

I don't know, I guess it sounds edgey, more urban. Nonetheless, "The Hut" attempted its latest concept having no other like it in Connecticut.

This comes as a great surprise seeing as Pizza Hut has always been a shaky, difficult market seemingly unable to stand on its own two feet come later 90's for Connecticut with many past locations having coupled with other chains (like Taco Bell or packed into stores like Target), gone "delivery" only vacating many of its stand-alone sites. Just in the Hartford area: Queen St., Southington (now Outback Steakhouse), US-6 & N. Main St., Bristol (now Sovereign Bank), Elm St., Enfield (now T.G.I. Friday's) and East Main St., New Britain (now Taco Bell) have disappeared.

I abhor Pizza Hut and find their stock largely inedible (well, except for those breadsticks) and when it comes to chain pizza, it's beyond me why Papa Gino's has such a hard time in Connecticut -- their pies are simply excellent. Nonetheless, we're glad to see surprising success in such times -- especially one on a once hopeless eight-year site seeing life again.

Here are some photos of the formerly shuttered restaurant. These were taken in March 2008, but the building resembled this frozen look for many years (and surprisingly little to no graffiti).



There are currently 8 stand-alone, dine-in restaurants in Connecticut: Brookfield (Federal Rd.), East Hartford (Silver Lane), Groton (Long Hill Rd.) New London (I-95/Frontage Rd.), Old Saybrook (US-1/Boston Post Rd.), Vernon-Rockville (Talcottville Rd.), Watertown (Main St.), West Haven (I-95/Saw Mill Rd.).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bradlees Still Lingers In The Garden State

I'm not too familiar with the state of New Jersey.

As a lifelong Connecticut native, I've been here the amount of times I can count on one hand (that didn't include Six Flags, at least), mainly because travelling here is just one of many hassles not found in the many other states in the Northeast. Upon my foreign observations, I still find it odd how citizens still can't pump their own gas (actually questioned an attendant about this once) and that it'll cost the price of today's cheapest fast food meal to travel from one end of the state to another in highway tolls. In fact, I'm probably an outlaw in that state for reasons involving the myriad toll collection stations, seemingly on every highway in the state.

What can I say? I shoot pictures at malls, so I like to live... err... dangerously.

Aside that, The Caldor Rainbow has visited the state a few times in the last year for all reasons involving one of my beloved, childhood department stores: Bradlees. If not for Bradlees, I'd rip my hair out travelling down the always unpredictable I-95/dreaded toll-frenzied, congested Garden State Parkway and that godawful, dreaded George Washington Bridge (took me an hour and some change to board it, both ways, some kind of record?). All the while me thinking, we the people have to pay these guys eight bucks for having two cash lanes, hours lines worth of other motorists cutting off other motorists and E-Z Pass drivers' and their competiting 8 lanes.

Despite the migrane, we've found there's still a good handful of empty locations left by the late New London, Conn.-based discounter, who expanded vastly into the retail flushed state of New Jersey. We visited a couple just recently in Bordentown and Toms River.

We hit Bordentown first, along SR-206 and a good length off I-195. This store was in a bit of a dried up, mostly residential area. We found this store almost immaculately frozen in time; all signage up on the building and nearby road. A former Jefferson Ward, this Bradlees likely swooped up that fallen Montgomery Ward offspin in the early 1980's and had a fairly good run for almost two decades. This one made it all the way up until the 2001 liquidation, typically like the chain, no exterior remodels since opening. The skylight-cased, red-stripped building haunts the otherwise active ShopRite neighboring to the left. Sadly, the vacation of Bradlees incurred a plague of trickling closures to the building's subdivisions; an empty Fashion Bug and Blockbuster Video sit labelscarred beside the surprisingly clean vacant husk.



Next on the rundown was Toms River, a mere half-hour east, right off the Garden State Parkway and the ever traffic riddled US-9 artery. There's little to wonder why this rotting property can't be sold off: a great number of the plaza tenants are mired in vacancy and dilapidated storefronts. Aside the vacant Bradlees, which once prominently anchored the center, there's a checkered vacancy rate fended off by Staples and a discount furniture depot. Because the otherwise accessible location, the number of otherwise potential tenants are already situated nearby, including Walmart. The mere condition of this ancient shopping center will halt certain fertility in redevelopment, at least for now.


Having seen a good number of Bradlees in my own line of sight and in pictures, this one is by far one of the oddest looking stores I've ever witnessed. For one, there's no vibrant entrance at street level like most of their locations. Instead, you'll have had to walk down a small path, which seems like a side entrance. It also didn't help the building looked more like a distribution plant than a retail store, which had me baffled when I saw this one from the sky before getting here. Other odd traits with this one were the trio of windows out front, the abundant landscape area underneath and perhaps the coolest part: the "billboard"-like advertisements for a charge card and the later 90's "Savings on The Good Stuff" slogan adjacent the entrances. Probably not always a Bradlees, this Toms River location was likely one of many stores the chain snatched up in the early 80's boom the company experienced.

That's not all. Behind the plaza lies an entire strip of vacancies and a rather ugly rear portion of the "mall," filled with busted pavement and landscaping.

Who forgot The Dover Mall? A certainly aged outdoor mall, once could tell by the archaic sign on US-9, back unto the turn of the 20th Century, clearly will seek demolition one day soon -- or so the town hopes. The Dover Mall remains a prime example of how retail trends can turnaround a once bustling center into a dark, distressed abandon, with success and flourish surrounding all around it.


There are currently other buildings formerly held by Bradlees (and Jefferson Ward for that matter) in Stratford, Woodbury Heights and Hamilton, the latter a former later-era Caldor. We would've gone for Woodbury, but that one is more a bizarro cousin of both Bordentown and Toms River.

So what can I say about New Jersey? The same for both Vince Lombardi and Grover Cleveland, whose legacies are parallel in fueling the needs of many a Popeye's and Roy Rogers consumer with their own toll-free rest stops.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ames Updates, Vacancy In Lowell

Ames may have closed back in 2003, but that doesn't mean the chain has been completely forgotten. How could it when there are still a handful of empty buildings leftover all across the Northeast and beyond?

It appears Connecticut has quietly lost another long-standing, vacated Ames in East Hartford. Well, sort of. Though it happened earlier this year, the building owners have dissolved the identity of the formerly green-clad discounter by removing all of it; the signage out front as well as a paint job thereby eradicating that iconic green facade -- thereby any history of Ames existence at Putnam Bridge Plaza on the Glastonbury line. Well, there's still the store hours and other decals left on the door. According to the retailer's website, the 40,000 sq. ft. location wedged between PetsMart and TJ Maxx is still available...

Connecticut currently has two vacant Ames locations, fully intact in Seymour and Dayville, to which we did a stories on earlier this year.

Meanwhile, in the City of Lowell, Massachusetts stands a vacant location on the City's far end, on Bridge Street in the Market Basket Plaza, near the Dracut town line. This silently vacant Ames retains its building signage not without having a taste of troubled vandals over the years with boarded-up windows. An otherwise active plaza, the Ames remains undesirable. A reader who commented on our Flickr suggests Kmart might've graced this plaza at one point with its courtesy signage scattered on the outskirts of the plaza. View the entire gallery here.

Another perk about this plaza is this vintage Market Basket clock tower sign on the otherside of the plaza.

The other one on Church Street was in fact one of the earliest Zayre locations (later to become Ames) as you can see here, with Stop & Shop formerly flanking the far end. The off-kilter, shapely, multi-peaking architecture here has surprisingly been leftover from the 1960's, having changed very little since other than some cosmetic maintenance. Actually, the entire plaza on Church Street mine as well been frozen in time if not for the tenant set currently in place today as the plaza is immaculately kept and preserved all the way back to 1961. If only more plazas could retain their funky roots instead of succumbing to blocky, uninspired, cookie-cutter plazas of today.

For the State of Massachusetts, Ames leaves vacancies today in Great Barrington, Lowell, Stoneham and Sturbridge of the once abundant market for the fallen retailer.

For the authority on all things Ames, The Ames Fan Club is where it's at.

More to come!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Roslindale Bradlees To Become New Stop & Shop

We're in the throws of losing yet another vacancy left by the late New London-based discounter Bradlees -- in the state of Massachusetts.

As previously reported, there was only two vacant Bradlees sites left in Massachusetts; Roslindale and Foxboro -- to which we reported early last year. Many of the state's 33 former locations have swept up as it is now the case for the Roslindale location.

ROSLINDALE, MA -- Located at American Legion Highway, at the dilapidated, former "Mini City" long anchored by once parent company Stop & Shop, the chain who once adopted Bradlees will be doing so yet again -- by demolishing the former building and its own for an entirely new location to be build on the original site.

In the early 1960s, when the Stop & Shop Companies adopted Bradlees into its own brand, the uniform built modelesque homogenies called "Mini City" plazas which consisted of the three major brands; Stop & Shop supermarket, Bradlees discount department store and Medi-Mart drug/pharmacies. Design traits were fairly typical across the board: a strip-lined variant of the brown-shades of brick stores, a simple awning covering the sidewalks and typically conveniently connected through each store's interior.

When the companies began to break up by the discontinuation of Medi-Mart in 1986, Walgreens had purchased many of the leases and converted all stores. When Bradlees finally went out of business in 2001, Stop & Shop commonly purchased those leases and built larger stores upon its ambitious expansion midway through the post-millennial years.

Roslindale Bradlees folded in early 2001 with the rest of the chain, but even in its final years was one of the many stores which reflected an aging, crippled chain losing market share to rising competition like Walmart, mirroring our own (still vacant, graffiti-laden) Hartford, CT location. Like many Bradlees originally joined with Stop & Shop through the interior, this store sat beside an equally distressed, asthetically neglected Stop & Shop to the right of the shuttered, signature rock-walled Bradlees, whose legacy is scarred on the building.

Despite the steel-shuttered Bradlees, time has clocked the the plaza itself, anchored by an old Stop & Shop and Walgreens with a slew of smaller retails lined-up in the middle. A plaza like this has seen little remodeling (if any) or maintenance with massive deterioration all over the pothole-filled, uneven and crackled plaza which has long been a staple of the area, dating back to the early 60's. The area, neighboring a graveyard and a South Boston (Mattapan) reputation leaves an impression of an unsafe and desirable area for all but locals, despite the somewhat posh surroundings to the other side of town.

As you can see from far above, this plaza's certainly seen better days long past.

Sadly, The Caldor Rainbow arrived a bit too late for the long-standing hand-painted sign around the side of the store, which was tarped over with a 'coming soon' banner. Luckilly, we caught the building, well half of it at least, and its elderly brother Stop & Shop on their death beds even with half the outer regions of plaza fenced off.

Even living in Connecticut, where the supermarket chain has reigned supreme now for decades, and keeping their status above the rest, I haven't seen such a nasty, old Stop & Shop quite like this one.

In case you missed it, we've been reporting much on other vacant Bradlees stores left in the Northeast region including ones in Hazlet, NJ and a recently demolished one we caught last Summer in New City, NY.

As far as Connecticut goes, we've still got Manchester and (the aforementioned) Hartford stores hangin' in there, and a good handful in The Garden State.

Stay tuned for our exclusive reports on a few more vacant locations we recently visited in New Jersey.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Keep Ahead!

Hello all.

I want to assure you I'm still here though much of my activity has diverted away from doing stories on The Caldor Rainbow as of late. Fear not. I'm not going anywhere. Lately, I've been performing a colossal disservice to you all by not keeping you informed about the site's activities by, well, not updating it since April.

The heydays of the site may be far away from what's been generated lately but I can assure you we're still out there, keeping tabs on our favorite departed discounters and alive ones changing with the times. I urge you all to slowly move on to our Flickr when the updates are scant around here. Yes, Flickr, where we have thousands of photos for you all to gander, ones added often (though like the site's vacant syndrome, it struck Flickr as well as of late).

I've got a few stories in the pipeline involving our usual topical updates. Keep visiting, there's someone still here!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

22-Year "Danbury Fair" Mall Neon Sign Replaced

Welcome to the new Danbury Fair Mall.

As we've mused before, the emblematic vintage neon "Danbury Fair" sign is now gone.

The funky sign, which was erected (shortly after this preview sign) at the opening of the Danbury Fair Mall in late 1986 once stood at the outskirts of Danbury Fair Mall and once conceptual three-level Macy*s area has been removed after twenty plus years of the mall's lifespan. The staple of the two-level regional shopping mall acquired by the Macerich property group in 2001 from its originator, Wilmorite Properties, slated a long overdue remodel on the interior of the aging mall as planned with many of its existing and acquired properties back in mid-2007 which sought to do away with the mall's aged tones of browns and tans.

Danbury Fair Mall, built upon the fairgrounds of the once Danbury Fair was modeled after the Danbury Fair with like colors, tent-like architectural mirror inside and other "fairly" reminscent design elements including bulb-lighting stroon about the mall's stretching double corridor's length of shopping terrain. The nexus of the mall's homage, located within the food court, is the carousel, formerly used at the Fair.

In late 2007, developer Macerich announced a major year-plus interior remodel, which sought to do away with much of the mall's aging 80's decor including the mall's olympic-sized (as Labelscar might refer to it as) concourse fountain and stage area. The move, which sought to add an earthtoned vibe to the center also attracted a bevy of new upscale tenants, rumors of a decaying vacant Filene's to find life as Nordstrom's (still unconfirmed) driving some veteran ones out, in order to raise the cliente a la what Taubman has done with Westfarms recently.

Here are some visuals into the new era of Danbury Fair Mall, taken (almost exactly one year ago!) April 2008. For a detailed photographic transition of the Danbury Fair Mall's original look, head over to our Flickr for many photos from 2007, right before the remodel.

The Caldor Rainbow caught a night glimpse upon a passing on I-84 by in mid-January 2009. Last year, we raised awareness for the mall's management to at least considering saving the historic sign, which by today's standards might not be much but we'd just hate to see any identity with neon flare go away.

We made attempts to contact Macerich for a story we prepared back in December 2007, but never received a response (bureaucracies).

We instead got a cold response upon our arrival to Danbury Fair Mall on March 27, 2009 for our pictures of the new sign.

Shortly after we took our shots, we were greeted by a security SUV who immediately inquired about our camera-toting activities. After a brief, routine exchange of being reprimanded, we complied with the [unwritten] no photography rule and went on our marry way.

But he wasn't done.

The guard, who incited further argumentative fracas didn't care for our failure to explain our motives or the contents of our digital media suddenly ordered an increasingly annoyed yours truly to leave -- no "get out" of the mall's property (followed by him following my car off the property). The guard (who will remain unnamed) tried to explain his reprimand by claiming "private property" universally bans any kind of photography, even if it's open to public invitation. Respectfully, we left but not without a fight.

Next time, if Macerich (or any other private outlet who allows the public for any reason onto its property) has a problem with people snapping leisurely photos on its property, you might want to put up signs or some kind of notice on your website or something before calling your clip-on tie wearing bullies. As a long-time guest of this mall, and one whose taken a bevy of photos here in the past is ashamed of Macerich and it's unprofessional, thuggish staff.

If any of you know when the original sign was taken down, had a similar run-in with security, throw down a comment or two.