Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dayville Ames Remains After Six Years of Vacancy

Residents of the Killingly area might know it well as a common dilapidated site on the Hartford Turnpike, shortly off Exit 93 along I-395 of one post-mortem Ames.

The Dayville location, a small town beside Killingly, opened its doors in July 1983 as one of the first Ames stores in the state along with one in Naugatuck. Unlike Naugatuck, whose lived on as a relocated site for well-known New Englander closeout Ocean State Job Lot (like many former Ames sites), the long-vacant Dayville location is still rotting away while the otherside of I-395 flourishes with the new Killingly Commons shopping center which include such major tenants as Stop & Shop, Target and Lowe's.

Upon the site, in a real dead zone, we sighted an independent fish market (who was looking on as we shot our pictures) selling out the back of a truck, a truck stop and a breeding ground for bird life. A lone, rare, rusted red Ames shopping cart filed with trash was stranded on the outskirts of the store's lot among a field of potholes and melting ice. Nearby , towards the road is a small vacant strip plaza with a Carvel, across the road an old but repainted "shingled" Dunkin' Donuts, and further across the way a vacated, boarded-up McDonald's, a vintage diner and a closed up supermarket beside the Ames.

The Caldor Rainbow took a ride over to the "country" or northeast Connecticut in the town of Dayville, Connecticut this weekend, arriving near sundown for somewhat cold, windy session. Our first trip to Dayville might be our last but was one of the more intruging shoots we've done in our Ames chapter.


As of February 2009, Ames still has two fully intact vacant locations left in the state; Dayville and Seymour, with one partially vacant in East Hartford.

View the full gallery of our Dayville shoot and check out more of our Ames pictures on Flickr and on The Ames Fan Club.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Agawam Ames Becomes Dave's Pet And Soda City

It's been a while since we've discussed Ames.

Yes, Ames, the late green (once red)-clad discounter that ended its decades' run succeeding the troubled Framingham, Mass.-based Zayre chain to which it gobbled up in the late 80s met the same cancer as rival northeast discounters Caldor and Bradlees by the millennial swing. After a story published back in 2007 (to which The Courant used as a footnote on a story on the chain) about the remaining locations still vacant in Connecticut, six years after the chain folded, sites are eventually becoming swept up by future tenants here and abroad.

Connecticut is currently host to roughly three intact former, vacant Ames locations in SEYMOUR, EAST HARTFORD* and DAYVILLE. The chain, formerly headquarted in Rocky Hill, Conn. (still vacant, by the way) entered Connecticut in July 1983 with its first two stores in DAYVILLE and NAUGATUCK. By year's end, the store had accumulated to six total stores all over the state.

In March 2006, we took our first voyage to the former Ames in AGAWAM, MASS. along Springfield Street. The small town of Agawam, which is well-known for its adjacency to the West Springfield-hosted The Big E as well as its border to Connecticut, at one time, contained two Ames stores. The original store was located along Suffield Street, now home to a weekend-only independently operated flea market, relocated into a former Zayre up the [Springfield] street by the late 1980's.

Upon that first jaunt, we didn't leave empty handed. A genuine artifact was secured; a "receiving sign" was apprehended after minutes of painstakingly brisk temperatures, prying the sign off the vacant building with a penny and a dime. Our triumphant testimony was reported on The Ames Fan Club forums on March 22, 2006.
"Went to the Agawam, Massachusetts store this morning and did an updated photo shoot. I found this store to be quite fascinating from your galleries and took quite a bit of the building which still lies vacant. I saw a receiving sign and after a first failed attempt, I went back and got a penny, then a dime to unscrew the rusty screws from off the wall. Five minutes later full of thwanking metal sounds and achy hands and now it's mine."
The store, which had been vacant for almost a decade outskirts a diseased, ghost-town plaza had finally found a successor. Local entrepreneur Dave's Pet and Soda City (like chicken and waffles) moved into the former husk, which is historically sound as a genuine, largely intact Zayre store model from the 1960's.

Following renovations by Dave's, the store no longer retains its exterior roots.


But, thanks to a robust photo set by Chris Fontaine, founder of The Ames Fan Club, we can see various unchanged traits evident within the building. Patrons are now welcome to shop at Dave's after many long years of looking through the glass as a vacated Ames.

Zayre stores came in a few main variants during the 60's and 70's; one such was a "winged facade" look. When the store became home to Ames, a few adjustments were made including the shrouding of the frontal large glass window panes which showcased the store's glorious innards (and rows upon rows of buzzing fluorescent) from the streets.

You can see a slew of amazing, vintage full-color shots of Zayre over on Pleasant Family Shopping to get an idea of what Zayre was like in its heydays (before the dilapidation ages of its elder life).

For more photos of the metamorphosis of the Agawam locations, swing by The Ames Fan Club were you can see my own collection as well as others including Chris's.

Dave's Pet and Soda City has three other stores in Hadley, Northampton and Springfield.

*EAST HARTFORD store has vacant entrance, no more signage but evident window decals. Space has been subdivided into Petsmart (left) and TJ Maxx.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

"Friday Knights" Look Back On Toys "R" Us

Plug time! Most of you may be unaware of my buddy Nick Fusari and I's talkshow or "podcast" (for neo-media aged folks) Friday Knights of the Round Table.

We began this endeavor a few months ago whereby we discuss various topics pertaining to all thoughts of sorts broken down into segments. Our show, relatively new, is still morphing into everything our hopes and dreams will allow and I have, in a few instances, had worlds collide as I've plugged The Caldor Rainbow in the few of our ten episodes available on 17 Studios.

Recently, we've introduced a new segment on the show pertaining to nostalgic ventures by which we discuss Toys "R" Us and our memories spent with the chain in its final glory years of the late 1980's and early 90's. Some of those past-present clashes include the beloved rainbow-striped frontage into the boring white looks of today's stores, the video game ticket/slip system and the wall-to-ceiling board game selection: all of which have gone by the wayside in today's Toys "R" Us. While I could've spent a lengthier time on the subject, we stamped it down to just five minutes of time [out of] mind travel. Great Scott!

Our tenth episode features this new segment we've generically catagorized as "Nostalgia" for now but the entire episode has a overwhelming retail theme whereby at the top of the hour we shootout thoughts on the Sonic restaurant chain and the now late Circuit City (sorry, the segment was cut from the final version) most of the information I mirror in my recent Caldor Rainbow article.

Hope you enjoy it and spread the word and a somewhat rare "live" media appearance by myself (on the left). If you've got suggestions, complaints or ways to bolster our show, throw us an e-mail.

We're still growing, morphing, mutating!