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.


Chris from Newington said...

This is an odd sight, seeing a Wal-Mart closed. I remember shopping with my family at the original Slater Road location back when it opened through it's closure. Back in 1997, it was a big thing to have a Wal Mart in the area. I always liked the Slater Road location.

We only shopped at the new location once or twice because the Newington store opened almost directly after the new NB one. We really didn't care for the new one because it was SO small compared to the old one. I can't see how Walmart decided to move to the old Caldor.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you're still at it. We have/had one other closed Walmart in CT. The original Wallingford store. It opened at the time when Walmart and McDonald's had a partnership and had a mini McDonald's where the generic Walmart snack bars used to be, it also had the McDonald's characters on its parking lot signs, who stayed there after they switched over to a regular snackbar all the way up to the store's closing. When Kmart closed its Super Kmart in Wallingford, Walmart moved from their old store into it. The store stayed vacant for a while but ended up being demolished and a Lowe's replaced it. Sorry but I'm a little rusty on dates.

Anonymous said...

First off 436 Slater Road, site of the original New Britain Walmart was called Stanley Plaza back in the day and contained a Shoprite (not Stop & Shop) and Bradlees (among other retailers). This was back in the day when a lot of the area Shoprites were called Mott's Shoprite. (Another Mott Shoprite was located in Bristol where Walgreens is on Farmington Ave).

Secondly you can blame former New Britain Mayor Lucian Pawlak (sp?) for Walmart moving into the old Caldor. Walmart bought the old Caldor after that chain went under and was using it as warehouse space. Apparently they weren't keeping up the property so the neighbors complained to the mayor's office and he issued an ulitmateum to Walmart - use the Caldor Property or sell it. Not wanting the property to fall into the hands of a competitor work began on converting the former Caldor into a Walmart.

There are 2 main reasons for the closing. Sales were not meeting company expectations and the employees were robbing the store blind.

You can blame the mayor's office for sales at the store not meeting company expectations. You see New Britain did not have a the small-scale grocery section most Walmarts have and they were not allowed to because there is a supermarket in the adjacent plaza - Adam's IGA when Walmart first moved in. (now Aldi's). If they had been allowed to sell groceries sales at the store would have been better and it might have even off-set the employee theft.

If they hadn't been forced off Slater Road they would've been able to have a food section and I'm willing to bet that the store would've been remodeled this year and they would've gotten the expanded food section they're putting in all the Walmart's (such as Southington) that are being remodeled this year.

And on the subject of remodels, Bristol which got an remodel last year (or the year before) is rumored to be get another remodel next year to add some of the features the company has rolled out in the stores it remodeled this year.

*Note this opinion is mine alone and does not represent my employer Walmart Stores Inc.

Mark said...

Sad news, too bad to see it go.

Even though I'm not a fan of Walmart I still feel bad for the community losing such a big store.

However this is a rare event, since Walmart rarely closes any stores as far as I know, except for moving to a bigger Walmart Supercenter.

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Anonymous said...

Wal-Mart is based out of Bentonville, AR (Arkansas), not Bentonville, AK (Alaska). Just saying, common mistake though.

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Justin said...

I was the original photo lab manager and helped open the Slater Rd. Location in 1997. I left in 1998 to help my family run their ever expanding grocery store/property operations in upstate NY.

I have often wondered what happened to this location and the people that worked there. The original group of associates were a great group of people.

Time marches on, I guess...