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.