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.