We understand the appeal of online shopping: It’s quick, it’s convenient, the options are limitless, and you don’t even have to get out of your pajamas. That said, there’s something about old-fashioned brick-and-mortar stores that we miss. There are a few stores in particular—now long out of business—that still give us pangs of nostalgia. And honestly, we feel kind of bad for younger generations who will never get to experience them. One such place is Caldor.
Caldor was established in 1951 by Carl Bennett, and his wife Dorothy. Originally a second story “Walk Up and Save” operation in Port Chester, NY, before becoming the “Bloomingdales of discounting.”
The name was a mashup of the two founders’ first names, Carl and Dorothy Bennett, who founded their discount empire in Port Chester, New York in 1951. They soon developed a reputation as the “Bloomingdale’s of discounting,” and that was no hyperbole. You might have come for the inexpensive merchandise, but every Caldor was designed to look like a far classier department store. It was one of the few chain stores to actually live up to their motto—”Where Shopping is Always a Pleasure”.
The Bennetts wanted to open a store that was different from other postwar retailers, selling quality goods at a lower price, with well-informed employees. Spending their $8000 savings, the Bennetts opened their first store. By the early 1960s, they were up to four stores, and only grew from there, with much of their growth and expansion happening during the 1970s and 1980s.
Unfortunately, as retailers offering deeper discounts moved into the Northeast (take a lucky guess which one – go on, I’ll wait), Caldor faced competition as the 1990s began, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1995, and closed ten stores by 1996.
Caldor emerged from bankruptcy, only to declare it again in 1998, resulting in the closure of 12 more stores, mainly in the Washington, D.C. area. By this point, Caldor’s creditors felt Caldor’s shareholders would benefit from the company’s liquidation than for it to continue operating at the losses it was in at the time. Caldor filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and began the process of liquidation and ceasing operations.
By January 1999, Caldor stopped placing orders for their stores, and on January 23rd, they began the process of winding down operations, with most stores closed by April 1999. The final store closed on May 15, 1999. At the time the company began preparing for its end, Caldor had 145 stores operating throughout the Northeast.
In the end, Carl Bennett’s vision couldn’t withstand competition, which was unfortunately a standard of the times.
The infamous “swept wing” facade unveiled in 1972 for the 21st Anniversary. Every child’s dream was to climb up onto the roof on one of the wings.
Now there is a shopping craze for all things Caldor.
Vintage items is a booming business right now. In fact, it’s reported that resale grew 24 times faster than retail between 2017 and 2018. Additionally, the overall resale market is likely to reach $41 billion by 2022. If you’re considering trying the resale market, now is the time to do it – and vintage clothing is the way to go. Within the next decade, it’s expected that American closets will consist of at least 33% of used and vintage apparel.
Below is a list of all the former Caldor locations in the hometown state of Connecticut. Thus far, and unlike Bradlees, the only towns which shared two simultaneously operating stores was Norwalk and West Hartford. Norwalk had the original store and one additional in West Norwalk. West Hartford had its first store in 1972, and then one in Bishop’s Corner in 1984. Both West Hartford stores were inherited from fallen or relocated retailers.
The original stores were (in no particular order): Norwalk (the first store), Hamden, Brookfield-Danbury, Greenwich-Riverside, Manchester and Waterbury; all built before 1966. Today, there is currently one vacant location, West Hartford-Elmwood, and one, Groton, still unoccupied by a retailer and still largely intact. All original stores contained a “Furniture Mart,” exclusive locations whereby showrooms showcased furniture.
List of former Caldor Locations in Connecticut.
AVON became Wal-Mart
BRANFORD became Kohl’s
BRISTOL became Kmart, then/currently Price Chopper Supermarket
BROOKFIELD-DANBURY (F) became subdivided into Kohl’s, Sleepy’s
DERBY became Wal-Mart
ENFIELD became Kohl’s
FAIRFIELD became Kohl’s
GROTONbecame property of Pfizer Global Research & Development: Kings Heights
GREENWICH-RIVERSIDE (T) (F) became subdivided into World’s Gym, Walgreens
HAMDEN (F) became Kohl’s
MANCHESTER(F) became Ames, then Outlet Marketplace, currently vf Outlet
NEW BRITAINbecame Wal-Mart
OLD SAYBROOKbecame Wal-Mart
MIDDLETOWN became Ames, then/currently Home Depot
MILFORD (M) became subdivided and expanded mall space; Borders, Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods
NORWALK became Wal-Mart
NORWICH (M) became Bob’s Discount Furniture, currently vacant
NEWINGTON became Stew Leonard’s Fresh Farm Market
ROCKY HILLbecame Wal-Mart
STAMFORD(T) (P) (F) became Burlington Coat Factory
TORRINGTON became Ames, then expanded, relocated Big Y World Class Market
TRUMBULL(M) (T)became Kohl’s
VERNON-ROCKVILLEbecame Ames, then/currently Price Chopper Supermarket
WATERBURY (F) became subdivided into three parcels; Bernie’s, Planet Fitness, vacant space
WATERFORD became Lowe’s Home Improvement
WALLINGFORD became Kohl’s
WILLIMANTIC-MANSFIELD (M) became Ames, then/currently Kohl’s
WEST HARTFORD-ELMWOOD became Ames, now currently vacant
WEST HARTFORD (BISHOP’S CORNER) (P) became Marshalls
WEST NORWALK became Wal-Mart
The Roundup Store currently has Caldor items for sale. They are the most purchased in the store. The mug is the store’s #1 item.
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