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Sometimes I need to not think too much about places likely to be no longer around.

I was having a wee disagreement with someone on Wikipedia about the status of Ann & Hope (New England retailer; as a little burrito I was fascinated by the shopping cart escalator, a predecessor to today's Vermaport systems, at the Cumberland store) as defunct. We came to the agreement that they are defunct as a department store but still active as a discount retailer, since their off-price department stores closed in 2001 but the company still operates several curtain & bath and garden outlets in southern New England.

All this digging about for reliable sources on Ann & Hope got me thinking about other retailers I remember from the 1980s. I know several are closed (Bradlees, Caldor, Lechmere, Zayres) but I shook my head really hard to shake out names of smaller retailers and came up with Spag's and The Fair. I found out both closed in the 1990s, which is a shame. I loved the feeling of going on a great expedition every time we went to Spag's, my grandfather telling me about Spag himself and how he'd call my grandfather (at one time an Otis elevator repairman) for mechanical repairs around the store, and the tubes! Those pneumatic tubes the cashiers used was like a steampunk fantasy to my shorter self. And I may lose all respect in Texas for saying this, but the first memory I have of cowboy hats was the giant hat of the Spag's sign.

ObTrivia: Cecily Morrison, one of my classmates at Oxford Academy, was Spag's granddaughter. She was a Fulbright Scholar a few years ago and is now a doctoral student at Cambridge.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 12th, 2007 08:21 pm (UTC)
Walmart killed them all... now they are killing off independent grocery stores and neighborhood pharmacies too
Nov. 12th, 2007 09:53 pm (UTC)
Thanks to growing up in New England, I first saw a Wal-Mart in 1991. Sadly, I have very little memory of independent grocery stores, but I did patronize an independent pharmacy until I moved to Dallas. Our local independent pharmacy here is a few neighborhoods away, but it's our closest compounding pharmacy and offers immunizations and minimal-wait basic labwork (rapid strep tests, cholesterol profiles, etc.). It's worth the higher non-chain cost just for their selection of things that are hard to find in chain pharmacies. I got a nice otoscope there a few years ago.

Today I am just reveling in my memories of stores that really were cousins to surplus stores (which I adore) and provided rich fodder for my childhood fantasies. A lot of my memories are tied to floorplans and given a a few sheets of paper and sufficient lead (I often forget to stock up on automatic pencil lead) I could sketch out most of the Ann & Hope store in Cumberland, including the cart escalator. I'd just stand there and stare at it until I was shooed away.

And now that I'm thinking of odd child encounters, I had one a few hours ago. On our way to lunch, we saw a little boy, maybe 4 or 5 years old, standing on the sidewalk in front of an apartment complex set on a corner with a busy street. We were looking around to see if there was someone watching him when we passed by where he was standing... and the boy raised his hands, bared his teeth and growled at us. He was gone 20 minutes later when we returned after lunch.
Nov. 12th, 2007 10:02 pm (UTC)
They had those tubes at the old New Haven Register building...which was bought by SNET, who then smarshed it down into a parking lot.
And I remember Lechmere, Caldor, and Bradlees quite fondly. It was 1997 or '98 before I saw a Wal-Mart; we had Super K-Marts all over the place, though.
Nov. 12th, 2007 11:00 pm (UTC)
When I own a house, I will be horribly tempted to install tubes.

In the late 80s/early 90s, there was a conveyor belt (enclosed with clear sides) that carried food over the dining room to a newly-added drive-thru window at the Diamond Hill Plaza McDonald's in Woonsocket. I'd beg to eat there just to watch things go by on the belt.

The first Wal-Mart I saw was in Colorado! Years later I learned it was a short walk from karaksindru's childhood home, but when I first saw the store it still had that funky Western decor theme going on. It blew my little mind.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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Melissa, starry-eyed soy-lovin' Expatriated Zulu

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