At the start of the 1960’s, Stop & Shop was enjoying great success, with over 100 mostly large, modern supermarkets, adding between fifteen and twenty per year. The majority of their new locations were in shopping centers, and increasingly the company served as the prime developer of those centers, leasing space alongside their own stores to popular but less well-capitalized discount store chains, most frequently Zayre or J.M. Fields. The time had come to bring a discount operation of their own into the fold.
In February 1961, Stop & Shop entered the discounting world with the purchase of Bradlees, Inc., a six-store discount store chain founded in 1958 by Isadore Berson, Morris and Edward Kouzon. Thrown into the deal was a seven-store chain of children’s clothing stores called “Youth Centre”, founded in 1937 in Springfield, Massachusetts, also by Mr. Berson. At the time of the acquisition, both chains’ stores were concentrated in the Hartford, CT and Springfield, MA areas. Stop & Shop would dispose of the Youth Centre stores fairly quickly, but the Bradlees chain would prosper and grow under their aegis for many years, becoming one of the best-known retail institutions in the Northeast. The existing Bradlees management was left in place for the first year, and after that time, Stop & Shop opted to go pedal-to-the-metal in expanding the Bradlees operation. New stores were built from the ground up, and acquisitions were made, including the three-store Family Circle chain of New Jersey and the Orbit stores, another three store operation, of Massachusetts. By 1968, there would be nearly 50 Bradlees stores.
The above view is circa 1962, a Stop & Shop-developed shopping center in Northampton, Massachusetts called Kingsgate Plaza. In addition to the Bradlees and Stop & Shop, note the Grants store in between them. At the time the W.T. Grant Company, a venerable old variety chain, was in the midst of a furious (over)expansion nationwide, adding some 100 stores a year. The shopping center still exists and is still owned by Stop & Shop, with a Super Stop & Shop now standing in the former Bradlees location.