I’ve probably read close to 100 archived store “Grand Opening” articles over the past year in gathering information to research for this site. While generally interesting, the articles almost always tend to fall into one of two distinct categories. The first is the “just the facts” reporting style: “A large crowd was on hand for the opening of the new Safeway yesterday…” The second is the “over the top” style, the kind of article that had to have been fed to the newspaper by the chain’s PR department : “Customers will be able to buy Kroger’s Tenderay beef from these ultra-modern cooler cases. Only Kroger cares enough to provide top-quality aged Tenderay beef…”
In an effort to dig up background info on Bradlees, I came across a great “Grand Opening” article by Edward J. Farrell from the October 30, 1965 issue of the Berkshire Eagle entitled “Bradlees’ Opening Described as Crushing Success” that really stands out from the pack. The chain’s Coltsville (Pittsfield), Massachusetts store had opened the previous week. The article is written with a wit more commonly seen in political or arts commentary, and also highlights some of the fine points that can aptly describe many of the grocery store/discounter combinations that were then coming into popularity. Some lengthy excerpts for your enjoyment:
“Bradlees’ opening in Coltsville Tuesday morning was vaguely reminiscent of the World’s Fair closing earlier this month. Customers jammed into the 85,000 square feet of merchandise. They tugged, they yanked, shoved and they pushed.
It was a smasshing (sp) success. Police had to take up posts at the main entrances and limit the inflow of customers. Company executives were pressed into service at grocery checkout counters “bagging” groceries. The lines waiting to get through the checkout stations choked off all aisles. Most swarmed around bargain counters like football players after a fumbled ball.
Wilted Bradlees executives, easily identified by their wilted carnations, were ecstatic. Pittsfield’s welcome was “tremendous, fabulous and overwhelming.” But there was no joy in other parts of the city. Zayre and the Big N (the long-gone department store division of the long-gone Neisner’s variety chain) played to nearly vacant parking lots. You could cross North Street walking on your hands without danger. Clerks in other grocery stores spent the day dusting off the string beans and bananas.
The only consolation the day offered other merchants was the thought that the novelty would wear off, and everyone could settle down to good, clean competition.
The store was “shopped” thoroughly. Just about every north Street merchant prince was either present or represented by a court member. The parking lot, with space for 1,000 cars, overflowed into the meadow across the road. It was difficult to determine where the shoppers were coming from because all registration plates were from Massachusetts.”
“The Merrill Road store conforms in design to the 34 other Bradlee stores in New England. It has the self-service food counter on the north and the mass merchandising on the south side. It is all under one roof, but the two departments are carefully separated and are operated as individual entities.
The two sections differ in design to a small degree. The grocery, or Stop & Shop area, looks like a supermarket with long rows of fluorescent tubes mounted on the ceiling for light. On the department store side, the lighting is recessed and is much softer.
The distribution of various departments in the department store area conforms to the accepted pattern established some time ago by the pioneers of mass merchandising. The theory is that women go to the right and men go to the left upon entering a store, and they will probably meet somewhere near the hardware department. Bradlee allows for deviations from the pattern by locating bargain counters on a scattered-site basis hoping to snare unsuspecting shoppers with a batch of irresistible buys.
Tuesday’s opening-day crowd conformed pretty much to the accepted, but the more experienced mass merchandise shoppers located the loss-leaders early in the game and walked off with the treasures.
Bradlees has made one important concession to the mass merchandise customer. Many departments are equipped with their own cash registers. This means shoppers can approach the checkout counters equipped to go right through.
The new Bradlees store is no architectural masterpiece. (Dave’s comment: Waat?!) It looks as though it had been mass produced. There is an enormous amount of glass on the front. This is framed by a mixture of tapestry brick and some rust-color field stone. Bright splashes of color are provided by the Bradlee signs.”
“The concept of a Bradlees store – combining grocery and mass merchandising under one roof – was a natural development. It seemed that every time a supermarket opened in a shopping center, a mass merchandising outlet followed. It was only natural and cost-saving, then, to put the two operations under one roof.
With this pioneering venture behind them, Stop & Shop officials looked around for other fields to conquer. They startled the grocery industry two months ago by announcing Stop & Shop would no longer give trading stamps. Instead, the company said it was going to pass on the savings to customers. This announcement has left the female population in a quandary torn between its two greatest loves – trading stamps and a penny saved. Tune in tomorrow to find out if Stella Bella, girl shopper, takes her stamps or takes her pennies.”
Great stuff. And I can’t help but wonder what choice “Stella Bella” made. Maybe there was a follow-up article that I’ve missed.
Oh well. Anyway, the three stores pictured are from 1963-64, and “masterpieces” or not, in my opinion they reflect a nice improvement over the Zayre-like design of the earlier Bradlees stores, such as the one pictured in the previous post. The first photo is of a Bradlees Family Center, a food and general merchandise combo store from Poughkeepsie, New York which opened in 1963. This store was Stop & Shop’s first corporate venture into New York State. The second photo, from 1964 is of a Family Center in Fall River, Massachusetts, and the third photo is of a Bradlees Discount Foods, a stand-alone discount food store, which gave the company a second food store banner besides Stop & Shop. The first of these opened in 1963 in Hingham, MA. I’m not sure of this store’s location.