One last look at Bradlees and Stop & Shop for now - here’s a night view from 1967 featuring Stop & Shop’s distinctive new logo, one the company would use into the 1980’s. The further refinement of the combo concept is nicely in evidence here. The difference in lighting styles between the discount store and the supermarket sections, described in detail in the article quoted in the previous post, can be clearly seen.
Stop & Shop would continue to grow through the seventies and eighties, and for nearly all of that period it remained under the leadership of the Rabb family. Sidney Rabb passed away in 1985, after leading the company for fifty years. Greatly respected by his peers, the Food Marketing Institute had previously named its highest honor the Sidney R. Rabb award, which is still awarded each year to “honor supermarket industry leaders for outstanding service to the community, consumers, and the industry”. After Rabb’s death, Stop & Shop was led by Rabb’s daughter, Carol Goldberg, who became president and chief operating officer, and her husband Avram Goldberg, who was named board chairman. Both Goldbergs had spent nearly 30 years working for the company by that time. In 1988, the company was America’s ninth largest supermarket chain with 114 Stop & Shops (in New England and upstate New York) and 171 Bradlees stores spread from Maine to North Carolina. Many Bradlees stores had opened in former Two Guys locations after that chain’s demise in 1982. Thirteen DC-area Memco stores were picked up from Lucky Stores, Inc. in 1982. The 18 southernmost Bradlees stores were purchased in 1985 from Jefferson Ward, a 44-store division of Montgomery Ward (which believe it or not was owned at the time by Mobil Oil Corporation) that was based in Miami.
Family control of Stop & Shop would come to an end in early 1988, spurred on by a hostile takeover attempt by the Dart Group, parent of now-defunct retail brands Trak Auto and Crown Books, among others. Dart was led by Herbert Haft and his son Robert, who would later become embroiled in an infamous family feud that lit up the business pages for a couple of years. To thwart the Hafts, Stop & Shop accepted a buyout offer from Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, a leveraged buyout firm specializing in retail turnaround. KKR would operate Stop & Shop for eight years, streamlining the company (including trimming back Bradlees), taking it public again, and ultimately selling their remaining interest to the current owners, Dutch-owned Royal Ahold group. Ahold has invested heavily in Stop & Shop, reentering and moving into a very strong position in the New York/New Jersey markets, and maintaining rank in its traditional New England trade areas.
Following the KKR buyout, the southern division of Bradlees, some 50-plus stores, was sold to Hechinger, a Washington DC based home center chain, who opened their own stores in some of the locations. The rest of the Bradlees organization was spun off as a separate company in 1992, coinciding with a stock offering of Stop & Shop from KKR around the same time.
While Stop & Shop has prospered, Bradlees, after years of struggling against competition that included Kmart (which in the mid-90’s rode a short-lived mini wave of success with their new Martha Stewart line) and the ever-stronger Wal-Mart, declared bankruptcy. Sadly, the last Bradlees stores ceased operations in early 2001.
Just for fun, below is another photo from Bradlees high-water mark, taken at the same time (1967) as the photo above. Like previous Korvettes and Two Guys photos shown here, the scene is rife with mannequins, something not commonly associated with discount stores today. To me it almost appears creepy, and brings to mind the famous “Twilight Zone” episode (entitled “The After Hours” ) in which a store’s mannequins all come to life after closing time. Yaaah!