Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Two Guys Discount Stores '64 edition

The pictures above are exterior views from 1964, when Two Guys was certainly in the top echelon of America’s fastest growing discount department stores. The first two photos are of the chain’s standard 135,000 square foot prototype, the first being the Cherry Hill, New Jersey store in the Camden County Plaza shopping center (as mentioned in the previous post), the second a new store in Dover, New Jersey located on Route 46. The third was a 200,000 square foot monster of a store from Jersey City, N.J., which was located on Route 440 and Communipaw Avenue.

Two Guys/Vornado continued to grow and expand in the late 1960’s and early seventies to around 60 stores in the Eastern states, and they eventually added a number of Two Guys stores in California to augment Vornado’s purchase of the Food Giant/Unimart/Builders Emporium organization there. The peak of Vornado’s retail success, from a sales standpoint at least, came in 1975 when sales reached nearly a billion dollars. The decline was swift from that point, however, due in part to their ill-fated Western expansion, the general economic doldrums of the times and heated competition in their core Eastern markets from companies like Caldor and Kmart, who were extremely formidable at the time. In 1979, Vornado divested the 22 existing West Coast stores, and the following year 12 stores were leased to Montgomery Ward. In 1981, all but twelve of the remaining stores were closed. Then on February 9, 1982, this headline appeared in the New York Times – “Two Guys Chain Ended”. The final twelve stores were leased to Stop and Shop Companies, Inc. to be reopened as Bradlees stores.

Vornado has never looked back, achieving super-success over the last 25 years as a real estate investment trust, owner of a multitude of shopping centers and prestigious downtown office buildings including Chicago’s famous Merchandise Mart, which they purchased from the Kennedy family in the late 1990’s. In an interesting twist, Vornado recently reentered the retail arena, having purchased a 1/3 interest in Toys R Us in 2005.
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  1. It's interesting, that all the Two Guys stores had different, sometimes funky architecture. What has become of the monster sized stores after Bradlees went kaput?

  2. I'm sure that a good number of them are still operating under one name or another. In the more upscale areas, it's likely that they were torn down and replaced with other big box retail or redeveloped beyond recognition. The Vornado Realty Trust still owns many of the properties.
    Wikipedia's "Two Guys" entry mentions the successor chains for many Two Guys locations, but their Bradlees entry doesn't mention what happened after they went under in 2001. It would be interesting to know.

  3. Glad to see a mention of the Two Guys, whose store in Schenectady was a regular feature of my teen life in the 1970s. They had an amazing chemistry set department (I know, I'm speaking a foreign language now, but it used to be a big thing), all the latest Marvel action figures, a good record department, a year-round toy department (still a newish concept then), and a great camera department where I bought my first SLR on layaway, and all my darkroom supplies. When it opened just a couple of blocks from the main downtown stores in the mid-1960s, it was a marvel just for its seemlingly vast parking (now you wouldn't think so much of it). It had a large main store, and across the street was the smaller auto center. After the store closed, the buildings lay idle for a long time but were eventually converted into office space.

  4. We used to shop at the Cherry Hill Two Guys alot, so that photo brings back memories! Never knew this was a prototype and the first Vornado-owned center. The only supermarket there in that plaza I remember was the Two Guys Food Supermarket department.
    I remember the Hardware and Home Improvement was in a seperate building as was the Auto Center.
    This site is now a Wal-Mart along with a strip center.
    I have an article covering the opening of the Marlton NJ Two Guys in 1973 online...http://jsf1.homestead.com/MarltonTwoGuysArticle.html
    The Marlton store was closer to us so we started going there.
    This site is a Old Retail gold mine, I'll be spending alot of time here!!!

  5. Glad you like it, and look forward to hearing more from you!

  6. Didi. though this may be 4-5 years too late. I can clue you in, many stores of the Two Guys empire during their Bradlees years ( and in numerous cases some units, like the Philadelphia stores sold in 1980 were Jefferson Ward units before becoming Bradlees, which happened in 1985) upon Two Guys's last years, they began phasing out groceries sometimes leasing them out to rivals like Shoprite (like the Marlton NJ store) or not including them in later stores, like the old Two Guys store in Levittown/Middletown Township PA. the bigger stores upon being taken over by Jefferson Ward and Bradlees, were further downsized in the case of Bradlees,some stores were nearly cut in half while the rest of the store was carved up into smaller stores. Some of the more successful Bradlees/former Two Guys stores, like the Manalapan NJ store were taken over by Walmart, but not without being redeveloped and in some cases demolished and replaced with newer facilities. still there are others in "less desireable" areas, like Bordentown, where the original Two Guys/ Jefferson Ward/Bradlees store remains vacant after a decade next to a busy and otherwise thriving Shoprite.

  7. We shopped almost weekly at the Two Guys in Jersey City, NJ on Rt 440, especially during the hot summer days to enjoy their air conditioning and one stop shopping....everything from food to electronics. Its amazing to see the Grand Opening above. I went there with my parents during the 70's and the exterior was the same. After they closed in 1981 it was Shop Rite on one end and Bradlees on the other as the main anchors along with a Consumers (catalog shopping !) a dentist, an optometrist and a discount pre-dollar store in the corner along with a pizzeria my dad opened. After the end of Bradlees and the others including my dads place Shop Rite survived but closed that location a few years back. Then they knocked the entire thing down and it's now a Lowe's hardware chain store. So sad. And empty.

  8. As a kid growing up in Hoboken NJ . It was a really big treat to walk up to the Two guys in North Bergen . It was out toys are us for us kids back in the 60's !

  9. I was employed at Two Guys in Cherry Hill started in 1969 in seasonal. 1970 moved over to grocery store and worked till they closed in 1980.