Thursday, January 24, 2008

Big Bargains at Bradlees

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.


  1. Great shopping center look. Also very interesting history on Bradlees and its owners. Whatever happened to Youth Centre and Family Circle chains?

  2. I don't know much about the Family Circle stores except that they were absorbed into Stop & Shop/Bradlees.

    S&S sold the Youth Centre stores the following year (1962) to a Connecticut company called Eli Moore, Inc. They were still operating at least until the late 70's (maybe beyond) but I'm pretty sure they are now defunct.

  3. Family Circle sounds like it could have been a neat little discount chain. But I love the name "Youth Centre" more. It would be interesting to know whether something with such an outdated sound was still around.

  4. i grew up in shelton ct and there as a Bradlees in the next town, derby ct and thats the only department store I remember going to growing up 9with the occasional stop at Barkers in bridgeport ct) The area I grew up in was called "The Valley' and we had grants, caldor, woolco, zare, kings,ames and kmart. they finally opened up a Bradlees in Shelton and was a big success then......... a wal mart came to town about 15 years later and knocked the stuffing out of Bradlees in Shelton and nearby Derby. wal mart was right in between the shelton and derby stores Then they open up wal mart in derby and beat up Kmart and Ames I liked Bradlees- left a lot of green there over the years. I love the old pictures you have on the blog-brings back a lot of fun memories

  5. Obviously back when "cut & paste" required a knife and glue instead of a mouse and keyboard. I guess they didn't have quite enough business the day they took the picture, so they had to busy it up a bit.