The Five Long-Lost Department Stores Maine Misses the Most
Editor's note: This article was written by a Townsquare Media Northern New England contributor and may contain the individual's views, opinions, or personal experiences.
Shopping has certainly changed drastically in the past few years, but for many of us, we still hold on to the fond memories of actually going out to a store and spending an afternoon perusing all it had to offer. Many department stores had their own cafes because they knew you'd be spending hours there. So, we took to our Facebook page and asked what stores used to exist in Maine that you loved shopping at. Here are the top five department stores that Mainers miss the most.
Bradlees was a department store chain that was actually named after an airport in Connecticut. The store chain quickly became a hit throughout the northeast, including several different locations in Maine. Bankruptcy hit in 2001, and by March of 2001, all Bradlees stores were closed. For many years after, the Bradlees sign and store front remained at the Promenade Mall in Lewiston.
A New England-based discount department store chain that thrived for several decades, Rich's grew to 29 locations at its height. In fact, the Bangor location was one of the most profitable the entire company had. But like many other department store chains before it and after it, Rich's went bankrupt in 1996, and by February of 1997, all of their stores had closed.
Ames was another New England-based department store chain that ended up causing its own demise by growing too big, too fast. At first, Ames spread across the northeast in rural towns, finding great success bring department retail to those communities. But later, they set their sights bigger, acquiring the entire Zayre chain of 392 stores. Many in Maine remember the transition from Zayre stores to Ames. That ended up being costly, and after two bankruptcies, Ames threw in the towel and went out of business in 2002.
Originally a five-and-dime store, Service Merchandise eventually became the biggest catalog-showroom retailer in the nation, overtaking Sears. Looking back, perhaps the store's concept was simply ahead of its time. There were several prominent locations in Maine, and it became the chic place to go for decades for anything electronic or houseware related. But competition caught up to Service Merchandise, and by 2002, all of its stores had been closed for good.
Perhaps the original five-and dime store, the Ben Franklin franchise started in Boston in 1877 under a different name. As the popularity of their stores grew, the Ben Franklin franchise was born. For several decades, Ben Franklin was possibly the most popular chain in America, with 2,500 stores nationwide. Many towns and cities in Maine had Ben Franklin stores of differentiating size. But by the late '90s, the franchise had dwindled and was forced to file bankruptcy.
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