What Happened to Bradlees?

Bradlees History – What Happened?

Bradlees got its name from Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport, where early planning meetings were convened by the store’s founders. The inaugural store opened its doors in New London, Connecticut, on March 14, 1958. Subsequently, grocery chain Stop & Shop acquired the company in 1961, maintaining ownership until 1992. Following this acquisition, Bradlees and Stop & Shop often coexisted in the same shopping plazas.

In some cases, especially in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area, large stores were built to house both Bradlees and Stop & Shop. Shoppers could freely navigate between the two stores within these early examples of super-centers. This practice came to an end in 1982 when Stop & Shop decided to close its New York metro division, necessitating the construction of dividing walls in the super-center stores. Stop & Shop returned to the area in the fall of 2000 by rebranding its Edwards Super Food Stores chain as Stop & Shop.

Like some of its competitors, such as Caldor, many Bradlees stores featured snack stands and lunch counters offering soft drinks, hot dogs, French fries, soft pretzels, ice cream, prepackaged cookies, and other food items to shoppers. In 1993, Bradlees introduced Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Dunkin’ Donuts items to some stores that did not previously have snack stands, and these offerings were also included in newly constructed stores during this period.

Bradlees Closing

Mrs. B

Bradlees gained recognition for its television and print advertisements starring the character “Mrs. B.” (portrayed by actress Cynthia Harris), who was depicted as the chain’s buyer. Mrs. B. was constantly on the lookout for bargains to offer her customers, with the advertising jingle declaring, “At Bradlees, you buy what Mrs. B buys. And nobody can buy like Mrs. B.”

In 1988, Bradlees’ parent company, Stop & Shop, faced a hostile takeover attempt by Herbert Haft’s Dart Group. The board of directors responded by appointing Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company to acquire the company, and the deal was completed in 1989, making Stop & Shop a private company.

Bankruptcy and Closure

The first significant wave of Bradlees store closures occurred in 1988 when the company exited the Southern United States. Bradlees remained profitable into the early 1990s. In 1992, a year after its parent company went public again, Stop & Shop Inc. sold Bradlees to an investment group, allowing the chain to continue as a separate entity. However, by 1994, Bradlees had incurred losses after attempting to open several new stores in New Jersey and New York. This led to Bradlees filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June 1995 and subsequently shutting down some under-performing stores, including its only two stores in Rhode Island, which were later transformed into Ames stores.

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The End?

In August 1995, James Zamberlan, previously senior vice president of Lazarus Department Stores, was appointed as the executive vice president of Bradlees. The company successfully emerged from bankruptcy in February 1999 after achieving decent profits in 1998 and early 1999. Bradlees also seized the opportunity presented by the liquidation and closure of competitor Caldor shortly after it emerged from bankruptcy, purchasing several of its former stores.


However, Bradlees faced financial challenges in 2000. On December 26, 2000, the company announced its filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection and its intention to commence liquidation sales, marking the end of its business operations. Executives attributed this decision to a combination of factors, including a general economic downturn, rising interest rates, higher gas and heating-oil prices, increased competition, unseasonable weather in the first half of 2000, and tightened trade credit, all of which had left customers with less disposable income.


In an interview just before the chain’s closure, analyst Eric Beder of Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. expressed the view that the company needed a perfect economy to recover after its restructuring. Unfortunately, the recent consumer spending slowdown did not facilitate such an environment.

Video: Retro Vintage Bradlees Commercial Ad

Bradlees: Liquidation

In early January 2001, Bradlees initiated their liquidation sales, and the last store ceased operations on March 15, 2001. At the time of its liquidation, Bradlees employed 10,000 individuals and had 105 stores spanning seven states. Many of its former store locations were subsequently acquired by Walmart, while others became home to Big Lots!, Staples, Super Buy Rite, The Home Depot, Forman Mills, Shaw’s Star Market, Target, Kohl’s, Burlington Coat Factory, Ocean State Job Lot, Bob’s Stores, Marshalls, Dollar Tree, ShopRite, National Wholesale Liquidators, or Stop & Shop. Stop & Shop retained ownership of much of its real estate even after spinning off the company. Stop & Shop was acquired by Ahold in 1996, and some former Bradlees locations were sold to other Ahold divisions, such as Giant.

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