The first toy I remember begging my parents to buy me were Hot Wheels: a handful of metal cars and a couple strips of plastic orange track with clips to attach to a table top (no self-propelling cars then). When they finally relented, we went to the E. J. Korvette department store on North Olden Avenue just outside of Trenton. I got to thinking about Korvettes, which went out of business in 1980, last week because it looked like Sears was just about to do the same. Sears and its sister chain Kmart are still alive, but their fate — in the hands of the Bankruptcy Court in New York — should be resolved any day now. Meantime, if you, too, are feeling nostalgic for stores that are no longer with us, here’s a brief list of just some of the hundreds upon hundreds of well-known chains that have disappeared from the retail landscape over the years.
Among the departed:
“Good stuff . . . cheap.” Founded by Gerry Elovitz (better known as Jerry Ellis) and Harry Andler, it closed its 13 stores (which looked like the disaster areas where some of its products came from) at the end of 2013. (A spinoff, The Rug Department, closed less than a year later.)
Ames, Bradlees, and Caldor
Three discounters that didn’t fare well in the age of Walmart. Ames, founded in Southbridge, closed in 2002 after once having 700 stores. Bradlees, at one time owned by Stop & Shop, turned out the lights in 2001 after surviving an earlier bankruptcy. Caldor went dark in 1999.
Circuit City and CompUSA
An early player in big-box electronics stores, Circuit City died in 2009, a victim of the recession and Home Depot and Lowe’s. CompUSA, where I bought my first PC, logged off in 2007, but a few stores lived on under another owner until 2012. Both chains were relaunched by TigerDirect as online retailers.
Filene’s, Filene’s Basement, and Jordan Marsh
Out-of-town-owned Filene’s was subsumed by Macy’s in 2006. The beloved Basement went down along with parent company Syms in 2011 (but lives online). Boston-based Jordan Marsh was also swallowed up by Macy’s in 1996.
KB Toys & Toys ‘R’ Us
KB went first, calling it quits in 2009. Toys “R” Us picked up some pieces of KB but fell itself last year. Cause of death: a leveraged buyout and really, really, really bad management.
Levitz and Sleepy’s
“You’ll love it at Levitz” was a frequent visitor to Bankruptcy Court, making its final trip in 2008. Sleepy’s hit the hay in 2015 and woke up as part of Mattress Firm, which is now in bankruptcy and closing some 700 stores.
With New Hampshire roots and later owned by the parent of CVS, the company once had 1,400 shoe stores. They vanished by 1996, but the brand can still be found at (ironically) Sears and Kmart, though if you’re a McAn fan, you’d better hurry.
Tweeter and Crazy Eddie
Selling stereos and TVs is a tough biz. Tweeter, from Boston, pulled the plug in 2008. Crazy Eddie (“His prices are insane’’) from Brooklyn, N.Y., turned out to be a big financial fraud and was liquidated by a new owner in 1989.
Once the world’s largest department store chain — and occupant of one of the coolest skyscrapers in Manhattan — the original five-and-dime outlet (the dollar store, before inflation) went out of business in 1997. But a piece of it lives on as Foot Locker, its former sporting goods division.