7 discount stores from back in the day you probably forgot existed

Shopping isn't the same without Zayre, Ames and Woolco.

Image: Joe Archie via Wikipedia

Shopping today is almost nothing like it used to be. Strip malls are bare, shopping malls are disappearing and some of our most trusted department stores are going under. The convenience of online shopping and big box retailers has dramatically changed the way we run errands and hunt for bargains.

Here's a look back at a simpler time, when everything could be found at good ol' discount retailers like Zayre and Ames. These stores weren't the most luxurious, but they certainly had everything we needed at decent prices. Which ones were your favorites?

1. Zayre

Zayre quickly became the nation's fifth largest retail chain after opening its first store in 1956. In fact, you couldn't go to a major market east of the Mississippi River without finding one. The company's downfall started when it spawned TJ Maxx, which became so big it eventually became the company's sole focus. 

Image: Joe Archie via Wikipedia

2. Ames

When Zayre started to go downhill in the late 1980s, it sold nearly 400 stores to Ames in exchange for $430 million. Although Ames was already an established and well-known chain by that time, it couldn't survive the ambitious merger. Ames filed for bankruptcy soon after, and eventually folded in 2002. At one point, it was the nation's fourth largest retailer. 

Image: Bluemarvel via Wikipedia

3. Woolco

You may not remember Woolco, but you'll definitely remember its parent company, Woolworth. It was a step above the five-and-dime store, but still offered some serious discounts. Woolco only lasted for 20 years, but boasted over 300 stores at one point in time. 

Image: Vintage Canadian Supermarkets and Discount Stores via Flickr

4. Bradlees

At its peak, Bradlees had over 100 stores spread across the Northeast. The discount chain set itself apart from others by serving food at lunch counters. And who could forget about Mrs. B? Those who used to go there know it wasn't a Bradlees if there wasn't a Stop & Shop nearby. 

Image: YouTube

5. Caldor

The recession in the 1970s helped Caldor expand rapidly. Known as "the Bloomindale's of discounting," Caldor was generating over $1 billion in revenue by the 1980s. The rise of stores like Target and Wal-Mart helped lead to Caldor's decline a decade later, and the company shut down its 145 locations in 1999. 

Image: Mike Mozart via Flickr

6. Service Merchandise

There aren't any stores like Service Merchandise anymore. The catalog-showroom retailer had stores around the country and was an early sponsor of Wheel of Fortune (back when contestants could shop). Other discount chains and the rise of online shopping were too much for Service Merchandise, and the company folded in 2002. 

Image: CoveredBridge Ventures

7. Venture

Midwesterners will remember Venture's black and white striped buildings and signs that dotted shopping plazas around the country. Even though Venture was Chicago's largest retailer at one point, it was no match for Target and Wal-Mart. The company filed for bankruptcy in 1998 and closed all of its stores the same year.

Image: Jim Nickel

What about all those five-and-dime stores?

Remember Woolworth's and Ben Franklin? Here are nine five-and-dime stores we wish we could revisit. Read more

Save with
Enjoy even more classic shows on-air! Find where to watch MeTV in Washington, DC
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

0 Comments

Post a comment
Click here to learn about MeTV's new commenting system!
Be the first to leave a comment!
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?