Hechinger

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bobsjers
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Hechinger

Post by bobsjers »

Hello everyone.

I worked at Hechinger from August 1974 until December 1999. I would be glad to answer any questions about former locations, etc. I worked in various stores in VA, MD, PA, and NJ.

A quick history. Sidney Hechinger begun the company in 1911 as a lumber yard. (Actually he collected materials from demolished buildings, then added new items to his first location.) It was pretty much the first Home Center, when Hechinger added things which you don't expect to find. It was called "The World's Most Unusual Lumber Yards."

They bought out Home Quarters and it ran as a separate company until the company came across hard times and had to cut expenses. Later on, Hechinger was sold to a buyout firm and merged with Builder's Square which the buyout firm bought at the same time. In 1999 they announced all stores would close.

I think the first store I worked at in Alexandria was started out as a tiny Safeway. Perhaps someone here would know if it is true.
Ephrata1966
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Re: Hechinger

Post by Ephrata1966 »

Is it true Hechinger almost made a deal to buy some ex-Bradlees stores that closed in 1988, but it never happened? I think Sam's Club and PACE Wholesale (later bought by Sam's Club) took over instead. Would you know when any of these locations opened?:

1. Woodlyn, PA (now a Raymour & Flanigan Furniture clearance store)

2. Downingtown, PA (possibly one of the last stores built?, now a Wegmans)

3. Norristown, PA (now a HUGE Sears Hardware, maybe the biggest in the chain?)

4. Feasterville, PA (now a Brunswick Zone XL bowling alley/bar)

And I think Builders Square (at the time owned by Kmart!) closed some stores that didn't last in the early 90's, when they tried to upgrade but lacked the necessary room. The one in Marlton NJ (now Burlington Coat Factory) sounds like one of these. A shame, since it was in a pretty "upscale" shopping center. I think their signs had to be really small or almost non-existent because of local zoning laws.
bobsjers
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Re: Hechinger

Post by bobsjers »

I can't give you the exact dates, but I worked at the Jenkintown store, which was the first one in the Philly area. That opened in 1981. Langhorn opened next, then Woodlyn, then Feasterville, then Rising Sun Ave in Philly, then Norristown. So, it was sometime in the early '80's.

Downingtown replaced the smaller one in Exton, and that was around 1995 if I recall. At that time, Hechinger was not opening any new markets, but was replacing 60,000 square foot stores with 100,000 square foot ones to compete against Home Depot. It was definitely one of the last ones.

Hechinger had made a deal to buy Bradlees stores in DC, Baltimore, and the Philly area. For some reason, the deal fell through in Philly. But many stores South of Philly changed from Bradlees to Hechinger. The closest one was the one on Kirkwood Highway in Wilmington Delaware. That is now an AC Moore and a cabinet store. The reason Hechinger wanted the stores was to keep Home Depot out. They really did not need the stores, since many were close to existing stores.

The same employees who worked at Two Guys, Jefferson Wards, and Bradlees at the Wilmington store also worked for Hechinger. So they had 4 employers even though they never left the building. I was at the grand opening, and Richard England Chairman of the Board at Hechinger was very somber and he said he hoped the store would do well. I think he knew the end was coming.
Ephrata1966
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Re: Hechinger

Post by Ephrata1966 »

Thanks a lot! What happened to the Jenkintown store? To me that sounds like the last place they would put a Hechinger. I thought Jenkintown would be too rich and too urbanized for it. But that reminds me of something. Two years ago, I saw an old Hechinger ruler at a school in Villanova I was coordinating an event for. And a few years ago I thought I heard the one in Woodlyn was from 1978, but I guess not. That one must have been an expansion to a 50's shopping center since it started with a Penn Fruit. Later that store was an Acme that moved from an A Frame on the other side of the Blue Route (really in Chester, but it was called Woodlyn). Now a Bally Fitness is there. And I thought there was also a Builders Square in an old Woolco in Langhorne. Not sure if it coexisted with Hechinger or not. I had forgotten about the Rising Sun one. Strange that both it and the one in Norristown were across from 70's Acmes (both of which closed in 2001). What happened to the old Exton one?

Did they try to buy all the Bradlees in the Philly area? I only know a very small few closed that early. But I thought Hechinger needed staff with hardware/construction experience. So how on earth did they keep the Bradlees staff? And it seems Rickel (owned by Pathmark) also did most of their growth in the early 80's. Do you remember the Mr. Good Buys chain at all? I heard there was one in Morton PA near where I lived which started as a Boeing building in the 1940s, and now is a BJ's.

As a side note, it seems Bradlees never really "caught on" in Philadelphia, but Two Guys and Jefferson Ward both did. Bradlees was at their best in the Boston area in the 70's. I am not sure how big they were in New York. What is really strange is that Two Guys, Jefferson Ward, and Bradlees were all owned by very diversified companies. Respectively those would be Vornado fans, Montgomery Ward (which was at one point owned by Mobil Oil!), and Stop & Shop. Now THIS was Bradlees at their peak: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQ5j3kMZfP0
bobsjers
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Re: Hechinger

Post by bobsjers »

Hi. They only tried to buy the buildings. Bradlees had a store closing sale before they turned the buildings over to Hechinger. Yes, it was supposed to be Philly, but then it fell through. Bradlees was having problems, and I think they needed the cash.

There was a Mr. Good Buys in Lawnside. It was an old Two Guys building. It is now a Home Depot.

Hechinger took over the Van Scivers Furniture building next to Wannamakers (now a shopping center.) Now it is back to a furniture store, plus a liquor store, and a healthy food store (Whole Foods maybe?)

Hechinger appealed to the higher income people. They originally were very women oriented. They then stopped it to complete against Home Depot. And guess what? The only chain able to complete against Home Depot, Lowes, did everything Hechinger did but quit doing.

Yes, it was quite amusing to work at that store. I had worked at 3 Hechinger's in the DC area before that. Some customers had never pushed a shopping cart before. Others thought that there should be one person assigned to every store fixture, the way a department store has a person behind every perfume counter. One person asked where the nails were, and an employee said A-4. She then asked for the elevator because she thought he said eighth floor. It never dawned on her that there was only one floor. But I guess she was used to shopping in center city.

They would not allow the store to have anything outside, so at first, everything was inside, including mulch, top soil, and even plants. They snuck a small fenced area in the back where no one could see it a year or so after they opened.

I think the Woodlyn store was new construction, but they may have torn something down to build it. It was next to an Acme. I don't get out to Exton much any more. It was in a big shopping center, and next to the Petco. But I forgot what is there now, and it may have changed in the few years I have not been out that way. Definitely not 1978. I was the very first Hechinger employee in the Philly area, and it was 1981.

Builder's Square was a competitor of ours until we were bought out by the same company that bought them from KMart. They were more of a problem merging with them than competing against them. Hechinger pretty much crushed the competition until we were crushed by Home Depot.

Funny thing about Two Guys, is that they are alive and well as Vornado Real Estate. They still own all the buildings that Two Guys were in.

Bob
Ephrata1966
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Re: Hechinger

Post by Ephrata1966 »

bobsjers wrote:
There was a Mr. Good Buys in Lawnside. It was an old Two Guys building. It is now a Home Depot.

Bob
OH MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS! I was just wondering if that same store was a Hechinger or Builders Square! Because I had assumed it became Bradlees until recently but I guess it never did!
bobsjers
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Re: Hechinger

Post by bobsjers »

Hechinger only had 2 stores in NJ, Deptford and Maple Shade. Builder's Square had only 2 stores in NJ when it closed (Freehold and Turnersville), but they had others that closed previously.

It was another minor Home Improvement store, but I can't remember the name. It was never a Bradlees, that I remember. It was definitely never a Hechinger.

I just know it was a Jefferson Ward/Two Guys from the big brown front porch that you see on the old buildings. Although Home Depot painted it a light color, I think. There was a Drug Emporium next to it, which is now a Petsmart.
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Re: Hechinger

Post by bobsjers »

I guess I should add, for anyone looking things up, that the Turnersville Builder's Square moved just over the township line, and was called Williamstown. That store is now a Sam's Club. The old Builder's Square in Turnersville was torn down, and became a Kohls. Since Vornado owns that shopping center, it may have been a Two Guys at one point.

Builder's Square in Freehold is now a small Home Depot. Hechinger in Maple Shade is now a Macy's furniture store. The first Hechinger in Deptford is now a Best Buy, and the larger Hechinger store which replace the original one is now a Target.
Ephrata1966
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Re: Hechinger

Post by Ephrata1966 »

I think Mr. Good Buys/Home Depot were the only hardware-type stores in the Two Guys/Jefferson Ward building. You might be thinking of the Rickel that was almost next door. That was later a Kmart, and now is a Sears Essentials. Thanks for letting me know about the Drug Emporium. That just might have started as an early ShopRite and later Pathmark that moved to be paired with the Rickel in the early 80's. Most if not all Drug Emporiums in the Philly area were in old A&P or Acme buildings. Maybe this one was Acme and briefly a small Pathmark, like a certain abandoned store in Hamilton NJ (near Trenton). The Two Guys near me in Broomall PA had an A&P Centennial next to it that was later a Drug Emporium. Later Two Guys (from the early 70's as opposed to 50's/early 60's) had their own grocery section. I suspect this started with the Marlton store because the first Clover in the chain was nearby and briefly had the same thing. But Jefferson Ward stores were sold to Bradlees or closed in 1986. Mr Good Buys didn't last and shut down way back in 1991. Home Depot arrived in the general Philly area around that time. So I can't picture any fifth tenant in the Lawnside "Vornado building" as I call it.
bobsjers
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Re: Hechinger

Post by bobsjers »

It seems there was another chain very similar to Mr. Goodbuys that was there for a short time, before Mr. Goodbuys was there. It may even be the same chain with another name. It was a junky store, just like Mr. Goodbuys. Something similar to Panelrama. But it was not another location, it was in the Mr. Goodbuys location.

I know about Rickels next door, which became a KMart and Sears Essentials.
Ephrata1966
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Re: Hechinger

Post by Ephrata1966 »

Could it have been Channel? They were merged with Rickel the same way Builders Square was merged with Hechinger. Before that, Rickel was owned by Pathmark, and I THINK (don't quote me on this), Channel had something to do with Acme at one time. I had thought the Pathmark in Willingboro was an early 80's store, and the Big Lots next to it started as a Rickel. But apparently this store started as ShopRite, was one of the first Pathmarks, and the store next to it was a "King's" big-box store. There even was a Pathmark gas station in the parking lot at one time which has been Getty for a while.

And while the Rickel in Pottstown PA was still open, the Pathmark next to it closed. Surprisingly the Acme A Frame almost next door closed at the same time. The Pathmark was redone as a Genuardi's, but it closed when the Acme was finally knocked down for a Redner's...

Or maybe it was a PERGAMENT in Lawnside?

There also was a chain in NJ called Grossman's in the 70's which moved into some of the first A&Ps that closed. Kind of awkward that the one in Marlton became one of the first Staples in the 80's!

I knew of a hardware/lumber chain called Furrow which started in the late 60's. When they shut down in 1997 it really felt like the end of an era. But that might have only been in Texas...

A Lowe's opened near my closest Furrow not long before it closed. Back then Lowe's had a tool rental brand called "NationsRent" which had their own department.
bobsjers
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Re: Hechinger

Post by bobsjers »

No, it was not a major chain. Just a small fly by night place with a couple of stores. If I remember right.

Channel was originally owned by W & R Grace, a building materials manufacturer. I guess someone could have owned it before that, but that goes back to the 1970's.

Pergament was never this far South. It was mostly in New York City and Long Island. I called on them as a manufacturer's rep when they went out of business. The Pergament family kept the buildings but sold the stores. They ended up suing the new owners for not paying rent.

Grossman's was from MA. They also owned a chain called Moore's. The home company was called Evans Products.
Ephrata1966
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Re: Hechinger

Post by Ephrata1966 »

Lowe's wanted to put a store in Newtown Square PA several years ago, and that was not just a rumor. I don't know what happened. But the Genuardi's near the site closed a year ago this month and makes the whole neighborhood feel dead. Now the site of an old quarry that has been long condemned down the road in Upper Darby is being redeveloped by Lowe's and Giant.
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Re: Hechinger

Post by bobsjers »

OK, the store that was before Mr. Good Buys in Lawnside was HOW- Home Owners Warehouse. It may have been owned by the same company, since I get similar "trade marks for sale" pages when I look them up. I also see a company by that name that was owned by Service Merchandise. But I don't know if it was the same company, or two companies with the same name.

It seems that Home Depot wants to put a store anywhere a Lowe's is, and Lowe's wants to put a store anywhere a Home Depot is. People jokingly refer to a Lowe's sandwich as a Lowe's with a Home Depot on either side of it. The bad economy has slowed the expansion for both chains. Although I am sure they are still opening some stores now in solid locations.
Ephrata1966
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Re: Hechinger

Post by Ephrata1966 »

How (no pun intended) was Mr Good Buys junky? I think all these types of stores sell things for hard work!
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