MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (WTNH) – Bob’s Stores holds a special place in the hearts of Connecticut shoppers. But now, some of those shoppers are heartbroken after learning that 9 of their favorite stores are closing around the state, according to papers filed in bankruptcy court by Eastern Outfitters, LLC – the parent company of Bob’s Stores.
The news is upsetting for many Connecticut shoppers. Bob’s has been a staple in their lives ever since the first Bob’s Store opened in Middletown in 1954.
“We’re not very happy about it,” said Susan Kenny.
She’s been shopping at Bob’s Middletown location for more than 30 years.
“They have great buys on sneakers, Levi’s Jeans,” Susan said. “Plus the coupons that Bob’s puts into the newspaper makes buying footwear, sportswear really a great bargain.”
There are others who feel the impact of Bob’s Stores isn’t just about big bargains. Some people say Bob’s has become a fabric of the community, especially in Middletown.
“An end of an era has passed,” said Debbie Shapiro, Executive Director of the Middlesex County Historical Society.
Debbie knew Bob and told News 8 he’s featured in a book about local legends. She said he earned that title not only because of his stores, but, also because of his philanthropic projects after he first came to town many decades ago.
“Bob definitely left his mark,” Debbie said. “He was a Korean War veteran and he started his store. The first year, it was called ‘The Gob Shop’. He actually lived above the store at first.”
Those who study the economy say current economic trends do not bode well for retail outlets like Bob’s.
“There’s a significant shift in how consumers are purchasing items,” said David Cadden, Professor Emeritus of Entrepreneurship and Strategy at Quinnipiac University. “First and foremost, they’re taking a look at comparison shopping online and they’re able to purchase online and they’re trying to avoid the hassles of going out, going to the stores, going down the aisles of stores and shopping.”
That goes against the wonderful feelings and memories Debbie has of going to Bob’s over the course of so many years.
“I remember when my daughter was an infant,” she said. “He had (former NBA great) Dr. J. come because Dr. J. was the spokesperson for Converse All-Stars, so we went down and took her along – held her up so we could get a picture of her and Dr. J.”
The more things change on the retail front, Professor Cadden says the more today’s stores may have to take shots like that to remain prosperous. He says something has to change to attract more people to physically come into the store or – what’s happening to Bob’s will happen to others.
“It is a sign that the old model of retailing that we’ve been used to is either going to have to change or will suffer the consequences in employment.”
According to the bankruptcy papers filed in court, 86 Bob’s Stores and Eastern Mountain Sports stores across the Northeast will close. They employ approximately 2,600 full-time, part-time and temporary workers. It is not revealed when the stores will close.