Another of New England's abandoned textile mill discount marts, Ames commenced operation in Southbridge, Massachusetts' former Ames Worsted Textile Company mill in 1958. Founded by Milton and Irving Gilman, the chain was headquartered in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, a suburb of Hartford. The typical Ames store would have housed between 41,000 and 52,000 square feet.
Ames made its mark, so to say, by acquiring troubled companies, incorporating them into its business structure, and turning them around. The first acquisition, that of the Joseph Leavitt Corporation, was undertaken in 1972. Purchase of the Davis Wholesale Company and Neisner Brothers / Big-N chain took place in 1978, followed by KDT Industries / King's Stores, in 1984, and G.C. Murphy / Murphy's Mart, in 1985.
Ames' luck ran out after its takeover of the Zayre chain, in September 1988. The merged merchandising conglomerate now encompassed seven hundred and thirty-six stores, making it the nation's third-largest retailer. However, initial projections of a smooth incorporation of the Zayre operation did not pan out as planned.
The Ames idea was to convert Zayre stores to the Ames model. Unfortunately, this alienated much of the previous Zayre customer base. Ames was also struggling under the debt incurred as a part of the purchase. Stores were shuttered, with the chain being in bankruptcy proceedings between April 1990 and December 1992.
A reorganization brought the company back to profitability by 1994. There were now three hundred and nine Ames locations. After a brief slump in sales, the situation had improved by 1997.
Buoyed by its return to prosperity, Ames re-entered a phase of acquisitions. The struggling Hills chain was absorbed in March 1999, shuttered Caldor stores bought in April 1999 and former Goldblatt's stores, in Chicago, taken in in February 2000.
Soon after, Ames' fortunes took a downward turn with waves of store closings occurring in November 2000 and August 2001. A second bankruptcy was filed. Store closings continued in November 2001 and June 2002. By August 2002 the entire chain was out of business.
AMES-ANCHORED SHOPPING MALLS:
*AZALEA MALL, Henrico County, VA (1984) [previously Woolco]
*WESTERN WOODS MALL, Hamilton County, OH (1989) [previously J.C. Penney]