As urban legend would have it, the name of this Braintree, Massachusetts-based chain was coined as its three founders convened at Greater Hartford's Bradley International Airport to work out their concept for a new discount department store.
The first location opened in New London, Connecticut in March 1958. In February 1961, the up-and-coming chain was purchased by Massachusetts-based Stop and Shop supermarkets. The first combination Bradlees discount store and grocery opened in February 1963. By 1968, there were fifty-two Bradlees operations. These encompassed between 65,000 and 100,000 square feet.
The thirteen-store Memco discount chain of Greater Washington, D.C. was absorbed by Bradless in December 1982. In June 1985, eighteen stores of the dissolving Jefferson Ward chain were purchased.
A retail retrenchment, of sorts, transpired in August 1988, as the leases of forty-seven Bradlees stores in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland were sold to the Hechinger home improvement chain.
The fortunes of Bradlees had improved enough by the mid-1990s for another acquisition to be undertaken; this time involving stores of the shuttering Pace Membership Club. The piece de resitance of this expansion phase involved the opening of a new Bradlees flagship store in Manhattan's Union Square.
Encompassing 6-levels and 143,000 square feet, it took the place of an old Mays department store and opened, amid a blitz of media attention, in November 1994. Unfortunately, the inner city superstore was an unsuccessful venture.
By June 1995, the chain, whose stores numbered one hundred and thirty-six, had declared bankruptcy. Some shutterings took place in 1996. Profitability had returned by 1998 and continued into 1999.
Bradlees entered a downward spiral in the year 2000, with a second bankruptcy filed in December. Liquidation of the chain began in January 2001 with the final stores closing in March of the same year.
BRADLEES-ANCHORED SHOPPING MALLS:
*WESTGATE SHOPPERS' PARK, Brockton, MA (1963)
*MOHAWK MALL, Schenectady County NY (1978)
*SILVER CITY GALLERIA, East Taunton, MA (1992)