Article and Photo by Eric H., VisitingNewEngland.com
Ann and Hope, one of the pioneers of the full-service departments stores, had a great run from 1953 to 2001 with its anchor store at a former mill building in Cumberland, RI, and expansive retail operations including the Arsenal Mall in Watertown, MA, and the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers, MA.
Amongst the first to offer central checkouts, shopping carts and full-service cafeterias, Ann and Hope actually influenced Walmart and KMart, according to Wikipedia: “Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, visited the Ann & Hope chain in 1961 and got the idea for Wal Mart here… and Harry Cunningham visited Ann & Hope in the process of preparing to launch the first Kmart store.”
The world of department stores constantly changes through the years, and Ann and Hope fell victim to slow sales in the late 1980s. Ann and Hope cleverly changed gears, however, making its Cumberland store, the Ann & Hope Curtain and Bath Outlet and creating several “branch” outlets across Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
I actually like the current Ann and Hope better than the department store version. While I respect the rise and success of a local business, I often found Ann and Hope department stores to be too big and rambling, and usually found what I needed at Caldor, Bradlees, Ames and eventually KMart and Walmart. The outlet stores are fantastic, however, for those in search of huge discounts on home accessories and furnishings, including energy saving items, bedding window curtains, blinds, shades and rollups, window rods and accessories, shower curtains, bath rugs, braided rugs, and oriental style rugs. There’s also a garden outlet with seasonal items, including Christmas items!
From a sentimental standpoint, I miss the old Ann and Hope department stores. Sometimes, we can look fondly at people, places and things that really weren’t on our “A” list in the first place. On the other hand, the current chapter in the storied Ann and Hope history provides such a great variety of home merchandise at such low prices that really stands out from other type stores — thus making it a more valuable retail commodity than in its former department store presence.