Remembering Locally-Owned Boston Area Stores From Yesteryear

Article by Eric H.,

Let’s take a little break from our current “Shop Local, Buy Local” theme to share some memories of local New England stores that are no longer with us:

Zayre — This locally-owned department store with myriad stores throughout New England was out of the Walmart mode, selling everything under one roof. They also featured local comedian Norm Crosby as a spokesperson (his beloved schtick was using big words incorrectly) and the surefire joy of riding the motorized horse in front of the store (for the record, I was a kid then, not an adult). Local radio legend Eddie Andelman — who hosted the Sports Huddle radio show — had a great spoof on Zayre called Zaire ( a region in Africa!). The clothing we bought seemed to last as long as the malted milk balls purchased at the front counter.

Belden and Snow, Arlington, Mass. A traditional clothing store that prided itself on attentive, expert customer service and high quality merchandise. There was something nice about coming here and being treated like a king. Quite a difference from the impersonal clothing chains where you’re on your own — but, in fairness, where you get some great discount prices.

Samtron, Somerville, Mass.  The best place to buy Grundig shortwave radios in Somerville. Come to think of it, Samtron was the only place to buy Grundig shortwave radios in Somerville.

Grover Cronin’s Department Store, Waltham, Mass. Unbearable as a kid, as we spent so many hours in one given day shopping for clothing.  Now I miss this store like crazy because Grover Cronin’s had, in retrospect, a friendly neighborhood feel where you always come away with what you were looking for. Are there any stores left with that combination of neighborly relations and great merchandise?

Dunham’s Book Store, Bedford, Mass. A lovely couple — who always seemed elderly even when they were young — owned this tiny downtown Bedford book store (at two locations) for many, many years. They made us feel right at home, always encouraged us to read, and impressed us with knowing where every book was located in their store — despite having thousands of books packed to the ceiling. Will always remember the Sporting News Baseball Registers bought here.

Eric Fuchs Model Railroad Store, Boston – This Tremont St. store resonated with so much fun with all the live Lionel and HO scale train displays and accessories that could have been used to create a whole mini-city. When I think of this store, I think of Tom Hanks in the movie “Big,” having a ball at the toy store. So much fun and so greatly missed –specially for my Dad who eventually turned our modest train display into a gargantuan dining room (or former dining room) attraction.

Bowen’s, Bedford, Mass. A household name to local families, Bowen’s provided a wonderland of colorful holiday merchandise, including unique and exciting model ships that replicated the U.S.S. Constitution, Sancta Maria and other historical icons. Television favorites like Bugs Bunny, Fat Albert, Rocky and Bullwinkle, the Monkees, Magilla Gorilla, Sherman and Peabody and even Tennessee Tuxedo and Chumley showed up on merchandise as puppets, dolls and in books. A real toy store run by owners that loved their store and passed along that enthusiasm to their faithful, dedicated clientele.

Please feel free to share your locally-owned Boston area stores memories by posting comments here!

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