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Time to Bring Caldor Back, Entrepreneur Says

A Connecticut man is looking to capitalize on people's passion for the brand by putting a 21st century spin on things.

Credit: Justin Calabrese
Credit: Justin Calabrese
By Jaimie Cura

About 63 years ago a man had a dream and $8,000. When he got out of the Army, Carl Bennett wanted to open a housewares store in Port Chester, N.Y.

Bennett's dream came true in the early 1950s when he opened Caldor — named after himself and his wife, Dorothy.

By the 1980s, that $8,000 had gone a long way and Caldor operated stores all along the East Coast. In 1981, the Bennetts sold the company to Associated Dry Goods Corp. for $313 million.

Caldor closed its doors for good in 1999, four years after the Norwalk-based company filed for bankruptcy.

Fast forward to 2014 and we’ve got another man with a dream — to bring Caldor back into business and make Carl Bennett's dream a reality once again.

The man is Justin Calabrese, an entrepreneur with a love of business and a plan to reinvent the Caldor brand. Presently enrolled in the MBA program at the University of Hartford, the South Windsor resident has started more than seven businesses since the age of 16.

Calabrese is hoping to capitalize on his knowledge and the fond memories of former customers to get Caldor back up and running.

“Because opening a physical location in 2014 is not a viable option at the moment, and $5,000 won't be close to enough funds, I am looking to bring Caldor's back using an ecommerce business,” he writes on a GoFundMe page he created to secure financing. “Since businesses are moving to an e-commerce model, and because that is the new wave of the future, I feel strongly that Caldors.com would flourish.”

The $5,000 would cover the cost for the domain name, Calabrese says. He created the GoFundMe project in April 2014 and since then, there’s been one donation of $101.

Do You Remember Caldor?

As part his business plan, Calabrese is conducting research on what Caldor was like when it was open. He posed this question in a post on Patch:

  • What was Caldor like when it was open in the ‘90s?

Calabrese asked anyone with a Caldor collection of memories to post a comment here or write to: “PO Box 3043, Vernon, CT 06066, Attn: CALDOR.”

Patch reader Claire C said she worked at Caldor for seven years.

“It was so sad when it closed,” she said. “Working there you were made to feel like it was a big family.”

Caldor wasn't the Bennett's only contribution to the community. Over the years they gave back to the place where both had deep roots, in Fairfield County, Conn. Lasting tributes to their many philanthropic efforts are The Bennett Cancer Center in Stamford and the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies at Fairfield University.

Would you like to see Caldor back in business?

Andrew Townsend June 04, 2014 at 12:32 PM
Yes, Bradlees was the best of that bunch. Replace that with Rich's in the list of failed low-end retailers.
MikeA June 04, 2014 at 01:46 PM
1) Business builder with track record of starting seven businesses can't come up with $5000. 2) He doesn't want to bring Caldor back, he wants to start Caldors.com. 3) Once the $5000 is raised, he'll have a website to compete with kohls.com, walmart.com, and amazon.com. 4) Nostalgic former employees and customers will not recognize the new company because the website, other than the name, will be totally different from the former department store. 5) He's well on his way. Over $100 raised so far! This has success written all over it. I love it when a plan comes together! And I'd like to thank the Patch for bringing this great idea to our attention!
Wzzzrd June 04, 2014 at 03:04 PM
Every hear of amazon.com? Caldor's wouldn't stand a chance online. Sentimentality does not a business plan make.
Bob Tosi Jr. June 04, 2014 at 09:14 PM
Stores like Caldor, Zayre and Bradlees (where I worked in HS) provided lower cost options for families to make ends meet. On line not the same as other retail stores have filled in for this need.
JohnnyMass June 05, 2014 at 08:10 AM
Let's bring back Service Merchandise, Ann & Hope, and Lechmere Sales, too! We need more minimum wage jobs without health insurance coverage.

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