Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Sad word from Worcester: Spag's is gone...

Sorrowful word from Worcester has been received. Spag’s – the granddaddy of discount stores – is no more.

Actually, it’s been no more for quite a while now. But now even the building, which sat on Route 9 in Shrewsbury, just over the line from the city of Worcester, just across the Lake Quinsigamond Bridge, is being demolished. It’s making way for something that will be called “Lakeway Commons” – is
everything everywhere called “Commons” these days, or is that just New England thing? – that will contain housing and retail. The anchor retail tenant will be Whole Foods.

Whole Foods? The cowboy hat of the eponymous Anthony “Spag” Borgatti must be spinning in his grave.

Not that Spag’s didn’t sell food.

You could get Pepper Farm cookies and Goldfish there. Slabs of cheese. All kinds of snacky things. Bags o’ candy. But they sure didn’t sell anything organic.

For anyone who grew up in the Worcester environs, Spag’s was an institution to end all institution.

As I wrote about Spag’s a few years back:

You went to Spag's for work clothes, hand mixers, paint, drills, toothpaste, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, Candy Land, tapestries, whiffle ball bats, brass planters, nuts and bolts - and for entertainment. Spag’s in its hey-day was cash and carry - and the carry was literal. Spag's merchandise was piled up all over the place, and people would empty out a carton of say, deodorant, leaving all that Ban Roll-on in a neat (or not so neat) pile, and using the carton to hold their foot powder, tube socks, and loose screws. (Source: Pink Slip)

What did I get at Spag’s over the years?

An AM/FM radio and a blender. (They sold small appliances.) Books. (Late in the their history, they had book bargains.)  Flashlights. Tools. Tulip bulbs. Geraniums.

When you were in college, Spag’s was an obligatory stop before heading back to school. You got your toothpaste, your shampoo, your contact lens solution, your tampons – stocking up as if you were heading on Shackleton’s Expedition, rather than to school in Boston where there were actually stores where you could buy toothpaste, shampoo, contact lens solution, and tampons.

And speaking of college, having been an undergrad in the days of radical not-so-chic, I got my back-to-school clothing there: jeans and cords, work shirts, work boots, bandanas. (And I wonder why I couldn’t get a date...)   

What I didn’t get at Spag’s was furniture – think Spanish Inquisition coffee tables  - or art work – think Velvet Elvis and Big-Eyed-Child.

Spag’s wasn’t unique. Boston had Building 19; Rhode Island had Ocean State Job Lots. I’m sure every place had an emporium like Spag’s. But, from what I read, Spag’s was pretty much the inventor of the concept of buying up the truckloads cheap and selling them cheap.

I also read that Ban was more popular in the Worcester area than anywhere else  in the country because Spag’s stocked it. Who knew?

And now it’s going to be Whole Foods?

Not exactly ‘they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.’ Still, I’m sad to here that the crappy, undistinguished building that housed Spag’s is gone.

A tip of the Spag’s cowboy hat to my sister Trish for letting me know about this. Trish, I will note, did not work at Spag’s, but just down the street at Route 9 Surplus, a poor-man’s Spag’s that sold things like discount flip-flops.

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