Building 19

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The correct title of this article is Building #19. The substitution or omission of the # is because of technical restrictions.
Building #19
Industry Discount retail
Founded Hingham, Massachusetts (1964 (1964)) [1]
Founder(s) Jerry Ellis (born Gerald Elovitz) and Harry Andler
Defunct 2013
Headquarters Hingham, Massachusetts, United States
Number of locations 10 stores (2013) [2]
Area served New England
Key people William Elovitz (President) [3]
Revenue $79.2m [3]

Building #19 was a chain of discount stores in New England. The closeout stores are well known throughout New England for selling an eclectic assortment of items at drastically discounted prices. Many of the items are factory irregulars, discontinued models, post-expiration-date, damaged, or less than perfect in some other way, but some new merchandise is offered as well. The stores capitalize on the quick cash flow needs of other businesses, obtaining most of their merchandise from fire sales, overstocks, customs seizures, liquidations, and bankruptcy courts.

On Friday, November 1, 2013, Building #19, Inc. and a number of affiliated companies voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts.[4] Immediately upon filing for bankruptcy protection, the companies expressed an intent to liquidate their stores and sought court authority to retain Gordon Brothers Retail Partners, LLC to assist in running going-out-of-business sales at the stores.[4][5]


Jerry Ellis (born Gerald Elovitz) founded the original store with the late Harry Andler, when the two joined together to sell a stock of appliances.[2] The original Building #19 was located at the former Hingham shipyard, where the buildings were numbered, and the store retained the nondescript name on the building rather than pay for a new sign. Harry Andler was doing surplus and salvage business in the shipyard for several years. The unique combination of Ellis' advertising flair and Andler's expertise in finding and buying distressed merchandise accounts for the early success of the business. Aldler bought "good stuff cheap" and Ellis let everyone know about it with amusing advertising.

In 1971, when the windows began to fall out of the John Hancock Tower in Boston, Jerry and Harry were offered, and bought the defective window panels that were scheduled to be installed. This got the company national press and attention.[2]

In 1979, retailers Building #19 and Bloomingdales both appeared as contrasting locations in the movie Starting Over, starring Burt Reynolds, Candice Bergen, Jill Clayburgh, and Charles Durning. The movie was directed by Alan Pakula.

In the 1980s, the original Building #19 moved to the former GEM (Government Employee Merchandise) building on Derby Street in Hingham, Massachusetts. Later, Building #19 1/8 opened in the old Stewarts store in the Harborlight Mall on Rt 3A in Weymouth, Massachusetts; still later that store was closed to build a Lowe's Store. The main store Building #19 moved from Derby Street in Hingham and is currently situated back in Weymouth at the old Caldor/Zayre's/Ames building on Massachusetts Route 18.

Ellis noted at one point he had been fired from GEM before he founded Building #19, and that his flagship store later bought the property where he had been dismissed. "America is a great country!," he added.[citation needed]

In 2002, Building #19 bought out the independent discount store Spag's in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, and renamed the acquisition "Spag's 19".[6] The store format and configuration had been changed since purchase to more closely resemble the other Building #19 operations. However the store closed in May 2013.[7]

Corporate culture[edit]

Building #19½ in Burlington, Massachusetts in April 2010.

The chain is known for its often self-deprecating humor, both in their advertising and throughout their store interiors. Their weekly ad circulars often feature caricatures of founder Jerry Ellis with a number of sarcastic captions, many of which are repeated in their in-store advertising.[8] The early circulars featured the "free-spirit" Ellis sternly commanded to work harder by the "skinflint" Andler. As of 2012, Ellis still wrote most of the ad copy used in the ad flyers.[9]

Each Building #19 location offers free coffee with "free fake cream." Signs near the free coffee stand warn customers not to make fun of the poor quality of the coffee, because "someday you'll be old and weak too."[9] Their price guarantee awards a bottle of "Chateau du Cheapo" champagne if a competitor beats their price.

In 2006, Building #19 put a cartoon in their President's Day advertising flier showing A-shirts (athletic style undershirts) labeled as being "Wife-Beater" shirts. Building #19 was criticized, and promptly apologized.[10] Two years later, a flier poked fun at the 2006 controversy, and was similarly criticized.[11]

The main Building #19 store is located in Weymouth, Massachusetts; other stores have a numerical fraction appended to their name (such as Building #19½, in Burlington or Building #19¾, in Norwood).[12] Building #19 1/9, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, uses the old grandstand portion of Narragansett Park - a former horse racing venue that closed in 1978.

Logos and slogans[edit]

  • "Good Stuff... Cheap"
  • "Suffer a Little, Save a Lot"
  • "The Humble Department Store"[8]
  • "Support the three day work week."
  • "America's messiest department(?)store"
  • "Please leave with at least as many children as you came with"


On Wednesday, August 24, 2011, after 16 years of selling “Good stuff … cheap” – as the company's motto goes – Building #19 departed from Nashua, New Hampshire. The chain store couldn't come to terms on its lease with the property owner, AS-VR Realty LLC of Londonderry, New Hampshire. Chain founder Jerry Ellis said nothing had been planned yet, but Building #19 hoped to open another store in southern New Hampshire in the future. About 30 employees were laid off because the company was unable to relocate them, Building #19 officials said. Building #19 had opened its Nashua, New Hampshire branch in 1995.

It is unknown what retail store will replace Building #19 in Nashua. No development proposal has been submitted to the city planning department for the location. Walmart famously lost its bid to open a store at the 420 Amherst Street location in 2006 while Building #19 still had a lease there. Residents and environmental groups complained that the footprint of the proposed 140,000 square feet (13,000 m2) Walmart store would exceed the boundaries of the property, potentially causing traffic jams and harming the nearby Pennichuck Brook watershed, part of the city's drinking water supply. The city Planning Board agreed, and rejected the Walmart proposal. Building 19 continued its lease, until near the end of August. Building 19 still has a store in Manchester, New Hampshire, 8 outlets in Massachusetts and 2 in Rhode Island. The Nashua store was their 15th location to be opened.

Corporate affairs[edit]

As of 2012 Jerry Ellis is CEO of Building #19, as well as chief advertising copywriter.[9] Jerry Ellis has two daughters, each of whom owns a part of the business. His son, Bill, is the president of Building #19.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Goodison, Donna L. (2001-05-11). "King of Cheap". Boston Business Journal. "Founded in 1964, Building #19 is now a collection of 13 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island." 
  2. ^ a b c "Building #19: About Us",
  3. ^ a b c "Profile: Building 19 Inc.", Hoover's
  4. ^ a b "Building #19 – New England Discount Store Chain – Files Bankruptcy, Plans Liquidation and Going-Out-of-Business Sales",
  5. ^ Building 19 Chain Files for Bankruptcy
  6. ^ "Building 19 to buy Spag's". Boston Business Journal. 2002-10-09. 
  7. ^ Building 19 to Close Former Spag's Store
  8. ^ a b Wojahn, Ellen (June 1986). "The Forces Of Conformity". Inc. Magazine. p. 119. 
  9. ^ a b c Derr, Greg (February 15, 2012). "Jerry Ellis of Building 19 still loves a bargain after all these years". Gatehouse Media, Inc. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  10. ^ "Flier Describes T-Shirts As 'Wife-Beaters'". WCVB-TV. 2006-02-21. 
  11. ^ "Building 19 Again Apologizes For Ad". WCVB-TV. 2008-04-16. 
  12. ^ "Good Stuff Cheap (or Free) The Building #19 Story". The Shoestring. 2003-10-17. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]