Ann & Hope
|Privately held company|
|Headquarters||1 Ann & Hope Way|
Cumberland, Rhode Island 02864-6918
Number of locations
|Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut|
|Irwin Chase (President)|
Ron Dore(CEO) Paul Carr(GM) Elliott Ray (garden boy)
Ann & Hope is a Rhode Island–based retailer that pioneered practices now common in modern big box stores. The company was named after the ship Ann and Hope which was lost at sea off Block Island, Rhode Island in 1806. They operated from 1953 to 2001 in the Northeastern United States, and they currently operate a small chain of home fashion outlets, garden outlets, and dollar outlets in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.
Ann & Hope was founded by Martin Chase, who was born in 1906 in Kiev, Russian Empire (modern-day Ukraine), and moved with his family to Providence, Rhode Island, at age six. He was the only one of six sons not to work in his father's automobile repair business. Instead, when he was 20, he got a job working at a store called Fintex. After Fintex closed its doors in 1929, Chase worked at Howard's Clothes until 1933. Then he started Chase Clothing, where he undersold other area clothing stores by reducing overhead: for example he did not offer alterations and used inexpensive store fixtures.
As World War II approached, the clothing market fell into decline, and Chase began to look for another line of work. In 1946, he purchased the Ann & Hope Mill complex in the village of Lonsdale in Cumberland, Rhode Island. He split the large, empty mill into several small pieces and rented them individually.
Some time before December 1953, one of the tenants left the Mill, leaving a large amount of ribbon behind. Rather than dispose of it, the Chases opened the area to the other employees of the Mill and sold the ribbon. Chase then had the idea to reopen a clothing store in the Mill, initially on the third floor. By the following spring, the operation had become large enough that it was relocated to the ground floor. Over time more products were added, and by 1969, Ann & Hope was a $40 million per year operation.
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Ann & Hope was one of the first self-service department stores, in which customers could look at items without sales personnel, and also was one of the first to use shopping carts in a department store. The original mill location also featured a large parking area, which was not common at the time, as well as a basement level with even more merchandise. A special shopping cart conveyor was operated by staff to move store patrons' items from one floor to the other. Other now-familiar features such as having a central checkout area and a liberal store return policy were also pioneered by Ann & Hope.
Ann & Hope also had several features now common to big-box retail facilities. For example, some Ann & Hope stores had full-scale cafeterias. When originally constructed, Ann & Hope stores also had an area that was rented to a sub-tenant, with both in-store and outside entrances, a variation of which is a relatively recent introduction in larger Wal-Mart stores. Many Ann & Hope locations had limited success renting to tenants, and before the chain's closing in 2001, many had been converted to store-run garden shops.
Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, visited the Ann & Hope chain in 1961 and got the idea for his store from it, and Harry Cunningham visited Ann & Hope in the process of preparing to launch the first Kmart store.
Following a slow 1989–90 holiday season, the Seekonk, Massachusetts store experienced lay-offs, most notably in the home-wares and rug and blind departments. These layoffs were viewed by some as a portent of the difficulties that the Seekonk store (as well as her sister A&H stores) would experience in a cut-throat regional market throughout the 1990s. All of the Ann & Hope department stores closed in the spring of 2001, except for the two Rhode Island stores: the original location in Cumberland and the store in Warwick. High-value properties that Ann & Hope owned in Massachusetts were sold off. The two locations that remained open were downsized significantly and turned into off-price "outlet stores". In the years following the closing, new Ann & Hope–branded outlet stores, such as the Ann & Hope Curtain and Bath Outlet, were opened. Several of these new Ann & Hope outlet stores occupied space near where Ann & Hope department stores had previously existed.
As of 2007, the original Cumberland property is home to an Ann & Hope Curtain and Bath Outlet and an outdoor Garden Outlet. In August 2007, the owners of Ann & Hope made public their intention to convert the Cumberland mill store to a "mixed use" development of retail and residential space.
The Cumberland mill building is now home to the Bargain City Galleria - a thriving flea market, food court and auction center.
In April and May 2011, Ann & Hope opened two new stores in Raynham and Weymouth, Massachusetts, buying out two Curtain Factory Outlet retailers. This makes a current total of 11 Ann & Hope Outlet Stores: two in Rhode Island, two in Connecticut, and seven in Massachusetts.
In May 2013, Ann & Hope continued to grow with its newest Curtain & Bath Outlet location opening in Westborough, MA. Late in 2013, Ann and Hope welcomed a handsome star employee Elliott Ray. Elliott quickly became the face of ann and hope and even made their slogan “Ann and Hope; where there’s Ann, there’s Hope.”
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It's fair to say that Wal-Mart, Target and all of the other big discount chains around today owe their existence to what the Chases and Ann & Hope created. They innovated and developed the concept and format that all the rest have followed to this day. The operating format just evolved.
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