From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Caldor Department Stores
Privately held company
Industry Retail
Fate Filed for bankruptcy
Founded 1951 in Port Chester, New York
Founder Carl Bennett and Dorothy Bennett
Defunct 1999
Headquarters Norwalk, Connecticut (at time of original company's demise)
Products Photography, garden/seasonal, sporting goods, appliances, hardware, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, electronics, housewares, automotive,
Revenue Increase $ 2.5 Billion USD (1998)[1]
Number of employees
24,000 (1998)

Caldor is a defunct regional discount department store chain that operated from 1951 until 1999, primarily in the northeastern United States and New England. The discount retailer was founded by Carl and Dorothy Bennett in 1951 in Port Chester, New York and later moved operations to Norwalk, Connecticut.

Despite being a popular destination for shoppers, Caldor ran into financial troubles due to increasing competition from national chains like Walmart and Target in their primary market areas. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1995 and never emerged from it, eventually resorting to liquidating its remaining 145 stores in 1999.



The first store was opened by Carl and Dorothy Bennett in a tiny second-floor loft in Port Chester, NY in 1951, as a five and dime. (from May 23, 1984 New York Times Business Day) Caldor was formed from the couple's first names: Carl and Dorothy. The Bennetts also developed a private clothing label, Marc Robbins, named for their two children. By the 1980s, Caldor had stores along the East Coast from Virginia to New Hampshire. In late 1998, Caldor had 145 stores. Many Caldor stores had been part of the J.M. Fields chain.

The Bennetts sold Caldor to Associated Dry Goods Corporation (ADG) in 1981. ADG would merge with May Department Stores in 1986. May sold the chain in November 1990 in a leveraged buyout. In 1991, Caldor went public and earned over $2.5 billion in revenue that year, becoming the fourth largest retailer in the United States behind Kmart, Target, and Wal-Mart. In 1992 it changed its format, as it expanded and renovated many of their older stores. By 1994, Caldor had 166 stores in 10 states.

Norwalk store fire[edit]

On Monday, April 17, 1961 at 2:10am a two-alarm structure fire was reported at the Norwalk Caldor Department Store on Route 7, just south of the Norwalk, CT town line. Firefighters reported dodging exploding bullets coming from the sporting goods department. No emergency crews were seriously hurt battling the blaze, except for one Norwalk firefighter who was taken to a local hospital for minor injuries. The fire completely leveled the retail store and caused over $1,000,000 in damages. None of the products were salvageable. The cause of the fire was never determined.[2]

Howard Stern disagreement[edit]

Most Caldor stores had a bookselling department, and the stores would often post the New York Times Best Seller list to inform its shoppers. The posting of the list led to a spat with the newspaper in 1993. That year, Howard Stern released his controversial autobiography Private Parts. Caldor wanted nothing to do with the book and opted not to carry it in its stores. In fact, Caldor would not even acknowledge the book's place on the list once it reached the top spot, deleting the book from the list, and moving every other book on the list up one place. The New York Times told Caldor that in order to post the list, all of the books on it had to be acknowledged. Caldor responded by not posting the list the next week.[3]

Estate of Thornton v. Caldor, Inc.[edit]

Caldor was the subject of a lawsuit filed by former employee Donald Thornton, who claimed he was fired by the company for refusing to work on Sunday, which was his Sabbath day. Thornton contended that by forcing him to work one Sunday a month, Caldor was violating a Connecticut state law that permitted him to observe his Sabbath without opposition from his employer. Caldor contended that the law was unconstitutional as it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit was filed in 1980 and eventually the case was heard before the United States Supreme Court, by which time Thornton had died and his estate became the petitioner.

This historical case has been used by many colleges including Cornell University Law School[4] and Harvard Law School.[5]

First bankruptcy[edit]

In 1995, Caldor filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.[6] The chain found itself unable to compete with the lower prices and wider selection of such stores as Wal-Mart (which had acquired several former Caldor stores), causing a dramatic loss in sales.

Caldor also had trouble meeting its financial goals and losses mounted. Shortly before filing for bankruptcy, Caldor had $1.2 billion in assets and $883 million in liabilities, the lowest amount of assets and the highest amount of liabilities the company had since it was sold by May Department Stores in 1990. After the bankruptcy, Caldor closed 10 under-performing stores in 1996.

1998 weekly ad printing error[edit]

Caldor relied heavily on a weekly multi-color sales flyer to generate business. Flyers were distributed weekly to advertise sales that ran from Sunday through Saturday. In November 1998, the company suffered a public relations embarrassment when its sales flyer featured a prominent photograph of two grinning boys playing the board game "Scrabble" with the word RAPE spelled out in the center of the board, buried amongst nonsense words. 11 million copies of the flyer were distributed to the public via an 85-newspaper distribution chain. Caldor released a statement expressing its mystification over how the image was created and got past proofreaders.[7][8]

Second bankruptcy and liquidation[edit]

In January 1998, Caldor had $1.2 billion in liabilities and $949 million in assets, one of the worst deficits the company ever had. A few months later, Caldor closed 12 underperforming stores, mostly in the Washington, D.C. area. This, along with the slow financial progress of the chain, caused its secured creditors to force the chain into Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which would have forced the liquidation of the entire chain. The creditors felt that their shareholders would benefit more from the liquidation of the company than if they allowed it to remain in business. In addition, Caldor's stock was delisted on the New York Stock Exchange.

Caldor responded by seeking mediation to resolve the dispute. However, it became clearer that Caldor's troubles could not be resolved by any means and that the demise of the chain was imminent. As 1999 began, Caldor announced that it would no longer be placing orders for or accepting shipments of new merchandise, which seemed to serve as a prelude to a liquidation announcement. That announcement came on January 22, when Caldor's chairman announced the chain had no alternative but to wind down business.[9]

Layoffs began immediately starting with the team members at the Caldor headquarters in Norwalk, CT. Liquidation sales began at all Caldor stores on January 23. Caldor began to close stores in April 1999; the last Caldor stores closed on May 15. At the time the chain closed, it had 24,000 employees and 145 stores in nine eastern states.

The chain made $2.5 billion in sales in its last full year in business (1998).

Many Caldor stores eventually were purchased by retailers such as competitors Target, Kmart, and Wal-Mart. Many metro New York Caldor stores were bought by Kohl's after the company's closure as part of Kohl's entry into the New York retail market.

Stamford Hospital Cancer Center donation[edit]

Carl and Dorothy Bennett sold Caldor for an estimated $313 million (USD) to ADG during a buyout offer. The couple donated a good sum of their cash to Stamford Hospital. Dorothy Bennett struggled with cancer, which led to her death in 2008. During the latter parts of Dorothy's life, they formed the Carl & Dorothy Bennett Cancer Center at Stamford Hospital.

In 2013, the Bennet Cancer Center was the only Cancer Center in Connecticut to receive the 2013 outstanding achievement award.[10] In 2014 the Bennett Cancer Center received a top national award for cancer treatments.[11]

In 2014, Carl Bennett was named the biggest donor to Stamford Hospital. On September 25, 2014, Carl Bennett donated an estimated $9.1 million USD to the hospital to create new buildings.[12]


Caldor was mentioned in a 2007 Family Guy episode, "Boys Do Cry".

Caldor was mentioned in The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror III" episode, as Bart Simpson casts a spell to raise the dead.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "From the archives: Caldor closes, 3,000 in area lose jobs". Newsday. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  2. ^ "The Wilton Bulletin" (PDF). Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  3. ^ "Stores Shy Away From Book Written by Radio Personality". 12 November 1993. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  4. ^ "Estate of Thornton v. Caldor, Inc.". Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  5. ^ "Thornton v. Caldor". Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  6. ^ "Caldor Files For Chapter 11 Protection". 19 September 1995. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ "Business - Department Store Apologizes For Flap Over Scrabble Ad - Seattle Times Newspaper". Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  9. ^ "Caldor, in Bankruptcy, to Shut Its Stores". 23 January 1999. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  10. ^ "Bennett Cancer Center". Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  11. ^ "Stamford Hospital Bennett Cancer Center Earns National Award". The Stamford Daily Voice. 29 July 2014. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  12. ^ "Caldor founder is biggest donor to Stamford Hospital". StamfordAdvocate. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 

External links[edit]