Chess King

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Chess King
DefunctNovember 14, 1995
HeadquartersUnited States
ParentMerry Go Round Enterprises (MGRE)

Chess King was a United States men's clothing retailer created by the Melville Corporation. From its founding in 1968 it grew to over 500 locations by the mid-1980s, before an eventual decline, sale, and closure of the chain in 1995.


In 1967, traveling salespeople from Melville's Thom McAn shoe business noted a "wide open market" for young men's clothing, which gave birth to the idea of starting a young men's clothing and shoe store.[1] Market research reportedly found that chess and auto racing were popular interests of young men.[1]

The first Chess King branch opened in the Dedham Mall in Dedham, Massachusetts (just outside Boston), in March 1968.[2] In 1970, The New York Times described the store's concept as "teen-male apparel dress shops whose stores are highly identifiable, with bold coloring and designs aimed at appealing to the 12-to-20 male market."[2] Five additional locations were opened in 1968, and 21 more in 1969.[2] By late 1972, it had already grown to about 150 locations.[3] By 1978, it had 300 locations.[1] And by 1984, it had grown to over 500 stores.[4]

Chess King also experimented with 3 spin-off specialty stores in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The first, named "FreeFall" carried designer labels for men and women and was geared toward higher end designer brand names. The second was named "The B Club" and carried activewear for both men and women and the last was "Garage" which had a 50's inspired decor along with a Nash Metropolitan car in most locations. The retailer was successful through the 1980s as a purveyor of wild '80s fads and fashion,[5][6] but changing fashion trends contributed to the chain falling on hard times at the beginning of the 1990s.[citation needed]

Chess King was sold in 1993 to Maryland-based Merry Go Round Enterprises (MGRE),[7] and in January 1994, MGRE filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.[8] In November 1995, the Chess King chain closed.[9]


  1. ^ a b c "How It All Started at Chess King". Los Angeles Times. July 13, 1978. Retrieved March 25, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Hammer, Alexander R. (August 4, 1970). "Catering to Affluent Youth Market Found Profitable". The New York Times. Retrieved March 25, 2010.
  3. ^ Backalenick, Hirene (October 17, 1972). "Spreading Suburban Menace: Shoplifting, Mainly Among Young". The New York Times. Retrieved March 25, 2010.
  4. ^ "Marshalls expanding young men's business". Daily News Record. August 16, 1984. Retrieved March 26, 2010.("Marshalls is a division of Melville Corp., which also owns Chess King, an operator of more than 500 young men's specialty stores.")
  5. ^ Steinhauer, Jennifer (February 3, 1996). "Bankrupt Merry-Go-Round Decides to Go Out of Business". The New York Times. Retrieved March 25, 2010.("Chess King, the mall store for young men in need of flashy shirts")
  6. ^ Sykes, Laura (July 7, 2000). "Well Suited". Triad Business Journal. Retrieved March 25, 2010.("At that time, he worked for Chess King, a mall-based staple of faddish clothes for young people. 'You remember the horrible clothes?' he said laughing.")
  7. ^ Strom, Stephanie (March 18, 1993). "Melville to Sell Chess King To Merry-Go-Round Chain". The New York Times. Retrieved March 25, 2010.
  8. ^ Strom, Stephanie (January 12, 1994). "Merry-Go-Round Files for Bankruptcy Protection". The New York Times. Retrieved March 25, 2010.
  9. ^ Business, Bloomberg (November 14, 1995). "Merry-Go-Round to close third of its stores, including Chess King". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved March 25, 2010.("Merry-Go-Round Enterprises Inc. said it will close more than a third of its stores, including the entire Chess King men's clothing chain, as it struggles to emerge from bankruptcy court.")