|Headquarters||193 Boston Turnpike
Shrewsbury, MA 01545
|Parent||Building 19 (2002-2004)|
Spag's was, from 1934 to 2004, a discount department store on Route 9 in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. The store was considered an early pioneer of discount retailing and was notable for its longtime resistance to accepting charge cards (until 1992), offering plastic shopping bags (late 1996), and shopping carts (introduced in 1998).
Anthony "Spag" Borgatti (1916–1996) opened Shrewsbury Battery and Tire Service in 1934. In 1939 the store expanded and the name was changed to Spag's Hardware Supply. Spag's was a local sponsor of the broadcast of The New Yankee Workshop and The Victory Garden on PBS local station WGBH.
Spags was known for its motto - "No Bags At Spags" - The buyer brought his own or hand carried out the purchased items.
When Spag died in 1996, his daughters took over until 2002, when they sold it to Building 19. The location became Spag's 19, and in September 2004 Building 19 owner Jerry Ellis said the store was not profitable in its current format. Spag's merchandise and operations were converted to Building 19's format. October 3, 2004 was the last day of business for Spag's. For much of its lifecycle, the roof of the main building had the name "SPAGS" written across the east roof, but this was painted over in 2005. Other businesses surrounding Spag's, including The Ground Round family-style restaurant, have since closed due to lack of business. In June 2007 tentative plans were announced to close building 19 and demolish the building to make way for an affordable housing project.
On January 11, 2016 demolition began on the former Spag's building. The site will be replaced with 250 apartments, 13 townhouse units and 80,000 square feet of retail space anchored by a 50,000 square foot Whole Foods Market.
On June 28, 2012, the ILS-29 Instrument Approach Procedure into Worcester Regional Airport was changed to honor contributions made by Spag and Olive Borgatti to aviation in Worcester. The "Initial Approach Fix", located just south of the store location, has been renamed from PUMPP to SPAGS.
Spag's was originally one central building, later named "the warehouse" when the store opened the Spag's Sports Shop—featuring sports, hunting, and fishing equipment—and the Spag's Olde School House, which contained household tools and items such as pencils, nursing wear, and photography accessories. The Olde School House was closed for storage after being sold to Building 19 but was reopened for a short while in 2003, before being closed permanently. The Sports Shop closed in 2004 after the store officially became Building 19. The only remaining building, other than the main building (which saw renovations in the mid 1990s), is the Garden Shop, which sits adjacent to the main building.
Closed on Sundays
Reflecting the Borgatti family's religious values, the store was not open on Sunday. This policy changed on November 1, 1992.
A key to the success of the original operation was Spag's use of cash. The store did not accept credit cards, and Mr. Borgatti was able to purchase truckloads of inventory at low prices by offering immediate payment in cash. Much of the inventory was stored in the delivery trailers, parked on the Spag's lot.
The term "Spag's mentality" was coined to describe the thrifty mindset found among the store's customers. Depending on the context it is used in, it can carry a positive or negative connotation. One example of the Spag's mentality is the sheer number of shoppers that would visit for the store's annual spring tomato seedling giveaway. Beginning in 1957, the store would give 25 tomato seedlings to visitors; in 1985, the store gave away one million seedlings. The prices of many goods at Spag's were written on them in indelible black Magic Marker, and another aspect of the Spag's mentality was to display the handwritten price proudly, as proof of one's resourcefulness as a shopper.
Spag's often carried only one or two brands of a particular product, and, because of the store's popularity in New England and central Massachusetts, brands that are not market leaders in other areas of the country are household brands in the Spag's districts. Such is the case with Ban Deodorant and Good as Gold Coffee.
With the creation of Spag's Supply, Inc, in 1966, "Mrs. Spag" Olive Borgatti became president of the company, Spag the treasurer. She served as the company's president until her death in 1990. Spag assumed the position of president briefly before retiring the position to his daughter, Carol Borgatti Cullen, who served as the company president until shortly before the store's sale to Building 19. The other Borgatti daughters, Jean M. Borgatti and Sandra Borgatti Travinski, also served in upper management positions for Spag's.
In popular culture
In an early scene in the movie The Place Beyond the Pines, the character played by Ryan Gosling is wearing a Spag's T-shirt, inside out. Below the name is a picture of Anthony "Spag" Borgatti wearing his signature cowboy hat.
- "Spag's takes charge". Worcester Telegram Gazette. 1992-10-07.
- "Spag's offers bags for convenience of customers". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 1996-12-27.
Amid the frenzy of holiday shopping, something was unmistakably different at Spag's.... Bags. Most shoppers streaming out of the store shortly before Christmas clutched them - large, free plastic shopping bags emblazoned with the Spag's 10-gallon cowboy hat logo and those of local advertisers.
- "Spag's offers carts". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 1998-12-03.
The discount store shunned shopping carts for many years and discontinued previous plastic trash bin "carts" after many were stolen. Spag's began using the new carts in early October.
- "Spag's expands west". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 1999-11-01.
A crowd on hand for the grand opening of Spag's makes its way to the front door after the ribbon-cutting yesterday. Spag's Supply Inc. opened the store on Cooley Street, in a former Caldor at the Five Town Plaza.
- "Spag's Springfield store will close in December". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 2001-10-11.
Spag's Supply Inc. will close its Springfield store by year-end, stopping an unsuccessful bid to replicate its legendary discount retailing success outside of Central Massachusetts.
- "Spag's 3 daughters get new titles, plan to continue tradition". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 1996-03-08.
- Reidy, Chris (2002-10-10). "New Owners to Purchase Shrewsbury, Mass., Bargain Mecca". Boston Globe.
Spag's Supply Inc., a retail icon here that became a mecca for Central Massachusetts bargain hunters, has agreed to sell most of its assets to the family of a cofounder of Building 19, a Hingham-based chain that sells railroad salvage and other closeout merchandise. Both companies are private, and terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
- "Spag's era comes to end". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 2004-09-30.
- "Ground Round has served its last meal". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 2004-10-01.
At 12:30 a.m. yesterday, Robert O. "Bob" Bonin retired and so did his restaurant. The Ground Round, a fixture on Route 9 since 1984, served its last patrons and closed its doors. [It] is the end of a business his family ran for 66 years. Before the Ground Round, there was the Howard Johnson's his father, James, started in 1938....
- Keenan, Kevin (2007-06-27). "Old Spag's to be razed". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved 2007-11-11.
- Corcoran, Lindsay (2016-01-11). "Spag's final farewell: Demolition begins on legendary Shrewsbury store". MassLive/The Republican. Retrieved 2016-01-12.
- "FAA Terminal Procedures - ILS or LOC Runway 29" (PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
- "Spag's plans to open a sporting goods store". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 1990-03-16.
- "Spag's is consolidating space". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 2002-01-10.
The privately held discount retailer is closing its Olde School House building and moving retail displays into the main store along Route 9 to satisfy customers who said they wanted to do all their shopping in one place....
- . Telegram and Gazette http://cf.telegram.com/submissions/category_images/Anthony%20A%20Borgatti%20-%20October%2027%201992%20SMALL.jpg. Retrieved 15 May 2013. Missing or empty
- "Mad shoppers attack for killer tomatoes". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 1997-05-21.
- Carlson, Barbara W. (1986-11-03). "Method behind the mania". New England Business. Retrieved 2007-11-11.
In the spring, Spag's gives 25 tomato seedlings to anybody who shows up.
- Gallese, Liz Roman. "The Cheese at Spag's Is Next to the Rugs — Over by the Golf Balls". Wall Street Journal, January 28, 1983, p. 1
- Nickerson, Catherine and Elsa Borgatti Tivnan. Spag: An American Business Legend. 1999. ISBN 1-886284-54-7
- Spag's Tribute Site
- Spags.com in the Internet Archive
- Spag's memories in the Gone But Not Forgotten site, Worcester Telegram & Gazette
- Audio interview of Building 19 owner Jerry Ellis by WBZ Radio's Anthony Silva