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Who remembers…..Arlan’s Department Store?

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Arlan’s Department Store (1945-1973) started at 95 Brook Street

Before Wal-Mart, KMart and Target there was Arlan’s Department Store. This discount store chain was founded here in New Bedford in 1945 by brothers William, Herbert, and Lester Palestine and named after William’s son Arlan. The flagship store was located at 95 Brook Street in an old textile mill building that still stands today. The first two floors were the department store and the top floors were for manufacturing men’s outerwear called Ethan Ames. Arlan’s Supermarket was located across the street.

The department store sold everything and anything and even had a pet section, selling everything from dogs, cats, turtles and reptiles to monkeys!

The chain spread like wildfire from New Bedford and stores popped up all over the nation. There were 50 stores in 18 states by 1965 generating $174 Million dollars. At its peak expansion in 1970, it reached 119 stores. However, as the recession approached in the early 70s, revenue began to plummet to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. By 1973 the chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.


About Joe Silvia

When Joe isn't writing, he's coaching people to punch each other in the face. He enjoys ancient cultures, dead and living languages, cooking, benching 999#s, and saving the elderly, babies and puppies from burning buildings. While he enjoys long walks on the beach, he will not be your alarm clock, because he's no ding-a-ling.

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32 comments

  1. My brother told my Arlen’s had moving stairs. I didn’t believe him. How could something like that exist? Because I only knew one story department stores like Fairhaven Mills, I thought it would be 2 moving stairs to bring you from the sidewalk right up to the front door. I went down to check it out for myself. Boy, was I wrong and impressed!

    • LOL, OMG YOU REMEMBER FAIRHAVEN MILLS ALSO? WOW!! I LIVE IN FLA NOW BUT THESE STORES ARE A PART OF MY YOUNGER LIFE’S HISTORY. I MISS MASS. I LOVE READING ANYTHING ABOUT ANYTHING FROM UP THERE.

      • Me too-originally born 1943 in New Bedford lived good part of my life off & on there-then Father in military traveled & ended up in California for biggest part of my life & living my Senior years here now. But a big piece of me is for always with my treasured memories of Family-Long Passed Away-Friends-School-Work-Marriage ‘parts of my life’ spent in New Bedford. Oh and the Food-nothing compares in all my travels… Lincoln Park & Lincoln Park Ballroom [ used to go dancing out there 17-18 yrs old-met first husband there [gone now-so sad ]… Precious Memories…

    • to. MaryNiesluchowka..why don’t you have an easy surname like mine fernandes. assuming you’re still a live. your comment Nov.27, 2013 I am from Connecticut we had relatives who lived at far end of deane st. almost across from water sea or river their last names Brites & some called Jack Silva he had a daughter named Judy, who lived across st. from Arlan’s or Arlene’s department store sat on opposite corner then 7years old my mom took me there it was Christmas time to see their Christmas display as a 7 year old I couldn’t believe the wonders on display first time I se electric trains and toys that I had never seen in CT. we had then dept. stores yet nothing my young eyes had ever seen and for 1st time seen moving stairs for its time it was largest store I’ve ever seen I am now 78

  2. I REMEMBER THESE STORES. I LIVE IN FLA. NOW BUT MISS MY MASS. I TYPED A LITTLE MORE BUT LOST IT BY NOT GETTING THE “CAPTCHA CODE RIGHT THE 1ST TIME. LOL

  3. I remember going with my Mom and sister to Arlan’s before the site became the current KMart location.

  4. I remember this store, but one thing that stayed in my memory the most was the iron lung that was just outside the entrance. That was in the days of polio and the machine looked pretty terrifying to a child. Wonder if anyone else remembers that?

  5. Remember it also. Also Fairhaven Mills. Live in FL now but get to MA a couple of times a year.

  6. I remember all too well both the Arlans stores as my parents shopped there every Sat. evening. The department store had a soda fountain on the first floor and anything and everything was available for sale. I also remember Dawson’s Brewery that was in the area of Sawyer and Purchase St., the Wonder Bread Bakery (Hostess)Thrift store, Gusti’s Bakery (Bunny Bread), and the Knowlton School. This was my neighborhood for a few years in the 50’s – those were the days!

  7. anybody remember the radio jingle for Arlans in the 60’s (in michigan anyway)?
    hello go arlans, hello go arlans, discount department store. low low prices every day of the week, go Arlans. go Arlans today.

  8. We had on in detroit in the old Packard building in the very late 60s early 70s.
    God i loved that okace as a kid.
    It later changed to Kingsway. Another great ol dept store.

  9. Arlans in New Bedford my first job in 1963 as a layaway boy,
    Number packages, store them then retrieve them for the customer.

  10. We had an Arlans in New Castle, Indiana when I was growing up. I didn’t realize it was a national chain, I thought it was just a local store. When it went out Kmart took over the store.

  11. As part of the Arlan bankruptcy, Target grabbed Arlan locations at Mason City, Ames, Ft. Dodge, Cedar Rapids, Ottumwa, Bettendorf, Clinton, 2 in Des Moines, IA, Omaha NE and Moline Il and made them into Target stores. I have been in every one of those and they operated profitably for many years and most, if not all, have since been replaced by new full size Targets. Yesterday, Target announced that the replacement location in Ottumwa IA would be closed due to under performance.

  12. First visit to a large department store with my parents when I was a little girl. A mechanical robot greeted everyone at the door and scared me to death. Later when I was 16 I was hired for my very first job there on Brook Street as a clerk in the Ladies Department and a “bagger” for the cashiers. I remember the popcorn cart and the long bags of popcorn for a dime. Worked weekends only and loved it.

  13. We had an Arlans in Brookfield, WI, a suburb of Milwaukee. We were regularly dragged there by our parents on the weekly shopping runs. The joke in school was: What did the bird say while flying over Arlans? “Cheep, Cheep”

  14. We had an Arlans in Kingston PA. Hurricane Agnes came in 1972 and flooded the Wilkes-Barre and all surrounding area. Kmart took over the spot. I didn’t know they went bankrupt, just thought the flood put them out. But it was a great store. I was 10 in ’73, now in Atlanta.

  15. Great place to buy records cheap. 9 cent 45s, 39 cent lp’s. All out of print stuff, but you could find the hits you missed. We had one in Milwaukee on Silver Sprig Drive and another on the south side

  16. Yesterday, Thanksgiving I was doing a little reminiscing I was wondering who else remembered “Arlans” I was about 11 when the store in my hometown closed… I was just thinking of the fun I had as a kid in the Arlans in my industrial city… Waterbury, Ct. In the south end nestled inbetween gas and fuel depots in an old factory warehouse steel rivited girders decorated in that 30’s art deco making a resurgence in the early 70s..thanks I had no idea it was a big chain.

    • I got my first retail gig at Arlan’s in Freeport Illinois at the age of 21 (1974 ish). Did training in New Bedford, MA. Managed 5 depts. Overseas shop, jeans heap, flower /plant thingy, kids play area thingy and one more but it escapes me. Great memories of Arlan’s though short lived. I think they started closing stores a few years later. I’m now winding now 22 + years with Younkers/Bon Ton in Sioux Falls SD….so sayyd. end of an era for so

    • Pat Thomas Hunt, JFK, 1967

      I’m remembering Arlan’s in Waterbury and shopping with my parents for back to school clothes in 1961 or so. Years later I bought candles at a thrift store Goodwill and bought tiny tapers originally from Arlan’s which I’m burning this Christmas season with my children and grandchildren. I love the connection to where I grew up. I’m grateful for those years and continuing them with future generations.

  17. Remember it? My dad was a manager For arlan’s in Wilkes Barre Pennsylvania. It was a pretty good store. Too bad nothing lasts forever.

  18. enjoyed reading these posts about a store I never heard of but found it after I bought a set of “Lincoln Logs” from the 1960’s era off ebay that had an Arlans store price tag of $2.92 on it!

  19. They also had a supermarket within walking distance on Purchase Street.

  20. Those little “pee-wee turtles” were responsible for many hundreds of cases of pediatric salmonella infections every year.

    Sale of those turtles was banned in 1975.

  21. My first job as a cashier in Raleigh nc

  22. I was hired for a temporary position to stock Easter Candy at Arlan’s in Aurora, Colorado in 1971. The manager was impressed with the job I’d done and offered me a full time position as a stock clerk. Within a few months I was promoted to “Manager” of the men’s department. Thiis was only my second “real” job, the first being a dishwahser at a Best Western. I joined the USAF in Nov 73 and learned that Arlans had only lasted about another year.

  23. I remember the Arlen’s in Florissant, Missouri ca. 1966. A carton on Lucky Strike non-filtered cigarettes was $2.14. Filtered: $2.24.

  24. 1960’s Grand Rapids (Walker) store. Visited often!

  25. I worked in the Arlans men’s department at the Packard plant on the eastside in 1960.cloths were mostly imports ay that time. the main office came out of New Bedford Mass.

  26. Does anyone know what year the Arlan’s store was opened in Brentwood plaza, Finneytown, Ohio 45231. I have searched nearly everywhere I can think of.

  27. Does anyone remember their jingle? I just remember “ Hello go Arlans, hello go Arlans, discount department store, low low prices every day of the week

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