Building #19 was a chain of discount stores in
New England that
operated from 1964 until they declared bankruptcy in 2013. At the
time of their bankruptcy they closed all 13 stores. The same family
that owned the chain later reopened two of the former locations as a
part of a new business, The Rug Department, that was limited to rugs
and related merchandise.
The closeout stores had been known throughout
New England for selling
an eclectic assortment of items at drastically discounted prices, as
well as self-effacing advertising that made fun of the founder, Jerry
Ellis. Many of the items were factory irregulars, discontinued models,
post-expiration-date, damaged, or less than perfect in some other way,
but some new merchandise was offered as well. The stores capitalized
on the quick cash flow needs of other businesses, obtaining most of
their merchandise from fire sales, overstocks, customs seizures,
liquidations, and bankruptcy courts.
2 Corporate culture
3 Corporate affairs
4 See also
6 Further reading
7 External links
Jerry Ellis (born Gerald Elovitz) founded the original store in 1964
with Harry Andler, when the two joined together to sell a stock of
appliances. The original Building #19 was located at the former
Bethlehem Hingham Shipyard, where the buildings were numbered, and the
store retained the nondescript name on the building rather than pay
for a new sign. Harry Andler was doing surplus and salvage business in
the shipyard for several years. The unique combination of Ellis'
advertising flair and Andler's expertise in finding and buying
distressed merchandise accounts for the early success of the business.
Aldler bought "good stuff cheap" and Ellis let everyone know about it
with amusing advertising.
In 1971, when the windows began to fall out of the John Hancock Tower
in Boston, Jerry and Harry were offered, and bought the defective
window panels that were scheduled to be replaced. This got the company
national press and attention.
In 1979, retailers Building #19 and
Bloomingdales both appeared as
contrasting locations in the movie Starting Over, starring Burt
Reynolds, Candice Bergen, Jill Clayburgh, and Charles Durning. The
movie was directed by Alan Pakula.
In the 1980s, the original Building #19 moved to the former GEM
(Government Employee Merchandise) building on Derby Street in Hingham,
Massachusetts. Later, Building #19 1/8 opened in the old Stuart's
store in the Harborlight Mall on Rt 3A in Weymouth, Massachusetts;
still later that store was closed to build a
Lowe's Store. The main
store Building #19 moved from Derby Street in Hingham and was situated
in Weymouth at the old Caldor/Zayre's/Ames building on Massachusetts
In 2002, Building #19 bought out the independent discount store Spag's
in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, and renamed the acquisition "Spag's
19". The store format and configuration were changed after the
purchase, to more closely resemble the other Building #19 operations.
However the store was closed in May 2013.
The chain was known for its often self-deprecating humor, both in
their advertising and throughout their store interiors. Their weekly
ad circulars often featured caricatures of founder Jerry Ellis with a
number of sarcastic captions, many of which were repeated in their
in-store advertising. The early circulars featured the
"free-spirit" Ellis sternly commanded to work harder by the
"skinflint" Andler. As of 2012[update], Ellis still wrote most of the
ad copy used in the ad flyers.
Each Building #19 location offered free coffee with "free fake cream".
Signs near the free coffee stand warned customers not to make fun of
the poor quality of the coffee, because "someday you'll be old and
weak too". Their price guarantee awarded a bottle of "Chateau du
Cheapo" champagne if a competitor beat their price.
In 2006, Building #19 put a cartoon in their President's Day
advertising flier showing A-shirts (athletic style undershirts)
labeled as being "Wife-Beater" shirts. Building #19 was criticized,
and promptly apologized. Two years later, a flier poked fun at the
2006 controversy, and was similarly criticized.
The main Building #19 store was located in Hingham, Massachusetts;
other stores had a numerical fraction appended to their name (such as
Building #19½, in Burlington or Building #19¾, in Norwood).
Building #19 1/9, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, used the old grandstand
Narragansett Park - a former horse racing venue that had
closed in 1978.
"Good Stuff... Cheap"
"Suffer a Little, Save a Lot"
"The Humble Department Store"
"Support the three-day work week"
"America's messiest department(?) store"
"Please leave with at least as many children as you came with"
On Friday, November 1, 2013, Building #19, Inc. and a number of
affiliated companies voluntarily filed for
Chapter 11 bankruptcy
protection in the
Bankruptcy Court for the District of
Founder Jerry Ellis said that the business had been "on a downhill
slope for 10 years", and attributed its failure to Internet
competition, overseas manufacturing, and improved fire protection of
warehouses. The latter two factors reduced the supply of salvage and
surplus products to sell, while increased competition caused the
number of their store customers to drop.
Christmas Tree Shops
Ocean State Job Lot
^ Goodison, Donna L. (2001-05-11). "King of Cheap". Boston Business
Journal. Founded in 1964, Building #19 is now a collection of 13
stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
^ a b c "Building #19: About Us". Building #19. Archived from the
original on 2014-05-14.
^ a b "Profile:
Building 19 Inc". Hoover's.
^ a b c d Luna, Taryn (November 5, 2013). "The fun runs out at
Building #19". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2014-09-20.
^ Herman, Colman M. (January 25, 2014). "Bankrupt Building 19
reinvents itself as a rug store". Boston Globe. Retrieved
^ a b Ramos, Dante (November 17, 2013). "Building #19: Twilight of the
mishap-based economy". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2014-09-20.
Building 19 to buy Spag's". Boston Business Journal.
^ Nicodemus, Aaron (May 15, 2013). "
Building 19 to Close Former Spag's
Store". Telegram & Gazette.
^ a b Wojahn, Ellen (June 1986). "The Forces Of Conformity". Inc.
Magazine. p. 119.
^ a b Derr, Greg (February 15, 2012). "Jerry Ellis of Building 19
still loves a bargain after all these years". EnterpriseNews.com.
Gatehouse Media, Inc. Archived from the original on 10 January 2014.
Retrieved 16 March 2013.
^ "Flier Describes T-Shirts As 'Wife-Beaters'". WCVB-TV. 2006-02-21.
Archived from the original on 2012-03-06.
Building 19 Again Apologizes For Ad". WCVB-TV. 2008-04-16. Archived
from the original on 2012-03-06.
^ "Good Stuff Cheap (or Free) The Building #19 Story". The Shoestring.
^ "Building #19 –
New England Discount Store Chain – Files
Liquidation and Going-Out-of-Business Sales".
Chapter 11 Cases. November 2, 2013.
^ Herman, Colman (November 12, 2013). "Building #19 owner looks back,
ahead". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2014-09-20.
Vega, Gina (May 2007). "Business succession at Building #19: overall,
it is better to be the father than the son". Entrepreneurship: Theory
and Practice. John Wiley & Sons. 31 (3): 473–488.
Mat Brown (cartoonist for the Bu