While some stores may always remind us of our childhood, that doesn’t mean they can all be around forever. With the rise of the Internet and online shopping, many of the stores that we once begged our parents to take us to have been out of business for longer than we even enjoyed them. Take a trip down memory lane and remember some of the classic stores of your youth and see how many of them have been taken over by stores that sell things people actually need.
Zany Brainy was the perfect store for kids who loved to learn as they played.
Natural Wonders: 1986 – 2004
Natural Wonders was started in 1986 by Robert S. Rubenstein and Stephen L. Jacobs, two entrepreneurs that were already involved in the retail industry and were looking for a challenge. Between 1986 and 1987, the two managed to get a small group of investors to invest over $750,000 in the company. By the time Natural Wonders was underway, it had established itself as a chain of mall-based specialty gift stores that was dedicated to those who appreciate nature and science.
The stores sold inexpensive children’s toys to high-end telescopes with their primary customers ranging from young teenagers to women in their mid-fifties. Although it was successful at first, Natural Wonders was forced to close its doors in 2004.
Discovery Channel Store: 1996 – 2007
The Discovery Channel began to sell its brand in retail stores and other locations across the United States, as well as using an online store. The store sold merchandise that was typically used as educational gifts. There were videos, books, CD’s, and educational, hands-on kits.
Most of these items were manufactured with the Discovery Channel brand name. The first Discovery Channel stores opened their doors in 1995, and by 1997, there were 17 stores in the US and one in the UK. Although the website is still in use today, in 2007, Discovery Channel announced they would be closing their standalone and mall-based stores.
Sport Chalet: 1959 – 2016
Sport Chalet was a sporting goods store with 47 stores throughout Southern and Northern California, as well as Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. Many of the stores offered SCUBA certification classes and were uo ti 35,000 square feet in size. They were known for the large size of their apparel and footwear, as well as overall selection of sporting goods.
It was founded in 1959 by Norbert Olbertz and his wife Irene, who built them company for numerous decades. Then, in 2016, it was announced that the stores were going to close and that May 15 would be the last days for customers to visit the stores.
KB Toys: 1922 – 2009
KB Toys, also known as “Kay Bee” toys was a chain of mall-based retail stores once owned by Brian Capital. Originally founded in 1922, at its height, it had over 1,200 stores across all 50 states, as well as in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, although it went out of business on February 9, 2009.
During that time, the toy company Toys “R” Us, bought the rest of what was left of KB Toys such as its website, trademarks, and intellectual property rights. However, since then, the company Strategic Marks purchased the brand and intends to re-open new stores under the same name in November 2018.
Zany Brainy: 1991 – 2001
Zany Brainy was another store that suffered due to the Internet and the shift in consumer shopping habits. Much like the store Natural Wonders, Zany Brainy was dedicated to selling experimental and hands-on toys for children. The store catered to children in the age range of 4-13 with typical merchandise including puzzles, infant development books, books, building toys, computer software, and more.
The company was founded by David Schlessinger in 1991 but filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection due to financial difficulties after acquiring the rival company Noodle Kidoodle. When the company was finally sold to Right Start in 2001, it had 187 stores nationwide.
Toys “R” Us was a staple for generations of kids growing up.
Sam Goody: 1951 – 2006
Operated by The Musicland Group inc., Sam Goody was a music and entertainment retailer in the United States. In 1951, Sam “Goody” Gutowitz opened up a chain of record stores that eventually grew into the Sam Goody music empire.
However, after around 50 years, the company was bought by Best Buy in 2000 and then sold to Sun Capital in 2003 before filing for bankruptcy and closing most of their stores in 2006. The remaining stores were bought by Trans World Entertainment who converted most of the Sam Goody stores into FYE, although a few remain under the Sam Goody name.
Media Play: 1992 – 2006
Media Play was founded by Musicland in 1992. It was a chain of retail stores that sold DVDs, music, electronics, video games, books, and other trinkets throughout the United States. The store acted like multiple other stores sharing the same roof. At the chain’s height, there were 72 stores in 19 states with over 2,000 employees.
The first store was opened in Rockford, Illinois, expecting hundreds more to open, although they never even made it to 100. The chain officially closed in 2006 most likely because of ecommerce on the Internet.
Toys “R” Us: 1948 – 2018
Toys “R” Us was an international toy, clothing, video game, and baby product retailer. The company was found in April 1948 by Charles Lazarus and the store we know it as today, can be traced back to Lazarus’ children’s furniture store. After adding toys to his store, his business began to grow drastically and by the end had almost 800 stores in the United States.
By 1965 Toys “R” Us grew into Babies “R” Us, Toys “R” Us Express, and Kids “R” Us. Unfortunately, in 2017, Toys “R” Us filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and the British and US stores closed in June 2018.
A Friday night didn’t used to be complete without a trip to Blockbuster.
Waldenbooks: 1933 – 2011
Owned by Walden Book Company Inc., Waldenbooks was a mall-based bookstore chain and a subsidiary of Borders Group. In 1933, the company was started by Lawrence Hoyt, who opened a rental library beneath a department store which he called the Walden Book Company.
Hoyt opened the first Walden bookstore in 1962, and in 15 years, the company had grown to have over 250 locations and had switched from book rentals to retail book selling. Unfortunately, by 2010 almost two-thirds of the stores had been closed and in July 2011, Borders Group filed for liquidation to close all of the remaining Waldenbooks and other stores.
Noodle Kidoodle: 1931 – 2001
Noodle Kidoodle was a retail chain that sold educational toys in the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s. The company had stores in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Michigan, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas.
It was founded by Stanley Greenman, who previously ran other store chains such as Circus World, Play World. and Playland, through his family business Greenman Bros. inc. The First Noodle Kidoodle was opened in Greenvale, New York in 1993 and grew until 2000, where it was bought by Zany Brainy for $35 million for 60 stores.
Blockbuster: 1985 – 2010
Blockbuster LLC or simply Blockbuster was an American provider of home movie and video game rentals. It relied on video rental shops, DVD-by-mail, video on demand, and cinema theater to attract business. During the 1990s, it became internationally known and was an extremely lucrative business.
At its peak in 2004, Blockbuster employed over 84,000 people worldwide, with the majority of its employees being in the United States. However, competition from other services such as Redbox and Netflix eventually led to the company declaring bankruptcy in 2010 and the following year the remaining 1,700 stores were bought by Dish Network.
Sharper Image was like an adult toy store.
Warner Bros. Studio Store: 1991-2001
The Warner Bros. Studio Store was a retail store that sold Looney Tunes and other merchandise based on Warner Bros. films and television shows. The stores were a very similar style to the Disney Store.
The first Studio Store opened up in 1991, and in 1996, Warner Bros. owner Time Warner merged with Turner Broadcasting. Merchandise based on Turner properties were added to the shelves. However, in 2001, all Warner Bros. Studio Stores went out of business, yet in 2006, some stores were re-opened in China after partnering with PMW Retail.
Sharper Image: 1977 – 2008
The Sharper Image is an American brand that focuses on home electronics and other high-tech lifestyle products. The company was founded by Richard Thalheimer in 1977 and was a part of the company until it was officially closed in 2008. However, the brand has been in operation since its relaunch in 2010, although they no longer own physical stores.
The company continues to sell merchandise through retail stores across the United States, a monthly catalog and website, and business-to-business sales teams that market products for wholesale retailers.
Everyone wanted to have their birthday party at Discovery Zone.
Club Libby Lu: 2000 – 2008
Club Libby Lu was an experience-based retailer for girls aged between five and twelve. The company was founded by Mary Drolet, a former executive at Claire’s and Montgomery Ward. Here, young girls can experience a full makeover as they sit in front of heart-shaped mirrors and listen to their favorite pop music.
A typical makeover cost around $25-$60 depending on the package bought. They also had the (Very Important Princess) club where young girls could make their own perfumes, lip gloss and more. Then, in 2008, the parent company Saks Incorporated announced that because of the state of the economy, they would be closing all 98 locations.
Steve & Barry’s: 1985 – 2009
Steve & Barry’s was a retail clothing store that had causal and sports-related clothing and accessories. The company was headquartered in Port Washington, New York, and by 2008 had 276 stores operating in 39 states. The stores were based on various campuses around the United States and were originally called Steve & Barry’s University Sportswear.
The chain specialized in college-related clothing and and private-label casual clothes. In 2007, the company cut the “University Sportswear” from their name after signing licensing agreements with celebrities. Although this didn’t end up helping them as the liquidated all of their stores during 2008 and 2009.
Delia’s: 1993 – 2014
Delia’s, marketed as dELiA’s, is a marketing and retail company that was made up of two lifestyle brands for young girls between the ages of 7 and 13 and 13 to 19. During the company’s height, it was the leading store for females ages 10 to 24 in the United States.
The store was popular among girls in college with many of its products being affordable for young girls that didn’t have a lot of money. The company was originally launched by two Yale University graduates in 1993 and was bought by Alloy Inc. for $50 million in 2006. However, it declared bankruptcy in 2014 but reopened as an online store in 2015.
Discovery Zone: 1989 – 1999
Discovery Zone (DZ) was a chain of entertainment facilities for children with games, mazes, and activities designed for them to run around in a safe environment. There were ball pits, roller slides, climbing structures, and even arcades. The chain was founded by Ronald Matsch, Jim Jorgenson, and Dr. David Schoenstadt in 1989 with the first location being opened in Kansas City, Missouri in October.
One of the company’s original investors was tennis player Billie Jean King. In 1990, they opened 15 stores in just 8 months with the stock rising 61% on the first day of trading. However, by 1996, the company filed for bankruptcy and by 1999 closed their doors for good.
Gadzooks: 1983 – 2005
Gadzooks was a mall-based teenager clothing retailer. It was founded in 1983 as a t-shirt company by Jerry Szczepanski and Larry Titus with the first store opening in Mesquite, Texas. By 1992, the company had 33 stores in Texas and became public in 1995 raising their number of stores to 1995.
In 2003, the stores stopped selling clothes for males and focused on females ages 16 to 24. By February 2004, the company filed bankruptcy cutting their number of stores in half, and was then purchased by Forever 21 in 2005. From there, the rest of the stores faded away.
Ruehl No. 925: 2004 – 2010
Ruehl No. 925 was an upscale clothing brand owned by Abercrombie & Fitch, best known for selling leather goods, apparel, and lifestyle accessories. The theme of the store was New York City’s Greenwich Village, with the store catering to post-graduate students ages 22 to 25.
Some of Ruehl’s biggest competitors included J. Crew, Polo Ralph Lauren, and American Eagle Outfitters. The first group of stores opened up in 2004, yet by 2009, Abercrombie & Fitch ceased operations with the brand and focused on themselves.
The Virgin Megastores are an international entertainment retailing chain that was founded by Sir Richard Branson originally as a record shop in London on Oxford Street in 1976. In the early ’70s, Branson and Nik Powell began running a small record store known as Virgin Records and Tapes in London. After the shop became a success, they turned the business into a full record label, shortening their name as Virgin Records.
In 1979, the company opened their first Megastore on Oxford Street. After that, they expanded to hundred of stores worldwide in the 1990s until almost all of them ended up closing. In 2015 the only Virgin Megastores left were in the Middle East and North Africa, consisting of 40 stores.