May 2, 2014 06:46PM
By Mary Ellen Godin
MERIDEN — As JC Penney rings out its final customers, around the mall corner TJ Maxx is bustling with customers and fresh merchandise.
TJ Maxx had its grand opening last Saturday in the northern side of Westfield Meriden mall in 23,137 square feet that formerly housed Borders book store. A Christmas Tree Shop Express moved into the space for two holiday shopping seasons, but for most of three years, the store remained vacant. TJ Maxx hired about 60 full and part-time workers, including some JC Penney workers.
Mall shoppers welcomed TJ Maxx Friday, and combed through its displays of warm weather housewares, and fashions.
“We are pleased to expand our store base to Meriden, delivering value and an exciting selection of fashion to serve the needs of customers,” said Richard Sherr, president of TJ Maxx. “With thousands of new items from top designers and brands arriving in each store every week from around the world, shoppers will discover a completely new store full of amazing values every time they visit.”
Store manager Mary Maruli referred all questions to the store’s corporate offices based in Framingham, Mass. TJ Maxx currently has 1,000 stores operating in 49 states and Puerto Rico. Departments include fashion and accessories for the family and home, jewelry, beauty, pet accessories, toys and more.
The store operates under the TJX Companies Inc. umbrella which began with brothers Max and Morris Feldberg, who founded the New England Trading Co. in Boston.
In 1956, a younger generation of Feldbergs opened the former Zayre’s discount department store chain in Hyannis, Mass. Ben Cammarata joined the group and opened its first TJ Maxx store in Auburn and Worcester, Mass. in 1977. The new store offered upscale apparel for families and proved to be a hit with customers, including middle to upper income shoppers, according to the corporate website.
In 1984, Zayre introduces a new warehouse retail concept to the Northeast called BJ’s Wholesale Club. In 1988, BJ’s was spun off to shareholders, and Zayres was sold to Ame’s Department stores.
In 1994, TJX launched TK Maxx and introduced the off-price concept to the U.K, and Ireland, over time it spread in Europe. In 1995, TJX acquired another off-price retailers Marshalls and its 496 stores. Marshalls expands the company’s selection into menswear and footwear. In 1992, TJX launched HomeGoods, offering off-price home fashions, rugs and accessories. It also acquired several chains that it closed or sold, including Bob’s Stores, which it sold to a private equity firm in 2008. In 2012, TJX bought Sierra Trading Post, an off-price Internet retailer based in Cheyenne, Wy.
Shopper Barbara Kubeck said she liked the deals she gets at Marshalls on Broad Street and the new TJ Maxx at the mall.
“My grandsons love Michael Jordan,” Kubeck said. “They have great prices for his line of clothing. An item for $10 at TJ Maxx would be $40 or $50 somewhere else.”