MERIDEN — Twenty years ago this month city residents coped with the news of Napier closing, learned more about the proposed plan for a Target store on Chamberlain Highway and had some fun with the soapbox derby.
Workers at the Napier Co. were jolted when supervisors abruptly told them about the 124-year-old jewelry business closing. The closing impacted about 300 employees. Victoria & Co. had purchased the facility in March. They cited “fierce competition in the marketplace” forcing them to reduce costs and move manufacturing offshore. Local and state agencies tried to quickly mobilize to help the impacted employees find new jobs.
Representatives for the Target store planned for the Chamberlain Highway hit snags when proposing a zoning change to increase the development’s footprint by 5 acres. Some city officials opposed the plan, saying it would encrouch on nearby woodlands and the basalt cliffs.
On Oct. 17, racers took part in the first Soapbox Derby race in the city in nearly 50 years, drawing nearly 1,500 people to the course on Liberty Street.
Near the end of the month, officials gathered for a ceremony to mark the beginning of a project to demolish the former Jefferson Middle School. It had stopped being used as a school in 1980s and deteriorated a lot since. The razing of the school makes way for a new post office.
Top music hits of October 1999
“Heartbreaker” – Mariah Carey featuring Jay Z.
“Smooth” – Santana featuring Rob Thomas
“Music of My Heart” – ‘N Sync & Gloria Estefan
“I Need to Know” – Marc Anthony
Movies released in October 1999
“Being John Malkovich”