Ann & Hope official says store not closing

Ann & Hope official says store not closing

The Ann & Hope Outlet Shops on Ann & Hope Way are not closing, says a representative for the company, despite rumors otherwise and closings of other company stores. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)
Larger changes at old mill still in the works

CUMBERLAND – Despite a downsizing of the Ann & Hope chain regionally, there are no plans to shut down the landmark Cumberland store, said a representative for the Cumberland-based company on Tuesday.

Asked at corporate headquarters on Ann & Hope Way about rampant rumors among employees and residents about a possible closure, 44-year employee and Operations Manager Cindy Boulet said there is no truth to them. She said the Cumberland store is not closing and there are no plans to close it.

Three of the company’s 11 stores overall have been closed, said Boulet, including locations in Weymouth, Raynham and Westborough, all in Massachusetts. Eight stores remain open for business, she said.

Rumors about a closing of the Cumberland store of late appear to be fueled by the closing of other stores and major sales going on at the store currently. Bill Dennen, a former manager of the store, was there buying a carpet runner Tuesday and said the item had been restocked from another store.

Known as “the first department store in America” with a discount self-service model tied to the rise of major retailers, Ann & Hope was founded in 1953. Prior to starting their own businesses, Walmart founder Sam Walton and Kmart’s Harry Cunningham each came to Rhode Island to study Ann & Hope’s pioneering discount department store concept. In its heyday, Ann & Hope employed 3,000 associates across Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

The Cumberland Ann & Hope Garden Center reopened in the spring following the worst of the pandemic in Rhode Island, and the inside of the store now appears to be doing a decent business.

Co-founder Irwin Chase died at age 93 in May, leaving his sons who still run the business.

Jonathan Stevens, Cumberland’s planning and community development director, said he heard the rumors about the store closing, but had no confirmation from the owners.

The Ann & Hope store takes up only a small portion of the entire mill complex, with some other tenants also there.

Stevens said the owners approached the town again in January about a rezoning for the Ann & Hope Mill, reviving discussions from two years ago when the Town Council rejected a plan to wrap this complex and others into overlay zoning to help ease their redevelopment.

Owners could not be reached for comment this week on what their plans are.

Stevens said they remain interested in more of a simple rezoning of this standalone property from industrial uses to limited commercial with mixed uses, “or something like that,” accommodating “housing and other things.”


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“I’m hoping that the mill becomes a vibrant place,” said Stevens. “It has the potential.”

Added Stevens, “It’s a terrific building and there’s a lot of parking.”

Stevens said the owners put “a whole lot on the table” prior to the pandemic in terms of what they’d like to do here, presenting aggressive ideas, but the details of what would or wouldn’t be approved have yet to be determined. They’ll have to convince the Town Council of any plan, he said.

“Their opening position is, can we do a whole bunch of stuff with that property,” he said.

The Chases are a “fine family and incredible part of Cumberland’s history and its fabric,” said Stevens. He said the door is always open to any property owner who would like to make changes to accommodate development or redevelopment.

Despite suggestions of housing to be incorporated into the massive complex, Stevens said the Chases are “to their core retail people,” understanding products and the nuances of supply and demand. It’s fair to say that they’re very conservative and thoughtful in how they proceed with anything, he said, likely because they have so much of their identity wrapped up in this institution.

Comments

If Ann and Hope is not closing, why did long term employees receive notices, by mail, that they were terminated? No more buying for the company? Also, I was there yesterday, and the garden shop is completely closed? On June 17th? Something is definately fishy with that story.

Unfortunately Ann and Hope has been out of business for a while now. They just don't know it yet.