Bruce Variety is facing new competition before its new Bethesda location has even opened - from a new store in its old location!
Bradley Party & Variety has leased the famous, former Bruce Variety storefront in the venerable Bradley Shopping Center. The inclusion of the word "Variety" says it all: the store will be a direct competitor to "Bruce's" across town.
A representative of the new Bradley Party & Variety says it will be "the type of store that has a nostalgic feeling." Yes, the store will sell party supplies, costumes, etc. But it will also squarely compete with Bruce Variety by stocking craft supplies and fabric, and in general, the type of goods you'd expect to find in a "'five and dime' or variety store, the representative said.
The ownership of Bradley Party & Variety has retained the Bethesda architecture firm of Bruce Lawson to redo some aspects of the store's interior. Expect a retro and nostalgic feel to the final design, however, as the store is clearly targeting the large and passionate Bruce Variety customer base.
All of this sets up a Bethesda battle royale of retro dime stores. And as a retro fan of Bruce Variety, G.C. Murphy, and Ben Franklin, that's music to my ears.
This is a brilliant business move on the part of the newcomers. If they can afford the shopping center rent Bruce's couldn't, they gain a major strategic advantage: location, location, location.
The new Bruce Variety is on a less-than-busy stretch of Woodmont Avenue, and has a small parking lot.
In comparison, Bradley Party & Variety gets the location everyone young and old knows, with tight-but-ample parking, and a safer environment after sunset. Windows from several stores including BP&V look out onto the sidewalk, and there are always people coming in-and-out of Strosniders Hardware next door.
For elderly customers, or women shopping alone, the environment that seems safer could be persuasive.
And the good number of classic stores in the Bradley Shopping Center means many Bethesda residents make an afternoon of it: Get that haircut. Pick up prescription and lotto scratch-off. Buy a new craft beer. Find that plumbing part you need. And since you're here already, might as well go into Bruce Variety - and, now, Bradley Party & Variety - and see what they've got.
It will be fascinating to see how those advantages play out vs. the loyalty of longtime customers to Bruce Variety. And, of course, Bruce Variety has the advantage of great experience in the business.
In competition, the customer always wins.