Tuesday, March 19, 2013

BRADLEY PARTY & VARIETY TO OPEN IN FORMER BRUCE VARIETY SPACE IN BETHESDA, "RETRO" FIVE-AND-DIME STORE TO COMPETE WITH BRUCE VARIETY!

EXCLUSIVE!

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.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

If the newcomer wins, it will show Bruce's just was not that efficient in their former location.

Robert Dyer said...

It will be interesting to see what the new store does differently to increase profitability.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking the same as 6:31 and Robert.

Should be much easier to park at the Bradley Center. All the parking at Woodmont Bruce Variety will be paid?

Anonymous said...

Why are you saying the Woodmont location is less safe than their old location? There are plenty of popular businesses around their new location, with lots of foot traffic, and well lit at night.

Anonymous said...

I live in Woodmont Triangle. That part of Woodmont isn't animated much at night with an auto repair shop, empty office building and parking lot being the main things around. Oh, and the back of a bar and the liquor shop next door.

Anonymous said...

Actually, that part of Bethesda is picking up fast. Across the street are Sala Thai and a fancy new pizza restaurant with a lot of buffalo mozzarella recipes. I take my kid there for dinner a lot and its never felt unsafe

Robert Dyer said...

I don't think the area around the new Bruce Variety is unsafe; I walk around there at night myself quite often and nothing has ever happened.


But based on conversations with some BV customers (who said they do plan to remain customers at the new location), some said they felt more comfortable at the old location after dark.


I'm not necessarily agreeing with that, but was mentioning it as one of the perceived advantages a competitor might have in the old location.

Robert Dyer said...

It is safe. I'm just giving the perspective of (some, not all) senior citizens who may feel differently.

Anonymous said...

Love the Woodmont location. I will go to Bruce Variety even more often because I go to Freddy's Lobster and Clams and Grapeseed often parking in the Woodmont lot and walking. It is very safe with many nice businesses open late.
I will not go to the new store as I will not go to center where landlords hold business hostage. Landlords that charge excessive rents are bad for small businesses and it is sad to the local
businesses leave.

Robert Dyer said...

The arrival of Bruce Variety is great for residents of the nearby apartment buildings. I suspect they'll pick up new customers among new arrivals in town, and you can just walk over. The high rents are the unfortunate result of zoning changes that encourage redevelopment. Rent increases are a typical way to clear out tenants when landlords want to build something else. We're losing a lot of small businesses.

Anonymous said...

I guess we'll see if the new landlord is really charging "excessive" rents or not. If the newcomer is a success, even with the rent they are paying, then it will point to a deficiency in Bruce's management/business model.

Robert Dyer said...

People are already taking sides. It sounds like we do have a Bethesda dime store battle royale, folks - and the two stores haven't even opened yet.

Anonymous said...

On a neighborhood email list, one member inquired as to whether Bruce's would be able to sue the newcomer for using a similar name (as trademark infringement).

One poster claimed it could be an instance of "tortious interference with business relations, or fraud"

Personally, I don't think the names are similar enough, and the word "variety" is a common term.

Anonymous said...

What I would like to know is if there is overlap of ownership between the new Bradley/Variety store and the Bradley Shopping Center. And I wonder if the new store will in fact be paying the very high rent that was asked of Bruce Variety. Just wondering....

Anonymous said...

I wonder if there is grounds for legal action?

Opening the same exact TYPE of store in the same exact LOCATION with a very similar NAME.

I could see Bruce's filing suit...people will be confused and this will certainly hurt Bruce's.

Robert Dyer said...

It's an interesting question. I'm not a lawyer, so I can't settle it here. I suppose it would depend if the name was trademarked. Like you say, Variety could be termed a common name like "Grocery" or "[Name of drugstore] Drug."

Robert Dyer said...

There is an overlap of ownership, but it is with Strosniders next door, rather than the landlord. Whether they would get a discount for double leasing would probably not be made public. The way people tend to combine shopping trips at Bradley Shopping Center, you can understand why Strosniders would want to ensure a viable draw next door. I myself have made double trips at once to both stores (BV + Strosniders) since I was a kid.

Robert Dyer said...

That's the really unique twist here: the location itself. I'm still not sure it's a viable case. But I'm reminded of the old Red Tomato Cafe vs. Red Tomato Pizza case. That hinged on a proximity issue.

Anonymous said...

Yes, of course, we all made multiple stops at Bradley Center. But, Robert, I understood that there is a connection between the ownership of the Center and Strosniders, so my question still stands. Is this some kind of sweetheart deal, and was Bruce Variety pushed out?

Anonymous said...

Bruce Variety was not pushed out they publicy said they left on their own.

Robert Dyer said...

I actually was not aware of a connection. I thought Strosniders was just a tenant like all the other businesses there. Was this mentioned publicly somewhere?

Anonymous said...

Strosniders has nothing to do with any ownership of the center. Also there is other companies that have been successful for a long time in that center.

Robert Dyer said...

That's always been my understanding. Yes, most of the tenants have been there for decades. Very little turnover rate, much like Westwood Shopping Center. Which usually indicates a well-managed shopping center, and profitable businesses. I was actually glad to find out Strosniders was running the new variety store, because they have always had great customer service.

Richard Dimock said...

The truth of the matter is, everyone knew, including Bill Hart from Strosnider's, that Bruce's was relocating. We had a sign with our new 8011 Woodmont Avenue address posted on our door during the 50% moving sale, and up until the landlord or the new tenant,not sure which, removed it when we vacated the space. For Strosnider's to say that they didn't know, and then try and manipulate the community's thinking to believe that they were trying to "save the day" by putting another variety store in, is simply not factual. In fact, Hart of Strosnider's even denied to us on numerous occasions that they were interested in Bruce's old location, yet we discovered that they reserved their new business name for Bradley Party and Variety, within five days after we moved to our new location. Does anyone really believe that a business decision of that magnitude wasn't premeditated, long before? There's no question that Strosniders wields influence in that shopping center, and there is no question that they have wanted that space for years. So lets be upfront....Furthermore, we discovered recently that Robin Strosnider, contacted a retired employee of Bruce Variety, and has been plying the retiree with money to reveal our vendor resources. Not sure if that is a business method of Ms. Strosnider, or a business principal of the new variety store owners, Hart of Strosniders.

Party Mania said...

We wish both of them the best of luck given the difficult retail environment present in today's economy.

With the rent being a LOT more than what we are paying on Cordell and with Bruce's Variety being right down the street from us, it hopefully will make a lot more sense for people to stop by a dedicated Party and Costume store and a dedicated Variety store rather than going to a mixed store that has a lot higher overhead.

I do take a little bit of offense at the idea that the Woodmont Triangle is a less viable location than where the Bradley shopping center is.

We have tons of new businesses opening up, lots of office buildings where people work, and the Woodmont Triangle is a GREAT area to do business.

Cheers and good luck to everyone in the Variety and party business, I would rather have competition locally rather than seeing more retail stores disappear.

Blake Grandon
Party Mania

4910 Cordell Ave
Bethesda, MD
301-907-0750

Anonymous said...

Bruce Variety owner Richard Dimock is the ex-husband of Robin Strosnider, who his wife and Bruce Variety co-owner Linda Ridenour claimed paid a retired Bruce Variety worker for inside knowledge of the store’s vendors