Last Sunday, a chapter in Hamptons history closed when the Caldor in Bridgehampton Commons turned off its fluorescent lights for good. The cavernous bargain mecca, pool-floats-and-toaster-ovens ground zero for the pioneering weekenders of the early eighties, had been ravaged down to a few odd shoes and the stray flannel shirt during its blitzkrieg chainwide going-out-of-business sale.
It wasn't so much the discounts (or the fail-safe return policy) that made this particular pre-megastore so oddly alluring. Caldor enabled vacationing Manhattanites to fulfill fantasies of suburbia by buying wicker headboards for $10 and paper towels vacuum-packed into colossal bales of fifteen that never would have fit through the front doors of New York apartments. The rarefied clientele that frequented Barneys during the week got a déclassé frisson from wading knee-deep into a pile of house slippers or sizing up a shelf of Thighmasters. Parvenu house-sharers made the scene to pick up essentials like disposable VCRs and grills, as did local boldfaced dilettantes: Ralph, Calvin, Donna, and even Martha were all spied inspecting the competition.
Some say the beachhead was lost when the Commons expanded ten years ago and the likes of Lechters and Williams-Sonoma descended on the suddenly tony mini-mall. Caldor was forced to change its apple-red logo to conformist Commons blue, and the newcomers helicoptering in for dinner at Puffy's gravitated toward the shiny name brands from back West. Except for a few old-school loyalists, Caldor just couldn't pull in the numbers.
As the space remains shuttered till a new tenant redecorates, summer regulars will be forced, for the first time in anyone's memory, to suffer a season of skate rats' having their way with the empty parking lot. And Manhattanites with a yearning for socks by the dozen will just have to pile into their Range Rovers and point them toward Riverhead.