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The Evolution of Sherwood Plaza

Address: 1276-1346 Worcester Street, Natick, MA, 01760

Original Facility built: 1960

Construction Stage: Ongoing

New Facility opening: N/A

Known stores in former (West): Coffee Connection, Elm Farm, Heartland, Purity, MVP Sports, Decathlon USA, Flick Cinemas, F&M Drug, Noodle Kidoodle, Zany Brainy, Egghead Software, Bell Atlantic Mobile, Hoover Vacuum, Go Fish, Zayre, Ames, Garver Travel, FuncoLand, BayBank ATM, BankBoston ATM, Fleet ATM

Known stores in former (East): Merchant's Tire, Bed & Bath, Mars Music, OfficeMax, Furniture USA, Wonderbowl, Child World, Party City, Discovery Zone, Imagination Works, Recreation World, Kitchen Etc., Pearle Vision, IHOP

Current stores (West): Starbucks Coffee, Dick's Sporting Goods, Petco, Famous Footwear, The Children's Place, Verizon Wireless, Hollywood Tans, Curry Leaf Indian Kitchen, Gentle Dental, Christmas Tree Shops, Dress Barn, Avenue, European Touch Spa, Edible Arrangements, For Eyes, Joan & Ed's Deli, Euro Design Jewelry, M. Steinert & Sons, Newbury Comics, GameStop, Fanara's Tonsorial Parlor, Bank of America ATM

Current stores (East): Loehmann's, David's Bridal, Boston Sports Clubs, Minado, Brunswick Home & Billiards, Town Fair Tire, Big Picture Framing, Pizza Hut, Pet World

Mall (Store) website: None

News stories: Mars Music Announces Stores Closing

Sherwood Plaza has seen a great deal of change over the years. Built as a strip mall anchored by Zayre, the original structure of the plaza remains intact although nearly all of the retailers have changed. As the center has seen no complete renovation or re-construction, this center will be covered on a retailer-by-retailer basis, starting at the space to the furthest point west and working east. The following history is further divided into Sherwood Plaza West and Sherwood Plaza East, which are the two components of the center and are separated by Strathmore Road.

Sherwood Plaza West

  • As early as I can remember (probably 1991 or so), Sherwood Plaza West consisted of a Purity supermarket, an F&M Super Drug Store (opened in 1991), an Ames (formerly Zayre), and a variety of other stores.
  • The store at the furthest right was originally a liquor store. Eventually, it became a coffee shop under the Boston-based "Coffee Connection" chain. When the Coffee Connection chain was acquired by Starbucks in 1994, the nameplate changed respectively. The store remained until early 2004, when the Starbucks was forced to close as a result of the Dick's Sporting Goods construction. At the cost of Dick's, the Starbucks was demolished and rebuilt. The new Starbucks opened in October 2005.
  • To the left of the Starbucks was an Elm Farm supermarket. Over time, the store evolved into a Heartland supermarket, and finally into a Purity supermarket. In 1994, Purity was acquired by Stop & Shop. As Stop & Shop was, at the time, in the process of constructing a new nearby store at 235 Old Connecticut Path in Framingham, it made sense to close the older Purity. Soon after, MVP Sports moved into the space. In 1999, MVP Sports was acquired by the French sporting goods company Decathlon, and the MVP chain was renamed Decathlon USA. However, in September 2003, citing financial issues, Decathlon chose to shutter 14 of the 18 Boston area locations to focus on the remaining four: Natick was to close. In February 2004, temporary book vendor The Book Market moved in, but it wouldn't be for long. In June 2004, Dick's Sporting Goods announced plans to demolish the vacant store and adjoining Starbucks Coffee to construct a new two-story, 68,000 sq. ft. Dick's and a new attached Starbucks. The plans were approved and construction began in early December 2004. Dick's Sporting Goods opened on October 16, 2005.
  • To the left of Dick's is Petco, a tenant since the mid-1990s. Following the construction of Dick's Sporting Goods in 2005, the store received a new facade.
  • Continuing to the left was the three-screened Flick Theater, part of a small chain of local theaters. Flick was known as "Route 9's quality discount theater," and as a result of the low height of the building, the theater utilized a unique method of projection in which a mirror was utilized to prevent the film being shown on the audience's heads. The facility had two theaters in the back of the space, with a third located on the right, up a ramp from the concession booth. With the nearby General Cinema at Shoppers World and Loews on Route 9, the theater typically showed second-run movies with low admission prices (the final price being about $1.50), in addition to late-night showings of less-traditional films such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Pink Floyd The Wall, and The Song Remains the Same. The cinema closed during the summer of 1989, with "Field of Dreams" as one of its last films. After it closed, the space was converted to retail and became F&M Super Drug Store sometime between September 1991 and February 1992. The stores were comparable in size to a Drug Emporium, one of it's main competitors at the time. After the F&M chain closed, the building became educational toy store Noodle Kidoodle by 1997. In 2000, Noodle Kidoodle was acquired by Zany Brainy, another educational toy store, with the store's name changing respectively. In late 2003, Zany Brainy, which suffered from bankruptcy largely as a result of its FAO Schwartz ownership, shuttered all of its stores including Natick. In mid 2004, Sherwood Plaza announced that the former Zany Brainy space would be split, with half of the store going to Famous Footwear and half to The Children's Place. Following extensive exterior renovation to match the "New England" facade of the rest of the building, Famous Footwear opened on November 17, 2004. The Children's Place, which relocated from the Natick Mall, opened in early 2005.
  • In between The Children's Place and the Christmas Tree Shops is a segment of small, approximately 3,000 sq. ft. stores. First is Verizon Wireless, which was previously known as Bell Atlantic Mobile. Next is Hollywood Tans, which opened in March 2004 replacing a Hoover Vacuum repair shop. Following that is Curry Leaf Indian Kitchen, which opened in 2003 replacing seafood restaurant Go Fish, and finally a Gentle Dental dental office.
  • We now come to what was once quite possibly the worst Ames store ever. The Natick store first opened as a Zayre, and was one of the first Sherwood Plaza stores when it opened on May 2, 1960. The 60,000 sq. ft. store was the 12th Zayre in the country, and could have been seen as the flagship given its proximity to the company's Framingham headquarters. In October 1988, Zayre was sold to Ames Department Stores, Inc., making the space an Ames. While the Ames 55 Gold Savings Club brought in elderly customers, the store was almost always empty. And while the signage changed following the Ames takeover, the interior didn't; the store was never remodeled. Burnt orange carpets, dark wood cabinets, and dated register flags still filled the store when in closed in late 2000. After Ames closed, Christmas Tree Shops immediately signed a lease on the space. The Ames facade was demolished, while the interior was gutted. When the new Christmas Tree Shop opened in June 2001, it was the first store to use the New England-styled facade that has since spread throughout the center.
  • From there to the left side of Sherwood Plaza West are more of the smaller, approximately 3,000 sq. ft. stores. Dress Barn (formerly Garver Travel, given facade upgrade in 2001), Avenue (given facade upgrade in November 2002), European Touch Spa (given facade upgrade in January 2004), Edible Arrangements, For Eyes, Joan & Ed's Deli, Euro Design Jewelry, M. Steinert and Sons, Newbury Comics and  GameStop fill out the front of the building. A Bank of America ATM is located in the plaza parking lot; in the past, this has carried the label of other banks including BayBank, BankBoston, and Fleet.
  • The last retail tenant in the plaza is Fanara's Tonsorial Parlor, located on the side of the plaza. It was originally located in the front of the plaza, and was originally known solely as "Fanara's". It is currently operated by the original owner's son, John Fanara, who added "Tonsorial Parlor" to the name. Additionally, along the back of the plaza are several office tenants; one of them is the world headquarters of BJ's Wholesale Club.
Sherwood Plaza East
  • The first store from the right side of the plaza was once a Merchant's Tire store, which opened in the mid-1970s and lasted until the late 1980s. Following the closure of Merchant's, the spot then housed a Bed & Bath store. Bed & Bath was later acquired by Bed Bath & Beyond (a different company) and relocated to the then anchorless Marshalls Mall in Framingham. After the store closed, the building housed a variety of book discounters, weeklong liquidators, and factory outlets. At last, a the space got a real tenant when music superstore chain Mars Music opened in 1999. In early October 2002, with a Mars Music bankruptcy only a few days old, the chain left the state by abruptly closing its Natick and Somerville stores. The store remained vacant for about a year until a rejuvenated Loehmann's chain returned to Massachusetts by means of a new store in the space. Following an exterior renovation in the "New England" style, Loehmann's opened in August 2003.
  • The next store over was OfficeMax. In 1995, with the completion of Shopper's World in Framingham, the store relocated to a new, larger location at moved to a larger location at Shopper's. After the closure of OfficeMax, the space became Furniture USA, which sold furniture similar to the furniture seen in OfficeMax, although the chain sold only furniture and not office essentials. The store didn't last long, and went vacant for a while before becoming David's Bridal by the late 1990s.
  • The Party City store was originally known as the Wonderbowl, a ten-pin bowling alley. After a while, it became home to toy store Child World, which was a big-box chain similar to Toys 'R' Us. Child World later relocated to the Rte. 30 Mall a few years after Toys 'R' Us opened at the old Shopper's World. Since then, the store saw a variety of other tenants until Party City took the space in 1998. In the rear of Party City is the entrance to the Boston Sports Clubs, which utilizes square footage accessible only through the back of the complex.
  • Next was Discovery Zone. Discovery Zone was a tenant of the plaza beginning in the early 1990s, but while the Natick location was frequently busy, the chain was a failure. After numerous ownership transfers and a failed re-branding as DZ, the chain filed for bankruptcy a second time in April 1999. On June 27, 1999, the Natick DZ was closed permanently. Hope soon arrived for the building when a local group of businessmen converted the facility to what was essentially an educational version of Discovery Zone under the new name Imagination Works. This idea only lasted until March 31, 2001 when the play center closed. By September 2002, plans were under way to convert the vacant store into a Minado Japanese buffet. The restaurant opened in 2003, but while the interior was entirely renovated, the exterior received only new signage and a new paint job outside.
  • Next is Recreation World, which did a brisk business selling and maintaining pool tables and accessories. Recreation World was a longtime tenant of the plaza, owned by Mike and Linda Brownstein. In late 2005, Recreation World was sold to Brunswick Billiards, and the store was transformed into an outlet of Brunswick Home & Billiards, which also has locations in Wilmette, IL; Broomfield, CO; and Englewood, CO. As of this writing (6/23/06), a new facade is under construction on the outside of the building.
  • The final store was once Kitchen Etc. Kitchen Etc., which was another longtime tenant, closed it's Sherwood Plaza store around 2000 in order to move to a 7,000 sq. ft. concept store in the Natick Mall. The concept failed miserably and closed in February 2001, and the entire chain shut its doors during summer 2004. In April 2003, the space became a location of Connecticut-based tire store Town Fair Tire, which created installation bays in the building for tire repairs.
  • Sherwood Plaza East has three outlots. Pearle Vision was once located in the rectangle shaped building in front of Loehmann's, but the store moved to Venture West Plaza in Framingham in 1998. The building was vacant until October 2002, when it was given an extensive renovation and became Big Picture Framing. Another outlot was once an IHOP, today it is Pizza Hut. The last outlot is Pet World, which is housed in a 1960's building that appears to be in original shape on the outside and not much improved on the inside.

Aerial Photo: circa 1995

TerraServer image of Sherwood Plaza

This picture shows how the East and West portions of Sherwood Plaza are quite separate. Sherwood Plaza West is on the left, and Sherwood Plaza East is on the right. Note how the amount of outlots (and an incline) make it harder for potential shoppers on Route 9 to see Sherwood Plaza East, especially when there are two lanes of traffic to Speen Street running in front of the stores. The Natick Mall is located directly on top of this photo.


My Pictures: June 18, 2006 (Sherwood Plaza West)

completed dick's

Here is the completed site, with the Dick's about 6 months into business. The much improved Petco facade is seen to the left.

 August 26, 2005 (Sherwood Plaza West)

almost complete dick's

Dick's Sporting Goods is nearly complete. Construction of the building's sidewalk is underway, which will double as a terrace for the Starbucks Coffee store located in the front right corner of the building. Dick's Sporting Goods has it's lettering up, and contractors next door are completing a new facade for Petco that will lead to a much better looking Sherwood Plaza.

My Pictures: June 11, 2005 (Sherwood Plaza West)

Dick's construction

The Dick's Sporting Goods, currently under construction, as seen from the intersection of Mercer Rd./Natick Mall and Rte 9. Note the two visable beams in the middle of the open area in front of the building; those would form the green metal signage in front of the store.

PETCO and Dick's

Here is the construction from another angle, although a large part of the site is hidden by the tree. To the left is Petco, which would get a new facade once construction was finished (see 6/18/06 photo).

BofA ATM

And here is a shot of the Bank of America ATM. The ATM has represented many different banks; most recently Fleet, before changing to Bank of America in December 2004.

My Pictures: December 8, 2004 (Sherwood Plaza West)

View down Sherwood Plaza West

A view toward the left half of Sherwood Plaza West, with Sherwood Plaza East in the background. In the foreground is the Christmas Tree Shops, which replaced the plaza's original Zayre (later Ames) store in June 2001.

Famous Footwear

The front of the new Famous Footwear store that opened November 17, 2004. The new storefront on the left became home to The Children's Place, which relocated from the Natick Mall in early 2005.

former Decathlon/Starbucks

Construction work has begun for the demolition of the Decathlon USA and Starbucks Coffee, which were rebuilt into Dick's Sporting Goods and a new Starbucks Coffee. The new building was completed in late summer 2005, but it would open that October instead.

Media: Photos of Discovery Zone, Photos of Mars Music, Sketch of Christmas Tree Shop, Gentle Dental photo from their sitenews story about the opening of Natick Zayre, plaza layout coming soon

Related Links: Cinema Treasures | Lexington Flick (with Natick information), news story about the opening of Natick Zayre


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