Ames Department Store Says It's Making a Comeback in 2023—But Some Say It's a Hoax

The retailer made an announcement on its website, but with very little information.

Seasoned shoppers will remember the name Ames, a department store chain that The Wall Street Journal once called "the folksy centerpiece of strip malls" in small towns across the Northeast, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic regions. The regional chain had been a mainstay since 1958, when its first store opened in Southbridge, Massachusetts. But in 2002, the department store said its final goodbye after 44 years in business. According to Ames' website, however, it plans to make a comeback in 2023—but not everyone is convinced. Read on to find out what we know about the department store's hotly debated return.

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All Ames stores were closed 20 years ago.

store closing and going out of business signs
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In 2002, Ames made national news when it announced that it would officially be going out of business, falling victim to competition from other national chains, The Wall Street Journal reported. The company confirmed it would be permanently closing its remaining 327 stores, having already filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2001.

"This was a wrenching decision, but the right course to take," Joseph E. Attore, Ames chairman and chief executive, told the outlet at the time.

Ames prided itself on being a discount retailer, but the 1990s proved difficult when stores like Walmart and Target began setting up shop nearby. The company tried to account for new competition by dramatically slashing prices, The Wall Street Journal reported, but analysts also cited previous acquisitions as contributors to Ames' downfall.

In 1998, Ames bought Zayres Stores for $800 million, but constant shoplifting drained profits and forced Ames to file for bankruptcy (for the first time) in 1990. After emerging from bankruptcy in 1992, Ames acquired Hills Department Stores in 1998, taking on nearly $200 million in debt and expensive remodeling responsibilities. Things went from bad to worse, and store closures abounded between 1999 and 2002. On Aug. 14, 2002, official liquidation and closure plans were announced.

But if you've missed this discount department store, you might soon be in luck.

The store's website announced its impending return.

grand opening cutting ribbon
Africa Studio / Shutterstock

When visiting Ames' website, the homepage shows the familiar Ames logo, with an encouraging announcement beneath it.

"Ames Department Stores, Inc is returning in Spring 2023," the text reads. "Please keep an eye on this website for announcements on which locations are opening first!"

At the bottom of the page there's a link to an Ames Department Store LinkedIn profile, which lists 25 employees and also states that the stores will be opening next year, as "a project by Molyneux Group, the owners of Bradlees Department Stores PLC." Interestingly, Bradlees was one of Ames' main regional competitors before it closed for good in 2001, The New York Times reported.

Before we bring out the giant scissors for a grand reopening, however, there are additional things to consider.

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Some aren't convinced Ames is really coming back.

woman looking skeptical at computer
VK Studio / Shutterstock

Aside from the fact that Ames has yet to make a formal announcement, the retailer's website also notes that it's "not secure," signified by the open padlock in the URL bar. The latter isn't considered a positive indicator that a site is legitimate.

WRRV goes so far as to suggest that the whole thing is a "hoax," noting that the Molyneux Group doesn't have contact information—and when clicking the link on their LinkedIn page, a "site can't be reached" notice pops up. As for Bradlees, its LinkedIn has a link to an archived webpage.

Ames and Bradlees both lack a presence on other social media platforms, WRRV reported. The outlet questioned why an announcement wouldn't be made on Facebook, but conceded that it's unclear what someone would have to gain from making this news up.

Social media users are hopeful yet skeptical.

logging in to facebook on laptop and cellphone
PK Studio / Shutterstock

News has also been circulating on social media, with many voicing excitement—and concern—over a potential return.

"I LOVED Ames!" one Facebook user wrote in response to the Scioto Post's coverage. "Hoping and praying for a strong comeback!" Another wrote that it might not be the same, while others questioned its ability to succeed with Walmart and Amazon as competition.

A post on the Ames Stores Alumni page also called attention to the potential revival. According to the group's "About" section, it is made for "friends and ex-coworkers who used to work at any now defunct Ames Department Stores, stores, distribution center or corporate office," and it's also open to "honorary members" who "just miss Ames."

Even these devout fans aren't sure if the news is legit. "I've seen so many people share this tonight and everyone seems so excited," a Dec. 6 post with the Ames website link reads. "I hope it's not a weird prank."

Whether you're inclined to believe that Ames is coming back or not, we'll all have to wait and see if a more formal announcement surfaces or plans for a new store are revealed.

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