Home > Uncategorized > CHANGE: Jax Liquidation Outlet, 580 Massachussetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

CHANGE: Jax Liquidation Outlet, 580 Massachussetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

Jax Liquidation Outlet in Central Square has long been my guilty pleasure of retail.  Central Square  gentrified tremendously following the end of rent control in 1994.  Central Square has always been to Harvard Square what the Fenway was to the Back Bay; the friendlier, scruffier cousin.

Once upon a time Coquette’s, Woolworth’s, and Manhattan Clothing catered to the families residing around Central Square.  The area is no less crowded now; indeed with the new construction and many renovated structures Central
Square boasts an identity far removed from the days of being a haven for immigrants, artists and the more impoverished students.

My initial foray into Central took place in 1976 when Seth Deitch introduced me to the multitude of used records stores in the Central Square area.  I bought Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels BREAKOUT, in one of those cheesy Duofold LP covers, and I have had warm feelings towards Central
Square ever since.

FFC, Friendly Family Center, was the monicker under which Jax operated in the 1970’s.  The Cambridge Food Coop was nestled underneath where it operated on a food-for-labor basis as hippies busted their gonads for lentils.

FFC had shower curtains, CHICAGO VII on 8-Track, Old Dutch cleanser, a variety of 65% Poly/35%Cotton short-sleeved dress shirts in a variety of colors not found in nature, Raisinettes with ingredients listed in Spanish…and a variety of treasures numerous and single.

FFC reminded me of nothing so much as B&D, a discount store in my home burg of Merrick, Long Island.  On Thursdays, our car day when my father would take the LIRR to Long Island city, we would go to the beach and stop by B&D on the return trip.  B&D had hand-lettered placards with prices posted in aromatic Magic Marker.  My Mom inevitably purchased Ray-O-Vac batteries for her faithful transistor radio.  I usually got the baseball cards I begged for and Peter got whatever would keep him from complaining.

In the 21st Century FFC was transformed into Jax.  The Cambridge Food Coop became Harvest Natural with Conscious Cafe claiming the storefront where hipster baristas make lattes and ply gluten-free scones.

Jax change was in name only.  Jax was almost certainly the last retail outlet to offer cassettes.  Likewise the VHS tapes that are offered as of this writing.  Avocado dish towels were not cliches of 70’s style but a dry good that could go with any kitchen decor.   Likewise lemon yellow scrunchies and Close-Up toothpaste with lascivious lips on sample sized tubes.

Organization was not the forte point of Jax.  Indeed the package hold by the front door was more organized than the splintery bins holding all manner of goods.  The shopper benefited by having Poly/Cotton briefs at 3 for $5.99 next to cotton briefs at 3 for $8.99. 

(Go with the cotton.  Trust me on this one).

The linens offered in the rear of the store were organized to the extent that I pondered whether this section was a concession managed by an outside vendor.  Shower curtain liners in a variety of pastels and black were always offered giving mute testimony to the large number of roommate households replacing families in Central Square.

It would be a inaccurate to describe me as a regular customer.  My Boston residence and work schedule militated against spending as much time as I would have liked in Jax.

So it was with a twitch of shock to see the ‘CLOSING IN 3 WEEKS’ signs, Xeroxed on to neon card stock, claiming the dingy storefront. I couldn’t resist.  The store was much like it always is except less so as the merchandise was picked over and I was permitted to shop with my backpack.  ALL GOODS 30% OFF signs sprouted from virtually every surface.  The linens “department” in the rear of the store was closed off and the omnipresent shower curtains were quarantined by the 2 cash registers in the deterministically analog cash register POS of Jax. 

(Although I live alone I have a taste for black shower curtains.)

Shopping with the intensity of the last 2 minutes of a Celtics game I garnered the following:

4 Extra Strawberry Extra sugarless Gum (5 Stick pack)

43″ broom

1) 2 Gallon bucket with spout

2) 4 pack 2 ply toilet tissue

3) 7 1/2″ pie tins with covers

2) 50 tablet 500 mmg. Acetaminophen


1) Budpak MUSCLE RUB

10) Aroma d’ Amore French Vanilla oil

1) 6 pack Plastic pot Scourers

1) Lint roller

8) D batteries

12) AA batteries

4) 10″ glass plates

1) 120 sheet, 3 subject spiral notebook

$43.49 Total

I thanked the cashier as she totaled my purchases.  I did get 2 plastic bags as my backpack was filled to capacity.

“I’ll miss this place”, I told the cashier.

“So will I”, she replied.

I popped a stick of  Sugarless Strawberry Sugarless into my mouth.  Through the window I saw the #1 Dudley Bus pulling into the Central Square bus stop.

I got on.


-This wonderful book concentrates on the time from 1946 to the end of rent control in 1994.  1st. person interviews and numerous photos.  Warm and engaging yet honest enough to tell of the arson and abandonment of the 70’s.

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