On February 15, 2014 the Army Barracks at 173 Mass. Ave. closed its door for good following a lease offer of insufficient length.  The Army Barracks had done business at 173 Mass. Ave. since 2007 following a move from the original location of 328 Newbury St.

…pressed tin ceiling, lonely pegs on grid works extending to the ceiling, dust kitties the size of Austin Mini-Coopers on the floor…

I went to the Army Barracks to visit manager Jake Delonis and get his thoughts on the closing of this supremely useful store.

“Jake, How did you come to be the manager of this store,” I asked.

Jake replied, “Well, I walked in about 2 1/2 years ago and applied.  They told me that they didn’t need any help.  Then they remembered that they had fire someone just that day so I got hired on the spot.  After that I just climbed the ladder.  I’m a chemistry major at Northeastern.”

The Army Barracks is one of a group of 7 stores located in West Springfield, MA, Saugus, MA, Salem, MA, Conway, NH, Newington, CT, Salem, NH and Scarborough, ME.  These stores are slated to remain open.

Once upon a time the Boston area boasted a large number of Army Navy stores.  Harvard and Central Square(s) in Cambridge had namesake stores.  Mass. Army Navy occupied the 899 Boylston St. slot now occupied by Staples.  Kenmore Army Navy, now located in Downtown Crossing, was in the Kenmore Square space now taken by the Commonwealth Hotel.

Outdoor folks, construction workers, students, medical workers and punk rockers flocked to these stores in search of versatile, affordable garb and gear of all descriptions.

As much as anything the disappearance of Army Navy stores in Boston proper illustrates the changes in the Boston retail of the 21st. Century.

…Bates Cadet shoes,Wigwam socks, laces in lengths of up to 96″ for knee high boots, old school galoshes of the kind that your mother made you wear…

“How is your product mix determined?”

“The owner Steve Lopilato goes to Europe to buy military surplus.  He also buys from closed stores and from manufacturers when seasons change.  A lot of our stuff is in odd lots so we don’t always have all sizes and styles,” Jake answered.

…scrubs in blue, pink and purple

“Yeah, a lot of medical folks get their scrubs here,” Jake offered.

…throwing stars, replica rifles and pistols,a sharp trident fitted into a glove that would do Wolverine of the X MEN proud…

“You have an extraordinary variety of weapons here.”

“Yes,” Jake chuckled.

“Has there ever been an instance of someone using a replica weapon to commit a crime,” I wondered out loud.

“Not that I know of.  Once a BPD officer came in and asked us some questions but that is about it,” Jake answered.

…construction overalls, toxic waste worker coveralls, lime green iridescent jumpsuits

“You have a lot of work gear here.”

“Yeah, a lot of the time we have lower prices than the work gear places.  We usually don’t have the complete lines of any one brand because we buy so many odd lots.”

…Dickies’ chinos, Dickies’ coveralls, Dickies’ painter’s pants…

“Do you carry the complete line of Dickies?”

“Yeah, we do.  They give us stand-ups and a lot of promo stuff.  We used to carry Converse until the Converse store opened on Newbury St.

We always have Propper cargo pants and jackets because a lot of law enforcement wear them and they’re a lot more affordable than 511s,” Jake replied.

…Hanes t-shirts, BVD thermal underwear, Fruit of the Loom briefs in cotton and poly/cotton…

(Go with the cotton.  You can thank me later).


“Quite the assortment of t-shirts.”

“Yeah, the security t-shirts in extra large always move well.  A lot of bouncers and doormen buy their stuff here,” Jake offered.

…gas masks from Poland, $14.99, Russia, $19.99, Israel, $34.99…

“Do those things work?  Does anyone buy them,” I wondered out loud.

Jake smiled, “They work.  The Israeli ones have air purification disks that we sell.  Do you need a gas mask?”

“Uh, no.”

“Purple camouflage?”

“I guess you could wear it to a club.”

“Pink handcuffs?” I wondered.

“I don’t ask questions,” Jake laughed.

As Jake and I chatted he bundled up items that were to be sent to the other stores.  Customers flowed through the now bare entrance in a steady stream.

“How’s business?”

“Very, very busy.  I don’t know if it is the 50% off or the new Berklee building but we did $5000 the other day although we are just about out of just about everything now.”

“How many people work here?  What will they do,” I asked.

A sales woman entering into a PC overheard my question and offered, “I’m going to hair school.”

Jake continued, “Well, I’m still going to chemistry classes at Northeastern and I still have classes.  There is another manager here besides me.  A total of 7 people work here.”

“So why is the store closing,” I asked.

Jake bit his lip and spoke, “Berklee is the landlord.  They offered a 1 or 2 year lease and it just wasn’t worth it for Steve since he has 7 other stores.

I have no idea what is going into this slot.”

It was getting late and the early evening shopping rush was picking up.

Jake was busying himself with customers.

I purchased 2 neon glow pods at $1.99 each.  Ordinarily I disdain plastic bags but I took my glow pods home in an Army Barracks camouflage bag.

Taps for Army Barracks, 173 Mass. Ave, Boston.

C’est la vie.






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