Retail Relic: Benny’s Home & Auto Stores

Benny's sign in Raynham, Massachusetts

While the name will be unfamiliar to anyone from outside Rhode Island, Southeastern Massachusetts, or Eastern Connecticut, Benny’s Home & Auto Stores–who continue to operate today–are a true living retail relic. Just look at this vintage-looking store! Nearly all of the Benny’s stores, even the ones of more recent vintage, seem to look like this. As an added bonus, check out their website, which sports some considerable 1996 HTML chic. These guys take retro retail fashion seriously. Oops, they actually built a new website!

Founded in 1924, Benny’s is a 30-store chain with stores in 3 states. Their format is decidedly unusual: they essentially round up the hardlines department of a standard Wal-Mart, and cut nearly all of the softlines. It’s a place where you can buy tools, sporting goods, automotive, toys, home decor, and lawn and garden, but you won’t find any clothing. Their stores vary in size, ranging from 20,000 or 30,000 square feet at the low end and up to about 60,000 or so square feet at the high end, and are located in shopping centers, standalone locations, and even downtowns. They’re the rare survivor from the 5-and-dime era who has managed to carve out a niche and outlast their bigger, better monied New England cousins like Ames, Bradlees, Rich’s, or Caldor.

I haven’t shopped at Benny’s in many years since I moved away from the area, but that the chain has become sort of a local treasure is no surprise. Rhode Island is a state that values its local retail, but after losing nearly all of the big names from Peerless to The Outlet to to Apex to Ann & Hope, Benny’s is the last major player standing. Benny’s is so adored as a survivor that you can buy a collectible model of an old, downtown-style store!

Benny's Home and Auto Store in Raynham, Massachusetts

The location pictured is located on US44 on the Raynham/Taunton town line in Massachusetts, but they all look very similar to this one. Even stores of a more recent vintage have been given some of the classic treatment, so nearly all of their locations offer a trip down the memory lane of discount department store retail. The ad included below is their current (Aug 2006) Providence Journal advertising flyer, and I’ve included it to give an idea of the types of products Benny’s sells.

Benny's Flier from August 2006

Prangeway: Here is the Benny’s location in Wakefield Westerly, Rhode Island, in August 2001.

Bennys in Wakefield, RI

21 Responses to “Retail Relic: Benny’s Home & Auto Stores”

  1. The vibe of this place seems very similar to the old Western Auto stores or Advance Auto Parts back when they didn’t specialize in auto parts. You almost never see stores like this anymore.

    Thanks for posting this. I would have never guessed they had stores like this anymore.

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  2. This almost exactly reminds me of Canadian Tire (www.canadiantire.ca), except that CT has auto service bays, and that their stores are somewhat larger and modern.

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  3. It reminds me according to your description of canadian tire up here in canadia

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  4. JP, not all canadian tire stores have service bays though!

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  5. Some of the Benny’s stores actually do have auto bays. The store in Providence RI has a seperate stand alone Benny’s Auto center just a little ways down the road that does Tires, Mufflers, etc…

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  6. That last picture is the Westerly, RI store, not Wakefield. I know because I am the manager of Wakefield! Thought I’ve been going to the wrong place all this time! Thanks for the glowing review. We hope to be around for many more Wal-Mart butt-kicking years!

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  7. Oh Brian, you’re right. As a native Rhode Islander, *I* wouldn’t have missed this, but Mr. Prangeway made this edit to the post after I made it.

    Thanks for stopping by!

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  8. The old Benny’s site are on links of of:

    http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.hellobennys.com/

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  9. oops, it didn’t hyperlink it all.

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  10. I think benny’s employees are too much like sales people at a car dealer every 5 min they ask you if u need any help. it gets on my nerves most of the time. i feel like if i need help I will ask for help. stop harassing me when i shop there

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  11. I remember hating going to Benny’s as a kid (which was, admittedly, all of 20 or so years ago) because of the smell of tires (both auto and bikes) was overpowering. My family moved to Texas and about 3 years ago I moved back to RI, and I love Benny’s now–just like my dad used to.

    The author is dead right about Rhode Islanders loving their local retail–plenty of people are still very upset over the loss of Ames, Almacs, Ann & Hope, and most recently Filene’s. I’m in this category too, I guess, and that’s one reason I try to get what I need at Benny’s before I go to Home Depot or one of the big box stores–it’s a local store that has what I need, good prices, and, yeah, awesome retro stores.

    Andrew’s comment though, is well taken–sometimes the salespeople are a bit pushy, but I think it’s the clash of their training to get you what you need versus the standard Rhode Island mentality of every man for himself… Still, even if you think the staff can be a bit pushy, I prefer them over the Wal-Mart greeters…

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  12. Benny’s has always been a great store and I hope it stays around for a long time to come. I choose to support them when I can over HD or Lowe’s. You do actually find things there that the larger homecenters do not carry. I have encounted this on several occasions. I’ve personaaly been shopping there on and off for over 40yrs.

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  13. Ah, Benny’s – great store with some good CT locations where I grew up. My grandfather derided it as a “junk shop”, but he was a loyalist of a local retail concern…funny how Benny’s is about as close to “local” as a chain is going to get now. Anyway, Benny’s was cool with me, they had EVERYTHING and for pretty fair prices.

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  14. I think Benny’s is a great place to shop, when they have a sale they have a sale and you have to go,and even without a sale the prices are great. They have just about everything you are lookin for,and they are very helpful , the big stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s try to find a sale person, you be lucky if you could,and when you do find one,they dont know much more then you.So Rhode Islanders,local retails where loseing them left and right,wake up and smell the coffee, suport local business in Rhode Island what do you have to lose, only more stores you know which ones like Ann&Hope,Apex,Outlet, Perless, dont let Benny’s be another.

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  16. I love shopping at Benny’s. I live near the one on Warwick ave. I go there before I would ever go to the big box stores.

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  17. I LOVE Benny’s I have always joked it is my favorite store because that is where I find things I can’t find at Walmart and Target and that is their slogan! I love that going into these stores they all still have that old look to them. They haven’t changed at all in my 31 years. Still great prices and products and good service. I hope they are around for a long time to come!

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  18. In Southeastern CT we have quite a few of them. The Norwich, CT location looks exactly like the one pictured, but has been in operation for probably 30 years or more. What’s interesting is that despite its small square footage, it has a large amount of floor space devoted to bicycles and auto supplies.

    It’s nothing short of a miracle they have survived when other chains have folded.

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    Brandon W Reply:

    @Dave D.,

    Not to mention, it’s directly across from a mall which has completely failed.

    It has quite the following. Perhaps its tenured establishment in Norwich.
    I actually got a hammock there this past summer, and it was an excellent quality. Thank god there is still somewhere decent to get stuff.

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  19. I HAVE LIVED IN RHODE ISLAND FOR FIFTY YEARS AND I FIND THEIR STORES REFRESHING. THERE IS ALWAYS HELP ON
    HAND AND THEY HAVE A NICE PRODUCT MIX.
    I’M IN ONE OF THEIR STORES AT LEAST ONCE
    A WEEK FOR SOMETHING. IT IS ALWAYS IN
    AND OUT QUICK UNLIKE THE BIG BOXES LIKE
    WALMART OR HOMEDEPOT. WITH ONE
    QUICK LOOK I CAN SEE WERE IT IS IN THE
    STORE.
    I HOPE THEY ARE AROUND FOR MANY
    MORE YEARS

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  20. the 4 of us(all adults) finish breakfast at the
    3A CafĂ© in N. Plymouth. when we get in the car: “anybody need to go to Benny’s?” often the answer is yes. or ‘I don’t, but let’s go anyway.”

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