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Cheers, Jeers and Tears for Sears

Sears grand opening Burlington, MA
Sears before its Burlington grand opening in 1968. Photo credit: John Hanron

The mall’s history is illuminated in granular detail elsewhere on this site. This post is all about personal memories of Sears workers and patrons.

Kristen Najewski — I was working at the customer service desk upstairs and Kevin McHale came in to pick up a bicycle he had assembled for one of his kids. He was very tall! He walked along the insides of the departments and took the elevator rather than the main aisles or the escalator, to avoid people.

Kelley Ann — I worked in the lamp department for a year. The department was so slow, I used to put a “Be back in five mins” sign on the register and walk around the mall. I was an immature high school student.

Paul Gallagher — I worked there for 15 years in various departments. Great group of coworkers. I remember a coworker had crickets for his pet snake, but he forgot them in the store. Another coworker felt bad for them and set them free all around the store. They were chirping for days.

Chris Barros — I know when we were teenagers in the 80s we would ride the elevator and stop it between floors, then open the doors. There was a ton of graffiti on the walls.

Jim Flanagan — I worked at Sears the summer after graduation from Burlington High School in 1968. From an empty building we setup racks, displays and the inventory kept coming. At the grand opening, I stood just inside the entrance from the mall side. The doors rolled back and we were officially open.

I worked there another two years part-time while I went to Northeastern, covering for salespeople when they went to lunch. Some guy came in and bought a small tractor and asked us for delivery that afternoon. I made a deal with the salesman to either split the 6% commission with me or else I’d ring up the sale non-commission. Naturally, he agreed — but I had to help with the delivery.

He hooked up a flatbed to his car, and I drove the tractor on while he secured it. We were off, driving down the Mall Road to the Middlesex Turnpike. When we turned onto the Turnpike hill on the way to Route 128 — all of a sudden the tractor rolled off the flatbed and down the road into a ditch. But there were no dents, and it started immediately. I drove it back onto the flatbed and we made the delivery!

Kathleen Smith —  I started in the candy department just before my 16th birthday in 1974. Because I was still 15, they stuck me in a tiny closet making Easter baskets until I turned 16. One day they accidentally locked me in. I was scared to death. Someone finally came and let me out!

Heather Higgins — I watched Luke and Laura get married on General Hospital in the TV department after school with my friends AND all the salesmen back in 1981!

Anne Louise Marie Breslin — Jody McKenzie and I would run up the escalator to go to the break room to watch GH every day — and I met my husband Michael Breslin at Sears. He worked there from 1969 to 2013. Sears is gone but we’re married 35 years next month!

Patrick O’Dougherty — I worked at Sears for a few years around 1973-1975. I remember that one of my tasks was to raise the flag every morning. After I got the flag up, I would smoke a cigarette, or, if I had one, a joint.

Brian Bartlett — I worked in the warehouse from 1978 to 1982. We use to sit on the dock after hours drinking and smoking weed, and throwing rocks at the rats after work.

Lisa Lebrecht — I worked at Sears in the 80’s while I was in college and after I graduated. I met my husband there. His mom worked in the furniture department and kept trying to set us up.

Barbara Limoncelli L’Heureux — I remember going back-to-school shopping there with my mom. We’d get school clothes and then buy some Toughskins with the “reinforced knees” for play clothes. Then, we’d go to their little cafeteria-style restaurant (which for some reason was always really dark) and get french fries for a snack. I haven’t thought about that little “restaurant” in ages. Times have changed, but I will miss Sears.

Chuck Igo — Three years in the warehouse with the night crew (’74-’77). Quite the cadre we built and we took pride that in that. It seemed we got more done in the evening than the day crew did in 8 hours, but in fairness, that’s perspective, and at night we were pretty much free from micro-managing oversight. We did form some great friendships from all over the store, however, many of which still last. We did it all: unloaded trucks, loaded trucks, put stock away, carried things out for customers and even did after-hours/weekend deliveries. And still had fun with morning trips to Good Harbor before work and late nights in the parking lot after. And yes, as my wife Deb, who used to work on the floor in Division 7 (women’s fashions), likes to answer when asked where she found me – she tells people “Sears.” Great store it was. At one point, #1173 was one of the bright spots nationally in the chain. Sorry it’s closed, but I will admit that I don’t miss the prospect of ever having to count EVERY SINGLE SCREW in the hardware department during inventory!

John Etsell — Worked there the Summer of ’88, in the health and beauty aids department. Two friends of mine worked out back in the stock/pickup room. I’m sure it wasn’t an unprecedented move, but a lot of unsold merchandise went out that pickup door at their hands.

Bryon Davis Maccini — My first job in 1973 was dishwasher at the Sears coffee shop. I was fired two months in because I dropped a rack of glasses that smashed all over the restaurant floor.

Alan Brodie — I worked there for about nine months in 1976-1977.  I worked in a small department they called the parts dept.  It was right next to the catalog ordering counter.  We helped customers order replacement parts for appliances.  Spent a lot of time looking things up on these big clunky microfiche machines.  It was part time while I was going to school.

Kathy McElaney — I worked in the greeting card department in the late 70s. Nobody bought greeting cards at Sears, so it was terribly boring. I think I was there for two days. I finished reading the greeting cards, finished my shift and told them I wouldn’t be back.

Sally Brennick — One afternoon in the early 80s, Rolling Stones tickets went on sale upstairs in Ticketron. People were running up both sides of the escalator. The noise was incredible. It was something you couldn’t forget. People were leaving their cars on the Turnpike and the Mall Road. The line went all the way through the furniture department.

Maureen Colby — My mom worked there for over 20 years in payroll, and I worked in the marking room/receiving office when I was in school (late 70’s early 80’s). We had so much fun. When my mom passed a couple of months ago, people she and I both worked with came to her wake. One guy came through the line and said, “You don’t know me, but I worked with your mom 30 years ago at Sears when I was going to college.” I could not believe it. But then again, I should not have been surprised. Great people worked at that store.

Jeaneen McLeod — This is very sad news. Although I’ve lived away from Burlington a few decades now, Sears at the Mall seemed like part of our family growing up. Memories that flooded back as I read this: The Sears catalogue Arriving and circling all the wish list items for Christmas! In my childhood home, every appliance in our house was from Sears (with the extended warranties lol) all my Dad’s tools were Craftsman. When I turned 18 and got my first car and moved into my first apartment, the tires for the car came from Sears and my first adult purchase of a TV (big ol’ console that even swiveled) came from Sears. My first charge card! When I think of Sears at the Burlington Mall I think of my childhood, my parents, my early adult years. Bye Sears, thanks for the memories.

Barbara Serpa — My mom use to work there. My friends and I would go to the mall for something to do on a Saturday and hang out in the junior department listening to Tommy James and the Shondells, Sweet Cherry Wine, on the Jukebox. Yes, a jukebox in the junior department. Crazy fun memories!

Mark Morrison — My father opened and ran the hardware department (Division 9) when the store opened. He came from the Woburn Sears, both the west side and the original Main Street store. He had over 50 years with Sears. I worked there in the early 70’s. We were a Sears family when it was a market retail giant in the 50’s-60’s-70′ and early 80’s, much like Amazon is today. The mall was THE place to shop in the 70’s.

Jackie Sheehan — I proposed to Gail in the parking lot at the merchandise pickup where she worked, on Halloween even, 1975.

Janet Lewis — My boyfriend Billy Rowett worked there in 1973. I worked at Jordan marsh we would meet at lunch time and go home to watch Watergate!

Jean F. Lord — Sorry to see an old friend disappear. I worked in the old Jordan Marsh store in sales and ended as the bossy broad, the manager’ secretary, but my appliances all came from Sears and they all worked until we moved from Bedford to Bolton. There’s another Sears at Solomon Pond Mall which is still thriving, hopefully for a while.

Sears Woburn grand opening
Sears 1962 grand opening on Route 3A Woburn. Left to right: Woburn Mayor John. F. Gilgun, Sears Boston group manager R.K. Wilson, Sears Woburn manager Paul Magee and A.J. Mazanski from Raytheon Co.

One thought on “Cheers, Jeers and Tears for Sears Leave a comment

  1. I worked evenings and weekends in the stock rooms from 1974-1979 while I was in high school and college. My mother and brother worked in the Catalog Department. And my younger brother had a short stint in the Paint Department. There was a lot of camaraderie throughout the store. Each department functioned like a small store and took great pride in how their merchandise was presented. All the sales people dressed professionally and were very knowledgeable and helpful. We had a group of part-timers that got together for trips to the beach, concerts, night clubs, etc. It was a fun part of our lives and I have fond memories of some great friendships. And I still use many of the Craftsman hand tools that I bought using my employee discount. I was in the store about ten years ago and it felt more like a Kmart than the Sears I remembered. I’m glad I worked there when it was such a vibrant and thriving enterprise.

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