R.I.P. Benny’s (1924-2017)

Over the past couple of years, we have lost several ’80s icons. But, this one hits a lot more closer to home to me – literally. Benny’s, a Rhode Island institution, is closing its doors for good, by the end of the year, at all 31 of it’s locations. Today, the East Providence store is closing for the last time.

Benny’s sold everything from car parts, to electronics, to yardwork items, to sporting goods, and so much more. With 31 stores around the “Biggest Little State in the Union”, Benny’s was very convenient if you needed something in a pinch. If a garage told me that I needed new windshield wipers, and that they could install them for the price of a second mortgage, and the blood of your first born, I was happy to tell them to go take a hike. Then I would head over to Benny’s, buy my own windshield wipers for a decent price, and install them myself.

The family owned business is closing for a couple of reasons – the family’s desire to retire, and the direction that the retail business is headed.

My love of Benny’s began in the late ’70s/early ’80s. I would go there every year, just before baseball season, to go and pick out a new baseball glove. It brought me great joy, and for me, it was way better than buying clothes at the beginning of every school year.
There was also this memorable commercial from the ’80s:

To this day, whenever I go into a store and need help, and there is no one in sight, I say “Helllllooooo.” just like the guy in that commercial.

Also, in the ’80s, Rhode Island began an ad campaign called the “Biggest Little State in the Union”, which I referenced earlier. It had a very catchy song that sticks in your head. Recently, Benny’s brought that campaign back:

Benny’s you will be missed. Now, when you’re in Rhode Island, if you stop and ask for directions (I’m assuming your GPS is broken), we can say, go down this street, and take a left at the corner where Benny’s used to be.

If you’re from Southern New England, what are your memories of this store. If you are outside the area, do you have any iconic local stores that have closed?

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