Learning to Love (Local) Again

The transformation of Lord's Department Store into a Brothers Marketplace in Medfield, MA.
Brothers Marketplace in Medfield, MA

In late February 2013, the town of Medfield, MA lost a segment of its local soul when Lord’s Department Store closed after 73 years of operation. According to Boston.com, the business comprised small departments with candy, clothing, hardware and sporting goods as well as an old-style lunch/soda counter.

“It was a historic landmark for them,” said Heather Storer, an environmental graphic designer with BHDP Architecture (Cincinnati), “an iconic place in their neighborhood.”

Storer and the rest of the team at BHDP were tasked with a leading role in the revitalization of one of Medfield’s former heartbeats by Roche Bros., a Massachusetts-based supermarket chain. Roche chose the 9,000-sq.-ft. former Lord’s site as the first location in their Brothers Marketplace series, a chain that features fresh groceries, local fare, prepared meals and essentials. BHDP was hired by Roche to design the environmental graphics and wayfinding signage for the repurposed building.

BHDP’s first step was to conduct a neighborhood audit, sending a few team members to visit local shops and restaurants. “We photograph things and immerse ourselves in the environment so we can bring the essence of that location into each store.” Storer said.

After a few days on-site, BHDP – which also did the design work for a second Marketplace location in Weston, MA – completed its research with its own findings as well as dialogue with local historical societies.

The project paid homage to Lord’s by commissioning a mural of Lord’s logo on a brick wall on the inside of the building. Local artist Ian Gaudreau was brought on to paint a mural from a black-and-white photo of Lord’s during its early days, on the building’s exterior.

The Marketplace’s interior signage complemented the grocery’s focus on locally sourced foods and products. “There are places in the store with signage where we tell stories about local farmers and the local products sold there,” Storer said.

BHDP enacted a wood and chalkboard theme throughout the store, and graphics of old seed packets were added to the brick walls to harvest a traditional tone. Despite being intentionally smaller than a typical supermarket, the Marketplace provides plenty of options for consumers, hence the ample signage. “It relies on a lot of wayfinding signage because there’s a lot of turns and twists in these places,” said John Bloomstrom, BHDP’s marketing director.

Identity Group (Scarborough, ME) fabricated a variety of signage within the store and required a wide range of materials, from Dibond® to Komatex® to VM-POLYeight®, with versatility the priority. “The goal was to set them up so that they could make changes to the entire store on their own,” said Jared Galvin, a project manager for Identity Group. “The dimensional letters on the menus have magnets, so it’s all changeable.”

The accent on BHDP’s revitalization was what Storer called a “reinterpreted and modernized” recreation of the former soda counter that sports a white quartz counter, subway tile and brushed aluminum bar stools.

Now, locals are able to experience a healthy amount of wistful nostalgia when they visit Medfield’s renovated treasure. “It was a layer of history and then a new layer of the builder’s brand on top of that,” Storer said.

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