N.Y. retailer eyes defunct A.J. Wright properties

Discounter Conway, TJX in lease talks

By Jenn Abelson
Globe Staff / March 4, 2011

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New York fashion discounter Conway is interested in taking over dozens of shuttered A.J. Wright shops across the country, including up to eight locations in Massachusetts, according to several real estate executives briefed on the talks.

Conway is considering leases in Fitchburg, Malden, Medford, Methuen, Quincy, Somerville, Springfield, and Worcester, said these executives, who requested anonymity because the discussions are ongoing.

TJX Cos., the Framingham merchant that operated A.J. Wright, eliminated the chain earlier this year, closing 72 stores and announcing plans to convert the remaining 90 to its T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, or HomeGoods brands. Conway is looking to open in roughly 50 of the 72 shops that were closed, said Kenneth T. Brownell, managing partner of Vanguard-Fine LLC, which handles leasing at the Westgate Shopping Plaza in Albany, N.Y., one of the former A.J. Wright spots where Conway is now planning to open.

“Conway is working directly with TJX to take a package of these stores,’’ Brownell said.

Conway, which calls itself New York’s number one fashion discount chain, did not return messages seeking comment. TJX declined to discuss the matter.

Conway was founded more than 65 years ago, with its original store in Manhattan’s Herald Square. It has since expanded to about 45 stores in nine states, including Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, according to the company’s website. The discounter, which does not have any stores in Massachusetts, carries clothing, home goods such as towels and sheets, and health and beauty aid products.

Last week, TJX hired GA Keen Realty Advisors to market 20 former A.J. Wright sites across the country.

Robert Tramantano, GA Keen’s vice president, declined to comment on the future of the other 52 leases, but he said Conway “is definitely a retailer that would come to mind as a potential replacement’’ for the locations the firm is marketing.

“They are in an expansion mode, and they do operate within properties of this space,’’ he said.

Retail analysts say Conway would make a good fit because the discounter caters to a similar demographic as A.J. Wright — a lower- to middle-income consumer interested in fashion.

“Conway is hot, and they’re growing, so it’s logical they’d be interested,’’ said Mike Tesler, president of Retail Concepts in Norwell. “And it makes sense to come into a new market with multiple units as opposed to just one, when they might get lost.’’

Jenn Abelson can be reached at