When it came to anything made of fabric for the home, there was only one place in Chelsea with a great selection and a fair price.
That place was Nobrega’s Discount House, and after 60 years in business (43 in Chelsea) the family-operated store is calling it quits this weekend.
Located on the Parkway in a very visible building abutting Rt. 1, Nobrega’s always attracted a lot of attention due to their well-kept front windows that were full of the latest styles in curtains and bedding.
As of Saturday though, it will be no more.
“My kids went in other directions and into other businesses,” said Robert Nobrega, who has operated the Chelsea store since it opened in 1970. “Other family members also went in other directions. I haven’t been feeling all that well and it was just time. However, I had no one to pass this on to. That’s the main reason I’m closing is I have no one to pass the business to. I tried and just couldn’t make it happen. So, it’s time to close.”
The property, he said, will now become part of an expansion project by Metro Credit Union – whose headquarters are just across the Parkway. The credit union’s campus will absorb the Nobrega’s property for office and parking use, and will also expand into the Prattville Pizza building on Washington Avenue.
Nobrega’s started out with Joseph and Mary Nobrega – Robert’s parents – opening up a home fabrics store in Cambridge in 1948. That store began to boom and did well for decades before a fire consumed it in 1997, thus spelling its end.
Nobrega said the family ventured to Chelsea because they used to drive by the Parkway location every day on the way home, and they saw an untapped market.
They opened up here in 1970.
“It was an ideal location here because everyone saw us when they went by going to New Hampshire, to the Beach or to the airport,” he said. “We took the chance in Chelsea because we were doing really well in Cambridge at the time. We lived in Nahant and drove by all the time. There used to be a gas station here, but it closed. My dad would always say what a great location it was and how you couldn’t miss with this location. So, we took the chance and it paid off.”
Nobrega’s was widely known for its bedspread business when that home article was tremendously popular. Any good homemaker at the time, also, couldn’t have bought a bedspread without a full outfitting of new curtains and perhaps some other items as well.
And that’s how the business thrived, attracting customers from Chelsea, Revere, Everett, Winthrop and other nearby locales.
“We had very good customers and our employees were great, all well trained and helpful,” he said. “Customers knew they would get great help and would get what they wanted here. We were very competitive. I shopped around and my father and mother did as well. We made sure to give people good choices and competitive prices. That was really the key.”
Nevertheless, bedspreads began to wane in popularity as larger retail stores drove out American manufacturers – changing the business entirely and creating headaches for smaller retailers like Nobrega’s.
“Now, it’s almost impossible to get a bedspread,” he said. “Most every manufacturer in the U.S. went out of business and everyone imports comforters instead. If the big stores won’t buy it, they won’t ship it to you. You have to find somebody to ship it over. The smaller companies like me were forced to buy similar items…That changed the whole business and killed the bedspread industry – putting a lot of people out of business and giving headaches to retails like me.”
Over the last three years, due to challenging health situations in the family, Nobrega said he had been looking to sell the business. After a few deals fell through, Nobrega and Metro were able to work out a deal just recently.
He said his last day will most likely be Saturday, July 6th, and the property will be turned over by July 13th.
“It has been a pleasure serving our customers all these years and trying to help them out,” he said. “After being in business 60 years, you get to know a lot of people.”