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Mid-Century Modern Buildings: Big Top Stores

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Big Top convenience stores were designed in 1959 by the Denver firm of Kellogg & Sayre. A customer came up with "Big Top" in a naming contest. It seemed appropriate for the building's circus tent appearance. I believe these buildings were originally painted red and blue. There were giant signs which projected from the roof's center.

There were three Big Tops built in 1959. Between 1960-1964, another ten opened. Self-serve gas was offered at three of these locations in 1964 which was a novelty at the time. By 1967, there were a total of 15 locations. There were plans to build 100 stores in the Denver area by 1970. However, by the early 1970s, Big Top sold off the buildings to other convenience store chains. Today, 11 of these buildings still survive. All of them have been repurposed. For a more thorough Big Top history, see Robert Autobee's article in the Spring 2009 issue of the Society for Commercial Archeology's Journal. This Denver Post ad appeared in 1962. [scan thanks Robby Delius]

Hardee's restaurant buildings of the 1960s featured very similar scalloped roofs.

former Big Top
Denver, CO
former Big Top
Denver, CO
The former Big Top building on the left is now used as a gas station convenience store. [map]

The former Big Top building on the right now houses a Cricket phone store. This was the first Big Top store built. [map]

former Big Top
Denver, CO
former Big Top
Denver, CO
This former Big Top store shown on the left above was abandoned when this photo was taken in 2012. In 2014, the building was being renovated to house a Snarf's Sandwiches. [map]

This former Big Top store shown on the right now houses a Gigantic Cleaners. In 2017, I was told that the building would probably be demolished for a new medical clinic. [map]

former Big Top
Arvada, CO
former Big Top
Aurora, CO
This former Big Top store in Arvada now houses a gas station convenience store. [map]

This former Big Top store in Aurora now houses Lek's Asian Market. It was occupied by a Maxi Mart in the 1980s. [map]

former Big Top [gone]
Englewood, CO
This former Big Top was last used as a ski shop. The building was demolished shortly after this photo was taken in 2008.

former Big Top [gone]
Littleton, CO
former Big Top
Lakewood, CO
This former Big Top in Littleton was last used by Adams Trailers. This photo is from 2008. The building has been demolished between 2009 and 2011.

This former Big Top in Lakewood appeared to be used for storage when this photo was taken in 2012. [map]

More Big Tops:
Denver, CO
Denver, CO
Wheat Ridge, CO

former Wireless Toyz
Ypsilanti, MI
Wireless Toyz was founded in 1995. This building has been here since at least 1967. It was never a Big Top store but must have been inspired by the design. Does anyone know what business was here originally? Since around 2014, the building has housed a Cash For Gold store. [map]