I recently heard a political genius on one of the news shows discussing the new $3 Trillion Stimulus Plan. In his wise rhetoric he actually pointed out that we’re no longer in the “five-and-dime” era. What an observation!
I couldn’t help but wonder if this well-known politician had any clue of the make up of his current constituency. I would have to guess that at least 80% of those he represents have no idea what “five-and-dime” refers to. It’s frightening to consider that our future lies in the hands of people who think like this. What was he thinking?
For those who have read this far and may fall into that large group who are not familiar with the term “five-and-dime,” allow me to enlighten you. The term “five-and-dime” refers to a variety store where everything costs either five cents (a nickel) or ten cents (a dime). Kind of hard to believe, isn’t it?
The originator of the concept may be F.W. Woolworths (later Woolco), which began in 1878 in Utica, New York. Other well-known “five-and-dimes” that existed across the country included S.S. Kresge (later K-Mart), W.T. Grant, McCrory’s, and Ben Franklin Stores.
Chat with your grandparents, and they’ll explain the joy of a pilgrimage to their favorite “five-and-dime.” You’ll hear detailed explanations of uneven, squeaking wooden floors, background music, the smell of fresh popcorn and peanuts, candy counters that stretched on for what seemed forever and lunch counters where you could choose a booth or bright-red revolving stool to enjoy a hamburg, fries and a large Coke for 85 cents! In fact, the popular lunch counter made Woolworth’s the largest seller of restaurant food in the world! There’s much more to this fantasy world, but I’ll let you learn that from your grandparents.
The early 1970s saw the demise of the “five-and-dime” … a victim of cultural changes. The growth of malls and discount stores and the demise of downtown shopping centers took away the foot traffic that dime stores needed to survive. Inflation took away the five-and-ten-cent prices. Today, we’ve grown accustomed to the many variations of the Dollar Store concept, but the atmosphere and joy of the “five-and-dime” can never be replaced.
Apparently we’ll always have a friendly politician to remind us that the “five-and-dime” era has passed … even though his audience has no idea what he’s talking about. What was he thinking?
Other well-know “five-and-dimes” included:
- Butler Brothers
- Kress Stores
- J.J. Newberry
- G.C. Murphy
- Neisner Brothers (later Big N)
- H.L. Green
- Walton’s Five-and-Dime