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View Full Version : 5 and 10 Cent Stores: Then & Now


Jinx
12-22-2003, 11:14 AM
I am curious to know if any Senior Dopers recall 5 and 10 Cent stores in earlier days. When I was a kid growing up in the 1970's, they still hung on, but they were a dying breed. I recall them being equivalent to today's dollar stores.

But, when things REALLY cost 5 and 10 cents, were they better? Were they replaced by stores like Woolworth's and Kreskies? Or, were they one and the same back in their golden days? Last, did the name "5 and 10" or "5 and dime" appear in their names (much like dollar stores today), or was it merely a nickname coined by customers?
- Jinx

beajerry
12-22-2003, 11:50 AM
"And stay out of the Woolworths!"

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
12-22-2003, 01:31 PM
I'm not that senior, but I can tell you that things really did cost 5 and 10 cents. And not just at dime stores...there used to actually be things that you could buy with a coin or two. Coins weren't just there to make change, they were in and of themselves significant money, especially in the world of a kid. To give some perspective, I'm just old enough to remember 10-cent candy bars and popsicles, and buying single bags of potato chips for about 8 cents.

stuyguy
12-22-2003, 01:39 PM
Jinx, Woolworths did not replace Five & Dimes, they were Five & Dimes. Frank W. Woolworth invented the concept that nothing in his store would cost more than ten cents. Others may have copied the idea (and of course FWW's rule changed with the times), but Woolworth pioneered it.

Eve
12-22-2003, 01:42 PM
I remember the Five & Dime (yes, it was a Woolworth's) in Bala Cynwyd, PA. Great lunch counter, "pet aisle" (sad-looking birds and fish in tanks, many of them floating), and classic "dime-store jewelry."

Oh, also an old-fashioned photo booth, where my friends and I spnet many merry moments!

stuyguy
12-22-2003, 01:44 PM
FWIW, FWW opened his first successful 5&10 in 1879 in Lancaster, PA.

tomndebb
12-22-2003, 01:45 PM
The merchandise they carried was of standard quality. They specialized in supplies for housewares, sewing, cooking, light hardware, toys, etc. They were the direct predecessors to K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Target, etc. except that the current discount retailers expanded into clothing, electronics (of which there was little in the olden days), automotive, etc. Given the differences in the products available, you can see a direct relationship between the merchandise in the old five and dimes and the current big box stores. (K-Mart, after all, takes the K from S.S. Kresge, the five and dime company that launched K-Mart, only to later change their name to drop the Kresge.)

I have seen chains, when traveling, that actually used five and dime (or 5 and 10) in the name, but none of the stores near me when I grew up did. Of course, by then it was hard to find too many items for a dime. The original S.S. Krege sold nothing more expensive than 10 when it opened in the 1890s. I don't know whether Woolworth's or Ben Franklin ever included "five and dime" in their store marquees or their advertising or not. Southeast Michigan had a chain that lasted into the 1980s known as D & C Stores, for dime and cent.

aahala
12-22-2003, 01:54 PM
Kresge's launched K Mart about 1962 and Woolworth's started Woolco about the same time. Woolco was never as large as K Mart. The "dime store" operations continued for both companies but I imagine it became increasingly apparent even in the '60s those older stores were on the way out.

occ
12-22-2003, 05:04 PM
FWIW, we had a Woolworth's in my town up until...hmm, late-80s or early-90s. Certainly not selling anything for 5 or 10 cents at that point, but it was definitely an old-timey store. They also had a working lunch counter, which was pretty cool.

Not sure when the Woolworth name died out around the country, either; I just checked the web, and it still appears to be a discount retailer in the UK, of all places.

Ludovic
12-22-2003, 05:07 PM
I used to live down the street from a store that was named the "Dime and Dollar"...there's inflation for ya (this was in late70s/early 80s, that store is sadly no more :()

bughunter
12-22-2003, 06:07 PM
Well, the dime store has made a resurgence, except they're not called dime stores any more.

They're called "99 cent" stores.

If you haven't gone in one, check one out. We go there first before we go to the major chain grocery stores or Target. They often have much of what's on our list at a significant discount.

They do suffer from two main problems - one is that their stock isn't consistent. But they have a suprising amount of grocery and sundry items pretty consistently, including eggs, cold cuts, and frozen foods.

The other problem is that some of their items, like cleaning supplies, batteries, etc., suffer from poor quality. You have to be an astute shopper.

But it's absolutely the best place for halloween candy!!

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
12-22-2003, 06:44 PM
Originally posted by bughunter
They do suffer from two main problems - one is that their stock isn't consistent. But they have a suprising amount of grocery and sundry items pretty consistently, including eggs, cold cuts, and frozen foods.

The other problem is that some of their items, like cleaning supplies, batteries, etc., suffer from poor quality. You have to be an astute shopper.


Another problem is that they sometimes achieve the 99 cent price by selling a very small package. For instance, I once got some Canadian Colgate toothpaste for 99 cents, but the tube was only about eight inches long. Probably three of them would have been equivalent in content to a full size American tube, but when you factor in the "residue" that you can't get out of the tubes, perhaps not.

kunilou
12-22-2003, 07:09 PM
What I remember of Kresge's, Woolworth's, et al was that they were basically identical to what you get today in the "general merchandise" section of what my family, at least, calls a "drug store" (Walgreen's, Osco, etc.) No clothes specifically, but paper products (anything from paper plates to greeting cards), some sundries like toothpaste, household items like soap and cleanser, cheap toys, etc.

Unlike the 99 cent stores, they had pretty stable inventories. If my mother needed a roll of thread and some shirt buttons, she knew she could send me to the Ben Franklin up the street and I'd be able to find it.

Around here, Ben Franklin survived as a crafts store.

hermann
12-22-2003, 07:22 PM
I remember going to Woolworth's and buying 45s (records) for 29 cents......oh yeah, and those little turtles, too.

KP
12-22-2003, 07:42 PM
did the name "5 and 10" or "5 and dime" appear in their names

We had a "Ben Franklin 5&10" in the Atlanta area in the 60/70s. I'd never heard the term before moving near it. The local Woolworths (including one in the same mall) had neon or internally lit plastric signs that just read "Woolworth", so I didn't know that they were five and dimes until I read that in my social studies text in '72. Coincidentally, Most Woolworths returned to the traditional red and gilt "5&10" signs soon thereafter. These signs had a small 5 on one end, and 10 on the other, bracketing "WOOLWORTH'S" in much larger letters, so I suppose you could say they did officially bill themselves as "five and dimes"

Several Woolworths where I live now (near Boston) retained the classic red and gold Woolworths 5&10 signs, and one in Central Square Cambridge had the same layout in internally illuminated discrete plastic letters until a mass chain closure in the 1993 or so.

KenGr
12-22-2003, 07:47 PM
From my recollection, the "5 and dime" phrase must have never been copyrighted (or at least not enforced). Although I've seen the Woolworth stores, in the small towns where I grew up the "5 and dime" and "5 and 10 cent" stores were locally owned.

And yes, in the 1950's a nickle or a dime would actually get you something.

Bromley
12-23-2003, 03:49 AM
Originally posted by occ
Not sure when the Woolworth name died out around the country, either; I just checked the web, and it still appears to be a discount retailer in the UK, of all places.

Nope, it's now a normal high street shop here. History (http://www.woolworthsgroupplc.com/aboutus/group_history.cfm) - it's an offshoot of your Woolworths.

Also, a supermarket in Australia (http://www.woolworths.com.au/), although it's entirely possible/probable that it's from a different source company. There are similarily named supermarket chains in SA and NZ.

radar ralf
12-23-2003, 04:06 AM
My hometown of Great Bend, Kansas, had a Woolworth and a Duckwall store. Both were known as "five and dime" stores. They were "department stores" that sold small items such as fabric, sewing notions, cosmetics, and TOYS! Dang, there were lots of toys in those stores! The most appealing (for me) features were the soda fountain/snack counters. Does anyone else remember vanilla phosphates?

Frame Dragging
12-23-2003, 06:44 AM
Those good 'ole Woolworth stores we remember from our 60's/70's childhoods still exist. I shopped one last year. Same logos, same smell, same crappy stuff, just one difference: Everyone there was speaking German. No surprise since the one I visited was in Kassel, Germany. According to their webpage
www.woolworth.de the management and investors broke off from whatever was left of the American company in 1998. The page lists the history of Woolworth beginning with info about Frank Woolworth's 1879 concept. They use the familiar Woolworth trademarks. Not sure if they bought the trademark or if it is under license.
Don't forget G C Murphy dime stores. Murphy's and Woolworths were my two favorite shopping center stops as a kid in Indy. Both with lunch counters, the animal aisle, lots of candy, and that funny machine with nut assortments baking under hot lamps.

Sunspace
12-23-2003, 08:25 AM
Woolworths used to be in Canada as well, not a supermarket, but a low-end department store.... then they were Woolco... then they got bought by Walmart in one of its first expansions outside the US. I sense a certain market continuity there.

The dollar stores are around and thriving. Irrecular stock, off-brand merchandise, cheap chinese imports, and all.

K-Mart is still around. I think. But if so, it's a faded remnant of its former self. (In Canada, it may have been bought by the Hudson's Bay Company, along with Zellers. But I could be wrong.) I remember K-Marts in Peterborough and Oshawa being the SS Kresge Company up until the late seventies.

I kind of miss Marks and Spencer. They pulled out of Canada in the late nineties. I never bought any clothing there; I'd just go in occaisionally to ogle the peculiar British food, like oyster-flavoured chips. We also had Boots The Chemist, but they got bought out as well.

Jinx
12-23-2003, 09:44 AM
I only remember a few Woolworths remaining in malls with lunch counters, even. I only know of two 5 and 10 cents stores. Neither one had a lunch counter. I don't think they even had the room for one. Maybe they're copycat stores...

One last question: I know things REALLY did once cost 5 and 10 cents in a simpler time. So, then, would it be such a big deal to bill it as a 5 and 10 cent store in those times? Or, did such promotions come as prices started to climb?

Thanks for filling me in...
- Jinx