Many of our most treasured childhood memories originate from important occasions like family trips or key life events. Little events, like packing up the station wagon to head to Howard Johnson’s for ice cream on a hot summer night or stopping at the corner shop for some penny candy, may often turn into the most priceless memories. As we reflected on these times, we started to recall all the wonderful shops we formerly frequented but which are no longer as prevalent (if they ever were). Check out our list below and tell us about your memories in the comments!
One of the early five-and-dime store pioneers was Woolworth’s. The first store dates back to 1878, but many of us probably remember them as the go-to place for anything you needed in the ’50s and ’60s. With a great selection of goods and prices that were hard to beat, Woolworth’s became a staple in malls and shopping districts throughout the country. Even their lunch counters have an assortment of delectable meals!
In 2009, the largest privately held, publicly traded chain of department stores in the United States went out of business. Gottschalks was a department store that started in California and ultimately expanded all down the west coast, including additional Bobbie West clothing boutiques for teenagers.
There’s a good chance you remember getting some Thrifty Ice Cream if you visited Thrifty as a child. It was inexpensive and offered the nicest flavors, like Rocky Road, Chocolate Malted Krunch, Butter Pecan, Medieval Madness, and Mint ‘N Chip, to mention a few. Thrifty didn’t last long and went out of business in 1996, despite finally merging with Payless Drug Stores in 1994.
A&P, or the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, was formerly the biggest grocery retailer in the United States. The Wall Street Journal actually labeled the store as an American icon, comparing it to McDonald’s or Google in today’s standards. Founded in 1859, A&P went by many different names, and at one point had 16,000 locations across the country. Regrettably, the store closed permanently in late 2015, but we will always cherish our memories of mom taking us shopping.
B. Dalton had 798 locations around the nation during the height of its popularity. You probably stumbled across one of these adorable little book shops if you even entered a mall. If you were fortunate, your parents might have even allowed you to choose a book! In the end, Barnes & Noble acquired B. Dalton, and the last stores were closed in 2009.
Another five-and-dime store, Kress began in 1887 as a “stationery and notions” store. Like Woolworth’s, Kress provided a wide selection of goods at low rates, as well as a lunch counter. The architecture of many of Kress’ stores was what made it distinctive. Many of them had ornate decorations, such as metalwork and coats of arms. Although Kress ceased operations in 1981, many of the structures are still in use today.
The Ben Franklin 5-10 was a well-known franchise that appeared across the United States in 1927, all based on Benjamin Franklin’s proverb “A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned.” I think we can all recall visiting one of the 2,500 stores that were open during their heyday around the nation after school or on the weekends! The selection of crafts and entertaining tiny items was the finest.
The Kaufman brothers founded KB Toys in 1922, and the company once had 1300 locations all across the nation. Behind FAO Schwarz, it was the oldest operating toy store in North America until it went out of business in 2009.
Howard Johnson’s was one of the largest restaurant chains in the 1970s, despite having its first site open in 1925, before the name gradually started to decline. Howard Johnson’s, a company known for its ice cream, continues to exist in one particular area (you can read more about that fantastic story here).
What about these shops do you recall? Have we forgotten to include your favorite? Tell us in the comments section below. We enjoy hearing about your memories!