Memory Lane: Our Classic Department Stores

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When my mother shopped at Newberry’s in the 1950s, she often treated me to one of those wonderful wax dinosaurs by the Miller Company. A lot of towns had J.J. Newberry department stores.

I haven’t seen one in donkey’s years; and it’s not only Newberry’s that I don’t see around anymore. Several classic department stores have vanished from the landscape.

E.J. Korvette’s–great sporting goods department, I got my Wally Moon baseball glove there. Two Guys from Harrison: their pet department seemed to have trouble keeping the birds in their cages, which always fascinated me. Woolworth’s. Surely you had a Woolworth’s somewhere nearby. And W.T. Grant’s. As a child, these stores looked big to me; but I guess you’d have to call them medium-sized department stores. Or even small department stores.

Where have they gone? Replaced, I suppose, by Target and Wal-Mart. Replaced by the malls: who needs a not-that-big department store, when a mall offers you a whole bunch of specialty stores all under one roof?

Is Bamberger’s still in existence somewhere?

I enjoyed them all. Newberry’s had the best toys, and great Halloween stuff–what you’d expect from a chain that started out as a bunch of five-and-ten-cent stores– Two Guys the best pet department, and Woolworth’s the best candy. They weren’t so big as to be intimidating. You can practically hitch-hike from one department to another at Wal-Mart. Sometimes big is too big. Some of the big stores today seem like they could double as hangars at an airport. I never got that feeling at Newberry’s. But the last Newberry’s store, Wikipedia tells me, closed its doors in 2001.

And oh, for some Howard Johnson’s ice cream!


6 comments on “Memory Lane: Our Classic Department Stores

  1. I remember a chain called Gambles which was quite good. There was another chain in the Denver area. I think it may have been called “White’s”, but I don’t think it was the same chain as the White’s in the eastern US. It was more of an all-around store, sort of like Gambles.

    I remember these sorts of places as being interesting. They had decent toys, which was important when I was a kid. They also had automotive departments and some tools. I do t remember if they had much in the way of clothing, but they tended to have a lot of things I found interesting in my childhood and would still find interesting today.

    I appreciate the TSC (Tractor Supply Company) stores, which are a chain of Farm/Ranch stores. It is one of the few thriving business in the region which is not a WalMart or chain supermarket.

    1. I don’t know if any of these chains went coast-to-coast. Two Guys, for instance, was just in New Jersey. But I’m sure the stores were similar from chain to chain.

  2. I sure miss brick and mortar stores; no, WalMart doesn’t count. I have used Amazon for years and it makes a lot of sense in my locale, but it was nice to be able to browse.

  3. Boy, does this bring back memories for me. The store in the picture looks almost exactly like the one in my former home town, Wenatchee, Wa. The other dime stores you named were also there, and my mother and I loved to go to all three, and when my older son was a small kid, he also loved these stores with all their toys, candy, etc. I miss the good ol days.

  4. We used to have a Sears, K-Mart, Woolworth, Ben Franklin’s, Sambo’s, Alpha Beta but they are all gone. Now when it comes to Walmarts and Sams’ Clubs, I live in Arkansas, and they are in every town of any size.

    1. We had some wonderful stores in this town, once upon a time. Now it’s all coffee houses and nail salons. Boring! I want our hardware store and our five-and-ten!

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