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Shoppers mourning demise of dime store

By Amy Beth Graves Associated Press Published: July 18, 1997 12:00 AM

As a child, she would go to the store in Altoona, Pa., and beg her grandparents

to buy her a toy.

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As a teen-ager, she would share Cokes and fries with friends at the lunch

counter in Warren, Ohio.

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And on Thursday, Mrs. Hengst, 50, went to the five-and-dime store in search

of envelopes _ her office had run out.

``Where else do you get envelopes, a pound of coffee, thread if you lose

the button on your clothes on the way to an interview? It's just awful they're


After 117 years as America's general store, Woolworth Corp. said Thursday

it will close its remaining 400 U.S. F.W. Woolworth stores and change its

name. The move ends a shopping era that began in 1879, when Frank Woolworth

opened his first store in Lancaster, Pa.

There was nothing you couldn't get there _ and get it cheap. From hairnets

to handkerchiefs, turtles to tools, lipstick to lunch, Woolworth's five-and-dime

had it all.

Who didn't prowl the narrow aisles in search of bobby pins, hot salted peanuts

in a paper bag or dish rags?

What parent didn't drag a child past the popcorn machine and the mechanical

horse to stock up on underwear or school supplies?

What child didn't inspect every shelf in search of the finest birthday gift

for Mom that their tiny allowances could buy? How about that plastic champagne

bottle filled with bubble bath and a plastic rose?

Mrs. Hengst, who stopped by the downtown Columbus store Thursday afternoon,

said she still has the xylophone she talked her grandparents into buying

for her.

``I drove them crazy with it,'' she said with a smile. ``They'd tell me

to go out on the porch and play it. I also bought a little bunny that jumped.

I kept looking at and looking at it'' until they finally gave her the money

to buy the mechanical toy.

Maria Simpson remembers shopping for Christmas presents at Woolworth's five-and-dime

in her hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y.

``I would get ceramic things for Mom and toys for my brothers,'' Ms. Simpson,

44, said as she popped into Woolworth's to pick up a flea collar. ``It's

a family store. You'd sit at the counter and eat. Everybody was real friendly.''

For Pauline Jones, 59, it was bringing one of her 10 grandchildren _ ages

7 to 20 _ to pick out toys or celebrate a birthday with lunch at the store's


``They're the best for educational books and school supplies,'' said Mrs.

Jones as she looked for a birthday card. ``If it was their birthday, they'd

love to come in and have a hamburger and fries. I feel very sad they're


Byron Rider, who has worked for Woolworth for 29 years _ as manager of the

downtown store for the last 10 _ has heard it all before.

``Every week I hear from someone who said they grew up in this place and

their grandma brought them here,'' he said.

``It's home to many.''

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