Remembering the 5-10-25 cents stores

on Tuesday, 06 February 2018. Posted in Columns, Opinions

By: Brenda Harrison

The now popular dollar stores – Dollar General, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree – seem to have replaced the “five and ten cents” stores that thrived during my childhood growing up in Florence.

S.H. Kress, F.W. Woolworth and McLellan stores were all located on the same block of West Evans Street (between Irby and Dargan Streets) during my earliest memories of shopping in downtown Florence. I’m not sure when Kress and Woolworth’s opened here, but I have found a reference to Kress here in 1917. I have published photos showing Woolworth’s beside Zeigler’s Drug Store on the corner of Dargan as early as 1942. The two “five and dimes” were almost next door neighbors with only a bank between them.

However, I can’t remember Woolworth’s on that corner because it was there before I was born. My memories of shopping in Woolworth’s are when it was located at the opposite end of the block, at the corner of Irby and West Evans in the Masonic Lodge Building. That building later housed BoSmith Furniture and most recently the Art Trail Gallery.

Currently, the historic building is being renovated by Carolina Bank and will serve as their headquarters. I am delighted that the bank is restoring the third floor of the building which had been removed during a major renovation before Woolworth’s took over that building in 1951.

I remember going into Woolworth’s from the side door entrance after crossing the street from Sears on N. Irby. At that time, pets, such as parakeets, fish and turtles, along with pet supplies, were on display in the back of the store. At the front there was a spinning rack of comic books and I found many happy moments choosing between Archie, Beetle Bailey and Tweetie Bird and Sylvester comics. I also spent hours in the toy section trying to decide how to spend my weekly allowance.

McLellan’s Five and Ten Cents store was located across the street in what is now part of The Hotel Florence. Wikipedia says William Walker McLellan founded McLellan Stores in 1917. The company merged with McCrory Stores in 1958. According to research by Agnes Willcox, McLellan’s opened here in 1955. Eagles Store preceded it, and in 1965, Rogers Brothers Fabrics occupied that space.

I do recall shopping with my mom in McLellan’s but only remember the household and kitchen items.

Samuel Henry Kress established the chain of S. H. Kress & Company’s 5-10-25 Cent Stores in 1896. During first half of the 20th Century, according to Wikipedia, there were Kress stores with ornamented architecture on the main street in hundreds of cities and towns.

In 1964 Genesco Inc. acquired Kress. The company abandoned many of its center-city stores and moved to shopping malls, but the Florence store stayed downtown. Genesco began liquidating and closing down many of the Kress stores in 1980 but not the Florence store. The remaining stores were sold to McCrory Stores on Jan. 1, 1981 and most continued to operate under the Kress name until McCrory Stores went out of business in 2001.

I think Kress was my favorite five and ten. I can almost smell the hot peanuts and popcorn it offered, along with a lunch counter featuring a soda fountain, ice cream and tall stools to climb up to before the store was renovated. The neat thing about Kress was you could enter on West Evans Street and exit around the corner on North Dargan Street.

I did that quite often because my uncle, A.W. Smith, had a tiny photography studio next door to the Dargan Street side and it was always a fun place to visit.

I suppose one day my granddaughters will reminisce about our current “dollar stores.”