Popular in the early-to-mid-20th-century, the five-and-dime (also called the 5 & 10) was the precursor to modern-day discount stores, offering everything from candies to household necessities for bargain prices. While you'd think that everyone's obsession with convenience and impersonal shopping experiences would make these stores extinct, there are a few remaining stores that have survived. "Shopping at a five-and-dime harkens back to a simpler era, when gifts didn't have to cost a lot of money to mean something special," says Beth Lennon of the vintage travel blog Retro Roadmap. "While things don't actually cost five or ten cents anymore, the 5 & 10 is still an affordable place to shop where you can find plenty of treasures." Here are four of Lennon's favorite five-and-dime stores, plus five you can still visit across the United States.
Complete with an old-fashioned soda fountain, Sine's 5 & 10 has been in operation since 1912. It's not just a place to do your shopping, but it also has a sense of community. "You can go to the 5 &10 to shop, but also as a chance to connect with your neighbors, and find out about what is going on in town," Lennon says. "A 5 &10 with a lunch counter (like Sine's) is a bonus gathering spot over a cup of coffee or grilled cheese."
One of the "newer" entries on the list, Balich 5 & 10 originally opened in 1954 as a five-and-dime (and then was taken over by the Balich family in 1972). Offering a little bit of everything, the shop is a lovely alternative to chain stores in the area. "Shopping at local 5 & 10s keeps your money local, right in your community, and not transferred off to a corporate office elsewhere," Lennon says. "Supporting businesses like this keeps downtown shopping districts alive, and keeps the country interesting, instead of being chained over and blandified."
Started in 1946 by A.L. Stickle after he returned from World War II, this adorable shop is still family-owned. "Nowadays many 5 & 10s are run by the children or grandchildren of the original owners, and they grew up locally. They know their shoppers by name and their family," says Lennon. The product assortment at A.L. Stickle's Variety Store, which includes everything from retro tea towels to timeless toys, along with the overall feel of the store's interior reminded her of the ultimate 5 & 10, Woolworth's.
Owned by the Handloff family since 1911, National 5 & 10 is Delaware's last remaining 5 &10. The shop is part general store, part college shop (University of Delaware is very well-represented here), and part hardware store. The assortment is part of the appeal of these stores, Lennon says. "There are things that the 5 & 10 carry that the big chain stores don't bother with, but that shoppers still ask for. And because you're asking the shop owner themselves, they can usually order it for you," she says.
Opened in 1876, A.Schwab Trading Co. has been a favorite shop for many generations of Memphis residents (and the far-flung tourists who swing by). There's even an old-fashioned soda counter where you can still enjoy an old-fashioned malt.
Flickr photo by La Citta Vita
With a product assortment that caters to the visiting vacationers along with locals, the circa-1949 Guerneville 5 and 10 has something for everyone.
Flickr photo by Topher.
We were surprised to learn that there is a chain of old-timey 5&10 stores out there: The Five and Dime General Store. Locations range from San Diego to Savannah and points in between (like San Antonio, shown here).
Flickr photo by David Wilson
Located 20 minutes from Buffalo, Vidler's is one of the largest five-and-dimes in the world. You'll find 75,000 items across four buildings on two levels.
Flickr photo by Chris Raymond
The motto of Berdine's Five and Dime is "One Giant Leap Back In Time," and they're entirely right. Inside, you'll find old-fashioned health remedies, bins of novelties, a candy counter, and plenty of good cheer.
Flickr photo by Jimmy Emerson, DVM