Farewell, Woolworth’s

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No matter where they live in the country, anyone over the age of 50 can tell you what used to be in this building. It was an F.W. Woolworth five and dime. All the stores used the same weird brick color, few windows, except on the first floor, that housed a spectacle of consumer wants in its day. In my town, I grew up with a five-and-dime tri-fecta — a Woolworth’s, next to a W.T. Grant’s, across the street from an S.S. Kresge (the forerunner of KMart). Of course, they’re all gone now, along with the 10-cent hot dog and the fish department.

Why is this in the news? Woolworth’s in downtown St. Paul closed in 1993. Because the big story in the UK today is Woolworth’s is going under, and the big story on this side of the Atlantic is that people are finding out there still is a Woolworth’s.

The British government today refused to intervene to prop up the retailer, which is a descendant of the F.W. Woolworth chain, but has been separate since 1982.

Still, the news brings back memories and prompted a stop at the Seventh Place location in St. Paul where I found the last remnants of the “get lost” spirit that the doomed retailer possessed in its latter days.

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  • I bought my first cassette (M.C. Hammer) from Woolworth’s in Rice Lake, WI. I also saw my first pair of crotchless panties at the same store. Target can’t even offer that today.

  • Mac Wilson

    I was waiting for the bus outside the old Woolworth’s building yesterday afternoon and found myself wishing I could take a look around inside. I’ll surf the MNHS website to see if I can find any old photos of the building in its heyday.

  • Bob Collins

    There is a picture there of the NAACP picketing the store. Some good ones of the Mpls store, too.

    Given the complete lack of retail in downtown St. Paul, isn’t there a crying need for a place wher eyou can get a 10-cent hot dog, a 45 record, some crotchless panties, and a guppy?

  • Mac Wilson

    Here’s one from the same corner as Bob’s photo, this one from 1956.

    Sorry, I am a nerd when it comes to old photos on the MNHS website.

  • JSmith

    Honestly, all St Paul’s downtown needs is for the rest of the empty building to be filled up with retail and apartments and for things to stay open later than 7PM and it’d be back in business.

    And I mean that sincerely. Downtown St Paul is much prettier to look at than downtown Minneapolis, at least during the day. At night downtown Minneapolis shines lots of pretty lights which makes up for it a bit. In the end though you’re forced to leave the downtown St Paul area because a lot of the businesses simply close.

  • beryl k gullsgate

    The red and white awning still remains above the former Woolworths on Superior street, Duluth; a fitting hallmark still intact; a most honorable tribute even though the building is now recycled for business offices.

    …and as a child Christmas shopping in the early forties in Somewhere, North Dakota meant Dad would wait patiently at the front of the store as siblings and I shopped for presents with 2 bucks giving us tremendous consumer power.

    We ranged from preschool to grade school and perused the counters feeling like we could buy the world…I ended up with miniature bottles of cheap perfume in little bottles for mother and elder sister. They looked like small oil lamps – three inch high miniatures – in a rainbow of colors…plus bought two brothers balsa wood airplane kits and then, topping big spending with a deck of cards labeled “Pinochle” which my five-year old mind transferred to be a game telling the story of Pinochio of Gepetto fame…and if Dad didn’t like it?

    All this for two bucks plus enough left over to buy a fat brown bag full of pretzels and another bag of chunks of milk chocolate from the long candy counter that ran on forever almost…ho, big spender, what a Christmas indeed!

  • Philip LAbbe

    Would like to square footage of St Paul

    FW Woolworths that closed in 1993. Please

    also tell me any recent remodels.

    Philip M. LAbbe