Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The First Woolco Stores

Within a five-month span in 1962, the modern discount store industry was born. In March, S.S. Kresge Co. opened the first Kmart store in Garden City, Michigan. In May, the first Target store was opened in Roseville, Minnesota by the Dayton Company, an old-line Minneapolis department store firm. In June, F.W. Woolworth Co. opened the first of its Woolco discount department stores in Columbus, Ohio. And yes, there was one more – in July, an Arkansas-based Ben Franklin franchisee opened “something called a Wal-Mart”, as he would later put it. Few people outside his home state would hear about that guy for years, though.

In September 1961, Woolworth announced its selection of Columbus, Ohio as the location of the first Woolco store. Woolworth chairman Robert C. Kirkwood explained his rationale to the press: “Columbus, with its tremendous growth potential and long-range plans for continuing industrial development, is an ideal location to make our entry into the low-profit, mass merchandising field". (“Low-profit” was a standard industry term among discounters in those days.)

On June 6, 1962, the first Woolco store, a 106,000 square foot unit, opened at Columbus’ Great Southern Shopping Center. It made for a wild scene, as reported by The New York Times the next day - “4,000 to 5,000 persons crowded inside in the first hour, (and) long lines formed at the eighteen checkout counters.” The center’s 5,000 spot parking lot filled to capacity by noon. Of course (we’re talking 1962 here) there was the element of spectacle that was part and parcel of Grand Openings at the time- the mayor of Columbus presented Woolworth chairman Kirkwood with the key to the city, for one thing. There was also a special display of jewelry, including a necklace valued at $1,000,000, which sported the “80.3 carat Portuguese Diamond… that drew sighs of amazement from housewives pushing shopping carts past the display. Store officials conceded that they did not expect to find a buyer for the necklace”.

Though every other item was well below the million dollar price point, the Woolco format did allow the company to carry much higher-ticket items than their Woolworth’s variety store counterparts, whose lineup generally capped-out at the $100 mark, with only a handful items going for anywhere near that . The NYT article cited a $3,000 necklace (much more reasonable, don’t you think?), a $649.74 refrigerator and a $448 TV/stereo console as examples. The higher priced goods were the result of the much wider product offering the discount store format allowed, owing mainly to the greatly expanded floor space. The previous September, Mr. Kirkwood went so far as to tell the Wall Street Journal that “Less than 5% of Woolco merchandise will be the variety store types”. The Woolco stores would have “appliances, drugs, auto supplies (and service), men’s wear and other departments not in the variety stores”. There would also be expanded lineups of shoes, sporting goods, jewelry and other items. Many of these departments would be handled by outside lessees, as per standard discount store practice at the time. A much greater emphasis would be placed on credit sales, a huge revenue opportunity for the company (and ultimately a huge headache for many a consumer) that fit the “big-ticket discounter” much better than it did the good old “dime store”. And then there was the food – the “Red Grille” cafeterias would be standard features of every Woolco store – not at all surprising, considering Woolworth earned a impressive 10% of its total revenue from in-store restaurant sales.

The name “Woolco”, incidentally, wasn’t new at all. It had served as a Woolworth private brand name since at least the 1920’s, featured on everything from sewing supplies to 78 rpm records to tins of candy. Most often it appeared inside the form of an elongated diamond logo, later adapted and modified for use as an early logo for the discount stores, where it was displayed prominently on interior signage.

Interestingly, out of the seven Woolco stores opened during its founding year, 1962, four of them were located in Canada. In addition to a second Columbus Woolco (pictured above) and one in Richmond, Virginia, the four Canadian stores opened that year were located in Brantford, Sudbury, Hamilton and Windsor, Ontario. The company would continue to open a high percentage of its new Woolco store base in Canada over the next few years.

Woolworth’s initial assessment of the first seven Woolco stores was positive, if a bit low-key – after a year of operation, the stores “had reached or surpassed the goals of public acceptance set for them”. No million-dollar necklace sales needed.

The first two photos shown above are vintage Woolworth publicity shots, showing the distinctive I-beam sign structure and zig-zag awning the chain used during its first couple of years of existence - Corpus Christi, Texas, opened in March 1964 at Greater Parkdale Plaza , and Phoenix, Arizona (Hayden Plaza West), which opened the following month. Note the Woolworth’s store to the left of the new Woolco.

The rest of the photos depict the Woolco store at the Graceland Shopping Center, the second Woolco unit in Columbus, Ohio. This store opened in early October, 1962, some ten miles north of the first Columbus Woolco store. Photos 3 through 7 were taken in 1970, and the last photo was taken in 1966, when the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales were in town. (Does this kind of thing ever happen at shopping centers anymore? I think I know the answer.) A very special thanks goes to George Campbell, Columbus-area native and historian, for the use of these photos. George has an excellent website devoted to the area’s history. There is a special section devoted to the history of the Graceland Shopping Center, including shots of a Big Bear store and a Colonial Stores-era Albers Supermarket, along with a special Woolco section that brings us up to date on the building’s history. Also, check out his Flickr photostream for more great historic photos!

38 comments:

  1. These are the best set of discount store photos I have seen in a while, Dave. I love Woolco's Mid Century Modern touch on their stores. I know I have seen photos of the old Woolco that was once at Columbus's Southland Center and remember designs very much like this.

    Ah, when retail dared itself to not be boring and actually have a sign you can see. A parking lot full of cars and screaming people full to the tilt, do you even see that anymore aside from perhaps a Black Friday?

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  2. I think the 1st store was actually at Great Western, not Great Southern.

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    1. I think they were all Casto projects, anyway. Everything seemed to be, back then.

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  3. I'm not sure of the order, but I do believe that stores 1, 2 and 3 were all in Columbus, then known as "America's Test Market". Columbus was then a good test market for a variety of reasons. First, the demographics mirrored those of America. Second, it was and remains an isolated media market (no overlap from adjoining markets). Columbus has gone a little bit too upscale and is too big these days to be a reliable test market. I think that distinction now goes to Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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  4. These look so much like the Woolco I remember in Hamilton Ohio. I remember the toy dept. and comic rack fondly! Of note is the fact that Woolco never updated this store it still looked like 1963 in 1981!

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  5. P.S. That second shot is not of any of the Columbus stores.

    Here is the Great Western store, which was most recently an ex-Kroger/Drug Emporium (Grossman's Bargain Outlet)

    http://www.bing.com/maps/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCC&cp=qnsy0q82848p&style=b&lvl=1&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&scene=38605068&encType=1

    Graceland (most of it recently torn down) the right side of the building, formerly district offices for Woolworth's remains:
    http://www.bing.com/maps/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCC&cp=qp9x5c82dy26&style=b&lvl=1&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&scene=38484030&ss=yp.A%20Graceland%20Sewing%20Center~pg.1~sst.0&encType=1

    Great Southern, demolished in favor of a new Walmart

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    1. "Great Southern, demolished in favor of a new Walmart" - Danny

      Actually, it was demolished to make a place for the Kroger that is now there. It is the 3rd Kroger store that has been in Great Southern. The current Odd/Big Lots was the first, followed by one at the north end of the lot (now gone). There was a Big Bear, a few shops and then Woolco across an alley.

      The Wal-Mart is a new structure north of the Kroger. They cleared a patch of land for it.

      I grew up there, so it just stuck in my mind. :)

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  6. Columbus is probably too Anglo these days to be a first tier test market. I don't know that Columbus is too upscale, though. Their Nordstrom is in danger of closing and despite missing some of the problems experienced by classic rustbelt cities, much of it is in decline. Indianapolis was another classic test market, closer to Chicago, which long has been a hub for the ad business.

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  7. Didi - I agree. Woolco's early signs in particular were very cool, and no doubt visible from quite a distance!

    Any screaming you hear on "Black Friday" is probably out of fear. It's been a long time since any deal has been good enough to drag me out shopping on that particular day.

    Anonymous - The Great Western store actually opened in 1965, three years after the first Woolco opening.

    Danny - The first two American Woolcos were in Columbus - Great Southern and Graceland. The third one was in Richmond, VA, and many other locations were added before the third Columbus location, Great Western was opened. Thanks for those photo links!

    The black-and-white shot is from Corpus Christi, Texas.

    Interesting point about how Columbus has outgrown its suitability for a test market. Fort Wayne definitely has that "middle America feel" on a smaller scale.

    Dwayne - I would have loved to see a 60's-look store in 1981. I appreciated this kind of thing even way back then. Cool!

    Anonymous - That seems unusual today for a larger city, trending "more Anglo". Marketers definitely want a diverse population mix in this day and age to make sure their products have wide appeal.

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  8. I agree with Didi. These are some great photos.

    Woolco's design aesthetic evolved over the years but the basic store layout remained the same throughout its lifespan. I wish they had done more of the eye-catching entrances like the early years, though.

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  9. "Columbus is probably too Anglo these days to be a first tier test market. I don't know that Columbus is too upscale, though. Their Nordstrom is in danger of closing

    It's no New York, but for what it is Columbus does lean on the more upscale side these days ... like what the Detroit area used to be. Remember, it's the headquarters of one of the few "growth" industries in this country: Government. In my opinion, this is like having the headquarters of 10 Fortune-500 companies in your city. Government jobs are now what the GM jobs used to be ... with generous pay and benefits. Your tax dollars at work!

    I've never heard that the Nordstrom was in danger of closing, and I highly doubt it given that Indianapolis has two Nordstroms, one is being built in Cincinnati and another in Pittsburgh. I think you might be confusing it with Saks, which has also had problems in Cincinnati. Lord & Taylor also closed but was replaced by Von Maur. I wouldn't doubt that they'd be on the chopping block.

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  10. For some reason, I am fascinated with the sheer amount of distance between the impressive Woolco sign and the equally-impressive storefront as seen in the fourth photo. These are so great! Thanks again!

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  11. There were not any WOOLCOs where I grew up but I remember the name from the "K-Tel" and "Ronco" records and product advertised on television during the '70's and '80's!! They always had an ending tag line "available in Woolworth's & Woolco" !!! hahahahah!!!

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  12. A little off-topic, but one of the interesting things about the architecture of the era was the predominance of that "googie" architectural look. Woolco wasn't the only discounter that used the "zig zag" canopy design over the front entry. Here are a few pictures of a couple of ex-Buckeye Mart stores in Columbus (successor the the Cussins and Fearn department store) that used that same architectural touch.

    A "before" picture from the 1960's:
    http://books.google.com/books?id=out7TwNW_kgC&pg=PA69&dq=%22buckeye+mart%22&lr=&ei=u89CSq6sJYfSMpqijNoO

    Here are pictures of how it looks today:

    http://www.bing.com/maps/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCC&cp=qp5m8v82h1nw&style=b&lvl=2&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&scene=38575471&encType=1

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3390/3658091949_0c54211a9b_b.jpg

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/14006301@N07/3658092299/

    The same "look" at Berwick Plaza "before":
    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2425/3658091311_a3432ff777_b.jpg

    ... and today:
    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3643/3658091765_e31620994a_b.jpg

    And as to the final question, I couldn't find the article where I read about Columbus losing its test market status to Fort Wayne, but I did find an unlinked reference that I'm sure came from the same article:

    "Due to its demographics, which include a mix of races and a wide range of incomes, as well as urban, suburban, and nearby rural areas, Columbus has been considered to be a "typical" American city, and has been used as a test market for new products by retail and restaurant chains. However, newer studies suggest that Columbus may no longer accurately mirror the U.S. population as a whole."

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  13. Steven - That's true, the interiors stayed pretty much the same. Even the exteriors were similar, save the tower sign and funky awning. One exterior feature they carried over (and that I really like) is the dual "Woolco Department Stores" signage above the entrance/exit doors.

    Danny - Good points. And I would think that Columbus would be at least as good a market for Nordstrom as Indy or Pittsburgh.

    David - No problem, and I agree they're great! You just don't see that kind of thing anymore!

    Mr. Bluelight - Thats exactly how I remember them! Woolco was a non-factor in the Chicago area, but the ads would always mention Woolco locations out in Timbuktu. You couldn't escape those K-Tel and Ronco ads - "Music Power!! - 20 original hits by the original artists!!". Those albums were notorious for poor sound quality, but the psychdelic album covers were cool!

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  14. As a last piece of trivia, even more unrelated to this discussion than the last post ....

    I direct all you retail geeks to link to the Big Lots picture at Berwick Plaza in my previous post. This former Buckeye Mart has several "claims to fame."

    1. It is the site of my first job, when it was a Sarco Outlet Store (a way for Buckeye Mart to wind down its warehouse here);

    2. Before the store went out of business, I stuffed about 50 uninflated promotional "Tempo branded" beach balls up in the ceiling.

    3. This is the relocation site of the world's first "Odd Lots" (now known as Big Lots). The register receipts still say "Store #1", although the physical location was actually in the ex-Kroger located in the same center.

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  15. Steven Swain said... I wish they had done more of the eye-catching entrances like the early years, though.
    Steve, you're the design guy and these pictures are way cool to look at now, but I never was a Woolco fan. Living here and seeing these stores face to face as a child, I never found any of the Wooloc stores (either this prototype or the early-70's version) particularly appealing. I always thought the cold porcelain and ceramic construction looked "old' to me even when they weren't so old (10 years old by the early 1970's). And the interiors were bland as can be. Ugly floor tile, bad lighting, cheap gondola shelving and an ugly neutral toned paint job. Even in the 1970's when they tried to spruce things up, they did so Kmart-style (on the cheap) with ugly, bland, cardboard departmental signage.

    Furthermore, there are some real goofy design things they did. Look at the dual "Woolco Department Stores" sign panels directly over the doors. Would any architect and designer in their right mind do something redundant like that today? Then where do we start, with the overhead sign? You have two blank panels intended to fill up the area symmetrically, but they are visually unappealing ... and the font is dull as can be. They had far more kitschier fonts back in the 60's and neon-style individual lettering was available in those days.

    No, I don't miss Woolco at all. In fact, when the early-1970's Kmart prototype came to town, I thought it was light years better than anything Woolco had to offer. Gold Circle outclassed Woolco in every respect and even Ontario, though rattier, had a better "feel" to it. Ontario felt like it was a real store with actual people shopping there whereas Woolco was always dead, which explains why they went the way of Buckeye Mart.

    They just didn't have it going on. No mojo at all. Now contrast that to the Great Southern Kmart Store ... when it opened in the early-mid-1970's, I remember the lines being backed up all the way to the back of the store during the grand opening. Kmart had lots of mojo back in those days.

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  16. The sheer size of Graceland and the full parking lot really brings back memories. Grand openings were major events and people would travel miles to be among the first to experience the latest and greatest. Today retailers other than Walmart and supermarkets have soft openings, treating the first day more or less like it's any other day of business.

    The pictures really capture how important grand openings and Saturdays were in retail to carry business through until the holiday season would draw hordes. The real truth is shopping has become a mundane ordinary part of life today.

    From Danny's comments, the interiors of Woolco left a lot to be desired, sounding more like an overblown Woolworth or very Zayre-like at best. The exteriors did exude some kind of wow factor modern look with a dowdiness that comes across as very kitschy.

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  17. Ken said: From Danny's comments, the interiors of Woolco left a lot to be desired, sounding more like an overblown Woolworth or very Zayre-like at best. The exteriors did exude some kind of wow factor modern look with a dowdiness that comes across as very kitschy.

    Ken, Zayre is the perfect analogy! If you look at pictures of Zayre stores now, there is definitely something of a "wow" factor, especially with the old individual neon-letter sign and what they did to the front end of the building interior, building out the ceiling at a 45-degree angle.

    But as a child being dragged through these stores, I remember them mostly as dumpy stores with little appeal aesthetically. That's also how I felt about Woolco. On the rare occasions we did go there, I just felt like it was a dumpy-looking store both inside and out. Kmart was far more interesting, it was brighter, it had captivating products (to 10-13 year old) AND had a cool jingle! Woolco was a dump that had all the charm of an abandoned porcelain-paneled gas station!

    Don't get me wrong. I agree these pictures are pretty cool. I also agree they look cool now. I just don't think they looked all that cool then, when I saw them in person and when they were practically new buildings!

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  18. With all due respect to Danny, I didn't love Woolco because they were the best designed discount store chain. Far from it. I remember their interiors being as sterile and uninspired as he stated. There were far classier looking stores than Woolco.

    But one thing that made them special to me was their all encompassing variety. The Woolco of my childhood was where everything could be had under one roof: fabrics for Mom, tools for Dad, toys and books for me and my brother. And it was at the mall! No other discount stores in my are were even close to the mall.

    Not only that, but they were the biggest discount store in town and the coolest because of all the little elements. The automatic doors operated with rubber mats with giant arrows. The stripey floors with the "train track" expansion joints. The twinkly lights and giant windows as you came into the store. 3/$1 Baby Ruth bars and bags of buttery popcorn. It all left an impression on me.

    The sepia toned memories of youth may have obscured some of the flaws, but Woolco to me was a great place to shop and visit.

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  19. The pics you have remembered me of a Woolco which was in Victoria, BC, Canada. I lived there in 1974 for a couple of months. The store at the Town and Country Shopping Center at the time looked exactly like in the pictures then !

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  20. Steve said: Far from it. I remember their interiors being as sterile and uninspired as he stated. ... But one thing that made them special to me was their all encompassing variety. ... The stripey floors with the "train track" expansion joints.

    Yes, Woolco did have a fairly wide selection of merchandise, but there was nothing that captivated me in those stores. For some reason, I could go to the Kmart and fantasize for hours about the electronics they carried. Nothing pulled me in at Woolco. The toys were also kind of lame as were the electronics, although I did have a Woolco-branded Huffy 10-speed for years that I loved!

    Steve, with this statement you have proven that you are far less superficial than I! I can still picture that ugly, striped, brown floor today! Call it the latent gay-guy in me, but the stores that left an impression on me were the ones that used appealing design elements, colors and fonts! God, how I used to love fonts!

    If you notice when the 70's came around, they started going to a more streamlined look with everything from the toilet fixtures to the aluminum door frames. I'm a minimalist by nature so this was a far more appealing look to me than the bulbous look of things coming before that.

    Thus, in my head bulbous=old; new, streamlined, minimalist=new! It's a prejudice that is deeply ingrained in my psyche. I already know I'm kind of whacked to have such a fetish over door frames, door hardware and urinals, by the way.

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  21. Danny - I have a couple of photos of the Cussins and Fearn and Buckeye Mart stores, as well as their sister store Tempo (all Gamble-Skogmo owned at the time), and need to post about them at some point. I wonder if those Tempo beachballs are still stored in the roof?

    I really think that the sixties interiors of the Woolco stores weren't bad looking. The font most commonly used on their signs then had sort of a "Roman look". I do think the seventies ones were awful, as they were for many of the competitors. Some of the "kitsch" features are part of their appeal today, otherwise they would be completely unmemorable. The 70's Kmart signs were definitely superior, but it was against a pretty weak field.

    I think that interest in store design, font styles, etc., cuts across a very diverse group of people, and I would say that most people today have a high level of awareness of that sort of thing. One of my favorite websites is "Brand New", which is dedicated strictly to logo design, where companies' old and new logos are contrasted. Amazing stuff!

    http://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/

    Ken – You’re absolutely right about Grand Openings in those days. It’s a nice example of a simpler time, when such things were a big deal. To the store chains’ credit, they really did try to put on a show. I would have enjoyed a time when shopping was “less mundane”!

    Steven - I think that good memories don’t depend on a store’s “quality”, as you say. The “sepia toned memories of youth”, indeed. Well put!

    Claude – The Victoria, BC store you mentioned opened in 1964, so it would have looked very similar to these.

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  22. Dave said: I have a couple of photos of the Cussins and Fearn and Buckeye Mart stores, as well as their sister store Tempo (all Gamble-Skogmo owned at the time), and need to post about them at some point. I wonder if those Tempo beachballs are still stored in the roof?

    I may have told you this before, but I posted a ton of Tempo-Buckeye materials (including a couple of ads) on the Remembering Retail site. You are welcome to use any of them if you wish.

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  23. Dave: Thanks for your reply. As far as I remember in 1974, yes the Woolco store in Victoria did look the same as your pics.

    Might as well tell you a bit of history of Woolco in my area.

    -The first ones in Montreal were built in 1968 in Brossard (Portobello Place) and Laval (Centre Laval) in shopping malls.

    - In Quebec City, Beauport and Levis were the first, but stand-alones before adding a mall section with a Dominion supermarket.

    - No doubt probably Hull (Gatineau) was the first place which had a Woolco (they are across Ottawa).

    - Fates of most Woolcos around Quebec, not all of them became Wal-Marts. Beauport and Valleyfield stores were snubbed due that they were "unionized".

    They were Wal-Marts due to moving in better locations: Kirkland, Brossard, St-Eustache, Rosemere, Joliette, Sorel-Tracy, LaSalle, Levis, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivieres (West), Sorel, Jonquiere...

    Still Wal Mart: St-Leonard, Laval (Centre Laval), Gatineau, St-Jean, Repentigny, Rimouski, Baie-Comeau, Chicoutimi, Sept-Iles, Cap-de-la-Madeleine,

    Woolcos other than Wal-Marts:
    Zellers: Valleyfield, Brossard, Jonquière, Lévis among others

    Demolished: Sherbrooke, Beauport, LaSalle, Kirkland, Trois-Rivieres West (part of a mall), Sorel-Tracy

    Food stores anchors at the time:
    With the exception of below, majority of all Woolcos were coupled with Dominion stores in Quebec...

    Other food store anchors:
    Steinberg's: Laval, St-Jean, Sorel-Tracy, Trois-Rivieres West, Baie-Comeau, Chicoutimi

    Union Market (IGA): St-Leonard

    That's all what my memory has about Woolco locations in Quebec...

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  24. The Nordstrom/Columbus comment came from someone who actually works there. Indy probably has two Nordstroms because their own local upscale and semi-upscale retail has died out. Lazarus never really picked-up the Ayres trade when May took over and the local upscale dept store (blanking on the name, it was boutiqueish) died after outsiders' mismanagement and delays in building the downtown mall.

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  25. Forgot the fate of 2 other Woolcos in Quebec...

    Granby, Qc: Turned into a Wal-Mart, had a Dominion (Provigo) as food anchor

    Drummondville: Torn down by Wal Mart and Loblaws, who were anchors of the former "Les Galeries Drummond" mall. The "dead mall" was replaced by an upscale Wal-Mart and a giant Loblaws. Original food anchor was "A&P"...

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  26. Dan - I think you did mention the Buckeye/Tempo items before. Thanks, I will!

    Claude - Thanks for that fantastic (and very complete) information! Quebec was obviously an important market for Woolco. It's interesting to see which locations Wal-Mart later took over and which ones they passed on.

    Anonymous - I'm drawing a total blank regarding any other Indianapolis dept. store chain as well. Ayres was rather dominiant there.

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  27. L. Strauss was the upscale department store in Indianapolis, with Wasson's being a low to mid market operation which was taken over by Goldblatt's. Ayres was the dominant mid-market store with Block's ultimately folding into Lazarus then Macy's and finally with the May-Federated merger, Ayres became Macy's.

    Agreed that the early Falcon's were unreliable and underpowered, but still simplistic and cheap, easy for a shade tree mechanic to service. And Sears Auto Centers still haven't fully shaken their bad reputation for poor service and unnecessary repairs.

    With the Woolworth nostalgia, I'd like to see a commemoration of the Grandma of grocery stores 150th anniversary, The Great A&P Tea Company, one of the stalwarts of 20th century retail along with Woolworth's and Sears.

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  28. I grew up in Shreveport, LA. We were big time because we had two Woolco units.

    The first unit was built in Shreve City shopping center back in 1963. At that time, this was the largest shopping center between Dallas and Atlanta. This Woolco was one of the large units with the i-beam signs and zig zag awning. It holds a special place in my heart as I spent a great deal of time there when I was small. Although I was 9 at the time Woolco exited the US market, I clearly remember all of the glass, chrome, and aqua. I even remember the "Going Out of Business" ad that ran during PM Magazine. It was a treat to visit. And my Mom would often "reward" my good behavior with a stop at the Red Grille (thankfully, my palette has improved).

    The second unit was one of the 1970's style with the faux awning. I only recall being in their once and don't remember anything about it.

    After it closed, the Shreve City unit became Sam's. They ripped off the awning and bricked up the windows. Yet the i-beam sign remained. Sam's eventually moved out and it became Bud's, the clearance unit of Wal-mart. It finally became a Burlington Coat factory before being demolished. A Wal-mart currently stands in it's place.

    The other location became the area's first Home Depot and is now a Sutherland's Home Improvement Center. Virtually unchanged, you can still see the outline of the cafe's windows.

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  29. In Nova Scotia, Woolco did something that I believe was unusual. In 1969, a large office/shopping development opened in downtown Halifax as part of a massive urban renewal project. The project, called Scotia Square, featured several office towers built on a podium that covered an entire large city block. The podium was a few stories high and included a large multi-level parking garage at one end and a two-level shopping mall at the other. The largest of the stores was a Woolco. I don't think there were very many of them built in the center of downtown areas.

    Perhaps true in most cities and certainly true here, there was resistance by shoppers to parking in the garage and having to pay for the privilege if you didn't get your ticket stamped by making a suitable purchase in one of the stores. The mall hung on for years and is still there is reduced form, but it proved to be mostly supported by those working in the office towers and did not become a shopping destination for other residents of the city.

    When the Woolco chain shut down the store was not taken over by another retailer. After sitting empty for a while it eventually was converted to office space, as was the movie theater across the hall. But I have good memories of the place, having both lived and worked in the neighborhood in the 1980s. I have a clear memory of going to that Woolco in 1983 on the first night of living on my own for the first time in my first apartment, and buying all the necessities involved in setting up housekeeping: things like a broom, dustpan, sponge mop, dish tray, wastebaskets, etc. Some of them I still have today. It was a real convenience having a store with that assortment of merchandise right in the center of downtown, and I often would shop there right up to until when it was eventually closed.

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  30. Ken - Thanks for that excellent background on the Indy department stores. Admittedly, much of my impression of Indy area retail stores is based on the malls I could see driving north to Chicago on I-65 through the years, one in particular featuring a huge L.S. Ayres store. It hardly leaves me in a good position to comment.

    I really do want to do a series during this, A&P's 150th year. I have some good pictures, just need to psych myself up for a writing juggernaut. It's a big story.

    Anonymous - Thanks for sharing those memories of the Shreveport Woolcos - the type of details you describe are exactly what made an impact on so many of us as kids - colors, building details, rewards (bribes) of eating out if we behaved, etc. Really great! And I hadn't thought about "PM Magazine" in years.

    Greg - Thanks for that background on the Nova Scotia Woolco, and you're right - as far as I can tell, downtown Woolcos were rare.

    And I can relate to your story about setting up your first apartment. Mine was a few years later, in 1987, when I moved to Atlanta. I set mine up mostly with things bought at Richway, a long gone local discount chain that a number of folks have asked me to write about here. Thanks again!

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  31. I am looking for a copy of the jingle that went: "It's new and excitingly wonderful, Everything you've been waiting for, At the new and excitingly wonderful, Woolco Department Store..."
    Either a .wav or a .mp3. If anyone knows, please reply to keithintampa@hotmail.com

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  32. Keith - I'd love to hear that one myself. If anyone hooks you up with it, let me know!

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  33. I have a copy of the Woolco jingle from the mid-late '60s. There was a Woolco store in Hamilton, Ohio and they advertised on the radio station my dad was a disc jockey at (WMOH). My mom shopped at Woolco quite often---and dragged me in there. Bought many records at Woolco!

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  34. I was a Management Trainee at the store in Orange, CT.

    It was my first real job. I remember "hanging out" with the other managers in the Red Grill...lol

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  35. Great stuff! It is my "life and times"; A lot of my childhood memories.

    I actually bought a .22 rifle at the Great Southern store when I was 15 years old... No ID, nothing (1980ish). It was hard to tie down on my moped, though! lol (funny, but true!) I remember my dad's 8 track being stolen out of his car in that parking lot out of his (relatively new) '66 Chevy II Nova. I think he even had it hid in the glove box, but they got it anyway. And anyone remember Santa's house out in the parking lot? :)

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  36. My dad was the manager of the Woolco store at Parkdale Plaza in Corpus Christi, Texas from 1969 to about 1974. That store, during that time period, is the reason they stopped using the big rooftop sign and distinctive "W" concrete awning. On August 3, 1970, wind from Hurricane Celia caught the sign and the awning and pulled the front wall down into the store. There were seven people riding out the storm inside, and they made it back to the stockroom about one giant step ahead of the falling ceiling. When the store was rebuilt, and on every new store that was built afterward, the new cursive "Woolco" sign was attached to the front of the building.

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