Home / History / Who remembers….Woolworth’s Five & Dime?

Who remembers….Woolworth’s Five & Dime?

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Time for another stroll down memory lane. If you enjoy this article and wish to take more of these strolls, to your right you will find the both a search box and a category sorter. In previous articles we’ve discussed The Peanut Shop, Mars Bargainland, Mitchell’s Fish & Chips, Bob & Eileen’s, etc., as well as ten of Fairhaven’s Forgotten Landmarks like the Drive-Thru, Water Tower, A&W, Barbero’s, etc.

As always, we encourage correction, discussion, and anecdotes. Memory isn’t always reliable when it comes to specific details.


Throughout New Bedford’s History there have been a few Woolworth’s Five & Dime Stores. At least three – one on South Water Street, one on Purchase Street and one on Fish Island. I vaguely recall a few visits when I was a child to the Purchase Street store. The genius of Woolworth is that my mom could leave me at the counter with a grilled cheese and something from the soda fountain while she shopped unmolested. What’s a soda fountain, you say? If you don’t know you’ll have to ask mom or dad!

I remember the toaster machine, the hair nets, and the malted milk. Woolworth’s back then was known colloquially as the “Five & Dime”, which was a clever way of saying a store where you could buy things very inexpensively. The term “Five & Dime”, believe it or not was coined – pardon the pun – to describe a store-wide policy to charge only a nickel or a dime for all products within the store. Of course, inflation had other plans.

The younger generation thinks that K-Mart and Wal-Mart had an original idea, but Woolworth’s was a department store far before either existed. Thread, clothes, drugs (no-not those kind), sport’s goods, silverware, shovels, etc. You name it. You could buy a variety of goods and take a break for a meal at the eatery. Nowadays, the soda fountain has been replaced by a Little Caeser’s or Starbucks, but the concept is the same.

40 cents for a ham and cheese (“You will like it!”), 20 cents for an orange juice, and 25 cents for a Banana Split. You could buy a “Hamburger Sandwich” and have it with some “French Fried Potatoes”!

Frank Winfield Woolworth opened his first “Woolworth’s Great Five Cent Store” in Utica, New York, on February 22, 1878. By 1904 there were 6 stores from New York to Canada and 8 short years later in 1912, there were almost 600 stores! By 1997, the chain went out of business, but kept it’s sporting goods or shoe-ware division going. What is the name of the division today? Foot Locker!

What are your fondest memories of Woolworth’s?



About Joe Silvia

When Joe isn't writing, he's coaching people to punch each other in the face. He enjoys ancient cultures, dead and living languages, cooking, benching 999#s, and saving the elderly, babies and puppies from burning buildings. While he enjoys long walks on the beach, he will not be your alarm clock, because he's no ding-a-ling.

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24 comments

  1. Getting linguica sandwiches & coffee frappes with my Nana. Don’t forget Woolworth’s in the mall and the one up the north end!

  2. I loved their banana splits, they had balloons on the lunch counter and on the inside of the balloon was a piece of paper with $.01 to $.49 written on it, you would pop the balloon and that was the price you paid for the banana split.

    I also remember Enterprise, ( who did not love the four cent table 🙂 ) Grants, Kresges,Arlans Department store, Fairhaven Mills on Coggeshall Street later moving to Hathaway Rd.

    • I remember all the stores you mentioned, Karen. But wasn’t there a Lincoln’s near or next to Enterprise? I remember shopping there with my mom.

  3. I worked there for a few days part-time during school vacation. The manager put me in the small hardware section. I didn’t like selling nails and screws, so I quit.

  4. Ahh, the squeaky wooden floors!

  5. christopher gillet

    i work in the building that was woolworths on south water st. It is now the home of W & W moving and storage LLC.

  6. I seem to remember the Purchase St. store being labeled Kresge’s or something like that. Am I remembering a different place which is currently Rite-Aid?

  7. There was also an F.W. Woolworth on Acushnet Ave between Coggeshall St and Beetle Street.

  8. who remembers cruising downtown? I had forgotten about the balloons with the discounts! lol! yes, there was a Lincoln cancellation store that sold shoes. also, Kennedy’s that sold eggs and had a huge pickle barrel that you just plunged your hand into and fished out a HUUUGE pickle…damn the germs! also a huge butter barrel! then there was Lorraine’s, a coffee shop with huge individual one armed school desks to eat at. when I was itty bitty there was a cafeteria across from…uh, cherry’s I think. remember Hutchinson’s paper and pen store..that’s what I called it anyway. there was a cigarette and cigar store next to mr. peanut. Wing’s…beautiful china and crystal and silver. and of course…STAR STORE…pronounce it right…STAH STOAH! now just an old hag here in florida!

  9. Woolworth best American chopsuey ever…also remember…Picadilly lounge..and bowling alley both on Union St….

    • It was the first place I ever American chopsuey as a kid! And my favorite toystore also! Spent a lot of time at the one on Acushnet Ave.!

  10. Anne (Danzell) Miller

    I remember a store we called the “quarter store”but can’t remember the real name.

  11. There was a Little store near the Catholic church and the police station in acushnet-at the time in the late sixties the candy was a penny-Anyone remember the name of the store-I think it was acushnet ave-Manchester lane ran off of it-My gramps owned 83 Acres down that road-Xerox owns it NOW!

  12. there was one on Acushnet Ave in the North End… Woolworth’s was a Saturday stop when we shopped (as a family…Dad/Mom/ and 3kids at that
    time i think) in the North End when i was a kid..

  13. I used to work at the one in the mall. I went on to manage the one in Falmouth.

  14. There was also a five an dime on ave too on the ave an beetle st that was 40 years ago

  15. Yes I was there. Assistant manager trainee early 1970s. Helped close South end store, Purchase St store, opening of Dartmouth Mall store. I remember fondly Alice Harrington, Rose, Anna in the office, and that sweet woman on the snack bar who came in on her own time to make muffins downstairs. Evelynn.

  16. Those were the days! Washing dishes for the Woolworth restaurants and getting yelled at by big June when she found me sitting, haha!

  17. about 1960 (I was 10) I worked a paper route with my brother and weekly my aunt would take me uptown shopping. We would go into the 5&10 and weekly I would buy a dinner plate or cup or saucer for my Mom, from my weekly pay from the paper route. It was an open stock pattern. I was so very thrilled to complete a nice set of dishes for MOM. Then Aunt Clara would take to the Candy Mart for lunch. She was so good to me , love and miss her.

  18. Remember Cove discount and First Nation growceries on cove road?

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