Who Remembers…Wing’s, Kresge’s, Grant’s & Thomas’ Department Stores?


Snowy scene in front of Kresge’s “Five and Dime” on Purchase Street (Spinner Publications)

Here is another installment in our Who Remembers? series. You can browse previous articles by using the search bar on the right. These articles are strolls down memory lane. In some cases the buildings may still exist, but new businesses have replaced them. In other instances, the buildings or even the properties have been razed. Either way, it can’t stop us from taking the Memory Lane stroll!

As always we would rather this be a discussion. No one knows this area better than those who grew up here! Please, leave constructive criticism, feedback, and corrections. We’d love to hear your anecdotes. Please share!

Before Big-Box stores and hypermarkets Wal-Mart, K-Mart and Target there were smaller department stores. Believe it or not, the concept of a department store – being able to go to one location and find a wide variety of goods – started in the early 1700s. There were no shopping carts and one was not free to roam the store. When you arrived you let a representative know what you needed and he would go into the facility and pick your order.

The concept of being able to browse the aisles yourself and do it with a shopping cart was started in Dartmouth with Martin Chase’s Ann & Hope in 1953. Sam Walton who founded Wal-Mart and Harry Cunningham who founded KMart got their ideas from visiting the flagship Ann & Hope facility.

Since we already covered local favorite Arlan’s Department Store, we’ll discuss the four other iconic department stores. Special thanks to Spinner Publications for their generosity in allowing us to share all the photos within the article.

C.F. Wing’s Department Store
Wing’s department store is named after whaler and “merchant prince” of New Bedford, Charles F. Wing, born here in 1851. In 1874 he opened a little shop in a wooden building at 774 Purchase Street next door to The Pour Farm. He did well enough to have that building razed and replaced in 1887 with the current building today. It was a popular destination until it closed in 1985. Yes, Wing’s Court is named after the same fellow.

Kresge Co. 5 and 10
Kresge’s “five and dime” was started by department store mogul Sebastian S. Kresge. The Pennsylvania native opened his first store in Memphis, Tennessee in 1897. The New Bedford store sat on the corner of William and Purchase Streets, where Rite-Aid is today. By 1924 his business was worth $100 million dollars and he had opened over a hundred stores. In 1962 he opened his first new department store that you may have heard of – KMart. Hence, the “K” in KMart!

W.T. Grant
The Grant family opened their first store in Lynn, MA in 1906. W.T. Grant opened the fifth in the chain at the Hastings Building in 1910. He also opened up a location on Acushnet Avenue in 1932 that was open until 1966. The W.T. Grant that was at 860 Purchase Street closed in January 1975.

Thomas’ Department Store
Thomas’ Department Store was located at the Thomas Building on the corner of Rivet and Bolton streets where Fernando’s Restaurant was until recently. The Thomas family immigrated to the city from Lebanon in the 1890s and the department store was owned Joseph Thomas. For those who think the named sounds familiar, that’s because Joseph Thomas’ grandson is Joseph Thomas, founder of Spinner Publications.

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4 thoughts on “Who Remembers…Wing’s, Kresge’s, Grant’s & Thomas’ Department Stores?

  1. Wing’s Dept Store was destroyed by a fire shortly after closing and was torn down. the open space became Wings Court which was used as a shortcut from Purchase St to Union St

  2. Every one of them. Especially Kresge’s lunch counter. They had an awesome cheeseburger. It’s too bad the younger people of today couldn’t be a part of the downtown New Bedford that once was,before the mall,before that foolishness they called a walking mall,it will never be the same.

  3. Pretty much grew up in Kresge’s! My dad was the food manager there, Jake. My mom would take us diwntown every weeken and I could hear him whistling when we would walk in the store and I would get so excited to see my daddy! ;) . Great memories!

  4. I remember Christmas shopping Downtown as a young child. Thursdays were a big thing then. You went shopping with your parents hoping you could make a stop at the Peanut Store! To this day I remember the smells. You would run into people you knew with their purchases in their arms , Santa was walking the streets , and you walked with what seemed like a million other people . This was all before the Dartmouth Mall opened. Once it opened the specialty shops Downtown just faded away People preferred having shopping in a covered building. As an for many years I would take a day during the Holidays and walk Downtown until it got too sad. I can only hope what appears to be a sort of re- birth Downtown takes hold. It really was a wonderful time

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