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Dimestore Memories

by Cheryl M | May 18, 2016
DimestoreI recently read Dimestore: A Writer's Life by Lee Smith, telling of growing up in the small coal-mining town of Grundy, Virginia, in the 1950s and 60s.  Her father ran the downtown dimestore, and Smith got to play there among the dolls and other toys, helping with Christmas displays of dolls, fluffing their dresses. Her memories got me reminiscing about the dimestores of my youth. Dimestores, also called Five-and-Dimes or variety stores, were a sort of general store without the food, although some may have had a lunch counter or small diner.  They had a bit of everything else - hardware, clothes, toys, candy, cards, sewing "notions", books, pots & pans, glassware. They probably still exist in some small towns, relatively untouched by development.  But, elsewhere, they have dwindled, usurped by big box stores, and pharmacies that sell candy, food, school supplies, and greeting cards alongside the medications.

Growing up in Goshen, Indiana, downtown was rich in dimestores.  Side by side were Murphy's and Newberry's and further down on Main Street was Maley's variety store. My first job for a paycheck was as a cashier at Maley's on Saturday's during my high school years.  During the summers, it was a full-time job, cashiering or filling for vacationing clerks. On slow days, it could be monotonous, looking at the same merchandise for hours. At other times, it was the best of times --laughing & joking while working the cash register with a colleague.  I loved the creaky, wooden floors, and trips to the basement with a big, wicker basket to bring up more merchandise. The woman who ruled the candy counter, Margaret, would roast Spanish peanuts and the warm, delicious smell would permeate the whole store. The cash registers being near the candy counter was handy for buying Sweet Tarts and Bit-O-Honey candy bars to help that last hour go faster on a Saturday night.

The dimestore is evolving away, similar to little corner grocery stores.  That may be the natural evolution of things, but have we lost in personal service and quaintness what we've gained in scale and efficiency? I miss the creaky, wooden floors.


cheryl-mCheryl likes reading, bicycling, scrapbooking, travel, history, and cats. Because every life tells a story, her favorite books to read are biographies.

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