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S. H. Kress & Co., Hampton & Main Streets: 1980s   10 comments

Posted at 1:37 am in historic,landmark,stores

I only went into Kress a few times. When I was small, and we went clothes shopping downtown, Kress was not on the agenda, and we didn't go there for normal dimestore type things since we had both Dodd's and Woolworth's closer. I do recall that my mother was of the opinion that they had the best candied fruit for fruit-cakes, but I think that keeping up with us kept her busy enough that she just made do with grocery-store fruit on most of the occasions she made it. (And people joke about fruit-cake, but I love a good one).

After I started driving, and perhaps while I was living on-campus, I know I stopped by just to see what it was like: stepping inside was like stepping back about 50 years in time. Aside from the fact that anyone who wanted to could sit at the lunch counter, you could imagine that their retailing concept hadn't changed since the 1940s. I wish I had eaten at that counter when I had the chance, but the timing was off, and if I were in college, I was probably broke anyway.

The building itself, or at least the Kress part of it, is rather odd in that it doesn't have a rectangular shape. There are several other storefronts on Hampton such that you would think Kress was a fairly small space, but then you go around the corner onto main, and you come across the main entrance. The Hampton Street part seems to be an architect's office now while the Main Street entrance was the old Rising High location -- something that had completely escaped me when I did a closing on that store. The Main Street facade may have once been the impressive side of the store, but with the Rising High makeover, I think the art-deco-ish sign on the Hampton Street entrance is now the best side.

I didn't go to Kress often enough to miss it, but I do miss dimestores. I know we have dollar-stores now, but it's not the same experience.

Written by ted on September 9th, 2008

10 Responses to 'S. H. Kress & Co., Hampton & Main Streets: 1980s'

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  1. There is a Kress in Asheville that they've turned into an art gallery (imagine that). They kept the signage as well.

    Jonathan

    9 Sep 08 at 1:30 pm

  2. The lunch counter was indeed a trip back in time, with uniformed waitresses and those spinning stools bolted to the floor, and huge wooden overhead fans. It had the wonderful name The Whirly Q Luncheonette.

    Dennis

    9 Sep 08 at 3:41 pm

  3. S. S. Kresge, the founder of the company, was a major art collector (part of his collection is across the street in the Columbia Museum of Art) and he insisted that his stores be unique archtectuarly. So much so that books have actually been written about the architecture of his stores.

    BTW, there is a nice one in Charleston too on King St. The Columbia store is an Egpytian revival style building.

    Kresge also founded K-Mart which ironically proved to be the death of his five and dimes.

    Tom

    10 Sep 08 at 9:51 am

  4. The Main Street side was the original store from the 1930's. The Hampton street side is a 1950's expansion (see here: http://www.glasssteelandstone.com/BuildingDetail/3800.php )

    But you're right -- Hampton Street is the better looking of the two.

    Reaperducer

    23 Jan 09 at 6:10 pm

  5. S.S. Kresge was not associated with S.H.Kress two different guys two different companies Kresge was high end real department store with only a few Northern locations ,then 5 and dimes Kmart was discount department store with very little overlap

    awarre

    31 Aug 09 at 7:06 pm

  6. There was a Kress in my hometown (Bennettsville) and was always a treat to go there, even if ours wasn't an old, retro building. The lunch counter was indeed the Whirly-Q luncheonette and they had horrible hotdogs, flat soda and greasy potato chips...but I loved it anyway. It closed in the late 70's and the building sat vacant until it was demolished somewhere around 2000. It was THE social gathering spot for those of us that grew up in the late 70s to mid-80s. Friday and Saturday nights would see the parking lot filled to capacity, the law enforcement officers never chased us off, and the social cliques were separated into groups....Preppies in the front center, country crowd left center to left middle ways back, hot rodders left side at the back, stoners back center to back right, geeks slap dab in the middle and culture-jumpers all over. We tried our hand at graffitti on the walls, tried to paint our own version of "tunnel vision" and someone once brought a large extension ladder and the plastic letters that fit into slots on signs and spelled out "get high" on the Kress sign out by 15-401. We even found that the garden center doors were unlocked and a Toyota Corona Mk.II of the 1972 variety would just fit thru the doors, and we made an impromptu speedway on the inside of the store. I'm pretty sure we were the only people in the history of the Kress store chain to ever drive a car thru the store! We even have a facebook fan group "Kress parking lot fans"!

    Scott Johnson

    17 Sep 10 at 7:35 pm

  7. Interesting memories! I used to drive through Bennettsville a lot in the late late 80s through early 90s. I'm sure I must have seen the place (though I tended to go through at night).

    ted

    17 Sep 10 at 11:06 pm

  8. I used to love this store, especially during the holidays. Oh, and their grilled cheese sandwiches were fantastic.

    Miz T

    12 Aug 11 at 3:26 pm

  9. Additional Kress photos

    http://www.agilitynut.com/dept/ksc.html

    Terry

    13 Feb 12 at 3:25 am

  10. Being older than dirt, I do remember visiting Kress's as we called it, as well as Silver's Dime Store, and W. T. Grant Store, which were all close to each other on Main Street. Most of my sheet music came from Silver's, but, yes, the cheese sandwiches from Kress were out-of-this world! This was the early 40's.

    Shirley Williams

    11 Apr 12 at 6:33 pm

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