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Woolworth's, Richland Mall: 1990s   11 comments

Posted at 12:24 am in Uncategorized

I've been putting off doing a post on Woolworth's because I don't have any pictures of the place, or even any ads. I'm sure I'll find a newspaper ad eventually, but they don't seem to have gone in for Yellow Pages ads at all.

Anyway -- Woolworth's was in the original open-air Richland Mall from the beginning. Woolworth's front entrance was on the Beltline side of the mall, and the back entrance opened into the mall's main traverse corridor. The way I remember it, Woolworth's was approximately in the middle of the mall. I'm definitely a little shakey on the layout of all the old stores, but I can definitely say that if you went out Woolworth's back door, a left turn would point you at White's on the far end of the mall. I believe that as you were walking to White's, you would pass Meri's and, in later years, The Happy Bookseller.

Conversely, if you came out the back door and turned right, you would go past Jackson Camera, Eckerd's and head down towards the laundromat and Winn Dixie.

If you came in through the front door, there was more or less a clear corridor to the back door, and there were registers in both the front and back. Still facing the back, the right side of the store was more or less devoted to clothes, and I didn't usually go over there. The left side was much more interesting and had records, pets, various school and office supplies, the lunch counter and the restrooms.

Every year, about this time, we would go to Woolworth's for new school supplies. I liked Blue Horse brand because all the items had coupons you could clip and send in for premiums. The fact that I never got enough to send in and never actually got a single premium didn't deter me. (Somewhere about the house there is probably still a cache of Blue Horse coupons..). For pencils I liked Ticonderoga #3 (and always avoided Empire pencils) and for notebook paper, I liked "college ruled". Aside from the stuff we actually used, there was neat stuff that we never used, though we each had several. This included protractors and drawing compasses (with the deadly points).

The pet department didn't have dogs or cats -- it ran more to hamsters and gerbils as far as mammals went, turtles to represent reptiles, and lots of fish. There were several places in town we would get aquarium fish, but I think we got most of our "neons" from Woolworth's.

Of course Woolworth was famous, or infamous, for its lunch counters, but as this store was built post 1964, I'm prety sure it always served everybody (at least officially). The lunch counter was, as I said, on the left side of the store, and fairly near to the rear. We didn't eat there too often, but as I recall it, there was an actual counter with padded swivel stools arrayed around it, and then some booths away from the counter itself. I'm pretty sure I remember the aqua-enamel covered Hamilton Beach milkshake machines, and that the fries were crinkle cut.

The record section was to the right of the lunch counter (though still left of the central corridor) and almost against the back windows. There were a certain amount of "real" records shelved alphabetically, certainly not a deep selection, but probably a fair number of the days hits. The attraction for me however was the cut-out bins. In these, would be remnants: records that didn't sell for whatever reason (usually because they weren't very good...) with a notch cut out of the covers to indicate their status, and boxed up indiscriminately to be sent to places like Woolworth's at reduced prices. The records were in absolutely no order of any sort, but I was obsessive in those days (and broke, which helped) and I would look through each and every record in every cut-out bin. I know I got a number of records there over the years, but at this point, I can definitely recall two, both by the discount repackager Pickwick Records. Both were cheapo repackaging of Beach Boys material from the Capitol era. One, "Wow, Great Concert!" repackaged the first Beach Boys concert album, leaving off several tracks, and the second was an 8-track tape repackaging album tracks from the first two Beach Boys LP's (Surfin' Safari and Surfin' USA) leaving off the hit singles and adding their own typos to the song titles -- For years, I assumed that "Moog Dog" referred to the synthesizer, when in fact it was simply a typo for "Moon Dog". Actually, come to think of it, I also bought a non-Pickwick repackaging the Beach Boys pre-Capitol tracks at Woolworth's as well. (Always beware if you see an off-brand looking Beach Boys package that boasts "Surfer Girl" & "Surfin' Safari" it probably dates from the Hite Morgan sessions and has much earlier and more primitive performances -- interesting, but not what you heard on the radio).

When I first started going to Woolworth's, the bathroom was unique amongst all the bathrooms (that I was aware of) in Columbia: It was a pay bathroom. The door handle had a protruding mechanism with a coin-slot, and the handle itself was more like the handle on a bubble-gum machine than a usual door handle. I loved that thing, and annoyed my mother to no end by "holding it" while we were in White's (which had nice, free, restrooms) so that I could use the coin bathroom at Woolworth's. In later years, they disabled the coin mechanism and the restroom was free to all, though you could still see that it had once been pay.

If all this weren't enough, possibly the neatest thing about Woolworth's was the arcade game past the front checkout counters, against the front wall. This was the pre-electronic, pre-videogame era when in general, pinball machines were the only option. This particular machine had the general pinball format -- about two feet wide and four feet deep, but it wasn't a pinball machine. I wish I could remember the name of it, but it was some sort of "shoot the aliens" game. You would put in your dime, and your joystick would activate. The joystick would traverse right and left, and had either a trigger, or a firing button on top of it. It was connected to a plastic laser cannon at the front of the console, and moving the joystick would swivel the cannon right and left.

Shortly after the game came to life, a mechanical flying-saucer would pop up at the back of the game and move randomly left and right (and sometimes pop down behind the scenary to move invisibly). You had to point your cannon at where you thought the saucer was going to be by the time your blast got to it -- you had to guess what it was going to do and lead it. Every time you pushed the firing button different segments of lights along the top of the game would light up, indicating the progress of your laser bolt. To some extent you could still change the direction it was progressing in by adjusting your joystick, but the gross direction was fixed at the start of your shot.

If you guessed right and the saucer was in the area where your bolt impacted, it would make a very satisfying sound effect and all the lights would flash to indicate the destruction. You would also get points, but that was pretty secondary to me, since there were no prizes and I generally wasn't playing against anyone. And really, it was almost enough to just watch the machine go through its paces whatever the outcome. It's amazing what they did totally without computers or any electronics -- just mechanical know-how and electricity.

Woolworth's survived the change from the open-air Richland Mall to the ill-fated and enclosed Richland Fashion Mall. As I recall it, the new store was on the second level. If you came into Whites from the Beltline side, it would be out the right mall entrance to Whites. The new store was smaller than the old store, and didn't have pets. By this time, I was in college, and I only went there once or twice. I recall it as a pretty sad looking affair, and in fact the whole chain was in trouble by this time.

Fairly shortly thereafter, Woolworth's rebranded itself as Footlocker and shed its dimestore history. They kept a Footlocker store in Richland Mall (I think it was out the left mall entrance to Whites) but I had no interest whatsoever in that concept, and never went in.

Wonder if I still have that 8-Track?

Written by ted on September 3rd, 2010

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McCrory / McCrory Dollar / Revco Drugs, 1556 Main Street: 1980s   13 comments

Posted at 2:20 am in Uncategorized

Here's another old-school five and dime type operation on Main Street, right next to Silver's.

I'm not sure I ever went into McCrory's. Certainly it was already in decline when I was growing up, and for that type of retail, we were more likely to go to Woolworth's at Richland Mall, Dodd's at Forest Lake or Rose's at Trenholm Plaza.

My memory is that it did survive up to my college years in the early 1980s, and that it then tried to morph into a Family Dollar type operation which did not last long.

This Loopnet listing is interesting in that it has an optimistic artist's rendition of the building converted into

Renovated 31,000 SF of Class A office space for sale or lease. Suites available from 1,500 SF to 30,000 SF.

That is slated for 2011, but I don't think I've ever seen work going on at the site, and it looks rather sad right now with all the plywood.

UPDATE 19 March 2010: Added Revco Drugs to the post title based on the comments (and verified in the 1998 phonebook).

UPDATE 21 September 2012 -- These pictures from 12 January 2012 show work on the site:

Written by ted on March 13th, 2010

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