Forever a Five and Dime?
By Chris Lash
*Vintage pictures provided by Brian Maynard of Union City Historical Society and Museum, and Glenn Conklin, adminstrator of the Union City Facebook page.
Long before the days of big-box stores like Walmart and Target, these five-and-dime stores had everything you needed. You could buy clothes, grab some treats, and eat lunch for under $20. These iconic American stores dotted Main Streets across the country before the big guys came around and put them out of business.
Names like Woolworth, McCrory’s, Grants, Murphy’s and of course the one we had here in Union City, Ben Franklin. The store modeled its business after Benjamin Franklin’s famous saying, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Unlike the other stores on this list, you can still go to this one! A few still exist around the country, focusing on craft supplies. We all did our shopping there, with an occasional drive to Fisher’s Big Wheel in Corry, and to the Millcreek Mall. In my early days in radio, here at home, I bought every 45 rpm record at Ben Franklin.
The last retailer in one of the largest single buildings downtown was Family Dollar. Owned by giant retailer Dollar Tree, it closed its doors a few years ago, with lack of parking, being one of the reasons given. The building has sat empty with a for sale sign in the window ever since. Union City Today asked about the history of the building, and what might be good ideas to fill it. If money was not an issue, and the building could be purchased. The ideas on the Union City Facebook page we’re great.
According to local historians, the current building was built to replace the former Wagmans store that burnt down in 1954 or 55. At the time of the fire, there was a second floor, that included apartments. The building’s rich history is that of five and dime stores starting as Wagmans, then Sullivans, and Ben Franklin, before it became Family Dollar. .
Ideas that local residents have discussed include a local sports store, a teen center, restaurant, daycare center, returning it to a dollar store, or renovating it for the Union City Historical Museum to move in to. This author can confirm that the sports store, and a return to a dollar store has been discussed, and researched. And will continue to be. Currently we’re working with Dollar Store Services. They are North America’s largest developer of dollar stores. Numerous phone calls have been made to the current realtor of the buidling, to investigate price, and building issues. The calls have not been returned.
Whatever the next stage is of this downtown Union City building, all of us want it to be a viable business now, and into the future. Forever a five and dime? Perhaps.