Friday, February 22, 2013

February 22: F.W. Woolworth

On this date in History .... 1879:

Frank W. Woolworth opens his first store.  The Utica NY store failed within weeks but he then opened another store in Lancaster PA.  Woolworth’s store were the first “five and dime” stores in the U.S., a concept he dreamed up while working as a stock boy and the store had a table of items for only five cents that always sold out.  When he opened his stores he expanded the concept to include items that sold for a dime.

His stores also became the first store designed so that customers could actually touch the merchandise and  make their own selections, instead of the current method of having everything behind a counter and customers having to give the store clerk a list of things he/she needed to buy.

The stores eventually incorporated lunch counters after the success of the counters in the first store in the UK in Liverpool and served as general gathering places, a precursor to the modern shopping mall food court. A Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina became the setting for a significant event during the civil rights movement.


No one believed a store could make a profit with five and ten cent items but Frank proved them wrong. By 1911, he had almost 600 stores.  In 1913, he built the Woolworth building in NY, the tallest building in the world at the time. In 1916, he built his home on Long Island.  The 56-room house required 70 full time gardeners and dozens of servants. When he died in 1919, he was worth over $6 million.

No comments:

Post a Comment