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Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, Published December 16 2012

Halgrimson: Shopping at Broadway’s dime stores missed

As I drive from our north Fargo home out to West Acres to pick up something that I can no longer buy downtown, I am, as always, reminded of the past.

For years I used Gram’s cookie press to make her Christmas cookies. It was all metal and was probably older than I am. I’d lost it and needed a new one. Thus, the long drive.

I think of the Broadway of my youth during the holidays when five-and-dimes, hardware stores, clothing stores, shoe stores, appliance stores, drug stores and department stores sold just about anything a person needed.

At night during the holidays, Broadway was so brightly lit that it was almost like day, and a giant evergreen glowed at the south end near the railroad tracks.

No malls, no big-box stores, no hassles to park and go shopping because you often took the bus downtown and back home again with your arms laden with packages.

But it’s the dime stores that I miss most of all. There were three of them on the main street – the F.W. Woolworth Co., 2-6 Broadway; the S.S. Kresge Co., 54-60 Broadway; and the J.J. Newberry Co. at 110 Broadway.

I don’t recall the Newberry store, but my mind is filled with memories of Woolworth’s and Kresge’s.

Shopping at the dime stores was manageable for a kid because they were relatively small and the goods slightly less costly than the big department stores.

Often when I went to Kresge’s, I sat at their lunch counter to have a hot dog. They also served Sloppy Joes.

Woolworth’s became much larger when they remodeled in 1954, doubled their space by adding a second floor and installed the first escalator in Fargo.

A story at that time elaborated: “They have a capacity of 75 persons per minute and 27 stairs, each holding two persons, are available at one time. The escalators are operated by 10-horsepower motors for each unit and they form an endless belt, with stairs folding under as they reach the top.”

The article also mentioned that those not wishing to ride the escalators could use an ordinary stairway.

Woolworth’s also had a lunch counter, and later when I worked downtown, we always ordered one of their German chocolate cakes when one of the staff had a birthday.

After at least 77 years in business, Woolworth’s closed in 1981. The building is now an antique mall.

As the holidays approach, I’ll be at home remembering yesterday and making Gram’s spritz with my new cookie press.

Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com