“My cousin said that all the Woolworth’s in Britain are closing starting tomorrow,” my mother-in-law said today as she was driving me to run an errand outside of Cleveland where we’re visiting for a few days. “He’s very upset.”
Her cousin, who we visited a few years ago, lives in Cornwall. The economic downturn has meant curtains to this bargain shopping icon that was still making a go of it in Great Britain after the U.S. stores closed.
I remember going to the Woolworth’s in State College, Pennsylvania with my best friend when we were in the 5th grade. Those were in the days when it was considered safe for kids to ride their bicycles all over town. Our mission, mostly, was to get a Coke at the lunch counter and take our pictures in the automatic photo booth, the kind that spits out a long vertical strip of four.
When F. W. Woolworth, the company that was created in the U.S. in 1879, closed its doors in the U.S., I must have been living overseas because I only have a vague recollection of the news.
Now, that the 807 stores are closing across Great Britain starting tomorrow, including the one in the photo taken by Redvers in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, I feel a whiff of nostalgic sadness. Folks in Great Britain, according to this article posted at TwinCities.com, feel the same.
Woolworths are friendlier than mega stores like Wal-mart and Target. The lunch counters say stay awhile. The goods always seemed like just the right amount of choices. Sure, it’s great to load up a cart at a big store, but the choices can be too many, and the cart can easily be overloaded with things we really don’t need by the time we reach the checkout counter.
Woolworth’s stores seem to evoke literary themes found in novels like To Kill a Mockingbird–the small town “How de dos.” Walmart greeters sure have a lot of pressure to make us feel welcome in the rush to find a bargain. Although Grant recently wrote about London not being as expensive as a place to buy gifts as he thought it would be, the options are decreasing. Too bad.
Thanks for the memories Woolworth’s.