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Woolworth's stores flourished in 1960s

Woolworth's stores flourished in 1960s

Schenectady’s branch of the F.W. Woolworth Co. was located on State Street at Broadway and prospered
Woolworth's stores flourished in 1960s
Schenectady Mayor Malcolm Ellis, center, stands with VIPs from Woolworth's at the Schenectady store during the early 1960s.

You could always get a cheeseburger and a cheese grater at Woolworth’s.

And phonographs, photographs, suits, suitcases, television sets, chess sets, clocks, woks, pans, fans, house wraps and mouse traps.

And a few hundred other things.

Schenectady’s branch of the F.W. Woolworth Co. was located on State Street at Broadway and prospered for much of the 20th century. Like other Woolworth’s stores of the era, customers could take a seat at the long diner-style counter and order lunch.

Old F.W. — Frank Winfield — had figured out the formula. According to encyclopedic sources, his first stores of the late 1800s were full of nickel and dime items. People who carried on the name into the next century carried on the idea. Woolworth stores were also among the first American retailers to make merchandise available for the shopping public. They would handle and select goods without sales clerks buzzing around them.

By the 1960s, the nickel and dime concept changed, and larger, discount department stores took over. Woolworth’s did OK. There was competition from places like Kmart and Target, but by 1979, Woolworth’s had become the largest department store chain in the world.

In the Schenectady area, Woolworth’s operated stores in downtown, at the city’s Sheridan Plaza, Rotterdam’s Shoporama, Glenville’s Mayfair and Niskayuna’s Mohawk Mall. But shopping habits changed, and by the early 1990s, there were plenty of other options for department store goods.

Woolworth’s closed 400 of its 800 locations in 1993 — including the downtown Schenectady spot. In 1998, the downtown Woolworth’s was remodeled for a new tenant, the state Commission on Quality Care.

Now, where people used to visit for lunch and lunch boxes, they visit for other reasons. The site is now the headquarters of the New York State Justice Center.

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at [email protected] or @jeffwilkin1 on Twitter. His blog is at www.dailygazette.com/weblogs/wilkin.

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