NORTHVILLE — America’s oldest five and dime store, located in the Fulton County village of Northville, is going after a half-million dollar state grant that will help the owners preserve two historic buildings while expanding their business.
Northville 5 and 10 owner Brian Correll said that, with help from county economic development officials, his business applied for a $500,000 grant that will allow him to increase the store’s offerings, renovate and restore its headquarters on Main Street, and restore a building next door that dates to the 1890s.
The impetus for pursuing the grant, said Corell, is that business has been good. That wasn’t always the case.
About five years ago, his wife, who owns the building at 122 S. Main St., was looking to sell it because it was becoming a financial drain. The store found itself unable to compete with dollar stores because they couldn’t buy in bulk, and shipping products to the store was costing them a fortune.
“It’s sort of ironic in that the five and dime is sort of the precursor to the dollar stores we have today,” said Correll.
After meeting with a real estate agent and learning the building wasn’t worth much, Correll and his wife embarked on an East Coast road trip to see what other successful five and dimes in the country were doing.
“We went to five and dimes all over the East Coast, in Virginia and New Hampshire, and we started changing things around with what we’re selling in the store, and we’re finding our sales are increasing,” said Correll.
After the trip, their vision for the store was to get back to a more traditional five and dime, with items that couldn’t be found in dollar stores and drug stores, Correll added.
The store now sells homemade fudge, penny candies and retro toys, as well as everyday items like clothing, spices, sewing equipment and cooking utensils. They also decorated the building, which dates to 1914, with antiques from the early 20th century and renovated the building's facade two years ago.
Ron Peters, president of the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth, assisted Correll in applying for the grant, which is administered through the state’s Office of Community Renewal. Peters said the grant is part of OCR’s Main Street Anchor Project program, which assists businesses that function as economic anchors in their communities.
To be awarded, the competitive grant must help create jobs, and there has to be a business and marketing plan in place.
“For about the last year and a half, I've been up in Northville trying to spur some interest in some of these economic grant programs. It took a lot of pounding the pavement," said Peters, who was asked by Correll to explain in greater details the Main Street Anchor Program. “They said, ‘OK, I’m on board.’”
The $500,000 grant also requires the applicant to make a $125,000 matching investment. Correll said that, if approved, he and his wife have about $400,000 of their own money earmarked for the project — $40,000 of which they won’t recover if their application is denied.
The Northville 5 and 10 dates to 1907, but moved to its present location in 1914, when the building was constructed. The store has its original hardwood floors and tin ceiling, but only the first floor is in use.
Correll said the grant, if awarded, would allow them to renovate the second floor and open it as additional retail space.
“We have a lot of people asking us to expand our clothing line, and we also want to expand our hunting and fishing lines,” Correll said.
The additional space would be used to sell mostly hunting and fishing apparel, not guns or ammo, he added.
The plan also calls for buying an adjacent building, erected in 1890, and renovating it while maintaining its historic features. Correll said his wife is looking to open a tea room on the ground floor, complete with Victorian era decorations, that would serve breakfast and lunch. The second floor would become two small offices and a one-bedroom apartment.
Correll said he’ll find out whether the Northville 5 and 10 store won the grant in late November or early December. He added that part of the excitement around the project is the realization that more and more people are visiting Northville to take advantage of the area’s boating, fishing, hiking and cross-country skiing opportunities.
“We’re hoping that if we get this grant we can publicize Northville more and get more people to come here, especially during the winter,” Correll said.
There’s also an increased focus locally on tourism, he added. The Sacandaga Valley Arts Network has been hosting concerts and movie nights in the park behind the 5 and 10 store, and the Northville Rotary Club has been organizing a woodworking show that draws thousands to the village, Correll said.
If the grant is awarded, Correll said his store will become an even more convenient place to buy everyday items, “and should give people some civic pride that it’s the oldest 5 and 10 in the country,” he said. “And we hope that this breaks the ice for Northville — that they can start winning more grants.”