There's a mall in Central California, known as the Five & Dime Antique Mall, in Bakersfield, and it is also home to the last Woolworth luncheonette counter.
Have you ever heard of Woolworth’s recently? Probably not. But, if you ask your parents or grandparents, they may have a lot of memories associated with it. They may remember going there and shopping for a bunch of random items. It first surfaced in 1878, and later became an inspiration for what department stores must look like. It also coined the term "five and dime" because, back then, most of the items available there did not cost more five or ten cents. Now, there's a mall in Central California, known as the Five & Dime Antique Mall, in Bakersfield, and it is also home to the last Woolworth luncheonette counter, according to Eater Los Angeles.
The luncheonette counter, known as the Woolworth Diner, aims at creating a nostalgic experience. Their menu includes nothing new or fancy, just some old-school stuff like milkshakes, hot dogs, fries, potato salad, and burgers. The best part is that all of it is priced under $10. They've completely maintained the decor of the place to make it seem like the old diners you've probably seen in movies, and it's always bustling with customers waiting to get their hands on the food and experience.
Till date, there are signs that hang in the diner showcasing five-cent Coca-Colas or ten-cent sandwiches, which is an ode to the "five and dime" name. The employees wear the signature black and white outfits when working behind the counter and their customers are old enough to remember the place in all its glory. At the mall, the history of the building has been retained as is and the original light-up Woolworth’s Luncheonette signs still hang over the entrances.
A user named Carter Carter said, "This was a favorite stop on Saturday after shopping trips to Eaton's with my mother. I still remember the sodas, the fish and chips and the Orange drink." Linda S Porter added, "Some of my best memories were made with my grandparents at the counter of Woolworths!!" Serina Lily Aguilar chimed in saying, "Grandma would take me for lunch." This seemed to be the place people went with their families.
Becky Trujillo said, "It’s amazing. The antique store as a whole is pretty cool... the preserved a lot of the original Woolworth’s interior. Merry Go Round Antiques across the street is amazing too. Make sure to go downstairs... they recreated an old movie theatre, have windows that give you a peek at the old tunnels, and a makeshift mind. If you like weird stuff, it’s worth stopping in!" Suzette Gutierrez quipped, "Even though Los Angeles is who I am I live in Bakersfield and we eat here from time to time and enjoy the treasures in the antique mall. That whole street Woolworths is on has tons of shops."
Frank Winfield Woolworth opened its first store in 1878 in Utica, New York. But he quickly shut it because the business model did not seem right to him. He soon began a much more carefully curated store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Thanks to its price range, and the availability of a lot of items, the store was an instant hit. Before Woolworth's, people had to choose items they wanted off catalogs and this was the first time that people could actually browse through the things they wanted to buy.
As the popularity of the store grew, Frank decided to expand the store to suit his customer's needs in every aspect. He added in-store dining counters and candy stands to make sure his customers were comfortable and happy. There were around 5,000 stores worldwide when the company was at its peak. Soon, it became a global icon, but they had not trademarked their iconic name, so several others began to run their own business with the same name and managed to become successful.
The company officially closed in 1997, but it remained culturally relevant throughout the 20th century. In 1960, during the civil rights movement, the first black sit-ins took place at Woolworth in Greensboro, North Carolina. Protestors sat at the luncheonette counters asking for service but were denied. Most of the Woolworth buildings have now been demolished, but Frank Woolworth and his legacy still lives on in Bakersfield!