At one time, York’s five-and-dimes lived up to their names
McCrory’s was one of leading five-and-dime stores in downtown York in the 20th century. Murphy’s, at the left of this picture, was perhaps the most visible on the corner of York’s Continental Square. McCrory’s longtime Springettsbury Township warehouse will soon have new tenants. Background posts: York County: ‘… A smorgasbord of architectural styles’, Declaration signer’s marker mounted in obscurity and Sears: From top dog to hot dogs … .
McCrory’s was one of downtown York’s premier five-and-dimes during the city’s downtown heyday.
Those stores included Murphy’s, Woolworth’s, Grant’s, Green’s and Kresge’s.
But McCrory’s enjoyed a special relationship with York after Meshulam Riklis purchased the company in 1960 and moved its home office and distribution center to York County in 1963… .
Riklis was a big name as owner of Faberge, Brut, Aqua Net and other interests. He was married to actress/entertainer Pia Zadora, who performed at York’s Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center in 1987.
But the McCrory’s empire, opened in Westmoreland County in 1882, started contracting 100 years later. Its large downtown York five-and-dime closed in the 1990s and its distribution center in Springettsbury started downsizing.
But there was one last gasp.
The home office and a smaller store reopened in York in 1998.
But financial problems later closed the store, distribution center and the McCrory’s chain.
Now, a new access road and address make the old Springettsbury distribution center a prospect for redevelopment.
Here’s York Sunday News columnist Gordon Freireich’s memories (9/24/06) of the day of the five-and-dime:
It was one of my mother’s prized possessions.
When I was a youngster and was allowed to walk the four blocks from my home on South Duke Street to downtown York by myself, it was a big step in my life. It told me my parents trusted me and that they knew I would not get into any trouble.
Back then downtown York was a vibrant place. Stores lined all the streets leading into the square. You could spend hours just gazing at all the items in the store windows.
There were candy shops and toy stores to capture any child’s imagination. Women and men could find stores specializing in just hats. There were major department stores.
And there were the five-and-dime stores — Murphy’s on the square, McCrory’s and Woolworth’s in the first block of West Market Street. Grant’s, Green’s, Kresge’s and the Grand were also there.
It may be difficult for at least two generations of Yorkers to realize that a “five-and-dime” at one time lived up to its name. Think of today’s Dollar Stores, but with only a fraction of the pricing.
I always enjoyed walking through the five-and-dime stores because there was so much to see. First floors and basements filled with goods. I’d wander and look at this and that.
On that first trip on my own to downtown York, I went into Woolworth’s. As I made my way around the aisles, I saw a tiny cup in a small saucer. It had no real purpose other than being a decorative piece. You certainly could not drink out of it. In other words, it was what a later generation would call a “dust collector.”
I walked away from the cup and saucer.
And then I went back to it.
I turned it over and saw that it had “Japan” on the bottom. Hmmm. Not a big selling point in those post-World War II years.
I walked away again.
But I found myself going back to look at it a third time.
“Maybe I should get this for my mother to thank her for letting me come downtown on my own,” I thought.
“Nah. Why would she want this thing?”
Against my better judgment, I took it to the clerk and put a dime on the counter. The clerk gingerly wrapped it in tissue paper and placed it inside a bag.
When I got home, I presented the bag to my mother. She opened it and asked, “What’s this for?”
“No reason,” I said, although I knew she knew it was a souvenir of my solo journey into the outside world.
She put the cup and saucer in the china closet in the dining room. When we moved from York City to East York, the cup and saucer went along and rested in a bookcase. When my mother made the transition to an assisted-living facility, the cup and saucer went along.
“You know, you don’t have to keep that,” I said after she had moved into her room. “Of course I do,” she responded.
After my mother died, we were cleaning out her room. “What do you want to do with the cup and saucer?” my wife asked. Not waiting for me to say anything and answering her own question, she said: “It was one of your mother’s favorite things. How about if we put it on the bookcase in the family room?”
And that’s where it has been for the past 13 months.
It reminds me of a different time: When stores filled downtown York; when a child could go downtown by himself; when a five-and-dime was a world unto itself; when family was the center of the universe.
In this case, a tiny cup overflows with memories.