Dime Stores to Dollar Stores

Thelonious Cornpepper
2 min readAug 26, 2021

What happened to the stores in between?

A long, long time ago, in a place that exists only in my memory, there were businesses called dime stores. Dime stores were variety stores where you could buy sundry items, some of which did indeed cost only a dime. They were also called five and dime stores.

For me, at age 7, what really made a trip to the dime store worthwhile was the toy selection. All sorts of neat toys, including my favorites: toy soldiers. Because of low prices, the dime store provided an excellent opportunity to convince my mother to add to my collection of plastic military personnel.

Alas, dime stores are no more. Today there are establishments with the same basic business model, but inflation has taken its toll and now they are called dollar stores. As the successors to the old dime stores, dollar stores are ubiguitous and doing quite well.

But there’s just one little puzzle in the transition from dime stores to dollar stores: I don’t remember any intermediary stores. I don’t recall ever seeing a quarter store, a fifty-cent store, or a seventy-five cent store.

Opponents of the theory of evolution claim there are no transitional species to be found in the geologic record. I feel that way about variety stores.

Did I go into some sort of stupor and forget about the stores that came between dime stores and dollar stores? I’ve never spent a day in prison, so I know that can’t be the answer. I wasn’t released one day on parole only to marvel at the change in retail establishments. What happened?

It’s a bit like the change from phonograph records to CDs. Thinking back on it, it seems like I walked into a record store one day and saw wall-to-wall 33 rpm vinyl, and the next day everything was on CD. I’m pretty sure the change wasn’t quite that abrupt, but in my mind it seems that way. Now I’ve lived long enough to see phonograph records come back as overpriced specialty items. Makes me feel a bit ancient, but I guess what goes around comes around.

I still go to the variety stores which are now called dollar stores. Sometimes I go there to buy cheap reading glasses. They are all I need, and invaribly I lose or break eyeglasses, so I do just as well buying disposable versions. Occasionally I’ll buy other items at the dollar store.

And sometimes I take a walk down memory lane, or, in this case, memory aisle in the store. I stop by the toy section and take a look at the toy soldiers and imagine looking at them through the eyes of a 7-year-old. The fascination, the imagination…

Both I and the stores are all grown up now. Sometimes I wish we weren’t.

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