10 US chain stores where everyone used to shop that no longer exist today

Rob/FlickrThe northwest corner of Douglas and View Streets in Victoria, BC, circa-1977.
  • Before everything was available for purchase online, department stores and brick-and-mortar businesses were where shoppers bought what they needed.
  • Woolworth first opened in New York in 1879 and, in 2001, became what is now Foot Locker.
  • E. J. Korvette and Wanamaker’s employed many business practices that are still used today.

It’s hard to imagine an age when you couldn’t browse the internet and purchase clothes, books, or household supplies from your favourite stores.

Early department stores founded in the 19th century and early 20th centuries were revolutionary in their time, and their impact on the retail industry can still be seen today.

Yet, from increased competition to overly ambitious mergers to an inability to adapt to the changing times, many of those stores have been forced to close their doors.

Here are 10 US chain stores where everyone shopped back in the day but have since closed.


Woolworth was one of the first discount stores.

Underwood Photo Archives / ContributorBargain hunters searching for a deal at a Woolworth’s five-and-dime store in 1954.

Woolworth, which opened in 1879 in Utica, New York, was one of the original discount stores, known as five-and-dime stores at that time, in the United States. The Woolworth corporation sold everything from dishcloths to stationary for less than 10 cents.

Over 100 years after the first Woolworth discount store opened its doors, the corporation (renamed Venator GroupInc. in 1998), closed the chain and decided to focus on their smaller, sporting goods stores instead, according to SF Gate.


Kinney Shoes offered reasonably priced shoes.

Wikimedia CommonsA postcard advertises shoes from Kinney’s for $US2.95.

Kinney Shoes was one of the specialty stores that Woolworth Corp, later named Venator Group Inc., decided to focus on after closing down its Woolworth stores.

Before the shoe store was purchased by the larger corporation in 1963, it was a family-operated store selling reasonably priced footwear as early as 1894.

By 1998, however, Venator Inc. announced it was closing 467 Kinney Shoes stores because they were dragging down sales and profits, according to San Francisco Chronicle.

What was left was Venator Inc.’s store Foot Locker leading the corporation to change its name to Foot Locker Inc. in 2001.


Wanamaker department store was the first to employ many marketing practices used today.

New York Public Library/FlickrThe Wanamaker store on Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street, Manhattan.

When John Wanamaker opened one of the first department stores in the US in 1874 in Philadelphia, he had profound effects on the retail industry’s advertising and marketing practices.

Wanamaker created large-scale seasonal sales, money-back guarantee, and a fixed-priced system. Within a few years, he also added an in-store restaurant and elevators. In its segment “Who Made America?,” PBS called the Wanamaker’s department stores “palaces of consumption that turned shopping into an event for ordinary people.”

After switching ownership over the years, the chain went out of business in the late 20th century. The chain’s flagship store in Philadelphia was converted into a Macy’s in 2006 and is now a national historic landmark. The extravagant Christmas light show that was a namesake of Wanamaker’s throughout the years is still carried out by Macy’s.


Lionel Kiddie City was a kid’s dream.

TELEVISIONARCHIVES/YoutubeTELEVISIONARCHIVES uploaded a Lionel Playworld Commercial from 1988.

Before there was Toy R Us, children were begging their parents to take them to places like Lionel Kiddie City and Playworld.

The Lionel Corporation, which owned dozens of stores by the name of Lionel Kiddie City and Playworld, was one of the most popular toy retailers in the country. The Kiddie City chain, which is remembered for its kangaroo mascot, was primarily known for its trains and catchphrases like “Toy Capital of the World” and “Turn that Frown Upside Down.”

After filing for bankruptcy twice, the Kiddie City chainshut down for good in 1993 – thanks, in a major part, from a newer toy retailer competitor by the name of Toys R Us.


Ames sold home goods at cheap prices.

Wikimedia CommonsAmes closed in 2002.

Ames discount stores were started in 1958 in Massachusetts by brothers Milton and Irving Gilman. The company sold quality products, focusing on housewares, automotive supplies, and hardware, at low prices.

Ames bought Hills Stores Co. of Massachusetts in 1998 to become the nation’s fourth-largest discount retail chain behind Wal-Mart, Kmart, and Target. The Hills debt, however, caused detrimental financial troubles for Ames, experts told CBS News.

When the chain closed in 2002, there were overly 300 stores with a total of about 22,000 employees in mostly the East and Midwest.


Marshall Fields was known for its impressive window displays.

George Skadding / ContributorElevators girls from Marshall Fields department store attending charm school.

If you grew up in Chicago or ever visited during the holiday season, Marshall Fields and its famous window holiday displays most likely have a special place in your heart.

Marshall Fields, a former department store chain with its flagship store on Chicago’s State Street, was once the second-largest department store in the world, in addition to being one of Chicago’s main tourist attractions.

The store’s famous Christmas window decorations began in 1897 as a toy display. Decades later, the company created a theme each year where each story told a different chapter of a story.

In 2006, Marshall Fields became part of the Macy’s chain and the store’s flagship building on State Street was renamed, but the holiday window displays remain intact.


W. T. Grant was incredibly popular before applying for bankruptcy.

CBS Photo Archive / ContributorA Columbia Records display is photographed at Grants department store, (the W.T. Grant Co.) at 226 West 125th Street, New York, NY in 1940.

W.T. Grant was another popular discount store chain in the early and mid-20th century. The first W.T. Grant “25 Cent Store” opened in 1906 in Massachusetts and in time, the chain had nearly 1,100 stores around the country.

The discount chain was once the fifth-largest retailer in the country, but it came to an end in a big way. When the company declared bankruptcy in 1975, it was the largest retailing bankruptcy as of 1975, according to the University of California Press.


At one point, A&P grocery stores had over 15,000 locations.

Herbert Gehr / ContributorShoppers in A&P supermarket in 1949.

The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, also known as A&P, was a supermarket chain founded in 1859 in New York City. At its peak in the early 20th century, A&P was one of the world’s largest retailers, totally more than 15,000 grocery stores.

But after 156 years in business, the company filed for bankruptcy for a second time and closed its stores in 2015. Industry experts said the grocer’s downfall was due to its inability to adapt to the changing market.


Zayre was known for its sales.

Wikimedia CommonsThe name Zayre is Yiddish for ‘very good.’

Before we were combing the aisles of our local discount store for the steal of the century, many of our grandparents could be found doing the same at a store called Zayre.

Zayre, which phonetically sounds like the Yiddish word for “very” as in “very good,” was launched as a discount department store by two brothers in 1956 in Massachusetts. By the early 1970s, the Zayre chain had more than 200 stores across the country.

In December of 1988, the Zayre Corp. entered the upscale off-price fashion market by purchasing the women’s clothing store chain Hit or Miss and merging with TJX Companies, Inc, a subsidiary of which Zayre owned 83% of.

In September of that same year, 1988, Zayre Corp. sold its 392 Zayre discount department stores to the Ames chain in order to focus solely on the TJX Companies.


E. J. Korvette’s business model is still being used today.

Ben Martin / ContributorEugene Ferkauf, owner of E. J. Korvette department store, standing amid racks of coats in 1962.

In the booming years following World War II, veteran Eugene Ferkauf founded the American department stores chain E. J. Korvette in 1953 in New York. Ferkauf’s business model of selling high volumes of products at deep discounts – 10% to 40% below other conventional stores – with quick turnover can still be seen in today’s retail landscape with big businesses such as Walmart and Costco, according to the New York Times.

By the 1960s, there were nearly 60 Korvettes stores across the county. But after changing ownership multiple times, the chain folded and went out of business in the early 1980s.

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