News that the Downtown Columbus CVS closed for good Friday, April 1 is a reminder that time, indeed, marches on.
The location, at 109 S. High St., was home to Woolworth’s from 1937 until 1997.
Many of us, including me, can recall a shopping memory or two at a Woolworth’s from our youth. For some, it might bring back memories of the civil rights movement and how, after a 1960 protest at its luncheonette in Greensboro, N.C., the company changed discriminatory practices that denied service at some locations to Black people.
For many, it was a happy childhood place for candy, photo booths that spit out funny strips, and 45 rpm records; or for a pocket knife, or pantyhose, or a hamburger platter. There were sights, and smells (popcorn!), and sounds, and perhaps some “characters” there, all which cannot be replicated when ordering goods online.
Every now and then, a parakeet would escape from the pet department and an employee would grab a butterfly net to chase it. I bought a goldfish from the Woolworth’s in uptown Athens when I was a freshman at Ohio University, and that hearty soul lived for more than a decade.
At one time, there were two Woolworth stores operating simultaneously in Downtown Columbus – at 105 N. High St., just south of Long Street; and at 109 S. High St., next to Lazarus.
In 1959, The Dispatch reported that improvements had been made at South High, and that grand re-opening events were part of the chain’s 80th anniversary. An ad touted “two-way escalator service;” a “1-minute snack bar” with Hoagies and pizza; a bigger bakery department; whole chickens, barbequed hourly and on sale for 98 cents each; and various “Products Made in Columbus by Columbus People.”
The five-and-dime retailer nearly made it through to the 21st century, but in 1997, all Woolworth’s stores in the United States were shuttered, a sign of the changing times.
The other remaining local Woolworth’s to close that year were at Eastland Mall and on Cleveland Avenue. A few years prior, Columbus had already seen the writing on the wall after locations closed at Westland and Northland malls and at Central Point Shopping Center.
Contributor Linda Deitch was a Dispatch librarian for 25 years.
Read More: Remembering Woolworth’s in Downtown Columbus