Remembering Woolworth’s in Downtown Columbus

Waitress Lou Jackson works the coffee-shop lunch counter at the F.W. Woolworth store at 109 S. High St. in 1997 after the parent company had announced it would be closing its 400 remaining U.S. stores.

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.  

In 1955, a parakeet special and other deals were part of a grand opening celebration for a Woolworth’s at the Great Eastern Shopper’s Mart (East Main Street at Hamilton Road).

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. 

Woolworth’s was in business in the United States for 117 years as a

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.” 

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