Anybody remember Woolco stores?

woolco

That thread-within-a-thread we had going yesterday about the closings of Kmart and Sears stores reminded me of something…

Anybody remember Woolco stores? That was my very first experience of the big-box discount store, before Kmart or Wal-Mart or anything else of the kind.

I’ve written a lot about when my family first moved back to the States from Ecuador in 1965, and I happily overdosed on TV and many other aspects of American culture that I had done without. (As I wrote at one point, “It was so amazingly stimulating, as though all my neurons were on fire. It was like mainlining some drug that is so far unknown to pharmacology, one that fully engages all of your brain.”) The new TV season that fall seemed to this 11-year-old like the most exciting thing that had ever happened (“Lost in Space,” “Green Acres” and “I-Spy” all premiered on the same night!), but I also thoroughly enjoyed the smaller pleasures, such as drinking water straight from the tap without fear of hepatitis.

Anyway, all mixed up in that in my memory was the Woolco store not far from where we lived on the Navy base in Algiers, La., across the river from New Orleans.

It was enormous, and they had everything — way more exciting than the Navy Exchange. We drove there to shop often in our 396-horsepower 1965 Impala Super Sport. I used to spend a good bit of time in the record department. I have fairly specific memories of some of the new releases I saw on display during those couple of years we lived there — “Day-Tripper,” “Mellow Yellow,” “Paperback Writer”…

Woolco went away in 1983. Instead of closing in dribs and drabs like Kmart and Sears, all 336 U.S. stores closed in January of that year.

Oh, here’s a bonus question for Pee Dee denizens: Anybody remember Treasure City in Florence? Similar concept if I remember correctly, although maybe not as big as a Woolco. My brother and I got our first GI Joe there, also in 1965. The building still stands, although I think it has housed a flea market in recent years…

Anybody remember Treasure City, right across the highway from the Florence Airport?

Anybody remember Treasure City, right across the highway from the Florence Airport?

7 thoughts on “Anybody remember Woolco stores?

  1. Norm Ivey

    I remember Woolco as an entity, but don’t remember an individual store. What was the five-and-dime that used to occupy one anchor at Dutch Square? Woolworth’s? They’re affiliated, I think.

    The little town in southern Arizona where I grew up had a Grant City.

    (Grant City : Grant’s :: K-Mart : Kresge’s)

    I remember it being a pretty big deal. The local radio station even did a news report on it. It didn’t last long. About the time I got my license, it became a K-Mart. Under both names, I shopped in the music department and daydreamed in sporting goods. I can’t even picture any other department.

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  2. Harry Harris

    My house used to be full of stuff I bought on clearance from closing stores, including some stuff from Woolco – several record albums (Remember them?) I started playing golf at age 47 because I found a set of irons for $19.00 at Service Merchandise as they went under. Played for 20 plus years. Of course I sometimes say that I’m such a clearance shopper that most of what I own (and wear) is mine ’cause other people didn’t want it.
    Woolco was notable at Christmas time because they really brought it out and displayed it bigly. Notable in the 1070’s at least.

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  3. jim catoe

    Zayre”s Department Store at the intersection of Farrow Road and Harden St. Extension was an early example of the Woolco/Wal-Mart genre in Columbia. The City of Columbia Maintenance Department has occupied that space for many years.

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