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verybody likes to save a buck, even if they just think they are saving. Enter the 5 & 10 store. Cheap is certainly in the name. And though prices are as varied as the merchandise, the bargain is the bonus of the experience of shopping there.

Emery’s 5 & 10 owner Ron Emery photographed with Manager Vickers Johnson. The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce is adding the store to its driving map.

Since 1949, Guerneville 5 & 10 in the Russian River area destination town of Guerneville, Calif., has attracted shoppers from San Francisco to Sacramento. Started in the late 1800s as a blue collar town, the demographic has changed, today representative of the full gamut of socio-economic levels.

Generation after generation, the 1,100-square-foot 5 & 10 has continued to supply shoppers with a wide array of the same type of merchandise that now has become the stuff of nostalgia. Mr. Potato Head is still there and the big draw is nostalgic candy and toys. “There aren’t many of us still around,” said owner, Robin Johnson. “It’s affordable, though a better quality level than the discount store. People come here for the nostalgia.”

The mystique of the old dime store that harkens back to a simpler time fits right into the tourist destination of Branson, Mo., where the décor of family owned, Dick’s 5 & 10 sells that experience as much as the merchandise, said owner David Montgomery. The 10,000-square-foot store has been open for business for 50 years, and word of mouth has been its best advertising. Unchanged is the old time music playing, the jukebox and the old glass-partitioned fixtures. “The old theme has turned our store into a destination itself,” Montgomery said.

The time honoring theme travels into the gift department where best sellers have to do with nature and the lodge look such as bear or wolf salt and pepper shakers. Wildlife and these lodge items in home décor, anything with flare, unique, novel, are up-and-coming categories,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery added that shoppers aren’t turning to discounted items as much as just being very careful where they are spending money. “As a tourist destination, they stay four days instead of a week, see two shows instead of four. As long as we put our best face forward and our merchandise is unique and interesting, it works for us. They still have discretionary income and are careful where they spend it.”

Family owned Emery’s 5 & 10 in Knoxville, Tenn., has had the reputation of being the oldest 5 & 10 in America. “…We’ve stayed true to variety in all departments, and changed the mix to compete with big box stores,” said owner Ron Emery.

That change translates into an insistence on uniqueness. “If we see something we carry in a big box, we get rid of it, for example Elf on a Shelf. This year it went into Target, so we didn’t order it. We have to teach manufactures that they can’t have it all, not us and them too.”

In Emery’s estimation, the store’s variety is its best seller because it has so much to offer. “Customers spend hours in here. We have something for everyone and every interest. It’s general merchandise though many gifts and fun things. We know the best nut cracker and can opener out there.”

The 7,000-square-foot store, in business since 1927, has become a destination for out of towners and will be added to the urban Knoxville, driving map for the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce.

The general store with a little of everything, Dellas 5 & 10 in Cape May, N.J., draws customers in for its size as well as the luncheonette and soda fountain. “It’s small in volume, though the biggest in Washington Street Mall, in the laid back Victorian community where shoppers still enjoy horse and buggy rides,” said General Manager Mary Grieco. “This is the place if customers need a needle and thread, board game or toy to entertain grandchildren, and still buy bubble gum for a penny, though discount store is not the image the Washington Mall portrays.”

Dick’s 5 & 10 co-owners David Montgomery, at right, and Steve Hartley. “As long as we put our best face forward and our merchandise is unique and interesting, it works for us,” Montgomery said of attracting dollars from tourist customers.

The business at Dellas is largely a seasonal one, except for special events in wintertime such as hospitality nights when all stores put out sample items for out of towners. “We sell a lot of souvenirs in the summer, such as cups and hats, shot glasses, place mats, soaps, lotions, anything with Dellas or Cape May to take back the memory with them.”

The variety is the hot seller at Standard 5 & 10 in San Francisco, Calif., said part-owner, Michelle Leopold. Around since 1939, when things were 25 cents, the store is more commonly referred to now as a $5 and $10. “A huge shift occurred since adding a gift section. People love it and we keep changing it. They realize we’re a one-stop shopping store and can come here for the birthday card, the gift, wrapping paper and tape.”

The loyal customer keeps coming back in response to periodic newsletters that tell about new vendors and fresh new product that are not just dust collectors. Within the large selection at the store, customers are sure to find items that tie in with their personalities, such as decorative yet practical Wild Eye Designs’ decorative stiletto shoe-shaped cake servers or Boston Warehouse bug products popular during the summer.

The 72-year-old business is now serving the third generation of families shopping in the 5,200-square-foot store in an upscale neighborhood shopping center of a small village within the city. They are price-conscious shoppers who appreciate the practical and affordable gift selections, including Wild Eye Designs Flip Flop shaped bottle openers, fun and functional Knock Knock stationery products, and Quotable mugs and cocktail napkins.

Independent specialty stores such as Froggies 5 & 10, on the upper middle class edge of Highland Park, a town in Dallas, Texas, may carry the same type of lines from the same companies, yet so broad is the diversity of each individual store’s offerings and interests of customers to please that product does not overlap. “We go with the flow, what people ask for that they won’t find in the chain store,” said General Manager Chase Bilbrey.

The genre that shoppers can count on at Froggies is the retro gift. Tops in sales in toys are German-made trucks and Melissa and Doug toys, all the way down to action figures. Spot It is the number-one board game, appealing to all ages, noted Bilbrey. Here customers can find greeting cards, baby clothes, sewing needles and the general office party gift that anyone would like.

Customer John wears 3D glasses to look at a book with his grandmother Barbara at Emery’s 5 & 10. “If we see something we carry in a big box, we get rid of it,” the store’s owner said.

The eclectic product mix often starts with customer requests. “We never know what will surface that a customer will ask for, said Bilbrey. One week we don’t have it, the next week we’re carrying cameras that take film.

Not exactly bargain shopping, customers have a range of prices on items to choose from. “Someone might ask for a board game under $10 or a Duncan yo-yo for the beginner at $4 rather than $29.”

The brand of service that zeros in on what customers want attracts them to the 3,800-square-foot Froggies to find the gift with a difference. Bilbrey observed, “Some of our best customers come from West Texas, always wanting to see what’s new. We’re very hands on, providing product knowledge, a lot of information on what a toy does, [and leave it] open for kids to play with.”

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