J & R Variety dime store closing signals end of era

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Before there were big box stores, supermarkets and shopping malls, there were five and dime stores. There is only one left in the Chicago area and now, that store is closing.

As far as anyone knows, this is it: J & R Variety near 63rd and Pulaski, the last five and dime store in the Chicagoland area. It's an old-fashioned dime store that sells basically everything, and Mike Gehant runs the place just like his father did.

"Fifty-eight years we've been here. And I've been here 28 steady. My dad opened the store back in 1956 for the original owners," said Gehant.

Back then it was truly a 10-cent store, when many items could be purchased for just a dime, and for the Gehant's, it was a dream business. But now the dream store is closing for good at the end of July.

"This is a dying breed. Throughout the country we're losing all our dime stores, variety stores. They're all headed for the dollar store," said Gehant.

The dollar store and way beyond, and that's a shame because this was the old neighborhood store you could walk to and buy almost anything. It's a big loss for shoppers and the family.

"It's very emotional. I've been coming here since I was seven years old, and ah, it's make me choke right now just to say it. (Thinking about your mom and dad?) Yes," said Pamela Gehant Bernstein, daughter of founders.

"It will be sadly missed because there are things from when you were a child that you don't even see anymore," said Karen Cronin, longtime shopper.

Dime stores are nothing new, of course. Woolworth opened the first one in 1878 and when that store opened, it changed the way Americans shop.

"Back in the old days the proprietor, when you walked into his store, there was just two counters on each side of the wall and he would walk around and you would ask him what you wanted and he would go get it. (And the dime stores?) The dime stores, they put aisles in the stores and let the customer come shopping," said Gehant.

The last dime store- from buttons to barrels of monkeys- the store with everything has run out of time.
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