If your memories of Kmart include the smell of freshly popped corn and a flashing blue light, you will probably enjoy this walk down Memory Lane of super cool
old stores in St. Louis at which St. Louisans often shopped. Most of these places are long gone, but a few still hold on with online-only stores… which is just not the same shopping experience we all enjoyed! Read below to be transported back to the past.
1. Stix Baer and Fuller
This store operated from 1892 to 1984, with the first store on Washington Avenue taking up the entire block. Like many long-time retailers, they sold a variety of goods, but had an emphasis on a little higher priced and better quality items. They ultimately sold to Dillard's when they became unable to compete with prices to stay competitive. Is this one of the St. Louis department stores you remember?
2. Circuit City
This not-so-long-ago store was a go to place for all cool electronics. There was always an expensive variety of electronics, and the stores always seemed a little darker than they needed to be. Perhaps to help all of the electronics "glow?" Another thing Circuit City is less fondly remembered for was the restocking fee on returns. This was never a good idea!
One of the very first
five and dime stores
, Woolworths was also one of the first stores to put items out for people to touch and buy. When Woolworths started in 1879, it was the custom for the shopkeeper to get the items from behind the counter - similar to a modern bar. This selling feature and the low prices made Woolworths a favorite for generations. It's wasn't always the best quality, but it was perfect for things you had to buy on a budget.
4. Ben Franklin
Ben Franklin stores are still open, but there aren't many left these days. Starting as a five and dime store, Ben Franklin was middle-of-the-line in quality, and stores were often smaller than their competitors, making it hard to compete. At some point, they became a craft supply store, though some do still carry a wide selection of buy-the-piece candy and other hard to find sweets.
This icon of mall stores was the anchor for most mega-malls across America. Long before malls were a shopping destination, the Downtown St. Louis Famous-Barr drew people from all over the city to shop and to see the creative window displays here.
One of the most beloved St. Louis department stores, Famous-Barr enjoyed a long period of success with a wide range of products and a huge selection of clothes, but like many stores in the age of the internet, similar quality products for a much lower prices could be found online.
Shopping at a Venture store was much like shopping at a modern Wal-Mart, only you could find everything you wanted and you didn't have to walk six blocks inside the store to get it! Did you "save with style" or "see what a little money can buy" at a Venture store? Do you remember their old advertisements?
Opened in 1956 and eventually spreading across the county, Zayre was a deep discounter selling inventory akin to the original Ben Franklin, but with more fashion choices in their clothing department. Zayre closed all stores in 1990.
8. Radio Shack
does still have stores, as well as an online store, but gone are the days when there was a Radio Shack in every neighborhood where you could take your broken electric device and find a fix. The Radio Shacks we grew up with were places filled with extremely knowledgeable people who loved helping those us of less versed in all things electrical.
9. B. Dalton
Another sure stop on a mall visit was B. Dalton
bookstore in St. Louis
. There was nothing fancy at this store, but you could always find a great deal on books... which was ultimately their downfall. The deep discounts they always offered kept revenue low and, in the end, they just couldn't compete with the larger book stores.
10. Sharper Image
The Sharper Image store was probably the coolest store ever to visit. Things here were state-of-the-art and usually completely unnecessary. The store is still in operation as an online retailer with a focus on electronic products for the home. They do still have interesting gadgets, but sadly, no place nearby you can try it before you buy it.
11. 905 Liquor Store
For anyone who remembers the 905 Liquor Store, you'll be happy to know there are still a few 905s around... but you'll have to go to Arkansas to find them. The 905 Liquor Store in St. Louis opened shortly after Prohibition ended and was the place to go when you needed beer, but were light on cash. It was a full service liquor store, beyond the beer they made with the iconic image of Saint Louis.
12. National Supermarkets
National Supermarkets were once some of the largest grocers in the country and had slogans like "Super-Nation Market" and "The Underpricer." The last slogan seemed to add to their eventual shuttering when they, like so many other larger retailers when business slows, started cutting prices to keep customers. Unfortunately, the resulting revenue was too low to keep the company in operation.
13. Grandpa Pigeons / GrandPa's
An exhaustive search yielded few images of this beloved St. Louis store, but we had to include this old St. Louis favorite - so here's a photo of a
real grandpa instead! Founded in 1954, GrandPa Pigeons and GrandPa's offered steep discounts on products. These stores were a fixture in St. Louis for decades. Many people also have fond memories of working at GrandPa's stores!
14. Montgomery Ward
Montgomery Ward, one of the many old St. Louis department stores that are now gone, offered products similar to Sears, which was their main rival in department store sales. Montgomery Ward sold quality products that lasted, but did you know they are also responsible for the creation of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" in 1939? Back in these days, department stores gave away items when you visited, especially around the holidays, and this coloring book created by Robert May was one of these promotional items.
15. Scruggs Vandervoort Barney
Another St. Louis born retailer, Scruggs Vandervoort Barney sold products much in line with the original Famous-Barr... but with increased prices. They created beautiful window displays that people from all over St. Louis would come to see. They took over Mermod Jaccard King Jewelry Company and continued business for years under this retail name.
Borders bookstores were huge! Unlike B. Dalton, where you went when you
wanted to buy a book, you could go to this
bookstore in St. Louis
and spend hours perusing the inventory with a cup of coffee. Also unlike B. Dalton, Borders were almost always an anchor store, so if you did buy books, you didn't have to lug them through the mall back to you car. The company is one of the more recent to close its doors; they filed for bankruptcy and ceased operations in 2011.
17. Shoppers Fair
This St. Louis department store sold a variety of items and is another store people remember fondly. These no frills old St. Louis department stores were normally large with plenty of inventory, and the discounts here were in line with Kmart.
18. Blockbuster Video
Blockbuster Video stores were the place to go for newly released movies before you could order them right from your TV. Going to rent movies was a fun experience, but you had to get there early on new release days or you would find your movie had already been snagged by someone else! Another drawback of renting a movie was the need to get it back the next day... or risk being charged again.
Blockbuster opened many stores during their heyday and put many mom n' pop shops out of business; however, during all that expansion, they failed to keep up with the changes in technology and closed most stores by 2014.
Do you remember these old stores in St. Louis? What were your favorite old St. Louis Department stores? How about 905 Liquor or Woolworth’s St. Louis? Do you have another great store to share? Please do in the comments below!
For other historic St. Louis places, check out this list of
St. Louis neighborhoods that will transport you to the past.
OnlyInYourState may earn compensation through affiliate links in this article.
The OIYS Visitor Center
Old Stores In St. Louis
May 14, 2022
What are some iconic foods in St. Louis?
It’s always fun to take a trip down Memory Lane, isn’t it? We get to remember things like long gone St. Louis department stores, Woolworth’s St. Louis, and even the 905 liquor store. When you’re strolling down Memory Lane, don’t forget to give a shout out to the iconic
Missouri foods that made growing up so special. Anyone who grew up or who has lived in St. Louis for any amount of time knows that our beloved city is the home of the toasted ravioli, Today, we can find the famous appetizer just about anywhere we go in Missouri, but for the best, we have to look no further than St. Louis. It’s probably fair to say that you won’t find any better than St. Louis-style pizza either. What makes a pizza St. Louis-style? Well, it’s square, brimming with Provel cheese, and features thin crust. Let’s not forget the ice cream cone either, which was invented right here in St. Louis.
What are some of the most historic neighborhoods in St. Louis?
History offers us a fascinating glimpse into the past, but we don’t always have to open a history book for that peek. Sometimes a walk or a drive around the most
historic neighborhoods in St. Louis will do just fine. The charming town of Benton, for example, dates back to 1866 and is popular if you’re up for a leisurely stroll to admire the historic homes or if you want to check out some of the town’s adorable shops. One of the oldest settlements in the city, Soulard is well-worth a visit, even if you only stop by Soulard Farmers Market, a city staple since 1779. The year-round farmers market, which features both indoor and outdoor vendors, promises a little bit of everything – from homemade goodies to some of the freshest produce you’ll find in the city. Don’t forget to visit other historic St. Louis neighborhoods, including LaFayette Square, North St. Louis, and The Hill.