Businesses come and go but some stay in our hearts and minds forever. Many of us fondly remember iconic amusement parks like Bertrand Island,
Palisades Amusement Park and Jungle Habitat. Others look back on restaurants including the recently closed Circus Drive-in and Stockton Inn. But perhaps more than amusement parks and restaurants, stores are part of our daily life. We don’t have to dine out or experience the thrills amusement parks offer, but we all need to stock up on the essentials, eventually. If you grew up in the Garden State, here are a few stores that you likely remember.
1. Two Guys
Two Guys was a discount store chain founded in Harrison, New Jersey in 1946. They got their start selling appliances but grew to include hardware, automotive and grocery departments. The store in East Hanover even had an attached liquor store with a bar. The chain expanded to over 100 locations across the U.S. (including Neptune City, Vineland, Union, Hackensack and North Bergen) but experienced declining sales in the 1970s; Two Guys was defunct by 1982.
The first Woolworth's store was opened in Utica, New York back in 1878. A five and dime store, the chain soon grew to include locations in New Jersey. A pioneer in the discount department store industry, Woolworth's was the largest department store chain in the world by 1979. New Jersey locations included Point Pleasant Beach, Morristown and Red Bank. While most Woolworth's store were closed by the 1990s, the chain still lives on through subsidiaries including Foot Locker.
3. W.T. Grant
Founded in 1906, this company went bankrupt seventy years later. The department store failed for several reasons including inability to adapt and competitors like Kmart. New Jersey locations included Wyckoff, Millville, Hackensack and Franklin Township.
If you grew up in Bergen County (Hackensack, especially), you're likely familiar with Packard's. Originally Packard-Bamberger, the store was designed to be a one-stop shopping center. Founded in 1933, you could find everything from fur to furniture, liquor to lettuce. You could buy food, drinks and almost anything you needed. Packard's closed in 1991 and a Target now stands on the site.
Rickels' was a chain of home-improvement stores based in northern New Jersey. Their first store opened in 1953 (in Union) and for three decades Rickel was the leading hardware, plumbing, heating and electrical retailer in the region. Competition from stores like Home Depot led to all locations (over 90) closing by 1997. Rickel stores could once be found in towns including Paramus, East Brunswick, West Berlin, South Plainfield and Wayne.
6. The Wiz
Nobody beats The Wiz. If you grew up in New Jersey, you know that. The chain was founded in 1977 and included locations in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Canada. The company was a major sponsor of sports teams including the Yankees, Knicks, Mets, New Jersey Nets, Rangers, New Jersey Devils and Islanders. The electronics and entertainment chain went out of business in 2003.
7. J.J. Newberry
This five and dime store got its start in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania back in 1911. By 1961, the company operated 565 stores including locations in Vineland, Verona, New Brunswick Red Bank and Asbury Park. Though the chain began having issues in the 1990s, it didn't entirely shut down until 2001.
Founded back in 1893, Bamberger's (an upscale department store) opened its flagship store in Newark in 1912. The 14-story shop was once one of the largest stores in the United States and even had its own phone exchange (565). Additional locations in New Jersey were opened in Morristown, Princeton, Paramus, Plainfield, Millburn, Trenton and more. The company was bought by Macy's after the stock market crash of 1929 and was briefly known as Macy's New Jersey. By 1986, all Bamberger's locations were closed or became Macy's. The Newark flagship store closed in 1991 but the legacy lives on.
9. Buzby's Chatsworth General Store
A Pine Barrens staple for well over a century, this historic general store just recently closed. A local favorite for gifts and one-of-a-kind goods, its absence will not go unnoticed. Something about it just felt like home; this likely had a lot to do with the owner, Marilyn Schmidt. She loved the area, and it showed.
Steinbach was founded in Asbury Park in 1936. In the 1970s, the chain opened three branches at shopping malls along the Jersey Shore, including the chain's largest, a unit at the Shore Mall near Atlantic City. In 1976, a fourth mall location was opened at the Seaview Square Mall in Ocean Township. The Asbury Park flagship store (pictured above) was closed in 1979 and has since been turned into a retail and residential complex. The chain was entirely defunct by 1999.
For more stores (and attractions) that you may remember, check out the video below by Paul Czekaj.
Do any of these stores bring back memories for you? What other New Jersey stores of the past do you miss? Share your stories in the comments. For another blast from the past that’s still around, check out the
Cranbury Inn, one of the oldest restaurants in New Jersey.