Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kress: Main Street Icon for 65 Years

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kress: Main Street Icon for 65 Years

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland

Dear Call Box: I can't remember the name of the dime store that used to be where Farah & Farah law firm is now. Can you tell me, as well as some of the store's history?

G.S., Southside

Dear G.S.: During the heyday of downtown shopping, Kress Five and Dime reigned as a classic Main Street America icon. It had that landmark location at Main and Adams streets, and its brick and ornamental stone architecture drew the eye.

Jacksonville's first Kress store opened at 15 E. Bay St. in either 1900 or 1906 (accounts differ) and moved in 1912 to what has since become Farah & Farah. It claimed that this was the largest of all of the Kress stores and probably the third largest 5- to 25-cent store in the world at that time, according to historian Wayne Wood in his book, "Jacksonville's Architectural Heritage: Landmarks for the Future."

The store featured an internal telephone system, a lunch counter, an information booth and a tea room on the mezzanine, Wood wrote.

The store had large customized counters set crosswise down long hardwood floors. There were high ceilings, large display windows and well-positioned hanging lamps that created a bright atmosphere for an endless array of inexpensive items and lent an air of spaciousness.

Children on a limited allowance could buy presents for everyone on their Christmas list for just a few bucks.

Think little blue bottles of Evening In Paris perfume for a quarter, plastic flowers, hair nets, toys, fly swatters, white gloves, handkerchiefs, Tangee lipstick, belts, suspenders, salt shakers with moisture-proof tops, bathtub stoppers with a chain on them and thousands of knick-knacks.

Connie Smart worked in the notions department at Kress on Saturdays and during the summer for a couple years in the mid-1940s. In those pre-computer days, she often had to stay late to count inventory. And there were lots of little items to track.

"I remember a whole lot of counters all over the place and wide aisles between the counters," Smart said Thursday, adding that most of the inventory was on the first floor of the three-story building. Stock was stored on the third floor, she said.

Her most vivid memory was the pleasing aroma of popcorn that could be heard and smelled several aisles away. As the oldest of eight children, she didn't do much shopping but worked to earn money for school supplies.

It was indeed popcorn that lured some shoppers into the store. One couple told Call Box they would ride the bus downtown on Saturdays, stop at Kress and buy a tubular bag that must have been at least 2 feet tall and 6 to 8 inches in diameter for 10 cents and then go to the movies.

From 1986 to at least 1992, former female employees organized annual reunions. …

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