Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Dime store memories in Plainview June 23, 2022

Plainview’s version of the old-fashioned dime store. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo May 2022)

GRAB BAGS AND VINYL SINGLES. Goldfish and tiny turtles. And, oh, an endless assortment of whatever you needed, and didn’t need. Such are my dime store memories upon entering J.T. Variety & Toys in Plainview.

To the left, knick knacks. Center and to the right, supplies for crafters. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

This crammed-with-merchandise store along West Broadway in the heart of downtown Plainview hearkens to yesteryear when Ben Franklin and F.W. Woolworth stores dotted Main Street USA. J.T. Variety & Toys fits the dime store model.

A sign directs customers to the shop at 333 West Broadway. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

And while I spotted no turtles, fish, grab bags or vinyl, the business offers a wide range of merchandise for all ages and interests.

Lots of fabric, lots of knick knacks. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

Need a gift for Aunt Gertie or your next-door neighbor or whomever? There are knick knacks and home décor items galore.

Lots of rainbow yarn choices. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

Crafters—whether knitter or seamstress or some other creative—can shop an array of colorful yarn skeins cramming cubbies, folds of sorted-by-color fabric layering shelves, and much more. Choices are bountiful.

Flowers, shoes, knick knacks, craft supplies…so much merchandise packed into this small store. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

The same goes for the selection of fake flowers splashing color into a display and spilling over into baskets lining the floor. Above the flowers I found a collection of summer shoes—flip flops, slip-ons shaped like insects…

Unlike the dime stores of old, credit cards are welcome at this variety store. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

If I sound a tad giddy about J.T. Variety & Toys, it’s because I am. A lot of those feelings trace to childhood memories of shopping dime store aisles. Back in the day, I mostly looked because, coming from a poor farm family, buying usually wasn’t an option, except for necessities. I would stand for a long long time in the pet section at the back of Woolworths looking at those mini imported pet turtles, wishing for one.

The toy section. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

I expect the kids of Plainview gravitate to the toy section of their local variety store with its puzzles and games, marbles and Play Doh, trucks and dolls, Little Golden Book and other books, and much more. I’d feel giddy if I was a kid with money to spend here.

Lots of great book choices. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

Plainview is fortunate to have this homegrown business akin to the dime stores of old. It was here in this southeastern Minnesota small town, the day before our 40th wedding anniversary in mid-May, that my husband purchased a lovely anniversary greeting card while I paged through a storybook about Paul Bunyan. It wasn’t like he could buy a tiny imported pet turtle for me…

More yarn choices for crafters. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

TELL ME: Do you have dime store memories? Have you discovered a store similar to J.T. Variety & Toys (Dollar stores don’t count)? I’d like to hear.

To learn more about Plainview, read my previous posts by clicking here. And watch for several more stories on this community northeast of Rochester in southeastern Minnesota.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


16 Responses to “Dime store memories in Plainview”

  1. Ruth Says:

    I’d like to shop in your variety store. That’s some wildly colored yarn! And the golden books? Nostalgia at its best!

  2. beth Says:

    I love, love finding these kind of stores. a few years back, I stumbled upon one in my friend’s small town a couple of hours from me, and I was thrilled. it even had the brach’s variety of candies by the pound. happy to see the golden books too, I am a fan.

  3. These types of stores definitely bring back lots of memories for sure. Fun!

  4. I so wish had something like this down here. Ahhh the memories – the arts and crafting, the reading, the fun, the exploring, the candy, etc. We were just talking about Brach’s candies the other day. I could go for a root beer barrel – YUM! Happy Day – Enjoy

  5. Charles Paul Ziegler Says:

    Thanks for this. When I was a youngster (1950’s) my home town of New Brunswick, N.J. had three different such stores. We called them “five and tens.” They were all chain stores: W.T. Grant, J. J. Newberry, and Woolworth. At 74 years old, I still have a few of the small toys I had back then. I miss those stores. The last one that I remember in my current town of Alexandria, VA closed some time in the 1980s, as I recall. My wife is British, and I recall going to Woolworth in her home town near London. I think it, too, is gone.

  6. Valerie Says:

    Looks like a fun place, and a trip back in time.

  7. Sandra Says:

    I was going to say Americana, before that last post. Mother and her older sister worked at Woolworth’s in their youth, saddens me I didn’t confirm that era more. Had to consult Dalby to be sure my youth memories were correct. Kresge’s became Kmart in the 70s. At one point, Faribault had at least 2 same time. Woolworth had their own building. I don’t ever remember one as beautiful and diverse as your feature, even our Dollar Stores couldn’t compete with this. Merchandising seems a lot art. What fun this! Thanks for a nice memory about “dime stores”!

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