I am sorry to see another vestige of the mighty Woolworth Company pass into history.
I was a tenant of the Woolworth Corp. at the Woolworth Building (233 Broadway).
I was there when things started to go down the drain. E.g., the USA Woolworth stores closed, the company decided to concentrate on Footlocker stores, the company ditched Kinney Shoes, the company abandoned the FW Woolworth name for Venator Corp., the company sold the building, and the company moved to some crummy building opposite Macy's. I believe that the shell of the company is now called Footlocker.
The Woolworth company's executive floor was magnificent. Marble wainscotting in the hallways, and wood panelling in the offices. The Board of Directors' meeting room had marble walls.
Mr. FW Woolworth had two offices in the building. One was on the executive floor of the Woolworth company. The second was in the tower where he maintained a private office for his personal business. (The Woolworth Building was actually his private investment; years after his death the family sold the building to the company.) His private office was also magnificant with a ceiling height of about 30 feet.
As a landlord Woolworth was terrific. The building was kept in excellent condition. The rental terms were very fair. If something had to be done (light bulb replacement, lack of heat), it was done the same day on one call to the building office. Since being a landlord was not its primary business, the Woolworth Corp. did not look to wring every last cent out of the building and the tenants. Things changed with the new landlord.
In this quick changing world we in the USA have forgotten Woolworth. Thanks for the memory.
The demise of the Woolworth heiress, Barbara Woolworth Hutton aka The Poor Little Rich Girl, was just as sad as the death of the company. Barbara, who had a nightmare of a childhood which included the finding of her mother after she committed suicide, inherited her mother's fortune of 50 million dollars (a billion in today's money). Her mother was the daughter of Frank W. Woolworth, the founder of the 5 and 10 cent dynasty. Barbara led a madcap life which included seven marriages, one of which was to that fashion icon often mentioned on this forum, Cary Grant. They remained friends after their divorce, and Barbara said in later years that Cary was her only husband who didn't want her money. Barbara passed away in 1979. Her fortune had dwindled to less than $4,000. I remember the song purportedly inspired by Barbara: "I Met a Million Dollar Baby in a 5 and 10 Cent Store".
Out of morbid curiosity, I stepped into a Woolworths today for the first time in what must be at least 10-15 years. What was more moving, was that I'm currently visiting my father over the festive season, so this was the Woolworths in the town I grew up in so I have plenty of childhood memories of raiding it for toys & sweets. It was a bit sad to see it in its near-gutted state. They were selling off the fixtures & fittings (even the staff lockers were up for sale).
As a business model, I didn't believe Woolworths was ever going to survive the modern era, recession or not. But nonetheless it was quite sobering to see it in such a state. Even the redoubtable pick-n-mix selection was at more than 50% off!
I'm not sure about the UK stores, as I've never visited them personally, but Woolworth in the US was very slow to adapt to changes in the marketplace. They were tragically stuck in the 1950s with their merchandise selection, and service was close to non-existent. It was great nostalgia and they carried a lot of odds and ends seemingly nobody carried, but it wasn't an exciting shopping experience.
I didn't know that they were still alive! I thought that the big "W" had disappeared long ago. Still this death is a personal, albeit muted blow, for a youth spent in a small, boring town, where the lunch counter at Woolworth's was the only place to go for a meal on a kid's budget. Loved it, a long time ago. This is not something that translates well to teens today, but when you only had a couple of bucks in your pocket, and the cutest girl in your school was a waitess at Woolworth's it was a rush just to get a sandwich and a soda at the counter. Loved it. Ah well......