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Retail Legend still lives in Oxnard California

Woolworth Museum Oxnard photoWhat do you do when you buy an old abandoned Woolworth’s building. You sit and stare and think about a long time, then the ah ha! moment comes. You turn it back into a Woolworth Store. Or at least a Woolworth Museum of memorabilia from the the venerable old chain of department stores founded and named for retailer Frank.W. Woolworth. The F.W. Woolworth Company was one of America’s original “5 and Dime Stores”. After a few false starts, Frank Woolworth opened his first successful 5 and dime retail store in Pennsylvania in 1879, based on three pricipales - fixed prices of five and ten cents with everything clearly marked - mass-Woolworth Memorabilia photoproduced, high quality items from new factories springing with America’s industrial revolution and buying direct from manufacturers to keep prices down. The F. W. Woolworth company grew to over 1,000 stores in the United States and other around the world. Known for its distinctive in-store lunch counters, dinging bell chimes for departments, hand operated and later self-operated elevators, the Woolworth sign of gold letters on red, became a familiar building in many towns and cities across America The chain fell on hard times and all the stores in the U.S. closed in 2000 as the company turned itself in the Footlocker chain of shoe retailers! There are still Woolworth stores in England and Germany (you pass one in Berlin on the way to Tegel Airport), but they have gone the way of the Ford Edsel in America.

Experimental Cafe photoIn Downtown Oxnard California, a quiet mostly agricultural town on the southern California coast between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, known for its strawberries (See Oxnard Strawberry Festival) and the annual air show at neighboring Pt. Mugu Naval Air base, the F.W. Woolworth building originally opened in 1950 at Fourth and "A" Street. After remaining Cafe Oxnard photoclosed for a short time it was purchased by enterprising renovator David Feigin, now simply known as the "Woolworth Guy". The upper floors serve as office space and the location for high school classes, but the lower floor has been turned into a homage to the Woolworth legacy, retaining the original brick construction. A restaurant-café the Experimental Cafe takes up much of the space. Altough it is not a reconstruction of a Woolworth’s lunch counter, it has reminsicent period decorations and live music seven nights a week. The mostly modern menu does have a few original Woolworth’s offerings.

Vintage Coke Machine photoThe Museum space takes up a lobby area with a nice collection og rare Woolworths memorbilia and photographs from stores across the country. Working vending machines that would have found at one of the retail stores and period bathrooms complete the Woolworth’s experience. The Woolworth Building Museum in Oxnard claims to be the only one is existance, and I have no reason to doubt. The genuine Woolworth sign outside the building was aquired from another of the closed chain’s stores and brought to Oxnard. Unless a retail fanatic, a trip to Oxnard to see the world’s only Woolworth museum may not be in your plans, but if visiting this pleasant little city on the way up the coast for a look back into America’s simpler past, why not stop in to send your friends and relatives a post card from the 1950’s wayback machine and make a call on a working coin phone (this may soon be one of the last of those in America, too).
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