MOUND, Minn. - The Twin Cities is about to lose a piece of Americana. It is the closing of one of the last of the small town five-and-dime stores. John's Variety and Pets will shut its doors for the last time on August 10th.
"We just could not turn down the offer from Walgreen's is what it was," explained John Royer, Sr., 76, owner of John's Variety and Pets. "They wanted to steal from us at first," he chuckled, "So, we held out for five years and they finally came through."
Royer said he intends to spend more time fishing for Walleye at his cabin in Aitkin. However, Royer's gain is Mound's loss.
"Not too many 'five-and-dimes' anymore, sort of a thing of the past," said Royer. "We probably had one of the rarest stores around the area. You come here, get about anything you wanted and the old saying is:' if John did not have it, you just did not need it'."
The store has been a throwback to the old concept of a general store, the earliest version of the department stores of today. The long aisles of John's Variety are stuffed with everything from artificial plants to living pets, balloons, light bulbs, bird seed and toys.
Inflation has turned "penny" candy, into "dollar" candy, but the multi-tiered candy display has not moved. "Yup, yup, yup," said Royer. "Little kids used to come in for candy, now they are bringing their kids in for candy."
Royer has owned the store for 38 years, including the first 18 when it was still a "Ben Franklin". He has spent more than half a century in the retail business.
"This has been great, yes, it has. (I) raised a family, two kids in here and three grandkids worked for me off and on. They have all gone on to school and have not been interested in the business, so, sold the property to Walgreens," said Royer.
However, not all the Royer's opted out of the small store concept. John "Johnny" Royer, Jr., 52, has been his father's right hand man for most of his adult life. "I have been here since I was 14, getting in my Dad's way all the time!" Royer, Jr. intends to keep the family tradition alive by opening a new garden shop elsewhere in Mound.
Both Royers have been greeting old and new customers as people come in for the "Going out of business" sale with big discounts on all merchandise. Royer, Sr. seems to delight in giving them a flood of bargains.
Royer, Sr. became a bit emotional when he considered the generations he has served from the Commonwealth Boulevard location. "The customers are the best in the world, I always say. They have been great. Yeah, they have been great."
As each customer leaves the store with their purchases, they carry a bit of local history with them.
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