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Small Business Digest


National Store Location Closing Spells Opportunity For Some Employees

One way to jump start a new business is to take over an older, national brand outlet and continue the store concept.

In Santa Fe, NM, a veteran employee did just that.

When the local papers announced in July 1997 that the Woolworth Corporation was closing one of its busiest stores–the one located on Santa Fe's historic downtown Plaza–Santa Feans young and old were saddened by the news.

Deborah Potter felt that something had to be done to protect the one of the city's last remaining "locals-serving" businesses.

She urged her husband and partner, business attorney Earl Potter, to contact the local Woolworth's manager, Mike Collins, who had been with the company for twenty-five years.

After a lunch at a downtown restaurant, it became clear to all three of them that what they had formed was not only the beginning of a beautiful friendship, but a business plan for what would soon become Five & Dime General Store.

On May 8, 1998, Five & Dime General Store opened its doors.

In addition to the world-famous FritoTM pies, introduced as merchandise in 1962 by Woolworth's employee Teresa Hernandez, the store also continues to stock souvenirs, postcards, T-shirts, hats, sandals, and sunscreen as well as toiletries, office supplies, and hardware–to name but a few items.

The store turned a profit in its first month of business, serving more than 300,000 customers the first year.

Seeing potential in other markets, the partners opened three more Five and Dime General Stores: on San Antonio’s River Walk, in October, 2003; in Branson, Missouri, in May, 2006; and a second San Antonio location, on Alamo Plaza, in October, 2007.

Now, ten years later, the company boasts annual sales of more than $7 million, and plans are being made to introduce Five & Dime General Stores into more locations.

Says CEO Mike Collins, "We have no administrative staff or offices, and our Executive Conference Center remains the basement locker room. We believe our success is rooted in a return to the principle which made Woolworth’s a beloved American institution–provide a friendly, fun, and reasonably priced place for adults and kids to handle and select necessities, nostalgia, and souvenirs without asking anyone's permission."

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