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S.S. Kresge Co. - Gone but not forgotten

Belleville S.S. Kresge Co. c1950's

By 1930 S.S. Kresges had opened it's Five & Dime store in Belleville, Ontario at 264 Front Street. S. S. Kresge Co., the brainchild of Sebastion Spering Kresge born 1867, Bald Mount Pa opened his first Five & Dime at Detroit Michigan with then partner Charles J Wilson and by 1912, had incorporated and grown to 85 stores.

By 1929 and the start of the depression, Kresge expanded into Canada. At the time of his death in 1966 at the age of 99, Kresge had created an empire of 930 stores. In 1962 the company had established the Kmart chain, and while that chain flourished, S.S. Kresge Co started to decline by 1976. By1980 it was evident that both Kresge's and Kmart could not coexist and the company began downsizing by eliminating the Kresge's brand over the next fourteen years.

Herman Baughman c1988

By August 1988, Belleville Kresge's manager Herman Baughman announced Kresge's impending closure January 1989. Kresges closed their doors after serving Belleville customers for 60 years. This announcement came just a week after announcing his retirement. By 1993 only 12 stores remained in Canada, and by July 1994 the last remaining S.S. Kresge Co. in Hamilton Ontario closed its doors.

I have fond memories of Kresges with its period wooden floors which creek while you walked. Bubble Gum machines, coin-operated riding horse or weigh scale which would be brought outside during fair weather conditions. What I remember most is the lunch counter which ran a good portion of the right-hand side of the store. I can still remember the red covered stools that swiveled in a full circle. The cakes and pies showcased in glass domes and the metal soda fountain holders which held paper dixie cones to contain your pop. You could order anything from Salisbury steak and a scoop of mashed potatoes to tuna casserole.

I can remember my first trip to the Kresge Lunch counter in or around 1968. My grandmother had treated me to lunch, and she allowed me to order whatever I wanted. I am not sure what I ordered, but I remember my grandmother ordering a hamburger without the meat. Even as a small boy I thought this to be quite odd.

unknown Kresge lunch counter

I also have memories of an older short petite woman who was a fixture for many years at the Kresge lunch counter. She appeared a very hard working woman, as I would see her walking to and from work making her way by BCI and up/down Queen Street 6 days a week.

What are your memories of S.S. Kresges?

unknown kresges

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