Step Back In Time: Dick’s 5 & 10 a variety store on a grand scale

Step Back In Time: Dick’s 5 & 10 a variety store on a grand scale
BECCA MARTIN-BROWN
bmartin@nwadg.com

Ask Donna Knulty what you can’t buy at Dick’s 5 & 10 in Branson. It’ll be a lot quicker than asking her what you can buy.

Turning 60 years old in 2021, Dick’s 5 & 10 is an old-fashioned variety store that might colloquially be described as “on steroids.” Founded by Dick and June Hartley in 1961, it started life with a 1,500-square-foot sales floor and a concomitant amount of stock. Now, it boasts 10,000 square feet and more than 250,000 individual pieces of merchandise — and Knulty knows, because it’s all counted by hand. The store doesn’t keep a computerized inventory, doesn’t have an online shop — oh, and it doesn’t carry electronics like PlayStations, she says. “But we do sell lots of toys you haven’t seen in a long time.”

Visitors can tell Dick’s 5 & 10, located at 103 W. Main St. in Branson, is unique before they ever step inside. (Courtesy Photo)

Located in downtown Branson, Dick’s 5 & 10 is owned by the son and daughter of its founders, Steve Hartley and his sister Melissa. Knulty is merchandise manager and is described by those who know as “Steve’s right-hand woman.” But don’t think you’ll never see a Hartley on the sales floor. Steve, Knulty says, helps customers, runs the cash register, takes out trash and brings in merchandise — and he does it all with a smile, something he thinks is vital.

“We want to be friendly, we want to be patient, and we want to be kind,” Knulty says of the store’s guiding principles. “If we’re not doing those things, we’re not doing a good job.”

Dick Hartley, who was trained in national variety store chains like S.S. Kresge Company and TG&Y, started his business in downtown Branson because it felt right, the story goes. There were many lean years, and when competition from big box stores started to affect Dick’s 5 & 10, Hartley came up with the idea of showcasing collections of merchandise that wasn’t for sale — arrowheads, signed aviation prints from World War II, baseball memorabilia, G-scale trains that run overhead in the store and more.

Knulty doesn’t think that’s the store’s biggest attraction.

“When I started working there nine years ago, it really moved me to see little kids running through the store having fun, asking if they can spend the night,” she says. Then she realized the store was also filled with teenagers walking around saying “how cool” everything was, and “men in their 30s and 40s playing like kids” and “the older generation getting all teary-eyed because this brings them back to when they were little kids going to a dime store.”

“That’s my way of explaining what Dick’s 5 & 10 is. When you walk in, it’s definitely an experience!”

So what does Dick’s 5 & 10 sell? Its website summarizes the stock as “unique gifts you won’t find anywhere else, one-of-a-kind collections spanning generations, toys from yesteryear, items for the home, games, hobby supplies, sewing, an aisle of the quirky and fun and so much more.” Hartley says there are things at Dick’s you just can’t find anywhere else. For example, she explains that chiffon scarves for women are no longer being made — but Dick’s bought up all she could find when she heard that news. “That’s one of the items that’s always been in a five and dime,” she says.

Dick’s Candy Emporium is second to none with over 1,100 different kinds of candy and snacks, including hard-to-find, old-fashioned candy and more than 100 different varieties of soda. In fact, Dick’s has sold enough flat taffy to stretch from downtown Branson to Silver Dollar City. (Courtesy Photo)

Knulty also gets credit for finding a way to keep shoppers coming back, even while the store was closed due to covid-19 concerns in 2020.

She says customers have always asked if they could buy things online, and the answer has always been “no.” But on the day after the store shut its doors in March 2020, she instituted a “personal shopper” plan that allows shoppers to connect with an employee who will email with them, FaceTime with them, even walk them through the aisles virtually until they find what they’re looking for.

“We’ll never have an e-commerce site, but we can take old-fashioned shopping to you. And people are happy with that.”

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FAQ

Dick’s 5 & 10

WHEN — Open 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. all winter, except Thanksgiving and Christmas

WHERE — 103 W. Main St. in Branson

COST — Many things are still a nickel or a dime

INFO — dicks5and10.com

Categories: In The News