Woolworth’s – Penn Street / Berkshire Mall

Image & caption from “Berks Countians; The Wonderful Way We Live”
When this photo of the interior of Woolworth’s 5¢ and 10¢ store – 530-534 Penn, around 1911 – this was a “5-and-dime” emporium in the true sense. Everything in the place was priced at a nickel or dime. A sign visible near the rear of the aisle clearly states that “Nothing in this store over 10 cts.” Photo by John. B. Woods.

Woolworth’s 6th and Penn Reading store was opened on September 20th, 1884, under the name, “Woolworth & Knox”. It was just three doors across 6th street from the successful Pomeroy’s department store.

Woolworth’s moved to the Berkshire Mall when it opened in 1970, as did many of the successful Penn Street department stores. Woolworth’s was again next to Pomeroy’s (first Lit Brothers, but only 1970-1975) near the center of the mall. It could be accessed from the outside of the mall, and was also a restaurant called “Harvest House”.

Woolworth’s occupied store space #27, outlined in yellow.

Woolworths chain started declining in the 80s due to over-expansion, and it is believed the Mall location closed for good in the mid-late 90s. The inner-mall part was subdivided into a few more store spaces. The back half that was accessible from the outside was divided off.

Above is the outside entrance to what was the Woolworth’s at the Berkshire Mall as it is today, next to the defunct BonTon. As long as I can remember this space has been unoccupied. If you remember it being anything since Woolworth’s closing, please post in the comments.

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Kaleidoscope at the Berkshire Mall – 1970s

The Kaleidoscope was a store in the Berkshire Mall in the 70s. It sold jewelry, black lights and other psychedelic things. You could also get your ears pierced there. Do you remember this store?

circa 1973

Gadgets at the Berkshire Mall

From 1982-1984 there was a cutting edge restaurant called “Gadget’s” upstairs at the Berkshire Mall. It featured animatronic singing robots as entertainment. For kids, Looney Tunes was the featured presentation. It was also targeted to adults, featuring a LaBARatory bar and evening shows as well. Below is the only footage online of the restaurant, though at a location in New York.

The idea was fairly short lived. After brief expansion to roughly 6 locations in the US, the idea proved too costly to make a profit, and ultimately closed down. According to a comment on this website, the location at the Berkshire Mall was rumored to have a particularly shady end:

Does anyone remember the shady Gadgets disappearing story? They were behind on rent (owed 10s of thousands) and just packed up and took off in the middle of the night, leaving behind lots of the fixtures in the restaurant.

Do you remember Gadgets? Do you have any images or stories to share? Can you validate the rumor of how it left? What happened to all of the animatronic pieces left behind?

Bon-Ton / Pomeroy’s at the Berkshire Mall

Everyone has heard that Bon-Ton had declared bankruptcy and was subsequently closing all of it’s stores back in April. Liquidation began immediately, and finally after 4 months of sales the location at the Berkshire Mall is closing for the final time today, August 28th 2018 at 5:00 pm.

Bon-Ton occupied the center anchor at the Berkshire Mall since 1987, when it bought out the local department store, Pomeroy’s. The change was gradual, and the store only started touting just the Bon-Ton name in 1990, three years after the purchase. Pomeroy’s had been in the space since 1976. The mall opened in 1970, and for the first 6 years it housed a Philadelphia store called Lit Brothers. So, the majority of the mall’s life it has been the Bon-Ton. This will be the first time the space will be vacant for any amount of time, though Mall Management is looking for a tenant.

Pomeroy's Grand opening Berkshire Mall 1976
Pomeroy’s Grand opening Berkshire Mall 1976

Pomeroy’s / Bon-Ton has employed many Berks Countian’s over the years. My own Mother worked at Pomeroy’s in the late 70s/early 80s in the Junior Sportswear department during high school and college. Many are sad to see the memories go.

Pomeroy's fire May 1990
Pomeroy’s fire May 1990

Pomeroy's is now The Bon-Ton 1990
Pomeroy’s is now The Bon-Ton August 1990

Malls in general are not doing well these days. Many department stores, like Bon-Ton, are going out of business, and do not draw the crowds they once did in the Mall’s heydays of decades past. One would only need to look a few miles north to the Fairgrounds Square Mall to see the fate that awaits most malls. However Berkshire still seems to do a good business, and has minimal vacancies…though one mall couldn’t keep a giant like Bon-Ton alive, a new tenant should jump at the opportunity to join an active mall like the Berkshire.