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Business Happenings - January 2001
Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean...
Four Decades of Walker Drug Company

      One of the last great American traditions is still alive and well in Moab, Utah. Walker Drug Company, like Kresge's and TG&Y in other parts of the United States, followed in the tradition of the five-and-dime store originated by the Woolworth Company in 1879. Variety stores, five-and-dimes, or 'dime stores' have been giving American shoppers what they need for nearly 122 years. It doesn't matter whether you're looking for fishing tackle or underwear, you can find it at Walker Drug.

      Packed with merchandise of all varieties, Walker Drug is reminiscent of the old dime and drug stores that carried jars of penny candy, work clothes, novelty items, sewing notions, toys and medicinal products. Originating in the 19th Century and common through most of the 20" century, many of the original five and dime drugstores have disappeared from American streets. But Walker Drug greets the new millenium in fine form. At Walker Drug, you can still find spaghetti sauce, a cowboy hat, grenadine, a suitcase, motor oil or a toboggan a few aisles apart at this 43-year old Moab landmark. The only thing missing from this American scene is the soda fountain with the smell of grilled hot dogs wafting over your heads as you shop for greeting cards and bubble gum.
      The old-fashioned dime store has all but faded from the American landscape because of the giant discount chains and changing shopping habits. Woolworth's closed their last. stores in 1997 caving into increasing losses. Jack Walker is bucking that trend with his Moab store. The approximate 17,000 square foot store has been serving Moab customers since 1958. Jack Walker graduated from college in Pocatello, Idaho, and moved to Moab where he raised his children and opened the now familiar drugstore. While Jack is no longer part of the daily scenery in Moab (he visits every week, however), his store is.
      "We believe that people should be able to buy anything they need. We can always meet people's basic needs. They might not find exactly what they want. It may not be the exact brand of dress or shoes, but we can meet most anyone's basic needs here," said Vivian. Important to that formula, Vivian adds, is finding what you need in your own neighborhood, buying it from people you know and getting personal, friendly service.
      "Walker Drug goes above and beyond for our customers. We pick up items from other locations if necessary and sometimes even deliver. We do lots of special orders. You can't get that kind of service in bigger chain stores. That's something we're really proud of and want to hold onto," Vivian emphasizes.
      "You can't get it before they want it, but if you wait too long, they don't want it any more!" Vivian obviously loves the challenge as she has been managing and buying for Jack Walker's store since 1990. When asked how it's changed over the years, she says, "Well, we don't carry mu-mu's anymore, for one thing!"
      Indeed, Vivian has stocked the store with a wide variety of comfortable clothing — jeans, dresses, even Liz Claiborne swimsuits. You can throw the best party in Moab with her party supplies: streamers, horns, hats, candles, wrapping paper, confetti, balloons... even the candy and the ice cream bars. At the same time you can pick up a great new dress or shirt to wear to the party. And, of course, the toy department at Walker Drug makes it a favorite shopping spot before children's birthdays and Christmas. Walker's is also the place to find Hallmark goods. Until recently Jack Walker also owned the Hallmark store in Mesa Mall in Grand Junction. At one point in his career, Walker had 17 stores in Idaho, Colorado and Utah.
      Of course, we can never forget the drug in the word drugstore. Jack Walker is a licensed pharmacist and for three years drove to Moab every day from his home in Grand Junction because he did not have a pharmacist on location in Moab. His pharmacy has grown leaps and bounds in recent years and local residents have come to rely on the pharmacy for prescription needs.
      As the last of the Christmas wrap, ribbons and decoration clear out of the store at bargain prices, Vivian Klocko begins buying for Christmas 2001. It's hard to imagine, but such is the world of a variety store manager. She lives a year ahead of us so we can always walk in and find what we want today.

by Janet Lowe

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