The other day I wandered into a place I’d been meaning to go,
a “variety” store called A.L. Stickle in Rhinebeck.
Here’s how it went.
The first thing I see is this:
Really? My camera starts twitching. And my quippiness rears its head.
Then I notice things are displayed just like they were in Woolworth’s
in DAYS OF YORE.
For you kids out there, Woolworth’s was the place you’d go to buy a parakeet and a pack of underpants, to paraphrase David Letterman.
All the prices are marked on the items in grease pencil.
Everything’s meticulously and thoughtfully organized.
In fact, there are a couple people doing just that as I look around.
Wow, I haven’t seen one of these since I won one at the state fair with one of those little mechanical cranes behind glass that you pumped your coins into only to find out that just about anything it tried to pick up was the wrong size or weight to actually make it down the chute and into your hand.
When I see this sign, I think, “OK, I’m going to offer them 20 bucks for this sign. SCORE. I’ll be the first person who’s ever even noticed it.”
I’m picturing how great it’ll look in the kitchen.
I notice another sign and imagine my collection growing.
My blog’s going to be about how I scored these vintage signs from some unsuspecting storekeeper.
But then I begin to notice that these signs and mechandise ARE the store.
But not in a precious or ironic way. In an appreciative, thoughtful way.
It’s clear that whoever owns the store knows exactly what they have,
and they’re enjoying the heck out of being able to use it in a practical way.
Check it out:
Nothing like vintage ads to remind you
that doggies and broken glass are a bad combo.
And also that no one’s come up with a better way to package a light bulb.
Seriously amazing. Oil cloth, for your picnic tablecloth.
I repeat, seriously amazing.
I ordered some of these online awhile back after being unable to find what I needed.
This looks a bit like the stuff I unearthed in my mom’s kitchen when I emptied her house.
And I kept it, by the way, cause that’s how I roll.
Thermos replacement parts?
For the lucky few who have a real Thermos thermos?
One of the wise men bolted.
Good to see the other two are hangin in though,
enjoying the perfectly consistent 70 degree temps.
The ribbon selection is brilliant.
And as you can see, I’m not the only one enjoying it.
The vintage toys are displayed all around the store on an upper ledge.
Many still with boxes.
Most of the ad pieces are with the appropriate merchandise.
Which is very cool.
I almost faint when I come upon this.
I instantly think of my friend Chandra at GREER.
Upon closer inspection, I see that it does indeed contain vintage cards.
I’m in the middle of reading a great book about them!
The school supply section causes me equal joy.
It’s all arranged so well, among the kind of glass dividers I haven’t seen used in eons.
I still remember when I went from a plastic ruler to a wooden ruler.
That was pretty serious.
I never studied the kind of big time geometry that required a bow compass; always squeaked by just with the kind that holds the golf pencil.
And this is the proprietor! You thought I’d never get around to this, didn’t you?
Meet Matt Stickle, grandson of the store’s original owner, Alfred Lee Stickle.
That’s why this fantastic place is called A.L. Stickle, and it’s been a Rhinebeck fixture for over 62 years, with Matt running it for over a dozen.
Alfred Lee Stickle bought a store in 1946 — a Ben Franklin. A nearby grocery store was destroyed by a fire, and he bought that property and had the new store built there. A.L. Stickle opened in 1951.
When Al became ill, his grandson Matt came home to help run the store, and took over after Al passed away. Matt now runs the store with his wife Leah, and other family members. Jan, Al’s wife, still comes in to help out a few days a week.
Matt found all these great pieces in the basement of the store, and as he brought them up, his late grandfather would say, “I haven’t seen that in years!”
He loves what he’s doing, and he’s doing it for the love of the store.
It’s obvious in talking to him, and when shopping, that he cares about what he does, and about his customers.
Oh, and yeah. None of the vintage display pieces are for sale.
I didn’t even have to ask that question once I’d heard Matt’s story.
But I did.
Cause I knew you’d ask.
We are across the river from Woodstock, after all.
A lion’s eye view of Market Street from the front window.
As I left, the word “notions” popped into my head. This is where you find them.
Nobody even uses that word anymore.
Stuff like thread, elastic, thimbles. Notions!
My dad sold sundries, so I know notions.
I also thought if we’d had a store like this near us when my daughter was little, we’d have been in there almost daily, at her suggestion.
It was refreshing to discover a place that turned out to just be what it is — not retro, not hip, not designed to be anything other than an authentic, working five and dime.
I love New York. Upstate.
Check out Matt’s wife Leah’s cute-as-a-bug Etsy store, Go Monkey Designs.
The tote bags and French lounging pants are fantastic!
I have a notion to move to Rhinebeck and apply for a job at this store. I bet I'd get an employees discount on hairnets.
Fabulous. I grew up in Rhinebeck in the '70s/'80s, and many childhood afternoons were spent selecting a toy at Stickle's while my mother bought sewing notions or lamp hardware.
I live downstate now, but every time I'm in Rhinebeck, I make sure to stop in and look around. I have yet to find any store that matches Stickle's in heart or in selection. I'm so glad they've survived.
What a fun post. I actually worked in the notions department of Jordan Marsh (a now defunct Boston based department store) when I was in high school.
I often wander around with my camera, too, and wonder about photographing in stores/shops/restaurants when something fabulous is happening. Do you ask first, or just go to it?
Thanks so much for the comments, Cheryl, Monique and Anna–I love comments as much as notions!
Cheryl, I always ask first. I've only had one person say no, a place in Beacon Hill in Boston. Most people are thrilled to have someone appreciate them. I'll check out your blog!
KS I am currently writing a little moodly piece about the influence Seventeen mag had my friends and i and I came across your hilarious blog. Mind you, i am australian. grew up in the 1970s in a tiny town in Central Nowhere. But Seventeen truly made us swoon and i loved your piece. And this one too! Thanks! jx
Great post! It reminds me of the Schultz Bros. store I spent a lot of time at as a kid in Whitewater, WI (70s/80s also). Indeed, you could get a parakeet and a pack of underwear there, too. Now I get my dime store fix at a great Ben Franklin here in Madison. How absolutely cool that the grandson is now running it!
Thanks again to all of you for the great comments, emails, and posts on my Facebook page. It's so fun to share your memories.
Feedback is a gift, you know!
Hi, I've just stumbled upon your blog and think it's fantastic (love this post and the photos), just thought I'd let you know before I carry on reading older posts… Love from London x
Oh, I miss Woolworths. My first job at 16 was at a huge Woolworths in New York. I was in charge of the notions department (loved that photo!), but I also made milkshakes at the soda fountain counter and checked people out at the front register. Since I was responsible for all three tasks at once, I kept very busy. Loved that job! KM
love this..simply love! thank you for sharing!
Ohhh…. how reminiscent! I bought my parakeet at Woolworth's …. sat at the soda fountain etc. I love looking at all the old ads.
Thanks Kitty for the walk down Memory Lane.
(Going to Rhinebeck in 2 weeks…this is a 'must see')