Dick’s 5 & 10 has offered customers a unique experience and unique merchandise for 60 years
BRANSON, MO. – There are many reasons why Branson, Mo., became a favorite destination for those seeking getaways for family fun and traditionally wholesome entertainment, but for the past 60 years none is more iconic, compelling or unique than the experience at Dick’s 5 & 10.
The origins of Dick’s 5 & 10, didn’t just start in 1961, observed Steve Hartley, current co-owner and son of Dick’s 5 & 10 founder Dick Hartley, explained. Beginning with the Saad Brothers, whose store eventually became a Ben Franklin’s, there has been a 5 & 10 in the same location at 103 W. Main Street for nearly 100 years.
Steve said his father went to work for S.S. Kresge Company in downtown Chicago, after he returned from World War II. The elder Hartley eventually left Kresge and went to work as a manager for the TG&Y company. But when TG&Y changed operating hours to remain open on Sundays.
“(Dick) decided that if I’m going to be open on Sunday’s I’m going to be open for myself,” Steve said.
Thusly motivated, Dick and his wife June looked at numerous Midwestern locations and finally determined to locate their new venture in Branson near their hometown of Springfield, Mo.
“They landed in Branson because it was a good place to raise a family,” Steve said. They also foresaw that the growing tourism business in Branson offered additional and unique opportunities other regional communities did not.
So it was that on July 14, 1961 Dick’s 5 & 10 formally opened in a 1,500-square foot building a few block from its current location. As the only employee for several years, Dick did everything from sales to cabinetry, constructing many of the original display counters are still in use nearly 60 years later. Always looking for new and unique offerings to provide to his customers Dick began accumulating a series of extraordinary collections to which Dick’s 5 & 10 continues to add items as they come across appropriate pieces.
The first collection Dick acquired was the product of efforts over 40 years by long-time Branson barber Carl Taylor. Carl was an avid collector of artifacts from across the White River Basin, and the senior Hartley was able to procure a collection of Native American arrowheads that remain on display and formed the basis for gathering numerous other collections that the current owners continue to develop in the footsteps of their founder.
In addition to Native American artifacts, there is a Baseball Wall of Fame that includes an impressive array of autographed pictures and prints.
“Short of Cooperstown (NY Baseball Hall of Fame) there’s not a better collection of signed memorabilia of the pioneers of our game,” Steve confidently claimed. There are the expansive collections of model planes and trains (the Dick’s 5 & 10 Express actually runs on tracks around the store above the displays), more than 100 World War II aviation prints, many of which are signed by the actual pilots and crews of those aircraft, as well as cap guns, green handled kitchen utensils and a working Wurlitzer jukebox festooned with bubble lights.
“It’s all about the experience,” Steve said of the rationale for continuing the traditions his father established. And as it affirmatively states on their website (www.dicks5and10.com), “Dick was very proud of the collections on display in his store and he believed that they were a very important part of the Dick’s 5 & 10 experience. We continue to add to our collections to honor Dick’s belief in their importance.”
Those tenets and traditions remain vividly on display in the store and clearly part of what keeps Steve and his 40-plus full- and part-time employees hopping year round. The store is open every day, except Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“We’re a 10-month destination,” Steve noted, speaking of the broad customer base that comes to Branson year after year. “We feel it’s our job to be here when they’re here.”
How would Steve describe Dick’s 5 & 10 to someone who has never visited? “Well, it’s an experience first; an experience you can’t get anywhere else,” he said.
In addition to the feeling customers get from being in an historical building Steve added “You’ll not only find 600 different vendors on our counters,” providing fun for everyone, from ages 5 to 105. And as one peruses the aisles filled with seemingly endless selections of everything from nostalgia to novelty it is indeed not an exaggeration to say that there is something for everyone.
Steve’s favorite section? Not Steve’s Toy Box as one might expect. It’s the 75-feet of candy and “soda pop” known as the Candy Emporium. “We sell thousands of bottles of soda pop,” Steve said.
Referring to the section named Melissa’s Book Nook in a nod to his sister and co-owner, Steve side the section is a top-seller.
“Books are very popular,” he explained. “Have been forever and still are. There’s not a better way to connect with a child than sitting down and reading a book with them.
“My mom was a big cook,” Steve continued. “We’d go home every day and she’d prepare a great lunch for us.”
The Hartley family would use those times to step back and reconnect with each other or talk business, but moreover, “She had all kinds of kitchen gadgets, and was a great cook, so June’s Kitchen is our housewares department.”
“We’ve got a great team,” Steve proudly said. And the team at Dick’s 5 & 10 manages to provide experiences for their customers from history and education to fun and frivolity. Steve gives credit for that combined ethos of nostalgia and what’s trending to his father.
“He preached that you can’t rest on your laurels. People gotta know that they’re going to come to Dick’s 5 & 10 and find the newest and the craziest and the wackiest, and you’ve got to get out and keep yourself new and fresh, and really reinventing yourself,” Steve affirmed.
Steve, and his team are dedicated to keeping Dick’s 5 & 10 visitors thinking, no matter how many times they may have been there, they will see something new and different each time.
“We’re just making sure that Dick’s 5 & 10 is never more fun, never more enjoyable, never a better experience for our guests,” adding Steve said. “And not only that, but a safe place.”
In the end, Steve and Melissa and their team, are absolutely focused as a family business, on the idea that a family can come in and they can have a great time and know that everything’s going to be good for them and that it’s going to be a great family experience.
With clear sincerity Steve adds, “If my mother and father ever came back in the store again, and they walked in and walked around they would know that we’re carrying on like they would want us to carry on.” Steve is certain his parents are “tickled” to know “the kids” are working together to keep Dick’s 5 & 10 relevant and keep it what they would want us to be – a family business that’s fun for all ages, and an experience they can’t get anywhere else.