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Saturday, August 29, 1998

Texas chain to close remaining 23 five-and-dime stores

DALLAS (AP) -- Call it the end of an era.

Like M.E. Moses and Woolworth before them, the remaining 23 Mott's 5&10 stores in Texas will close their doors in the next few weeks.

Employees say their small, family-owned shops no longer can survive in an industry dominated by juggernaut discount stores.

The announcement saddened some longtime customers, who say they preferred the small-town charm of Mott's.

"They say it's progress. Sometimes I think we're advancing to the rear," Max Simpson, 64, who stopped by the Waxahachie store recently to have a key made for his car, told The Dallas Morning News.

Mott's chief executive officer Lenora McNiel said a decreased demand for variety merchandise over the years, coupled with competition from stores like Wal-Mart and Kmart, drove her company out of business.

"Let's just say that it became increasingly difficult for a small family-owned chain of specialty stores to compete with the large, mass-merchandise retails. We competed as long as we could," Ms. McNiel said in a statement Friday.

She declined to say whether the company had lost money, or if employees would receive severance.

Waxahachie store manager Jody Villarreal said smaller stores provide services the larger ones can't. Employees in the Waxahachie store offered lessons in cake decoration, the floral department did a large business in preparing prom corsages, and future brides could go to Mott's to rent a brass wedding arch.

One customer, Thomas W. Fisher, 90, said the smaller stores have the friendly atmosphere that often is missing at larger stores.

"You lose familiarity," Fisher told the Morning News. "You lose the feeling that you know all the employees and they know you, and they know what you want."

Mott's will begin running a series of ads in newspapers this weekend for final inventory sales. Stores will remain open until the sales are finished and a final inventory can be completed, company officials said.

The company once had 73 stores, most in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and West Texas. Mott's reached its zenith in the 1950s, an era in which the five-and-dime was emblematic of small downtown and neighborhood shopping strips throughout this region.

The first E.B. Mott's 5&10 was founded in Dallas in 1942 on Knox Street by A.F. Perry, who named the store after E.B. Mott, a business partner. Michael McNeil, Perry's nephew, later took over the chain. Mrs. McNeil has run the operation since her husband's death in 1994.

Besides Waxahachie, the other Mott's stores to close are in Dallas, Fort Worth, Abilene, Sweetwater, Brownwood, Granbury, Dublin, Terrell, Clyde, Garland, Big Spring, Grandview, Burleson and Joshua.


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