De Kruil Drug Store Lunch Counter, 1938


Variety stores that sold an array of inexpensive products first appeared in the late nineteenth century from companies such as F.W. Woolworth, which started in 1878. These stores were often called "five and dimes" or "five and tens," a reference to the fact that all of their merchandise cost a nickel or a dime. By the mid-twentieth century many five and dimes included lunch counters where shoppers could grab a quick bite to eat. Drugstores also often included these lunch counters, such as the one pictured in this 1938 photo of a counter in De Kruil Drug Store, located in Grand Rapids, MI. These lunch counters served a large assortment of snacks, lunches, and dinners—club sandwiches, toasted tuna sandwiches, meatloaf, fries, homemade doughnuts. In the South, African Americans could purchase food items but they could not sit down and eat them. Other stores included Kress, Krege's, and G.C. Murphy's. By the late 1970s, lunch counters at five and dimes were beginning to fade from the American landscape.


"De Kruil Drug Store," (Coll. No. 125-210; Neg. # 125-O-2524) May 11, 1938, Grand Rapids History and Special Collections (GRHSCD), Archives, Grand Rapids Public Library, Grand Rapids, Michigan.