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End of an era for Bethesda five and dime shoppers

Monday - 12/31/2012, 4:20pm  ET

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A customer leaves Bruce Variety, a Bethesda five and dime store, Monday. The store, which specializes in craft and hardware items, plans to close its doors after 60 years. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)

Andrew Mollenbeck, wtop.com

BETHESDA, Md. - A popular five and dime store has cut its prices by half, but regular customers are not celebrating.

Bruce Variety, in the Bradley Shopping Center on Arlington Road, has announced it will be closing after 60 years of business.

While the owner and loyal shoppers admit five and dimes are a dying breed, the lease price determined the fate of this location.

"We can't enter into a new lease and still be a profitable enterprise at this location," says Linda Ridenour, whose husband, Richard, owns the store. "Sad but true after 60 years."

Some customers have taken up their cause, even mobilizing support by gathering signatures on the website change.org.

Bruce Variety opened in 1953 and remained in the same location when the current owner purchased it in 1985.

It continues selling art, school and sewing supplies as well as hardware and household items.

"And what our customers know is that if they can't find it here, we're happy to look for it and order it for them," Ridenour says.

Linda Schmitt, looking at the sales on New Year's Eve, remembered coming here when the store had just opened.

"For a kid, it was like a miracle place," she says. "There was everything that you could look at and that you could touch."

Silvia Shaffer has also been a customer for decades.

"I've been coming here for 35 years, and it's the last of the five and dimes," she says. "It's terrible that it's closing. This location was wonderful."

The closing notice first went up Dec. 26.

The store does not have a fixed date for closing nor any certainty if, when or where it may reopen.

"We've been dreading having to share this information with the community," Ridenour says.

In addition to the lease, a future location for Bruce Variety would require pull-up parking, according to Ridenour.

She says a new Home Depot at Montgomery Mall drew customers away from the Bradley Shopping Center.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)