Anyone longing for the past can find it in Harrisville.
Yesterday is alive and well there, thanks to a special local shop.
Berdine’s Five and Dime has transcended time by continuing to offer merchandise that’s delighted customers for more than a century.
Billed as the nation’s oldest “dime store,” it has been in continuous operation since 1908, according to its website.
“We continue to celebrate the simpler times, slower pace and nostalgia for a time gone by.
Visiting us is not a step back in time, it is like taking a giant leap back in time,” the website reads.
Just stepping inside the shop begins a nostalgic journey because it offers everything from old-time remedies to cleaning products that have been used for generations.
Not unlike other dime stores like Woolworth’s that have since closed, the small downtown space at 106 North Court St. is crammed with displays that draw customers of all ages inside.
The original marketing concept in the 1800s for these types of stores centered on offering a wide assortment of inexpensive items for personal and household use.
That’s still true today, but only to an extent.
While Berdine’s specialty is “practical and purely nonsensical merchandise,” the inventory is also carefully selected to resonate with shoppers who may live locally or in a foreign country like Australia and Canada, said veteran employee Karen Harper.
Now in her 36th year, Harper loves her job and still looks forward to coming to work each day.
“We are people oriented here. I love people. I think they are a gift from God, and I want them to feel special when they are here. We try to make coming here fun,” she said.
Bulk candies are especially popular. These goodies are shipped to Ritchie County from Indiana, Missouri and even Germany.
“These are quality candies, and we’ve been very blessed to find the right companies,” she said.
Gummi bears made with real juice, chocolate-covered English walnuts, double dipped peanuts, and “giant chocolate-covered raisins that are as big as almonds” are crowd pleasers.
Licorice imported from Finland is also popular. Another European delicacy, violet candy, tastes like the flower and becomes downright addictive for some folks.
“We also sell Crick-ettes which are real crickets that come in little tiny boxes, and probably have 10 or 12 of them inside.”
“The flavors can be bacon and cheddar, sour cream and onion, or salt and vinegar. We started selling them three or four years ago and we continually reorder those. They taste good, but they are more just for fun,” she said.
Some people use them to help with fundraisers.
One organization put people in a pretend jail and they had to eat one of the confectionery crickets or pay a dollar to get out, she said.
Orders can be phoned in and they will be shipped, even though the website doesn’t include online service.
“I’ve mailed five pounds of gummi bears to Ohio, and we have sent some things abroad,” she said.
Wooden toys like Jacob’s ladder, pop guns, sling shots and pecking chickens have gotten harder to source, but continue to be offered.
Foodies aren’t forgotten here.
“One of our neatest kitchen utensils is a measuring set that is labeled pinch,dab and smidgen. It tells you those old measurements used in old cookbooks,” she said.
Not unlike earlier days, word of mouth from satisfied customers is the store’s best friend.
Technology has also helped and the advent of social media has helped spread the message further than anyone ever imagined possible, she said.
“Even the folks who come from foreign countries tell us that a friend said they had to come to this awesome little store, or sometimes they saw us online because someone Facebooked or friended them,” she said.
Originally opened by brothers K.C. and Lafayette Berdine in 1908, the shop was run by K.C. for 46 years. It was then run for 28 years by Fred Berdine.
Well-known state glass expert Dean Six and his family have owned and operated it for 32 years.
“You really should come here to experience Berdine’s because there really isn’t anything else quite like it,” Six said.
He’s especially proud of the shop’s authenticity, including its oak countertops and pressed tin ceilings.
“Words don’t do it justice. You have to feel it, and once you do it’s something you’ll want to experience again.”
Store hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Sunday, and the telephone number is 304 643 2217. It is just about four miles from North Bend State Park