Tiny Towne Prepares To Close A Big 69th Street Tradition "A Lot Of People Have Fond Memories Of Shopping There," Said One Man.

Posted: April 06, 1995

UPPER DARBY — For 58 years, Tiny Towne has catered to the needs of children, with its veteran staff selling a range of eclectic merchandise that includes everything

from Boy Scout uniforms to pint-size furniture.

The oldest retailer on 69th Street, the store survived the economic hardships brought on by World War II and SEPTA strikes. What it cannot withstand, however, has been consumers' gradual defection to flashy national chain stores.

Next month, Tiny Towne will shut down.

Store owner Stuart Wenger, 48, said that in the face of hard times, employees had found it increasingly difficult to maintain the store's standard of service.

"We've been here a long time, and we wanted to have the kind of quality service we've always had," Wenger said. "That takes a lot of overhead and requires that we keep a lot of sales people on the floor to help customers."

In recent years, many Tiny Towne customers have drifted to chain stores in the area because they believed prices were lower, Wenger said. In addition, he said, chain stores are able to get better deals from clothing manufacturers

because they buy in bulk.

"We've tried to compete by making some cuts, but we just can't keep it going," Wenger said.

Developer Morris Willner, who owns the space that Wenger leases at 74 S. 69th St., said he was sorry to see the store go.

"It's an institution, and a lot of people have fond memories of shopping there, including my own family," Willner said. "It's hard today for single shop owners to compete if they don't have a specialty niche that isn't covered by the national chains."

Wenger, a Lower Merion resident, went into partnership with the Tiny Towne's founder and original owner, Leon Luria, in 1976. His next move is

uncertain, he said, but he will not worry about it until after the store closes.

Until then, Wenger will supervise the store's closeout sale and help his 20-plus employees find new jobs.

Kathleen Watson, 62, of Upper Darby, has walked to work for 20 years. She is the bookkeeper for Tiny Towne; and when it closes, she does not know what she will do.

"I'm going to miss it here a lot," Watson said. "Even when I take a day off, I'm always glad to come back the next day. I guess I'll look for another part-time job."

Watson recalls helping generations of Upper Darby families shop for Communion outfits, and she still gets phone calls from some infrequent Tiny Towne shoppers who want to know whether the store's legendary sliding board, which children rode from the first floor to the basement, was still on display.

That board was taken down more than 20 years ago, Watson said.

"It's tough to close off such a big part of your life," Wenger said. ''Everyone around here is really hanging till the very end."

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