Even though it doesn’t have the size or the inventory of the ultimate five-and-ten of my childhood (Woolworth’s!), Sonoma’s vintage 5 & dime, Tiddle E. Winks, carries on the tradition of selling sweet treats, toys and delightful household items.
My memory of Woolworth’s – whether it’s actually accurate or not after several decades – is that it seemed to carry everything from dress patterns to parakeets. I grew up in San Francisco near the Woolworth’s on West Portal Avenue but the ultimate experience was taking the streetcar to the Woolworth’s in the Flood Building at Powell and Market streets, which was one of the chain’s largest stores. It seemed like a wonderland from the moment you walked through the doors with the smell of warm buttered popcorn from the popcorn cart filling the air, generously sized banana splits and milkshakes served at the lunch counter, and me watching a bit enviously as best friends had their names engraved on friendship necklaces.
Items no longer cost a nickel or a dime (and there are no live animals for sale), but there are incredibly charming treasures to be found at Tiddle E. Winks at prices that won’t break the bank. And best of all, you enter and leave with the same sense of wonder and delight you remember from the five-and-dime stores of long ago. I purchased several fun and sentimental gifts this holiday season to support Sonoma Valley after our devastating fires by keeping money flowing into local businesses.
The recipients were touched by the thoughtful items and I was met with a chorus of “Where were you able to find this?” to “I haven’t seen one of these in years!”
Smaller, community based businesses are often better able to respond to the unique needs of their customers. They are also often able to offer handmade items from regional artisans, providing a way to showcase locally made goods to a larger audience.
Shopping locally is a simple way to conserve resources by reducing traffic and its resulting pollution, to meet our immediate needs for gifts and for sustenance, and to support our neighbors and our community both financially and emotionally. And not just in a time of crisis – but all year long.
You would be hard-pressed to find a way to sustain the local Sonoma community that is more enchanting or nostalgic than a shopping spree at Tiddle E. Winks. Stop by (they are located at 115 East Napa Street right off the plaza) for a small gift or a souvenir of your vacation – it’s practically impossible to leave empty-handed!1