Skip Navigation
Dean Six and Karen Harper outside Berdine's
Proprietor Dean Six and manager Karen Harper greet visitors at Berdines 5 & Dime in Harrisville. The store is celebrating its 100th year. Photograph by Michael Keller.

A Visit to Berdines

Ritchie County’s Old-Time 5 & Dime

By Maureen Crockett

People come here from all over — Germany, Canada, Australia, France, and all 50 states. Year after year, they return to Berdines 5 & Dime, located at 106 North Court Street, off State Route 31 in Harrisville, Ritchie County. The place is far from an interstate and well off a state highway. It’s not slick or fancy and doesn’t have a flashy sign or a large parking lot. Why do customers from near and far keep returning?

There are many reasons, it turns out.

Started in 1908, the store is still open and thriving, outlasting many of its competitors throughout the country. Such an old place should smell musty and dusty with the years. Instead, Berdines smells like licorice. The aroma starts on the front porch in warm weather, because the door is open to the breeze.

A barrel out front, flaunting the sign “American made flags — $1.88," holds a colorful array of red, white, and blue. Toys and kites fill a display window carrying the sign “Why did Cairo lose its marbles?” — a reference to Harrisville’s sister town up the road, which lost its marble factory in 1986. Notwithstanding the sardonic sign, another poster advertises an upcoming marble festival in Cairo. Ritchie County was once a locus for glass factories, producing marbles for the games schoolboys played at recess in bygone years. [See “Champions with Dirty Knuckles: Marbles in the Mountain State,” by Richard Ramella; Summer 1993.]

Just inside the front door are two barrels holding sassafras and horehound candy, other favorites from the past – and the present. Toys and candy — this place is a wonderland for kids.

Above the candy looms a bookshelf. There’s A.A. Milne’s Pooh Goes Visiting next to a copy of The Book of Bad Manners. Kids zero in on those, while adults find themselves bemused by Kafka’s Soup, a history of world literature in 14 recipes, including references to the Marquis de Sade, Homer, and John Steinbeck — quite an intriguing book for a rainy day and emblematic of the strange and wonderful finds the store’s buyers have provided.

To the right of the front door is a large and colorful display of crochet, knitting, and sewing materials. Here are all the luscious colors of a big crayon box, arrayed on shelves holding wool, spools of thread, needles, and crafters’ notions.

Visitors wander up and down the four crowded aisles, stopping to pick up the Coca-Cola memorabilia or consider the ant farm or a box of foot long pencils, too fat to conveniently hold. The tin ceiling is the only part of the store not crammed with merchandise. Even very high shelves hold items for sale, although I learned later that those high shelves get dusted only once every two or three years.

High and low, there is stuff I want to take home, everywhere I look something extraordinary. As I walk the aisles, the ancient wooden floors creak beneath me. Everyone here moves slowly, looking, thinking, picking up curiosities.

In the back of the store are Karen Harper, the manager; and Dean Six, the proprietor. They have a wealth of information about the store’s long history to share.


You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.