CSG1960sThis year, Chain Store Guide celebrates its 80th anniversary.  In honor of this occasion, we are hosting a monthly series of editorials called “Chain Store Guide Through The Ages”, starting with the 1930s.  Each month we will take a look at a different decade and review what was happening in that time and how it effected the industries we now serve.  Though we started off printing paper directories, our delivery of essential business sales leads has evolved into a robust and powerful online database system used by many of the top Fortune 500 companies today.

Chain Store Guide In The ’60s 

“The Sixties” was a period of great social, political, and economic change that included prosperity for Americans but also gave rise to a counterculture that challenged established social norms of thinking and living in the United States. Children from the baby-boom became young adults and many moved away from the conservative ideals of the 1950’s.

The counterculture phenomenon gained serious momentum during the Vietnam War and had a profound effect on American society. The counterculture’s motivation of change forced many issues such as racism, civil rights, women’s rights, sexism and drug experimentation into the public spotlight. This gave rise to the hippie culture and youth subculture of the time. Music groups such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, and Jimi Hendrix gained tremendous popularity.

During the decade, the Cold War continued and brought about the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 which many consider as the moment in which we came closest to nuclear war. While John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 many of his plans continued including the Peace Corps and the commitment to land a man on moon and return him back to earth, which was actually accomplished in 1969. As the Vietnam War dragged on it divided the nation.

Throughout the decade, the charismatic activist Martin Luther King, Jr. worked for the advancement of civil rights through nonviolent means. Both he and Bobby Kennedy were tragically assassinated in 1968.

It was a time of transformation and revolution, and change was the defining constant of the decade.


Prior to 1960, designers generally created styles for runways, and clothing manufacturers mass produced the designers’ styles for the general public. However, during the 1960s youth throughout the Western world began to rebel against traditional clothing styles and create their own trends. Soon, fashion designers and manufacturers were frantically trying to keep up with the trends and implement the youths’ popular creations into clothing for the masses.

The bikini came into fashion in 1963. In the middle of the decade people were dressing in psychedelic prints, highlighter colors, and mismatched patterns. Mini-skirts and go-go boots were made popular. By the end of the decade the hippie look was in style. Both men and women wore frayed bell-bottomed jeans, tie-dyed shirts and headbands.

Hundreds of apparel and footwear retailers and department store companies got their start in the 1960’s. Kohl’s Corporation was founded in 1962 and Dillard’s Inc. in 1964. Top retailers The TJX Companies Inc., Limited Brands, and Gap Inc. were also established in the swinging sixties.


Coming out of the remarkable financial growth generated by the post war/baby boom era of the fabulous fifties, the sixties ushered in new modes of thought reflecting unprecedented prosperity and the desire to forge new economic and political models. This astounding growth, after the many years of enduring the harsh economic scales brought on by the Great Depression and World War II, produced an aura of unprecedented international economic and military leadership. It also allowed Americans of diverse statures to ponder the future and take on innovative measures to advance it.

Thus the era of the big box commenced in 1962 as Sam Walton began his rural-based enterprise to be known as Walmart Discount City. This after years of Walton tinkering with approaches to a new aged Five and Dime.

While Walton has received the proper kudos through the years for his reinvigoration of the classical Five and Dime model, eventually to become the world’s largest corporation, he was not alone in initiating a big box, discount/general merchandise concept at that time. 1962 was also the year Kmart and Target entered the rapidly changing retail landscape. Not to be overlooked, Shopko was also founded in 1962. Five years later Big Lots entered the scene.

General merchandise discounters weren’t the only retailers to hear the call of the new concept- big box retail model in the sixties. In 1968 Best Buy emerged from the confines of an audio specialty shop which had been founded just two years earlier. During that same year, West Marine entered the scene as a one stop shop for marine products and accessories. Earlier during this decade Crate & Barrel was founded (1962), as were Brookstone (1965), Petco (1965) and Kirkland’s (1966).

The sixties also saw America’s ever increasing romance with automobiles fuel the birth of chains designed to offer products to keep those cars in strong working order. Uni-Select began operations in 1968, adding to the very diverse group of successful automotive aftermarket chains launched during that decade. Earlier, we saw the entry of aftermarket icons including the Discount Tire Company, General Parts Inc., and Big O Tires. As prosperity boomed so did the realization of new retail concepts which were to expand and prosper through the coming decades.


The 1960’s saw the founding of one of largest and most influential pharmacy retailers in United States history – CVS Caremark. Its first store – selling only health and beauty products – opened in 1963 in Lowell MA by brothers Stanley and Sidney Goldstein and partner Ralph Hoagland. By 1964, the chain had 17 locations. The CVS banner (standing for Consumer Value Stores) is developed into the company’s original logo. It wasn’t until 1967 that the company began operation of its first stores with pharmacy departments, opening locations in Rhode Island, Warwick, and Cumberland. In 1969, CVS was sold to Melville Corporation and by 1970 it operated 100 stores in New England and the Northeast.

CVS was still far behind industry leader Walgreens, which by 1960 filled its 100 millionth prescription. Walgreens was a strong innovator in the marketplace, entering the Puerto Rico market during the decade and revolutionizing child-resistant prescription containers. Ironically, another industry leader was founded during the 1960’s – Rite Aid. In 1962, the company opened its first store as Thrift D Discount Center in Scranton, PA. By 1968, it officially changed its name to Rite Aid Corporation and made its first initial public offering. Like most stores in the 60’s, the emphasis began to shift towards price and promotion, in addition to self-service offerings and departments.


The incredible growth of the economy during the fabulous fifties and the effects of the baby boom resulted in a stunning demand for home building, both new and as add-ons during the sixties. It was in this atmosphere that John Menard began his small firm, engaged in new home building. As his and his competitor’s demands for building materials grew, Menard set up his first location, designed to offer lumber and the many other products needed to fuel the building drive. Ultimately Menards became a unique big box icon, years before Home Depot set its mold. To this day Menard continues to grow its prototypes as many big box mainstays across the entire retail spectrum seek to shrink theirs.

Fastenal Company was created in 1967 to meet the rapidly increasing needs of supplies for builders. To this day the company continues to innovate efficient distribution standards to meet the needs of its builder customers. Currently, in addition to aggressively approaching the opening of its 2,700th location, the company has embarked on a program which has strategically placed nearly 30,000 FAST Solutions industrial vending machines, to make its most essential building products ever more accessible to its busy customers.

The Farm & Home segment of our industry also felt the demands of a strongly growing market during the sixties. Thus as early as in 1960 we witnessed the introduction of what were to become two cornerstones of this market, Orscheln Farm & Home and Rural King Supply. Though essentially regional in scope, these powerhouses have grown to offer over 200 locations between the two companies.


The ten years following the peaceful and prosperous 1950s was highlighted by massive social upheaval. The civil rights movement reached its peak, the Vietnam War was heating up and becoming increasingly unpopular, especially among young people, and the assassinations of Marin Luther King and two of the Kennedy brothers were sober reminders that the world was changing. Many of the so-called baby boomers were in college and no longer content with the status quo, not at all hesitant to protest and express their dissatisfaction.

Amid the turbulence, Pete’s Super Submarines was opened by a teen-ager named Fred DeLuca in 1965 as an effort to earn enough money for college. That little sandwich shop is now the Subway system, operating nearly 40,000 stores in 100 countries around the world. Arby’s, Blimpie, Captain D’s, and Hardee’s also began selling their sandwiches in that decade. Huddle House, the restaurant that famously never closes, opened its first door in 1964 and was marketed as a place for customers to “huddle” after the big Friday night football games. Red Lobster and Ruth’s Chris Steak House started operating to serve the needs of a more adult diner.


At the back end of the ‘Golden Age’ of supermarket retailing, the 1960’s began to focus more on the inside of the store. In the later part of the decade, zoning regulations and a changing taste of consumers led to a more restrained architectural design, while interior designs began to compensate. Vivid and colorful interior concepts began replacing the bland styles of previous stores. The term ‘specialty department’ emerged as a way to describe the features inside stores, while floors were sometimes outfitted with carpet. The 1960’s, however, were also a time when the ‘discounting’ trend began to emerge. Many stores around the country initiated discounting programs which centered on cost-cutting, reductions in operating hours, and eliminating trading stamps. The discounting trend continued into the 1970’s and of course is still very prevalent today.


Don’t forget to read our Company Snapshot follow up stories that will spotlight a company from each industry in this decade. You can read them later this month on our NewsRoom page, or by signing up to our email newsletters.


Written By:
Apparel & Department – Natasha Perry
Drug & Grocery – Brian List
Home, Hardware, & Discount – Arthur Rosenberg
Restaurant – Linda Helman
Editing & Introduction – Matthew Werhner


Read all of our Chain Store Guide Through The Ages series: