Dime stores evolved in the late 19th century. They became a major contributor to our economy. Frank Woolworth was the first to establish the “dime” store in 1879 in Watertown, New York. He owned 54 stores by 1899.
Immigrants and rural Americans could afford to buy the bargain merchandise that was mass produced by the U.S. manufacturing industry. Changes in shopping patterns and increasing competition from emerging third world countries provided the demise of “dime” stores.
The following information was supplied by Nancy Kingen Carr, daughter of John and Harriet Kingen.
Historic records indicate the Kingen family resided in Virginia as early as 1780. William Kingen was on the muster roll for the War of 1812. William served from July 29 to Aug. 23, 1813. He received $6.70 for that service. Nancy’s great great grandfather Riley Kingen farmed in Indiana. He served in the Civil War from August 1862 to June 1865.
John Forrest Kingen was born on May 11, 1913. He was the eldest of three children born to Walter E. and Nancy Kingen. Both parents were school administrators and teachers.
They taught and homesteaded in Montana and Texas prior to arriving in Kingsburg in the early 1930s. They opened their first variety store in Kingsburg.
Other members family members (uncles, aunts and cousins) also operated numerous “dime stores.” Over the years, they had stores in Clovis, Fresno, Sanger, Bakersfield, Salinas, Manteca, Caruthers and Orange Cove.
There were three Kingen stores in Fresno: one on East Tulare (across from Roosevelt High), one on Belmont Avenue (between Van Ness and Wishon) and one in Chinatown. All family members were required to work.
The family owned businesses “united” to purchase their inventory in order to compete with the larger “dime” stores. The family stores would be open six days a week and often on Sunday.
John Forrest Kingen joined the Navy in the early 1930s. He trained as an electrician but his avocation was boxing. He frequented the Centerville dance hall that boasted a glass block floor that was lighted from beneath. The hall was noted for its patron fights.
John Forrest Kingen married Harriet Hallock of Sanger in 1934. They had two children, Kenneth and Nancy.
The family moved temporarily to Martinez during WWII. John worked at Mare Island. They returned to Clovis and built a home at 1220 Third Street. They moved to Orange Cove in 1947.
Their first Clovis variety store opened in 1938 and was located at 460 Fulton Street (now Clovis Avenue). In 1941, they relocated the store to the historic DeWitt building on Pollasky Avenue.
Additional stores on Fulton Street in 1938: Chapman Drugs, 492 Fulton; MacMarr Store #992, 474 Fulton; Clovis Beauty Shop/Economy Cleaners, 468 Fulton; Clovis Produce (groceries), 464 Fulton; Kingen, 460 Fulton; Chevrolet Sales, 438 Fulton and Clovis Independent, 356 Fulton.
A Kingen advertisement published in the 1938 Clovis High Cavalcade stated: “Open evenings, Sundays, holidays, candies, gifts, hardware, cosmetics, notions and necessities.”
The Kingen family and their store in Clovis are a part of our rich heritage.