What Happened to Winn's Stores?

Do you remember Winn's stores? If you grew up in Texas in the 20th century, you probably do. They were officially named Winn's Variety Stores, but most people knew them as five-and-dimes, or "dimestores."

At their peak, there were hundreds of Winn's stores across Texas and in a few surrounding states. But Winn's is long-gone today. What happened to Winn's?

Winn's was founded by San Antonio businessman Murray Winn in 1926. His first store opened at 913 South St. Mary's Street. In 1947, when there were 12 Winn's stores, Murray Winn decided to sell to the Spears brothers, Roy and Lynn. By 1971, the Spears brothers had expanded Winn's to 106 locations around Texas.

In 1979, Winn's was purchased by a German company named Heinrich Bauer Verlag for a reported $50 million cash. That company today is known as Bauer Media Group. Now, as in 1979, it is a media company, publishing magazines, running radio stations and TV stations. A company such as that purchasing Winn's seems like a very odd fit.

At the time the sale of Winn's to Heinrich Bauer Verlag was first announced and still pending, in 1978, Winn's had sales of $73 million and net income of $4.8 million. Winn's, at that time, operated 151 stores in 78 cities across Texas.

By 1987, Winn's was up to 230 stores and had expanded into Oklahoma and New Mexico. But trouble was brewing: In April of that year, a Winn's in Taos, New Mexico, closed due to lack of business. Before long, more Winn's locations were shuttering as the company, whose operations were still headquartered in San Antonio, began retreating.

One thing cited about the closure of the Taos store became a refrain: When Walmart opened in the city, Winn's took a big hit.

Walmart wasn't the only major national retailer moving into more and more cities with a discount department store model, either. Other companies were turning to the discount model to try to keep up with Walmart. Then dollar stores started popping up and growing across Winn's territory, too.

In 1993, a Lufkin, Texas-based chain of variety stores known as Perry Brothers, or Perry's, bought 184 Winn's locations, many of them already closed. Perry's converted them all to Perry Brothers stores.

By 1994, what remained of Winn's as a company was out of options. It filed for bankruptcy. In February 1995, the bankruptcy court approved a plan that dissolved the company and sold off its assets to pay some of its creditors. In 1996, the former Winn's Variety Stores headquarters in San Antonio, 330,000 square feet, was finally sold as the final piece to go.

Perry's, by the way, no longer exists, either, and neither does Crafts Etc., a hobby store that had been owned by Winn's and at one point had more than 50 stores.