In its heyday, there were nearly 2500 Ben Franklin stores nationwide, and over 100 here in Iowa. Nearly every county seat featured a Ben Franklin store. It became the local store where you could stop by and get anything from candy to curtains. KCRG reports that Ben Franklin claims to be the second oldest franchise in the nation, only behind Singer Sewing Machine retailers. Now, just one store remains in the state of Iowa.

KIWA reports that at the beginning of the year, there were still three Ben Franklin stores open and operating here in Iowa. However, the store in Winterset, Iowa went out of business in May, and the Eagle Grove store is in the process of closing now. That leaves just one Ben Franklin left. It sits at 912 3rd Ave in Sheldon, Iowa.

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Google Maps

Phil Warnke told KIWA that his family has owned the store since 1991, making this their 33rd year in business. He said that the Sheldon store is the last one in Iowa and one of only a handful left in the United States. In fact, Warnke stated that the Ben Franklin corporate distribution center hasn't been open for several years. So just how long will the Sheldon location remain open?

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Warnke told KIWA that he plans on keeping the store open for several more years. He thanked all his loyal customers who keep showing up. So what happened to all the Ben Franklin stores? You can thank the Walton family and Wal-Mart. KCRG reports that Wal-Mart co-founders Sam and Bud Walton operated 15 Ben Franklin stores in Missouri and Arkansas in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. They took everything they learned from running the stores and founded Wal-Mart in 1962. Where did they build their first stores? Those very rural communities that counted on Ben Franklin.

So take a road trip to Sheldon, Iowa sometime and take a step back in time. Back to a day when five-and-dime stores ruled main street.

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