Neisner’s was an affordable shopping option in downtown Rochester

When downtown Rochester was lined with retail stores, Neisner’s was one of the cheapest places to shop.

Along with stores like Woolworth’s and Kresge’s, Neisner’s was known as Five-and-Cent. But there was plenty of money to be made from those nickels and dimes (although the prices were actually slightly higher) — Neisner’s record $100 million sales in 1968, for example.

Neisner’s relied on a trading policy of lower profit margins and large sales volumes. According to a 1978 Times Union story, the Neisner chain, which later included Big N stores, operated 192 stores across the United States when it peaked in 1967. And it all started in downtown Rochester.

New Hampshire brothers Abraham and Joseph Neisner opened their first store at 200 E. Main St. in 1911. A second store followed two years later in Worcester, Mass., and in 1915 a third in Philadelphia.

This December 1926 photograph shows the day Neisner's opened its remodeled store on East Main Street.

Neisner’s was never as flashy as its Rochester contemporaries like Sibley’s and McCurdy’s. Instead, it was a cozy spot to shop and grab a bite. The “five-and-cent” policy ended after World War I, when the top price range rose to a dollar, but thrifty shoppers continued to seek out Neisner’s for decades because of its low prices and wide variety of merchandise.

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