In 1877, George and Edward Butler -of Boston- formed Butler Brothers, a mail-order catalog retail enterprise. By 1930, corporate operations had moved to Chicago. A franchise system of locally-owned Ben Franklin variety stores had been created in 1927, which was operated in conjunction with Butler Brothers, Scott and L.C. Burr stores. In the late 1950s, the Oklahoma-based T G & Y chain was acquired. It was operated as a separate entity.

In February 1960, the Butler Brothers-Ben Franklin-T G & Y venture was sold to City Products Corporation, of Ohio. The Butler Brothers department stores division was in the process of being shuttered, with a new emphasis on the expansion of the Ben Franklin chain. By 1961, there were two thousand four hundred franchised Ben Franklin stores.

A discount mart division was in operation by the 1970s, with these large-format stores branded as either Ben Franklin Family Centers or B & C Family Centers. The latter included a supermarket.

The owner of the Ben Franklin franchise decided to open a line of corporate-owned and operated stores in the early 1990s. This endeavor proved unsuccessful and, by 1997, the company was bankrupt. Racine, Wisconsin's Promotions Unlimited, another catalog concern, bought the Ben Franklin Stores name and began providing merchandise to the remaining Ben Franklin stores.

By the early 21st century, there were one hundred and twenty-three Ben Franklin variety stores in small town locations across the United States. These were operated in conjunction with two hundred and nine Ben Franklin Crafts stores.

WALTON'S 5 & 10

Sam Walton began his retail career working as a manager for J.C. Penney. Following service in WWII, he returned to Arkansas and bought a Ben Franklin Store franchise. When the lease on said store was not renewed, he decided to open his own line of Walton's 5 & 10s. The first store opened for business May 9, 1950, in Bentonville, Arkansas. The rest is history...

Duckwall's originated in Abilene, Kansas in 1901. Alva Lease Duckwall acquired the single-unit Racket Store, renamed it and opened a second Duckwall's, in Salina, Kansas, in 1906. The expanding retail chain targeted rural Midwestern communities with few previous shopping options. This strategy proved successful and saw the company grow even as the national economy stagnated during The Great Depression. By 1937, there were forty-two Duckwall's stores in Kansas and Colorado.

A discount mart division, known as ALCO, was formed in 1968. By the end of the decade, the Duckwall-ALCO conglomerate was operating one hundred stores. A period of acquisition, between 1983 and 1985, added ALCO stores previously operated as Sterling, Magic Mart, David's and Hornsby's. However, this growth brought it into direct competition with Arkansas-based Wal-Mart. By 1989, Duckwall-ALCO was bankrupt.

After emerging from its financial difficulties intact, the company went public in 1991 and was soon showing a profit. Stores previously operated as Val and Perry Brothers were brought under the ALCO brand.

In January 2011, forty-four remaining Duckwall's variety stores were shuttered. The ALCO division survived, with two hundred & fourteen stores operating in twenty-three states. The Duckwall's name was dropped from the corporate moniker and the headquarters moved from Abilene, Kansas to Coppell, Texas, in April 2013.

However, the shrinking American middle class and competition from WalMart resulted in the bankruptcy of ALCO Stores, Incorporated. The last stores were shuttered in March 2015.      

The Sprouse-Reitz 5 & 10 chain, founded by Robert Allen Sprouse and Fred L. Reitz, originated in Tacoma, Washington in 1909. Its corporate headquarters was moved to Portland, Oregon in 1919. By the mid-20th century, there were six hundred and fifty Sprouse-Reitz stores operating in twelve western states.

By the late 1980s, the chain was in decline. A revitalization attempt was tried, with a new logo ("Sprouse!) unveiled in January 1989. A program of store remodelings was quickly followed by a slew of store closings. The attempt to revive the Sprouse-Reitz chain had been unsuccessful.

In June 1990, the company president announced that a buyer for the struggling company was being sought. This attempt at a sell-off also turned out to be a futile endeavor. In December 1993, it was divulged that the remaining eighty-four Sprouse! stores would be out of business by March 1994.