The Emery 5 & 10 Story: A Retail Journey Rich in History and Family Roots

August 1, 2019

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Deeply rooted in the history of American retail, Emery’s 5 & 10, which is the country’s second oldest family-owned 5 & 10, serves as a place of nostalgia and experience that modern-day shopping establishments often cannot provide. As the old-fashioned five and ten celebrates its 92nd Anniversary, Ron Emery, current third-generation family owner, looks back onto the origins of the store that began an era in East Tennessee. In 1927, Ron’s grandfather, E.L. Emery, sold his house and car to open Emery’s 5 & 10 in Knoxville. That next year, a second location was opened in Sevierville, and – even during the Great Depression – E.L. expanded with five more locations. In 1931, E.L. Emery moved his headquarters to Atlanta, Georgia and opened 10 stores in the area before building a larger chain. At the height of Emery’s 5 & 10’s expansion, the brand had 50 locations throughout the Southeast offering the best variety of novelty and necessity merchandise in a convenient setting for families.

As competition increased and the retail climate changed, Emery’s 5 & 10 liquidated the chain in 1983. But that didn’t stop Ron Emery from choosing to keep the business alive. That same year, Ron opened a single location of Emery’s in the town that started it all – Knoxville, Tennessee. He soon realized that his store served as a place of happiness and nostalgia for those in the area. In fact, after September 11, 2001, most retail suffered – but not Emery’s 5 & 10. If you ask Ron why, he believes it is because the store is an escape to the familiar and provides a sense of peace, fun and child-like innocence.

Displays filled with products inside Emery's 5 & 10

After realizing the success of his single location store, Ron decided that Emery’s 5 & 10 needed to be experienced by people far and wide – not just in Knoxville. In April of 2015, he moved his store to The Island in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee – one of the top travel destinations for families.

Now located within a day’s drive of 70% of the US population in the Great Smoky Mountains, Emery’s 5 & 10 offers a shopping experience unlike any other. This 21st Century variety store evokes emotion, nostalgia and a longing to rustle up thoughts of the past. Around every corner, guests can find the same books their grandparent’s read to them, candy and old-fashioned sodas from their childhood and an array of hand-picked merchandise from family-owned businesses across the country.

yellow wall with emery's 5 and 10 signage

Although the store has grown and developed into a modern destination and 21st Century variety store, its roots have not been forgotten. On the walls of this five and ten, you’ll find black and white photos of the original location started by Ron’s grandfather in 1927. You’ll find merchandise hung from the same fixtures purchased 50 years ago and vintage décor hanging from the ceiling. And you’ll find Ron Emery, who works in the store from sun-up to sundown to keep his grandfather’s story and vision alive.