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Discount Diva: The long-gone stores we miss

Remember buying cassette singles at Cavages? What about shopping with your mom at Jenss department store? My sister and I used to turn the mannequins' glass eyes so they were looking in different directions. That same sister always grumbled about stopping at Waldenbooks because she knew she would have to drag me out. And don't even get me started on Child World.

I can't tell you how many times my friends and I have reminisced about stores gone by.

Someday, 30 years from now, groups of friends will sit around waxing nostalgic about stores like Bebe, Wet Seal and any of the other retail casualties that are dropping like flies lately. They'll have their own cherished memories of stores that were the backdrop to their youth, and they'll get misty thinking about whatever it was that put their favorite stores out of business.

Here are some of the stores I miss most:

Hills. I don't think I'm alone on this one. "Hills is where the toys are," after all. If you don't believe me, ask the Hills sprite, which kids somehow never found creepy.

A Pennsylvania company made a candle last year scented like the Hills snack bar, with notes of soft pretzels, popcorn and cherry slushies. Sales were through the roof.

[PHOTO GALLERY: Stores we loved and miss]

The store was founded in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1957. The beginning of the end came in 1991 when Hills filed for bankruptcy and closed about 60 stores. The discount chain was acquired by Ames in 1998, and Ames itself closed in 2002.

G.C. Murphy. There was nothing more exciting as a kid than walking down the stairs and going to see the pets for sale. My grandma used to tell me her own wistful stories about shopping with my great-grandmother at Murphy's, which was founded near Pittsburgh in 1906.

The chain was bought by Ames in 1985, then sold to McCrory's in 1989. McCrory's filed for bankruptcy in 1992 and closed in 2001.

The Village Green. Oh, Village Green, how I loved thee. Probably one of my favorite childhood memories was visiting this bookstore with my dad every Friday or Saturday night. He always bought me something, whether it was a book, a sketchpad, a set of markers or an issue of Mad magazine.

[MORE PHOTOS: Grocery stores of Buffalo's past]

The store started as a tiny, basement bookstore in Rochester in 1972 and expanded to Buffalo in 1986. But the company's growth eventually became a problem and, after financing problems and competition from Borders and Barnes & Noble, the company filed bankruptcy in 1998 and shut down in 1999.

Steve & Barry's. My friend Jim still wears a gorgeous leather jacket he bought there a decade ago for $10. The store had full lines of super stylish clothing and accessories for men, women and children and almost everything was priced at $5.98 or $9.98. Certain items maxed out at $19.98, like an awesome down parka that is still in my closet. And Sarah Jessica Parker's line BITTEN was to die for.

The store's demise coincided with the economic meltdown. Steve & Barry's filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and went out of business for good the following year.

Ziggy & Zons World. I've never even stepped foot inside the store, but their TV commercials were magical. They sold everything from gag gifts to wedding supplies. And the crafts – oh, the crafts!

Located in Cheektowaga's Airport Plaza, it closed in 1997 after 30 years in business.

What were your favorite stores? Did you have a crush on Casual Corner? Are you still fond of Fay's? Does Brand Names bring you back? I want to hear all about it. Email schristmann@buffnews.com, tweet @discountdivasam or message me at Facebook.com/DiscountDiva.

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