Potomac Man Reflects On Founding Bruce Variety In 1950s

After founding Bruce Variety in Bethesda, Robert Dotson says he’s sad to see it go.

As local residents come to terms with the impending closure of Bruce Variety, some have shared stories of personal history with the Bethesda institution – including one Potomac man, the store’s founder.

Current owners of Bruce Variety, a 60-year fixture on Arlington Road, announced in December that they would close the location because they could no longer afford the $22,000 monthly rent, Patch reported. Robert Dotson, a Potomac man born in 1919 in Kentucky, founded the store in the 1950s after returning from service in World War II, the Gazette reported.

At the time, self-service stores as we know them today were a newly emerging phenomena. More commonly, store clerks at the time would man counters and serve the customer their purchases. Dotson, after using the new self-service technique to save money as the manager of a five-and-dime in New York, recognized the financial benefits and decided to go into business for himself, he told the Gazette.

After opening his store in Bethesda, he sold the business to current owner Richard Dimock in 1985. 

“He used to stop by from time to time but it’s been a few years since he last visited,” the Gazette reported. “He said the family is ‘sad’ the store is shuttering its Bradley Shopping Center store.”

Do you remember Bruce Variety as it was under original ownership? Tell us your memories in the comments.

Mary Ann Clem January 09, 2013 at 02:44 PM
I remember going to a Bruce Variety in Gaithersburg with my mother years ago. I actually made a special trip to the one in Bethesda several years ago, looking for some nostalgia, I suppose. I hope they truly are moving to another location, one closer to me.
louise January 09, 2013 at 06:37 PM
I literally could not have raised my children from 2nd grade to graduation with out Bruces!!!!!!!!! They had the greatest Halloween costume s and add ons too and my daughter at 25 still wears the ribbons from their best in town selection:) They will be missed so very much as part of the great Bethesda community
Constantine Pergantis January 10, 2013 at 01:02 AM
1974 to the early 80's o would do the BV in Gburg withy Dad. From ping pong balls to whatever they seemed to.have it. While we are at it, who remembers Ben Franklin's?
Christine January 11, 2013 at 08:59 PM
What I remember most abuot Bruce's was my roommates claim that you could find anything at all at Bruce's. For the 20 years I lived in Bethesda, I never could prove her wrong! This is a very sad day.


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