Sy’s Bargain House opens with Sy and Rita Finberg returning home from their last day at Sy’s Bargain House, a small mom and pop clothing store they operated for 43 years in Kensington, a working-class section of Philadelphia. They sit in the living room and reminisce. Sy believes he met his goal, to be “the number one mom and pop shop in the city of Philadelphia!” Rita, however, finds this a hollow victory countering that selling dry goods was never what she imagined doing her entire life. Through a flashback we learn that Sy worked for an accounting firm when they were first married but decided to take over the store from his mother. Rita resents Sy’s never discussing whether they should take the store. In addition, she remains critical of the store’s rundown location, and regrets becoming emotionally attached to the business in spite of her husband’s unappreciative nature.
Goldie, Sy’s younger sister, enters and tells Rita how Sy manipulated their mother into passing on the store onto him even though she had worked there since childhood while Sy had never shown any interest in it. In one of the play’s more poignant scenes, we see young Goldie begging her mother not to give the store to Sy. Returning to the present, Goldie asks Sy for her “cut”, striking him repeatedly until Rita strikes Goldie in retaliation. Goldie exits. The play ends with a flashback of young Sy telling his mother how much he wants the store as young Goldie folds merchandise unaware of the betrayal taking place just a few yards away.