Dearborn, MI chain grocery/supermarket locations, 1930-59

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Dearborn, MI chain grocery/supermarket locations, 1930-59

Post by Andrew T. » 21 Jul 2018 13:15

The Ann Arbor thread seems to be petering out...so here's what lies 50 kilometres east: Dearborn, MI chain grocery/supermarket locations, 1930-59.

Dearborn abuts Detroit, and its chain history is in many ways a microcosm of that bigger (and alas, more-difficult-to-research) city...but Dearborn has its own unique history and flavour. It was also a very interesting city to research. Here are some of the reasons why:

* Dearborn swelled dramatically in the 20th century, going from 2,470 residents in 1920 to 112,007 in 1960. That's a change of more than 4000%! Of course, not all of this growth was organic: Dearborn merged with the community of Fordson (née Springwells) in 1928, and singlehandedly multiplied as a consequence of that.

* A direct consequence of the last point: There are only 10 grocers in the classified listing of 1926; none of them chains! So the table begins in 1930.

* And yet another: Dearborn underwent address renumbering in the early 1930s to eliminate discrepancies between the Dearborn and Fordson numbering systems. This primarily affected Ford Rd, Michigan Ave, and Warren Ave. This could have been a source of endless frustration for me, but fortunately a Rosetta Stone was available: The reverse-lookup section of the 1932 Dearborn city directory contained a handy cross-reference between the old and new systems for every address.

* Like many other cities, Dearborn has had its share of street renamings over the years. Greenfield Rd was Division Rd prior to March 1930. Also, Monroe St is "S Monroe St" in some 1930s and 1940s listings; which is a little perplexing because a North Monroe Street doesn't appear to exist.

And, some comments about the stores...

* Dearborn's chain history jibes somewhat closely with Ann Arbor's, with outfits like National and Packer's Outlet entering at similar times. Wrigley and Food Fair (the future Farmer Jack) both operated earlier in Dearborn than they did in Ann Arbor, though.

* Dearborn in the 1930s had a strong local competitor, C.F. Smith, that matched Kroger and A&P in store count. As was touched upon in the Ann Arbor thread, C.F. Smith survived until circa 1954 when they sold to National. National also bought C.F. Smith when the chain was in the midst of a massive relocation/rebuilding tear, so there is no continuity between the Smith locations of 1948 and the National locations of 1955 (though both of National's 1955 Dearborn stores were Smith stores in 1953). Of course, they didn't last long after that...

* As in Madison, WI (and quite a few other places), Kroger took over one of A&P's pre-supermarket locations when A&P consolidated. Wrigley was another A&P reoccupier.

* Unfortunately for survival, almost all the early supermarket locations on Ford Road have been demolished due to highway widening.

* One particularly-good specimen is 15219 Michigan Ave, a 1950s C.F. Smith/National store with an L-shaped sign protruding from the barrel roof. Another well-preserved location is 3031 S. Telegraph Rd, a 1950s Pantry store with an integral pylon still selling groceries as Save-a-Lot.

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* There's one store on the list that's already been the recipient of Groceteria fame: 23001 Michigan Ave. This was a Kroger store that opened in the first half of the 1950s, received a massive expansion and renovation into a Superstore in the 1970s, and was eventually replaced and reoccupied by Marshalls with no exterior modifications. A cube sign stands in front, and this has also been reused.

* No, there aren't any supermarkets in the Henry Ford Museum...even though there is a porcelain-enamel Texaco station there, a ton of neon signs, and oceans of other cool stuff!

I'll pause there, just in case there's anything one of the resident Michigan experts wants to add. Enjoy!
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
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Re: Dearborn, MI chain grocery/supermarket locations, 1930-59

Post by Groceteria » 04 Aug 2018 12:14

This list has been added to the site with a map:

https://t.co/HuFBOZurTW

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Re: Dearborn, MI chain grocery/supermarket locations, 1930-59

Post by Groceteria » 28 Aug 2019 18:52

I have been able to expand Andrew T.'s excellent work on Dearborn through 1988:

https://www.groceteria.com/place/us-mic ... /dearborn/

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Re: Dearborn, MI chain grocery/supermarket locations, 1930-59

Post by Andrew T. » 29 Aug 2019 11:06

Groceteria wrote:
28 Aug 2019 18:52
I have been able to expand Andrew T.'s excellent work on Dearborn through 1988:

https://www.groceteria.com/place/us-mic ... /dearborn/
Wow! Due to the Dearborn central library's summer closure, I was unsure if you'd be able to find any post-1959 data on your research trip...so this is a very pleasant surprise!

Image
Thanks to you, I now know that this A&P centennial that I photographed on 22451 Michigan Ave. opened by 1965 and closed by 1976.

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I also now know that this barrel-roofed National at 15219 Michigan Ave didn't even last to 1965 before being shuttered. And with a Kroger opening in the lot next door, it never had a chance to house a chain grocer again.

The update includes the Dearborn debuts of many of the names that became players in the Detroit Metro supermarket "wars" of the 1970s and 1980s: Chatham, Great Scott, and Farmer Jack. It also fills in Great Scott's murky pre-Allied origins: I now know that one of their early Dearborn stores was an ex-National location and another was an ex-Foodland, and it seems the chain originated as a scrappy reoccupier.

So: Well done!
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
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Re: Dearborn, MI chain grocery/supermarket locations, 1930-59

Post by Groceteria » 29 Aug 2019 14:56

Thanks. This was all from Detroit Public. There may be a bit more data on Dearborn and Downriver at the Henry Ford Library (when it reopens) but it looks like it will not extend much past 2001 in any case.

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Re: Dearborn, MI chain grocery/supermarket locations, 1930-59

Post by mburb1981 » 04 Sep 2019 11:22

Andrew T. wrote:
29 Aug 2019 11:06
Image
I also now know that this barrel-roofed National at 15219 Michigan Ave didn't even last to 1965 before being shuttered. And with a Kroger opening in the lot next door, it never had a chance to house a chain grocer again.
I have high doubts that the CVS on the other end of that complex (closest to Greenfield Road) was a Kroger at all. Said CVS originally opened in 1963 as Civic Drugs, so named "because it was right across the street from Dearborn Civic Center." This and five other pharmacies owned by Eugene Applebaum were then used in 1974 to establish the Arbor Drugs chain that would become iconic across the southeast corner of Michigan (and a bit beyond) until it was bought out by CVS in 1998.

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Re: Dearborn, MI chain grocery/supermarket locations, 1930-59

Post by Andrew T. » 04 Sep 2019 20:58

mburb1981 wrote:
04 Sep 2019 11:22
I have high doubts that the CVS on the other end of that complex (closest to Greenfield Road) was a Kroger at all. Said CVS originally opened in 1963 as Civic Drugs, so named "because it was right across the street from Dearborn Civic Center." This and five other pharmacies owned by Eugene Applebaum were then used in 1974 to establish the Arbor Drugs chain that would become iconic across the southeast corner of Michigan (and a bit beyond) until it was bought out by CVS in 1998.
I'm 99% sure that the CVS is the original Kroger store.

* Civic Drugs could have easily been housed in a different, nearby building when it opened in 1963, then moved into Kroger's building in the 1980s after Kroger moved out. While scraping the back corners of the web for leads, I found several references to Civic Drug being at "15305 Michigan" in the 1960s and 1970s...which is different from the Kroger/CVS address.
* The picture of the Civic Drugs storefront on the Applebaum site looks like it was taken in the 1980s...and the lower facade really does look like a Kroger from the 1960s. The three-tier windows are a distinctive Kroger feature, and the fieldstone stuff on the walls is also typical of Kroger.
* Though Arbor Drugs was named in 1974, the Dearborn drugstore appears to have retained the Civic branding for years afterward. I can find references in the Detroit Free Press to "Arbor Drugs Inc. and Civic Drugs Center" as late as 1988.
* The CVS building is the right size for an early-1960s Kroger.
* If you go to HistoricAerials.com and look at the 1966 or 1973 aerial imagery of the CVS site, you can actually make out the shadow of the K-R-O-G-E-R silhouette lettering on the pavement.
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
Andrew Turnbull

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