The first store that got me interested in old supermarkets

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TW-Upstate NY
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Post by TW-Upstate NY »

I'd have to say the one that did it for me is a building that's still (barely) standing. It was an old Loblaws in Gloversville, NY that closed in 1975 when they built a then state of the art store in the downtown area. Amazingly, they NEVER took the signage down and it remains (what's left of it) on the building TO THIS DAY! I remember going to this store as a kid and it had hard wood floors in at least some of the aisles. I never really considered myself much of a supermarket buff until I stumbled upon this site a few years back and it was only then I really got into it considering I drive past that building to and from work everyday. This site brought back a lot of memories about that old place and what's made that store even more special to me was two former now retired co-workers worked the night shift there stocking shelves in the early '70's. Oh, the stories they had to tell. Unfortunately, Loblaws left the market the next year and I haven't set foot in one since. And don't even ask me why the signage remains up or why the building which is now literally falling apart was never used again because I have no idea. I've heard an urban legend or two but nothing really substantive. So I guess that's what got me interested in all of this-brings back a lot of good memories.
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Post by buckhead »

As a child in the early 60's and into my early youth in the 70's, most of the family shopping was done in Athens, Georgia. The stores I remember most were downtown, the old A&P on East Broad Street and South Thomas Street (across from the old Farmer's Hardware Building and long torn down) AND the Colonial Store on Washington Street near Pulaski Street. The A&P was very old and small, maybe from the 20's, with a black/green marble façade and a huge round A&P logo above the entrance carved into the marble with red color. The floors were wirb wood and linoleum. There was very little parking, either along the street or in a small lot around the corner. It WAS self-service, but there were still some old glass display cases for some things. I remember most those floors and the somewhat pleasant mustiness of the building. The Colonial was also very old, with a largely black (tile?) front with yelllowish accents and some red trim. I believe the floors inside were black and cream tile with red accent runner stripes in some areas. "Colonial (Stores)" was emblazoned in large letters across the front and above the entry doors. I recall rhombuses to either side of the name, or maybe around on the side of the building with the CS roosters in them. I remember most getting game pieces for "The Sword in the Stone" movie (you pulled out the paper sword to see what you won) and the open displays of fresh fruits and vegetables...especially potatoes. I like the smell of that section. For some reason I think there might have been a second, even smaller location in town a few blocks away, but that might have been an old Bell's Foods (local independent). When this store closed in the early 60's, it moved to Alps Center and was represented by a typical (for the time) store with corrugated metal awning/front with large block letters. I do NOT recall if that store had one of those open metal frame structures with the Colonial name and rooster logos that were often seen in other locations from the 50's and 60's such as in Winder, Madison, Decatur, and Atlanta.

Athens also had several other stores, including a "modern" Kroger on Prince Avenue that remained open until 1976. It featured those big blue block letters along the front, a vertical sign with funtioning neon that still stood until sometime in the 80's or 90's. There was a separate entrance and storefront for the Top Value redemption center built next door. Mama like this store, but we did not go there often. Among the other stores I liked was the "new" Bell's Foods in Five Points on South Lumpkin Street. It had a neat brick sculpture sign out front with 3 brass bells mounted in holes in the sign. While Mama was shopping I'd spend my time in the Plaza 5 & 10 or the soda fountain at the ADD (Athens Discount Drug) stores right next door. There was also another Bell's on Prince Avenue near the hospitial we went to on occasion.

The other stores that interested me were the old Massey's Food Market in downtown Winder...solid glass front windows, wooden floors, musty smell, and very personal service. My aunt shopped there every day for the items she would prepare that night for supper. They would also deliver groceries within a mile or so for no extra charge. Since she did not drive, this was a real convenience for her. I think I spent more time at (Mrs.) Hardegree's Hamburgers next door eating some of her famous hamburgers with chili sauce on them along with a bottle Coke from the U-shaped lunch counter.

And lastly, I also remember the small grocery and service station Mama's father ran from the late 50's for a few years. It was small, but it featured fresh meats, breads, dairy products, and FIREWORKS! Papa Loy always gave us grandkid plenty of firecrackers and skyrockets to play with. It also served as an outlet for sausage my (Great) Uncle Rastus made...he was missing a few fingers...LOL. The milk was absolutely fresh, coming from the dairies my (Great) Uncle Dewey, Aunt Alma, and Aunt Ina Ruth ran at the time. The place smelled of sage, hot pepper, salted hams, and onions. It was clean, and even had some pinball machines, "for amusement purposes only" since they were technically illegal, up front and a few slot machines in the back that were gathering dust and were VERY illegal.

Pictured below is an older view of the the Colonial Store I first mentioned above (it was a Big Star Store at the time the post card was made). The image is found elsewhere on this site.

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Post by bring-back-pylons »

"The A&P" was one of my first and favorite recollections. In Union NJ there was an A&P on Stuyvesant Ave at the beginning of Union Center, the downtown of Union township. The store was built on a sloping lot with a small parking lot on the side. I would usually shop there with my grandmother. One of my aunts or uncles (they were 17 or 18 years old and I was probably 6 or 7) would drive us in Nana's 1953 chevrolet BelAir! The store was of course small but I distinctly remember the wooden floors and the massive white and glass butcher meat cases at the back of the store, where the butcher wrapped your selection in brown paper, Nana would tell me that if I was good I could pick out some candy from the wraparound candy case on the side wall.
There were 4 or 5 checkouts in the front and when you placed your items on the stand the cashier would pull the wooden handle of the slider and move the items up to the register. There were windows (which I think opened up) high along both side walls above the shelving. They also had1 or 2 frozen food cases near the front that were huge monstrosities but held only a few selections of frozen veggies and wrapped meats. There were mirrors on the back and i could see the product from my eye level.
I always loved this store and many years later when I was in high school it was turned into an ice cream parlor where we used to go after school. They sure don't build 'em like this.anymore. And who would have known back then that as an adult I would actually work in some of these stores as a refrigeration repair technician! What goes around comes around.
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Post by rich »

I was lucky enough to grow-up with some interesting old stores and got attached to more as a young adult. There was a large, mid/late 50s shopping center near our house which got the bulk of my mother's shopping, but things got more interesting when we did errands a few miles away on the edge of Cleveland or went to stores in older nearby suburbs.

Until A&P took over a store nearby, the nearest A&P was one of the first centennials, built in early '59 in Wickliffe, Ohio. Because A&P was building many of these (so much for the idea that they didn't venture into the suburbs), this one was near a Orthodox Jewish Rabbinical college and a Catholic seminary. As a result, it had male shoppers (a novelty in those days) in odd clothing and with beards (I had a very secular upbringing). the store also was close to that town's small African-American community, so it was one of the few places in our area where the shoppers weren't all white.

For truly old stores, there were plenty in the East 185th Street shopping district on the edge of Cleveland. Pick-n-Pay's first super (they grew out of a dairy store chain) was there. It opened in the early 30s (predating Big Bear's supposed first supermarket in Ohio). It had a black ceramic tile front, with white lettering. The store closed in the late 60s, when the chain opened a new store a short distance away. An independent took over the store, replaced the facade with brick and eventually enlarged the store, having a successful run of about 20 years. Further down the street was a 1930s Fisher Foods. Fisher had been the dominant local grocery store chain and quick to adopt supermarkets in the early 30s. They called them "Master Markets" and had a standard format of a gold on green sign saying "Fisher Foods", a rounded tiled, cornice over the entrance saying "Master Markets", and buff colored brick around the front. For years the store had a gradually fading, painted sign for Fisher's house brand butter on the side, which had a small parking lot. These stores were ubiquitous in Cleveland, although most were sold or closed by the mid-60s. This one lasted into the 1980s and was the lst of its kind. It's place was taken by a drug store which burned down a short time later. Now the site is part of a car dealership. The least loved, but oddest store on this strip was the A&P. It dated from the 40s, so it was newer than Fisher or Pick-n-Pay, but unlike those stores, it was never updated. The dairy cases had glass doors (much like what you find in a frozen food section now) and the produce usually had flies in it. The store was dark and it closed in the late 1960s, replaced by a furniture store. Outside, the store had a corrugated metal sign with the A&P's "wing span" logo (the circular A&P logo, with tapered lines extending out from the circle. This seems to have been adopted in Cleveland before some other places, like Greensboro.

We had another 1930s Fisher Foods in the nearby town of Willoughby, and a '40s Pick-n-Pay in Euclid, that had a 4-sided tower with the store's name. The Fisher was sold to an independent and had a short run with them in the mid-60s, before becoming a long running furniture store (it's still a furniture store, but with a different chain). The Pick-n-Pay was enlarged in the 60s, and lost it's facade, but not the tower. That store lasted into the 90s, was replaced by a Tops (the successor to Pick-n-Pay and was demolished for a new Walgreen.

Near the early centennial was an independent store called Rogers. We rarely shopped there. The store was an early post WWII Kroger that was sold to Rogers after Kroger opened new stores nearby in the late 50s. The store went on to be owned by another independent, but there was never much alteration of the interior--it was very plain with light pastel colors--probably the way that Kroger opened it in the 40s. It finally closed sometime in the early 90s.

Another old store near us, on Lake Shore Blvd. in Euclid, was a 1920s Fisher Foods grocery that passed through ownership by several independents from the 40s onward. In the 1960s, it was bought by a neighbor or ours and his brother. They had managed stores for Fisher and their father had been a Fisher executive, who had pushed out after Fisher was bought by the local Fazio's chain. The Holzheimer brothers started their store as an IGA (an oddity in the area and probably a reaction to Seaway, which supplied most co-ops and which had helped engineer the takeover of Fisher). They later ran the store as part of other local, non-Seaway co-ops and expanded it from it's 1920s layout to a modern store--taking other storefronts in their streetcar strip block. The store is still in business under the Holzheimer name, although the brothers sold it to another family a number of years ago. It's outlasted all but a couple supermarkets in the area where I grew-up.

As a young adult, I lived in the older suburb of Cleveland Heights which had several notable stores. One was Russo's Stop-n-Shop, which evolved from a neighborhood produce store, established in the 1920s into a modern supermarket that was part of a co-op later bought by Giant Eagle. The store is still in operation. Also nearby was Pick-n-Pay's second store, although it was listed as store #1. It was an odd store, without facade, just a pylon style sign. It sated from the 30s, and was kept open into the 80s, then becoming a drug store, and recently re-opened as a Marc's (a local discount drug chain that also sells a lot of food).

The different old stores around us made me more aware of how super markets evolved and developed, and some were architecturally interesting. For us, A&P was a lesser operator. They had good meat, but the stores were overloaded with store brand merchandise and they were slow to stock new items. We usually went to Fisher or Pick-n-Pay, or the Foodtown chain, which Pick-n-Pay bought. A&P and Kroger operated stores that were much smaller than the local competition and neither invested in their stores (unlike the local chains). The Fisher chain had been building stores in excess of 25K sf from the mid-50s onward. they also pioneered delis, while the Stop-n-Shop coop pioneered bakeries, in conjunction with the local Hough Bakery chain. Kroger sold pre-wrapped produce until the 70s and generally operated the least popular stores. They left Cleveland in the 70s, although they kept their distribution facility, which supplied other cities in the region and they opened a couple formats that I don't think Kroger tried elsewhere--Barney's, a large scale warehouse format in old discount stores and a limited selection format that they ran in a few of their former super markets. A&P left in the 70s, although they also kept stores in outlying areas and nearby cities a while longer.
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Post by Super S »

I was exposed to may supermarket chains growing up. In Ohio we had kroger, A&P, Pick-N-Pay, Food Town, and a few IGA stores.

In Boise, Idaho, the building that triggered my interest in grocery stores was the Albertsons at Overland and Vista, and the many obvious signs it was a former Safeway, from the interior wall murals, to the exterior signage and labelscars, the Albertsons carts that had RED handles, and the Safeway cash registers still used after Albertsons took over in the 1980s. In Boise, i also was interested in the former Marina Safeway on State Street (currently a Rite Aid, back then a Skaggs drug store, then eventually Osco and PayLess.) I was absoultely amazed at how many "old" Safeway buildings still existed, then and now.

I was also fascinated by store remodels, and remember two Albertsons in Boise receiving remodels: an older store on Broadway, and a now-former Albertsons on Boise Avenue. As a kid I used to stop by both stores almost daily to see what had changed. We lived about exactly in the middle between both locations, Broadway was remodeled first, then Boise Ave.
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My interests in grocery stores

Post by timbabcock »

Up until I was eight years old, our family used to shop at a store called Gov Mart Bazar. It was a chain of stores that started as a membership store (Gov't Mart) like Costco only it was more a like a Fred Meyer type store with a seperate grocery store and variety store connected to each other. They sold everything in there except for building supplies.

The intersting part of the grocery store was that after you paid for your groceries, the bags were put into a plastic bin and placed on a line of rollers with a gradual slope to it. At the end of the line was a metal turntable with a glass door in the middle (which was flush with the outside windows). The turntable would rotate and the bins would make there way to the outside part of the store to be picked up. Customers had a plastic card with the bin number so that the store employee could match them up and deliver them to your vehicle.

This store was so overdone when it came to service by todays standards I found it fascinating.

The store still stands in South Seattle. Gov Mart was purchased by K-Mart in 1973 to become Payless Drugs but the grocery section remained as Bazzar Foods until it went out of business in the late 70s.

Maybe in a few days I'll post a picture of what the store looks like now. I found some old photos of the Tacoma store on the Tacoma History Pictorial website.

Re: The first store that got me interested in old supermarkets

Post by ap621 »

The A&P on Valley Road in Wayne, NJ. I remember going there when I was little. It was at the time an A&P Sav-A-Center with a steep sloping front facade. The store still exists but is now an A&P Fresh Market. I always preffered going to the A&P over the Shoprite and Pathmark nearby. This store started my obsession with the supermarket company I now work for, A&P.
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Re: The first store that got me interested in old supermarkets

Post by maynesG »

Irealy can1t say any one store got me interested. I would have to say it was my dad that got me hooked. My dad was a store manager with both Safeway and First National. he started out in service stores in Jersy City as a kid and met my mom in a 1940!s Safeway , as a verry small kid when left in my grand mother s care ( she lived next door to the store) I would spend the day at that store with my dad.

Often we would be out in a car stoped at a ligth and he would point out a building and say that used to be a safeway service store or that was a grand Union or That A&P used to be two seperate stores a safeway and and A&P. He pointed out that ols Safeway on Ocean Avenue once was a Safeway Grocery Store with a sperarte entrance and next door was the Safeway Butcher Shop.

My special store as a kid was the Finast on Sip Avenue in Jersey City a 1950 Safeway were my dad who was a clerk was informed over the loud speaker of my birth. I have always been hooked and always enjoyed seeing old stores.
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Re: The first store that got me interested in old supermarkets

Post by drpep »

The Foodmart in South Corning, NY an independent from the 30's until closing in 2006. I spent 22 years of my life working there, and would still be there if it had not closed, which spawned my interests in anything related to grocery stores.
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Re: The first store that got me interested in old supermarkets

Post by ajc47 »

For me it was Catalano's in Highland Hts, OH about 5 minutes from where I used to live. It closed in Feb. of last year (Damn you, Giant Eagle)
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Re: The first store that got me interested in old supermarkets

Post by Toby Radloff »

As a child, I grew up originally near East 131st and Miles Avenue, where, in the early 1960's, there were 4 supermarkets (a Pick-N-Pay, a Kroger, a Fisher Foods, and Kresse's Bi-Rite.) My mother and grandparents visited all 4 stores off and on, as well as a small grocery a few blocks east on Miles Avenue called Vick's Square Deal, which, I think, was originally a Kroger, when they first started self service in the 1940's. The two stores in that neighborhood that I was most familiar with was the Pick-N-Pay and the Kroger, mainly because those were the two chains that gave stamps...Pick-N-Pay gave Eagle Stamps, and Kroger gave Top Value Stamps. As a small child, those supermarkets seemed HUGE to my little eyes, although as I got older, the stores are much smaller than supermarkets today. Back in the early 1960's there used to be a line of toys that were sold only by supermarkets, the company that made them was "DeLuxe Reading", which later became Topper Toys. The toys, which I remember seeing on high shelves above the produce department and the registers, included a toy car dashboard and various trucks, as well as dolls and kitchen sets for the girls. I remember later receiving the car dashboard for Christmas. It was nice seeing toys at the supermarket back then. My mother's store of choice was the Pick-N-Pay-she worked at a pizza restaurant across the street, my grandfather preferred the Kroger (the liquor store was next door-LOL), while my grandmother still liked going to Mr. Vick. Rarely would we go to Fisher's, because it was a bit out of the way, and Fisher recently gave up giving S&H Green Stamps-a stamp we rarely saved anyway. Revisiting the old neighborhood, which changed for the worse over the years, the former Kroger is still a supermarket today, it later became at least 2-3 different independents, the latest being a Bi-Rite. The former Pick-N-Pay, which has a black ceramic tile front, later became other independent groceries as well, and is now a Family Dollar. The former Fisher Foods is now a church, and was a church since at least the early 1970' still has that classic Fisher architecture with the curved entrance, although a steeple was built on one end of the building. The former Kresse's Bi-Rite (another store we rarely went to) is now a night club, as well as the former Woolworth's next door-rebuilt in 1964 after a fire which destroyed the original Woolworth store-I remember crying when Woolworth's burned down, since my mother and I spent a lot of time at that store. Vick's grocery store is now a day care center. I miss the stores I remembered as a child.
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Andrew T.
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Re: The first store that got me interested in old supermarkets

Post by Andrew T. »

I'd attribute my interest in supermarket history chiefly to two stores.

One of them is the Kroger superstore in Hinton, West Virginia, which I vividly remember shopping at once in the mid '90s. Although the interior had been remodeled, I was intrigued by some of the older decor details that persisted inside and out, and was impressed by the fact that it had persisted in operation longer than our "usual" Kroger store at home.

The other is Larry's Piggly Wiggly store in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. While on vacation there, our family once visited the store to pick out a few supplies for my tenth birthday party. I was practically taken aback by the 1960s exterior signage (identical to that of this store): Each letter was set in a red, western-style font and set in on backlit, pentagonal "tiles." When I came back again a few years later, I was disappointed to see that the store had been remodeled and the pentagonal-tile sign was gone. But never mind: By this point, I was hooked...
"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: The first store that got me interested in old supermarkets

Post by TenPoundHammer »

My first grocery store was a small local operation about a half-mile from my house, called Jim's Market. It closed in 1991, a year after Spartan Stores opend a Glen's on the northern end of town in a woefully under-developed plaza (land cleared for an Ames that never came to be, plus a poorly-accessible Mister Donut that only lasted two years). After Jim's closed, we moved on to the 1970s-era A&P (one of those rare ones with the green front). Then that closed in 1992, so it was Glen's all the way. Never mind that they had the wackiest herringbone layout to their aisles until 1992 ended and still have -- I swear -- an aisle shaped like a lowercase "r" to this day.

The A&P in question, I've already mentioned in another thread. I've never seen any other A&P like this; you can find a discussion of it at this thread. I have never seen another A&P with this layout before. The store sat empty for a while; it became "Big Valu" in 1993, and Carter's Foods (a chain based in Charlotte, MI, just ouside Lansing) until 2007 when it was closed. Carter's started out pretty cool -- they had a bulk food section and everything -- but the store became really old and dirty after a while.

Oh, as for Jim's? It became -- I swear -- a combination thrift shop and gun shop for a couple years. Then a Christmas surplus store. Then a Dollar Discount store. Now it's vacant, but it still has the cool concrete sign sticking straight out of the middle of the store. I can't believe I've never taken a picture of this store.
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