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This is big.

A very observant member of an Atlanta architctural firm (who’s now my hero, by the way) contacted me a few weeks ago to tell me about some materials he found while working on a client project, wondering if I might be interested. I picked the stuff up today. Turns out it came from the former headquarters of Colonial Stores and was apparently material that was simply abandoned upon the demise of the company in 1988 and had been sitting in the office ever since.

The take: twelve boxes and more than a dozen rolls of blueprints, sign plans, mechanical drawings, lease information, and other material. It seems this may be most of the records of the real estate and/or construction department of the chain. There are layouts and fixture plans dating to at least 1952, proposals for the conversion of the Albers stores in the Midwest after that chain was acquired by Colonial Stores in 1955, and lost of materials on the conversion of stores to the Big Star format in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This is incredible stuff and I am really grateful that it was saved from the dumpster and that I was able to get my hands on it. I’m just starting to go through all the boxes and I’ll keep you posted.

It’s amazing what you can fit inside a 2002 Buick LeSabre when you try really hard:

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While doing research for some long-promised updates on the site, I ran across this ad from 1941 that lists six new “deluxe drive-in” Safeway stores in Spokane, Washington, along with a list of all then-extant stores in the city. It gives a great picture of Safeway’s presence in one city at the time, as well as providing a glimpse into the state of the chain in general.

By 1940, Safeway had moved decisively into the “supermarket” era after a somewhat conservative start. New stores at the time averaged 6000-6500 square feet and boasted tiled meat and produce departments and employee showers. These stores were also among the first to feature parking lots as a standard amenity, usually to the side of the store and approximately the same square footage as well. Safeway had been building some stores with parking lots as early as the late 1920s, but they were far from universal. In fact, in 1940, Safeway was operating hundreds of older units in taxpayer strips or on the first floors of apartment or commercial buildings, most of which were a fraction of the size of the new supermarkets and some of which dated from the 1920s and had originally operated under any number of other brands. The Spokane stores, for example, had largely started under the Piggly Wiggly, MacMarr, or Pay’n Takit names, all of which had different points of entry into the Safeway corporate structure.

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A surprising number of Safeway’s class of 1941 are still standing in Spokane, including a very ornate former Pay”n Takit store like the one shown above. Here’s the list:

New “Deluxe Drive-in” stores:

Existing stores:

  • 514 S. Washington St.
  • 727 W. Garland Av.
  • 814 W. Riverside Av.
  • 1704 N. Monroe St.
  • 5005 N. Market St.
  • 3002 Grand Av.
  • 2022 E. Sprague Av. (this is a very ornate former Pay’n Takit)
  • 3315 Northwest Blvd.
  • Division at Sinto
  • Hamilton and Mission (interestingly enough, there’s still a Safeway at this intersection, albeit not a 70-plus year old one)

Four men sat down at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro NC and changed history. The event was commemorated today with the opening of the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in the former Woolworth store where the sit-ins began.

On the same day, eighty miles south in Charlotte, “Harris Super Markets and Teeter’s Food Marts officially merged to form Harris Teeter Super Markets, Inc. There were already 15 stores in operation. The first ‘Harris Teeter’ store to open under the new banner was in Kannapolis, NC.” (via Harris Teeter website and The Charlotte Observer).

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This is the very first Publix store, opened in 1930 at 58 4th Street NW in Winter Haven FL. Ten years later, it moved a few blocks over to this location, the prototype for many others in the next decade or so:

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More exciting stuff from my winter road trip when I return from it in a couple of days. Until then, Happy New Year!

I’ve posted a section of Toronto store photos including a bunch from my trip last week. There’s not much commentary. If someone is interested in writing something, I’m very interested in letting them.

Click through to see the photos.

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This is a beautiful¬† Toronto area store that has apparently been nominated as a historic property. Located at Parkway Mall in suburban Scarborough, the store opened in 1958 as a Grand Union, and has since operated as Steinberg’s, Miracle Food Mart, Dominion, and now Metro.

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This one’s an interesting specimen. It obviously dates from the late 1950s or early 1960s, and was given some sort of “superstore” retrofit in the 1970s. But the original sign stayed, and then the whole building was eventually painted a nice, bland beige. The interior is the slightly cheesy teal “millenium” package that every Kroger in West Virginia seems to have. I think the layout has been altered from the original as well.

It amazes me how many of these smaller and older stores are still operating in parts of West Virginia and Ohio. I’m travelling I-77, I-79, and US 19 a lot these days, since I’m sort of living in Pittsburgh part time now, and I’m seeing a lot of these as I try to vary my commutes between Winston-Salem and da ‘Burgh. I may be posting a few more examples this week.