Lest we make the mistake of thinking that the controversy over Thanksgiving opening hours is a new one, may I offer the following ads from the 26 November 1964 Greensboro Record. Apparently the issue was far from settled even fifty years ago. Anyway, happy Thanksgiving to the Americans who are celebrating it this week.
I’ve written about this store and how important it was to me before.
Most of you probably do not know that in my other life, I am an academic librarian whose job primarily involves supervising the digitization and online presentation of archival material. The job and the hobby intersect from time to time and this is one of those cases. These photos are part of a huge grant-funded project we recently unveiled on the history of Greensboro from Reconstruction to World War II. They’re great (and a rare find) because they show the pristine interior of this store at its grand opening. They come from the papers of Jim Sifford, who was apparently an A&P regional manager in the area. I’ll add more later.
Another great photo surfaced as well, but you’ve seen that one before.
This is kind of sad. One of the two oldest continuously operating chain supermarkets in my hometown is closing. The Harris Teeter location at Golden Gate Shopping Center opened in 1961 as an A&P. A Kroger opened simultaneously at the other end of the center. The Kroger was replaced about 1975 with one of Greensboro’s first Food Town (now Food Lion) stores. The A&P lasted until the late 1970s and became a Bestway (local chain) and then Harris Teeter in 1988. Centers with two supermarket anchors were common at the time but are rarely seen anymore.
The view above is from 1999. Below is a 1961 “grand opening” photo from the Greensboro Daily News:
Microfilm is a wonderful thing. I’m working on a volunteer project at the Greensboro library that involves digitizing portions of the archives of the local newspapers so they can be placed online. Of course, I’m finding lost of interesting stuff along the way, like the 1960 ad above for the High Point-based Big Bear chain, which is not to be confused with several other chains of the same name around the country.
And then, there’s this: the 1947grand opening ad from the famed A&P that began my obsession with odl supermarkets:
Memco, anyone? Through other research, I’ve determined that Lucky‘s Lady Lee branded items were sold in esat coast memco stores, at least during the 1970s. Memco came to Greensbor in 1980 and lasted less than three years. It was close to my house that I could actually walk there during high school; I bought most of my musc there or at the Peaches Records and Tape across the street.
And, last but not least, here’s a 1984 ad for A&P‘s Family Mart chain. It was in Family Mart that your humble host, at age 15, was illegally purchasing several six-packs of beer when he turned around to see his (not at all amused) mother standing in line behind him:
I’ve uploaded the first chunk of my much-expanded look at the North Carolina Triad. Even though the entire new photo gallery has not been added, there’s till a lot to see. The revamped Greensboro section features about three times as much information, plus additional vintage photos. It’s complete through the 1970s, and may even beat last year’s Charlotte section for sheer volume of research.
The A&P pictured above is probably more important to me than any other supermarket in the world.
Why? Because it was my “first”. By that, I don’t mean that it was the first supermarket I ever visited, but that it was the first old supermarket that I became obsessed with as a child. As such, this website was born at that old A&P in downtown Greensboro.
The location at 221 Commerce Place was the site of Greensboro’s first A&P self-service supermarket. The company had operated traditional stores in the city since 1910, but on 10 March 1938, the supermarket opened in a former tobacco warehouse next door to the city’s farmers’ market. The store burned down in 1946, and was replaced with a new store which opened on 16 June 1947.
The 13,500 square foot store featured such “modern features” as a candy department, refrigerated produce section, a self-service delicatessen, and eight checkout stands. A 2500-item selection was available to the discerning housewife of 1947.
Commerce Place was A&P’s top sales unit in the Carolinas for many years, and its manager said in an interview that it wasn’t losing money even at the end. It survived as one of two downtown A&P stores in Greensboro until its closing on 17 February 1973. The other downtown location closed two years later as part of A&P’s major meltdown of 1975.
This store fascinated me as a small child. I remember it as being old and dark, with ancient refrigerator cases with rounded glass, and old fixtures and counters, many of which might well have been original. It was particularly interesting for me because my mother had, as a child, lived for several years in a long-since demolished house a few doors down with her grandmother.
My childhood love for this store (and my disappointment when it closed) led me to be interested in other old supermarkets in Greensboro and elsewhere. I started eyeing old Colonial stores and the midblock Bi-Rite in a streetcar strip near UNCG. I noticed ancient A&P survivors on trips to Atlanta and other cities. During my years in California, my obsession grew to include the Marina- and pylon-style Safeway stores, among others. The fact that so many had been demolished or (like Commerce Place, above) remodeled into such bland and uninspiring structures also made me want to preserve what images I could, because I was interested and didn’t really think anyone else was.
Thus, Groceteria.com was born as a result of an old A&P in Greensboro NC that closed when I was eight years old. And just this weekend, I finally found the vintage photos above and several newspaper articles about “my first store” and wanted to share them here.
A limited edition collection of vintage supermarket drawings from the 1970s was recently discovered in North Carolina.
OK, they were all done by Yer Humble Host as a precocious child. But they do demonstrate that I’ve been really obsessed with this stuff for a very long time. I think I captured the essence of the Centennial A&P pretty well for a six-year-old, thanks. I was also proud of my Big Food Star; I think my technique had really matured by age eleven.
I guess that’s enough self-indulgence for one day. Now you all know what a big geek I was, even as a child.
Poor old, forgotten Winn-Dixie…
For those of you who care about such things, this particular one was originally a Zayre store. The Winn-Dixie relocated from elsewhere in the same center (on Cone Boulevard in Greensboro NC) in the late 1980s, after Zayre gave up on the location…
I believe this was Greensboro’s first Winn-Dixie “Marketplace” location. There was one in Charlotte at Tryon and Sugar Creek with exactly the same façade; it had originally been a Woolco store, and it closed several years ago…
It’s interesting to see how the ever-increasing size of supermarkets caused them to take over so many old discount stores in Greensboro. A King’s store on West Market Street became a Kroger and later a Food Lion. The Kmart across the street became a relocated version of that same Kroger and then a Harris-Teeter. And Greensboro’s other Zayre store was briefly reborn as a Lowes Foods…
I have my doubts that there will be a new tenant in this old Winn-Dixie anytime soon, though…
Jones said they have had some interest from a few grocers, but he declined to say who they were. In general, he said, chains like The Fresh Market, Whole Foods Market and Harris Teeter are interested in spaces for smaller stores.
In August 2003, Harris Teeter opened a 17,000-square-foot store in uptown Charlotte. The store is part of a condominium complex.
It will be interesting to see what happens here. Downtown Greensboro is, in a sense, where this website was born. It was there, at age nine or so, that I became obsessed with the ancient A&P store which sat near what used to be my great grandmother’s house. It was in Greensboro that my mom showed me the few entrance tiles which were all that remained from the Big Star store which had been Greensboro’s first real supermarket back when she was a little girl.
It’s where the obsession began, after all, so it would be nice to see some supermarket chain return to the area after thirty years or so, even if it’s in some trendy, new wave building that looks more like an Urban Outfitters than a grocery store…