A&P, Cheswick PA


You rarely find a former centennial A&P like this with its pole sign largely intact. This store is in the 1200 block of Pittsburgh Street in Cheswick PA. The whole surrounding shopping center is a little odd, as it contains a two-story building that looks like it may have housed a skating rink or a bowling alley upstairs. Underneath is a block of stores, one of which is currently a Goodwill, but feels very Kroger-like inside.

More photos after the jump.



One thought on “A&P, Cheswick PA

  1. Rich

    January 23, 2010 at 10:59am

    The stonework on the 2 story building does look Kroger-like, but it’s also typical of a lot construction from the late 40s into the early 60s. It was a cheap way to give life to otherwise unadorned modern store and apartment fronts. You’ll find the occasional 50s tract house bungalow that has this as a facing on the front. Kroger rarely adapted other structures, although they did turn an old ice house on Buckeye Road in Cleveland into a store during the mid-50s. The store lasted into the 70s and last I looked ahad been repruposed as something else.

    Roller rinks would have been very popular in the 50s and 60s—Catholic school groups were big users, although they would have been somewhat rare in small towns. More likely would be a bowling alley–occasionally they used the barrel roofs and an enormous number were built from the mid 50s into the early 60s. Bowling enjoyed a big post-war boom with the advent of electronic pinsetters and the absence of recreation facilities in many new suburbs. Bowling leagues were popular with adults, youth orgs, and Catholic grammar schools.

  2. Author


    January 23, 2010 at 11:12am

    I noticed the stonework, but what really got me was the interior and the orientation of the entrance doors, which seemed very much like any number of other 1950s era Kroger stores. The size and shape seemed right, too. There’s also a sign indicating that there was once a Foodland in this center, and I know that a very high proportion of the PGH area Foodlands are former Kroger stores.

  3. Rich

    January 23, 2010 at 2:01pm

    Foodland had a big footprint even before major chains left the Pittsy area and they picked over the former Del Farm/Loblaws, Acmes, A&Ps, and (later) Thorofares, as well as the Krogers, so there are many possibilities, including their own operation as the original occupant. All these departing chains had a lot of rather archaic stores when they left that would have been around 15K sf. Kroger probably had a few superstores and Thorofare did enlarge some stores before their exit, but fundamentally the inventory would have been 1950s/early 60s supers. Loblaw had a few stores like the one in Painesville, Ohio that occupied the lower floor of other space (medical offices in that case) which might argue a bit for them. Thorofare seems to have preferred freestanding stores, with a few major exceptions, so I would tend to rule them out. The stone work would argue for Kroger, but its use as a period detail could also argue for other chains (I’ve seen Loblaws with this as an accent). Even within Kroger’s very large mid-50s expansion of 15K stores, there was considerable variation in the layouts—some emphasized depth over width and tended to be rather dark. Others put the check-outs toward the back, because of parking. The baked goods usually lead off, but sometimes the produce had this position instead, which became common in the superstores. I can think of one c. 1961 store that lead off with meat. They tended toward blue (usually aqua or some similar shade) and white terrazzo tile flooring, so that might argue for Kroger, although pastels were generally typical of the late 50s/early 60s.

  4. Clark

    January 28, 2010 at 6:59pm

    In the early 60’s Acme built a store in West Mifflin Pa that except for the 2nd story looked a lot this store. It was the only Acme store I was aware of in the Pgh area. Cheswick was way on the other end of Allegheny Cnty.

  5. Author


    January 28, 2010 at 8:27pm

    Actually, I’ve found what I’m pretty sure was an Acme in Charleroi, too. I believe it’s currently a Save-a-Lot.

  6. apteafan

    February 18, 2010 at 8:03am

    Acme had several Pittsburgh area locations. The one I remember well anchored the far end of North Hills Village shopping center in Ross Twp. That later became a Marshalls and now a ShopNSave.

  7. Bill

    March 29, 2010 at 3:21pm

    In 1978 my sister and I went to a daycare center that was located on the second floor of that building. It was called Valley Child Development Center. It would have been located in the area above the sign that says “Talk of the Town”. If I remember correctly, there was a roller skating rink in the first floor of what is now the Goodwill store. My mom broke her arm there while giving me my first and only rollerskating lesson.

  8. Keith

    July 8, 2010 at 8:55pm

    The Goodwill store was a Thorofare market.I worked there as a stockboy in the early 70’s,I believe it was built in the early 60’s,The employees from the A&P and Thorofare used to scout each others prices.
    It was handled like it was a secret mission but we all knew each other,Cheswick was and is a small town.
    The Ches-a-rena was the name of the skating rink above the grocery store.
    In addition to skating a lot of roller hockey was played there.

  9. Jim Devore

    July 26, 2010 at 7:56am

    Well, let me tell you the real story.

    The arched building housed a roller skating rink for many years. When the owners decided to sell the new owners moved the rink upstairs and remodled the downstairs into shops. That was also the about the time (late 50’s or early 60’s) that the rest of the buildings went up as the shopping center. The original supermarket was Thorofare (I shopped there as a kid in the late 50’s) but it changed brands many times. Now, it houses an auction house that has online bidding for antiques, etc.

    The rest of the shopping area on the East side of the parking lot was built and contained a hamburger type restaurant called Charburger (at first). It was a great place and sort of took the place of the Cheswick Barbeque (a free standing restaurant from the 40’s). The Charburger had a recirculating water fall in the front that we vandalized often, pouring liquid detergent into it and running away. Later that restaurant became Jim’s Bargin store, managed by a local soccer star, Danny Liberati and owned by Pittsburgh businessman, Murray Kitay. Along that strip of shops were a baber shop, a laundrymat, and a video store at the beginning. Mr. DiPalma had the baber shop, now his son, Jimmy owns a hair salon on the West side of the parking lot. They cut my hair from the time I was 9 until I finished college and moved to Chicago.

    The Goodwill store came much later on the West side underneath the roller skating rink. Also among the businesses housed there is the Cheswick Florist, my vote for the best florist in the area. My mother, brother and stepdad live on the North side of Pittsburgh street on Hill Avenue, just 2 houses behind what is now a small shopping center but used to the be the location of another local eatery, the Cheswick “Sunset” Diner. A family friend, Clarence Johnston owned and operated the diner for years. That is one of the many things gone from Cheswick now like Molly and Joe Mulone’s Cheswick Theater, A. W. Kennedy’s Ford dealership, the Pennwick Distillery (behind Thorofare and the PNC bank and on the river side of the railroad tracks) and me and my family. The family is buried nearby but after Chicago, Carnegie, PA, and Mt. Lebanon, PA, I have lived in Durham, NC for the past 34 years..

  10. Jim Devore

    July 26, 2010 at 9:09am

    The top part of the arched building is now being used as a performance venue for wrestling matches, concerts and live performances of one kind or another. Cheswick, at one time was known for the large number of gas stations along Route 28, Pittsburgh Street, was also known as “a community of homes.”

  11. Jane Corbin

    August 27, 2010 at 12:27pm

    Jim Devore information is mostly correct. I do not believe the property changed hands when the skating rink was moved to the second floor. I understood that Elmer Datola erected the building which was army surplus after the Second World War. In the late forties when I was in college in Pittsburgh I heard ads for big band concerts at the Chesarena. Elmer owned the building until it was taken over by his nephew Alfred Panza sometime after 1989 when I left Cheswick.
    The skating rink was moved to the second floor when Thorofare offered to lease the space on the first floor. The shops on the side and the second story over it were added when Westinghouse was looking for training facilities and was willing to rent the second floor. When they no longer had a use for the room, Elmer’s niece used it for child care.
    Elmer had trouble getting along with his tenants and Thorofare left before its lease was up and then a church used the building until Goodwill moved in.

  12. Bob

    October 31, 2010 at 2:48pm

    I remember when the Goodwill store was Thorofare markets. It closed after the big strike from October 72 to Feb 73. The area above the store is the Ches-a-rena Skating Rink of which I spent plenty of nights there. Panza who owned the skating rink had a relative who worked for Thorofare at the Murrysville Wharehouse.

    A freind of mine back then helped to build the shops on the left side of the building back in the 60’s.

  13. Lynn

    December 12, 2011 at 1:20am

    The Pinball Wizard (pinball machines, pool tables and disco dancing for the under 21 crowd) was in the bottom, where the Goodwill is now, for a short time in the mid 70’s.

  14. sandy wagner

    December 3, 2013 at 9:17am

    1930″s What was on the site before the Char Burger? Cheswick,Pa.
    Was there ever a gas station?what was on the side?Where the cheswick barbeque.

  15. Jeanne Bayne Lazo

    December 15, 2014 at 5:50pm

    I was born in 1953 and lived at 412 Pillow Avenue. The skating rink was in the top of the domed building as long as I can remember. I was skating there from age 4, and winning the 2-kid barrel races entitled you to free admission the following week. Mr. Datola owned the rink and the Panza boys, his nephews, skated there weekly.

    The A & P market opened around 1960. There was a week of activities to commemorate the opening. On Saturday night the community gathered for food and festivities, which culminated in the crowning of Miss A & P. I don’t remember her name, but I’ll bet my oldest sister does.

    Prior to the A & P opening, the only market in town was Lockerman’s.

    Besides roller skating, attending the movie theater was the highlight of our young life. At Christmastime, the theater hosted a special movie followed by an appearance of Santa. Each child received a free box of chocolates (Catoris?). What a wonderful life it was!

    Has anyone written history of Cheswick, complete with photos?

  16. Margaret

    November 30, 2015 at 8:30am

    As Jeanne Bayne Lazo, Bob, Jim DeVore, and Keith have said. The domed building was a roller skating rink, the “Ches-A-Rena,” during the 1960s, and the first floor of the building was a Thorofare supermarket.

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