On Oakland and the Bay Area

Oakland Tribune, 1 November 1938

Longtime readers may recall that Groceteria.com was born in San Francisco, where I lived from 1992 to 2005. In fact, the San Francisco location list was the first one on the site, followed by Sacramento and Stockton, so I guess Northern California will always seem like a homebase for the site. San Jose, Santa Rosa, and parts of San Mateo, Alameda, and Solano Counties are more recent additions.

One part of the Bay Area has always been conspicuously absent is Oakland and Berkeley. It’s not for lack of effort or interest on my part. In fact, I started an East Bay list more than twenty years ago. But there was a problem. As you know if you’ve read my methodology, my primary source is city directories — not the telephone directories but the Polk (and affiliates) directories. In Oakland, however, there were no city directories published between 1943 and 1967 nor after 1969. This seemed an almost insurmountable problem. I consulted telephone directories, but they tend to be incomplete and almost useless in large urban areas. For example. Safeway did not list any of its store locations in the telephone book; they simply listed one central phone number. I was able to get some names and locations from the phone books, but my estimate was that this would produce a list that was maybe 30-40% complete.

A while back, I finally sprung for the “top level” subscription to Newspapers.com (cheaper than Netflix and far more entertaining) and that’s how I was actually able to finish Oakland after twenty years. It was incredibly labor-intensive and I probably would not be as successful using this approach for an area where I’m not as familiar with the chains and the cities. I scoured ads for the chains, articles about openings and shopping centers, and other sources, and I have finally come up with what I think is a pretty good list of locations in Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, and Piedmont. Is it perfect? Probably not. Are there omissions? Probably so. Is it the absolute best I think I can do right now? Absolutely. I’m hoping it’s about 90-95% accurate according to my standards. I’m quite proud of it. And it was fun doing Bay Area research again.

I also used this as an excuse to update some of the other Bay Area lists as well.

So please dive in and enjoy!

One thought on “On Oakland and the Bay Area

  1. Tim Kynerd

    December 9, 2021 at 5:29am

    I love seeing how you do this work.

    Side note: This post reminded me that I discovered Groceteria (Did You Bring Bottles?) sometime in 1996-1997, if memory serves. That was quite a while ago!

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  2. Kevin Wood (TheQuestioner)

    March 26, 2022 at 5:17am

    Thank you for taking the time to delve into these archives and expand your already amazing resource! I was a regular on your message boards 120-15 years ago, and still come back here now and then to “see what’s going on”, probably in a similar way to how you might revisit the Bay Area from time to time. So glad to see this amazing site still alive and cared for!

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    • Author


      March 27, 2022 at 10:25am

      Thanks! I’d say that doing the site keeps me off the streets, but it actually puts me ON the streets more than I otherwise would be because I’m looking for relics everywhere. And it’s encouraging to know people still care!

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  3. Barbara Hernley

    October 11, 2022 at 12:30am


    I remember the Mayfair Market as a neighborhood market on the southeast corner of 5th Ave and Garfield St in Denver, CO 80206. Probably there from 1950s (?) through the 1980s (?). I could not find it on your list of older stores or an address even close to the cross streets. Do you have any record of the Mayfair market? I remember seeing it in the 1970s and it was named for the Mayfair neighborhood. Thanks for your help.

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    • Author


      October 11, 2022 at 7:34am

      If it’s a one-off store or an independent, It would not be in my research as I only study chain locations. I know of two different unrelated Mayfair chains, one on the East Coast and one on the West, But I’m pretty sure the story you mention was not part of either. Your best bet would be to check city directories for Denver, either online or through the Denver public library. Good luck!

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