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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.

Gemco “going out of business” commercial. Gemco was one of the casualties of Asher Edeleman’s unsuccessful 1986 takeover bid for Lucky Stores.

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228 East Seventh Street SE, Washington DC (1987, Washington Post).

Opened in 1940, this Safeway store at 228 Seventh Street SE in Washington DC managed to hang on until 1986. It was still profitable until the end; the need for expensive renovations was cited as the reason for its closing. The surrounding neighborhood was not happy about the closing and the city council tried unsuccessfully to delay it through legislation.

It’s a classic 1940s store, modernized probably in the mid 1960s. The Noe Valley store in San Francisco, closed in the mid 1970s and pictured below, was probably a fairly similar renovation. I’d love to have seen the interiors of these stores. It’s amazing they lasted as long as they did.

The SF location, by the way, managed to hang on for another fifteen years as a Bell Market after Safeway moved out. It’s now an unrecognizable Walgreens. I don’t know the fate of the DC store.

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1333 Castro Street, San Francisco (1973, The Streets of San Francisco).

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From an anniversary brochure produced by Bruno’s stores sometime around 1989, the photo above shows one of the original American Fare stores, probably the Stone Mountain Parkway store in Atlanta. American Fare was an experimental joint venture between Bruno’s Supermarkets and Kmart, and was based on the European concept of a hypermarch√©, the fusion of a discount department store with a supermarket.

The first of these stores opened in Atlanta in early 1989, while the second (now abandoned, pictured below) made its debut in Charlotte later the same year. A third location opened in Jackson MS a few years later. These stores marked a return for Kmart to the business of grocery retailing after more than a decade (the company had included leased grocery departments in many of its 1960s and 1970s locations) and served as something of a trial run for the later Super Kmart stores. American Fare, however, was originally a somewhat more upscale format than Super Kmart, with a more distinctive interior design scheme, not to mention brand name apparel its successor would eliminate in favor of Kmart’s standard offerings.

Bruno’s eventually sold its interest in the three American Fare locations, which were then rolled into the Super Kmart operation. The American Fare name lived on for several years afterward as Kmart’s house brand for grocery and household items.

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Big Chain, Jewella Avenue at Lakeshore, Shreveport LA.

This store has intrigued me for years, ever since I first saw this photo in Shopping Centers: Design and Operation (1950, Baker and Funaro). Not only is it a beautiful building, but it’s part of a chain I know next to nothing about.

A quick scan of Google Maps suggests that the store is still standing, although I imagine it’s somewhat altered. I believe it may currently house a Goodwill store. There was also at least one more branch, apparently also still standing, at Youree and Albert.

And that’s the sum total of my knowledge of Big Chain stores in Shreveport.

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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.

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Some history:

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.

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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.

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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.

Do you have a “first” store that ignited your interest in old supermarkets? If so, I’ve started a thread for discussing it in the message board.

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Spotlight on Atlanta, Georgia. The following logos are from the 17 August 1978 issue of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. The newspapers combined publication that day due to a blackout downtown. The actual newspaper was only four pages, but the food sections had apparently already been printed and were included in their entirety.

The Big Apple and Food Giant chains have been discussed on the Message Board.

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A&P would remain a fairly major player in Atlanta until 1999, when it sold many of its stores to Publix.

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Big Star, built on the foundation of Colonial Stores, was purchased by Grand Union in 1978. The Atlanta division lasted longer than the rest of Big Star, until 1992, when most of the stores were sold to A&P. Big Star also operated the food departments of Richway discount department stores, in much the same way that Colonial had operated Kmart Food stores in some areas.

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Kroger is the only one of the 1978 chains to still have operations in Atlanta.

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I really don’t know anything about Thriftown and Big Buy.

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And we all know about Winn-Dixie. Enough said.