Charlotte continued to grow through the 1930s, and had reached a population of over 100,000 by 1940. Its status as the largest city in the Carolinas was now solid.
If the Depression had been hard on grocery retailers, World War II was even harder, at least in some respects. Rationing and manpower shortages had grocers scrambling to fill their stores and staff the checkouts. A reaction to the former was the introduction of non-food items, such as health and beauty aids. A reaction to the latter was that women began to be employed in grocery stores for the first time.
In 1940, Charlotte was served by the following chains:
- A&P (19 stores)
- Pender’s (9: 7 Pender’s stores and 2 Big Star stores)
- Dixie Home Stores (3)
- Economy Grocery Company (3)
- Reid’s (3)
- Harris (1)
In 1945, this was the breakdown:
- A&P (10 stores)
- Pender’s (9: 3 Big Star, 1 Colonial, 1 Little Star, and 3 Pender’s)
- Reid’s (3)
- Smith’s (2)
- Myers (2)
- Dixie Home (1)
- Economy Grocery Company (1)
- Harris (1)
A&P and Pender’s had been in Charlotte for years, and both had embraced the modern supermarket concept wholeheartedly while also continuing to operate some older units dating to the 1920s. These older self-service stores would be largely closed, expanded, or relocated by the end of the decade.
Economy and Reid’s had been around since the early 1930s, while Dixie was a newcomer in the late 1930s.
A&P would continue its trend toward consolidation throughout the early 1940s; in 1945, the chain had only ten locations, less than a quarter the number it had had at its peak ten years earlier. By 1950, the count would be down to ten. The small, outdated downtown stores were largely gone, although new stores opened on the fringe of downtown at 801 North Tryon (in 1945) and 900 West Trade. Wartime construction restrictions precluded the possibility of many new stores.
According to city directories of the time, Pender’s was operating under four different names in 1945: Pender’s, Big Star, Little Star, and Colonial. The confusion stems from the fact that the company was in the process of merging all its operations under the Colonial Stores name at this point.
Big Star was still the chain’s supermarket banner through 1945. One new branch opened at 1403 Beatties Ford Road during the early 1940s, and apparently closed shortly afterward. Another opened at 1000 Central Avenue in 1941. By the end of the decade, however, all eight of the company’s stores were operating under the Colonial Stores banner.
Notable new Colonial branches were constructed during the late 1940s at 1608 South Boulevard and 601 Providence Road. The latter opened in 1947 as part of one of Charlotte’s first automobile-oriented shopping centers, one which also contained the still-open Manor Theatre.
While Dixie Home Stores had dwindled to only one store (a former Tillman’s Groceteria at 900 East Trade Street) by 1945, it would come back strong in the 1950s. Economy Grocery, however, would continue to have only one store until its demise. Reid’s would keep its three stores for a while and develop something of a reputation for quality in subsequent years.
W.T. Harris, however, made a rather bold move in 1949. He announced plans to relocate his original store the following year into a new freestanding building three blocks east at 1704 Central Avenue. The store boasted free parking, air conditioning, and late hours. This store, considerably altered and expanded, operated as a Harris Teeter location for over sixty years before being demolished in 2012 and replaced by a huge new two-level branch. In addition, Harris opened a second store at 4009 North Tryon Street.
Also, in 1946, Charles Reid (no relation to Reid’s Fine Foods) opened what would be the first of several Park-n-Shop stores at 2938 Wilkinson Boulevard. At its peak in the 1970s, Reid’s chain would have four stores in Charlotte and six more around the Charlotte area.