Greensboro History

The 1960s

By 1960, Greensboro’s population had increased to 119,600, pushing it past Winston-Salem to become North Carolina’s second largest city.

Greensboro’s suburban development had taken off in the 1950s, but it exploded in the 1960s. Builders like Kirkman and Koury (later Koury Corporation) were building subdivisions all over the south side of town, while the Starmount Corporation and others handled the north and west. Until urban renewal, development largely ignored the poorer, less white east side.

1965

Shopping Centers

New Greensboro shopping centers of the 1960s (and their supermarket anchors) included:

  • Southgate, Asheboro Street (now Martin Luther King Jr. Drive) near I-85, 1960: Kroger.
  • Golden Gate, East Cornwallis Drive, 1961: A&P and Kroger.
  • O. Henry, Summit Avenue at Cone Boulevard, 1962: Winn-Dixie.
  • King’s Shopping Center, West Market and Spring Garden Streets, 1962: Big Bear.
  • Quaker Village, Friendly Avenue, 1962: Winn-Dixie.
  • Oakcrest, Battleground Avenue, 1963: A&P.
  • Spring Valley, South Ashe Street (Now Randleman Road) and Meadowview Road, 1967: A&P.
  • Coliseum Center, Valley Park Drive (now Coliseum Boulevard) and Florida Streets, 1968: A&P.
  • Cumberland, East Market Street at Murrow Boulevard, 1969: A&P.
  • Sedgefield, High Point and Groomtown Roads, 1969: Big Bear.
  • Zayre Shopping Center, High Point and Holden Roads, 1969: Big Star.

Shopping centers were getting larger as well. In May 1960, plans were announced for Four Seasons, a 400,000 square foot center at the intersection of High Point Road and the newly-constructed Interstate 40. When the center finally opened, fourteen years later, it would be more than twice as large, and it would revolutionize retailing in Greensboro.

In May 1968, plans were unveiled for a second regional center, two miles east of the Four Seasons site, on Randleman Road. Greenbriar Mall was to feature a Woolco store, a Kroger supermarket, and other unnamed anchors. Construction began shortly after, but was abandoned in the early 1970s for a number of reasons. Greensboro never got a Woolco store.

A&P

A&P expanded aggressively in Greensboro during the 1960s, doubling its store count from five to ten between 1960 and 1970. The company had better luck finding space in more desirable suburban centers here than in many other cities, but, true to form, it also didn’t abandon its older, urban locations either.

On 16 March 1961, the Golden Gate Shopping Center opened adjacent to the Greensboro’s affluent Irving park neighborhood. The center featured an A&P at one end and a Kroger at the other. The $350,000 A&P unit’s concentration was on frozen foods, and it also featured a self-service meat department with special full-service cuts available by request.

ap-2437battleground-gso-196
A&P, 2437 Battleground Avenue, 1963. (Greensboro Daily News)

On 20 August 1963, A&P’s one and only Colonial-styled “Centennial” store opened on Battleground Avenue. The 15,000 square foot branch had extended operating hours (8:30 AM – 9:00 PM, Monday through Friday, and 8:30 AM – 7:00 PM on Saturday) and a “magic carpet” door which opened and closed automatically.

In 1966, the company announced two new shopping center branches on the southwest side of town: one in the Spring Valley Shopping Center on South Ashe Street (now Randleman Road) and the other on the Coliseum Center at West Florida Street and Valley Park Drive (later South Chapman Street and now Coliseum Boulevard). In addition, A&P placed a branch in Cumberland Center, an urban renewal project on East Market Street.

Even with all this new construction, no older stores were closed.

Bi-Rite

The Bi-Rite “chain” nearly doubled its store count during the 1960s as well, from eight to fifteen locations in Greensboro.

A branch at 2212 South Ashe Street (now Randleman Road) opened on 2 November 1961, as the twelfth in the co-op, although it seems to have been only the ninth within Greensboro proper. This location was owned by the Maner family. In addition, a Bi-Rite location replaced the three-year-old Piggly Wiggly on Madison (now Friendly) Avenue in 1962; this location had initially been a Colonial store.

A few more stores took on the Bi-Rite name in the late 1960s, although some of them may have been preexisting stores that had operated under other names. One definite newcomer, however, was the Battleground Avenue store, open 30 September 1969. This store was owned by Robert Butler, one of the co-op’s founders.

Big Bear

Big Bear doubled its store count during the 1960s as well.

bb-4653wmarket-gso-1964
Big Bear, King’s Shopping Center, 1964. (Greensboro Daily News)

In addition to the two stores already open in 1960, a 18,000 square foot branch opened on 2 March 1964 adjacent to the year-old King’s Department Store on West Market Street. Big Bear had also developed a shopping center with King’s in Winston-Salem. The Greensboro store featured a lounge for husbands and children and stocked more than 5,000 items. Operating hours were from 9AM-10PM.

A fourth unit opened in 1969 at the new Sedgefield Center on High Point Road. This center, similar as it was to ones developed by the company in Winston-Salem and High Point, was probably also developed by Big Bear.

Colonial and Big Star

Colonial Stores was looking a little tired through much of the 1960s. It’s Greensboro store count dropped from five in 1960 to three in 1970, with the 1937 location downtown finally closing in 1963, and the Asheboro Street location closing its doors around 1969 or 1970.

However, some new life was injected into the chain in 1969, when the first of its new Big Star stores in Greensboro opened adjacent to a brand new Zayre department store on High Point Road. Colonial chose to bring back the Big Star banner for a new low-margin, low-price chain. Several more would open in Greensboro in coming years.

By the late 1960s, if not sooner, Colonial was also operating the food department in Clark’s Discount Department Store.

Kroger

On 2 February 1960, the day after four black students made history by sitting down and asking for service at a segregated lunch counter in a downtown Greensboro Woolworth store, Kroger opened its third Greensboro location in the Southgate Shopping Center on Asheboro Street (now Martin Luther King Jr. Drive). The 15,500 square foot store was” decorated in soft red and blue with large food murals”, according to the Greensboro Daily News.

A little over a year later, the fourth Kroger in Greensboro opened in the Golden Gate Shopping Center, featuring overhead aisle markers and one of Kroger’s new “Milk House” dairy departments within its 16,900 square feet.

By 1970, the 1955 downtown location had closed, leaving Kroger with three locations in Greensboro. This space was used as county offices for decades, and was torn down just after the turn of the century when a downtown baseball stadium was built nearby.

Winn-Dixie

1961 and 1962 were big years for Winn-Dixie in Greensboro, as new stores doubled the 1960 store count to six. The first of the new locations opened 17 January 1961 as the beginning of a new shopping center at Summit Avenue and Cone Boulevard on the northeast side of town, serving the new O. Henry Oaks subdivision.

wd-friendly-gso-1962
Winn-Dixie, Friendly Center, 1962. (Greensboro Daily News)

On 8 January 1962, the chain’s fifth Greensboro location opened as part of an expansion at Friendly Center, the regional center on Friendly Avenue. This store, at 20,000 square feet, was one of the largest in town and was the 547th in the Winn-Dixie chain. On 29 October 1962, another new location opened farther out Friendly Avenue at Quaker Village, across from Guilford College.

No new Winn-Dixie stores, however, would open in Greensboro for the remainder of the 1960s.

The Rest

Clark’s, Greensboro’s first superstore, had made its appearance in 1958. King’s, another discount department store chain, arrived in 1962, but King’s did not sell groceries. Thus, the first real direct competition for Clark’s came with the announcement of Greensboro’s first Kmart, on South Ashe Street (now Randleman Road) on 22 May 1966. Within a year, the store, and its attached Kmart Foods, were open for business.

The last remaining Ivory Store locations in Greensboro closed during the early 1960s, with the Walker Avenue location in College Hill shutting down to be replaced by a number of tenants, and the newer High Point Road supermarket spending a few years as a Piggly Wiggly franchise.

The independents were largely irrelevant by 1970.

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One thought on “Greensboro History

  1. Larry Talbott

    December 25, 2018 at 3:43pm

    As a high school student I worked at the Kroger’s Golden Gate store starting in March of 1973. It closed later that same year when the new Palmer Plaza superstore opened..

  2. Janice DeGree

    January 18, 2020 at 6:25pm

    My Mom took me with her when she shopped at Big Bear in Lawndale Shopping Center until it closed. I have fond memories…

  3. Darius Burwell

    July 25, 2020 at 7:42am

    As a kid growing up in the 1980s my family use to shop at the old Food World on Summit Ave. It wasn’t the biggest or the best looking supermarket, but it was neighborhood, so that was enough for us.

    We were saddened for a minute when one day we looked up and old Food World was gone, and some new people called Harris Teeter had their name on the store.

    They upscaled the place, but it never had the same feel as the old Food World did.

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