Last Updated on 26 November 2022
Winston-Salem continued its growth through the 1950s, but ceased to be North Carolina’s second largest city sometime mid-decade; nearby Greensboro’s larger population growth finally pushed it past the Twin City.
In 1950, the surprisingly complete original village of Salem began its journey toward being restored as the Old Salem Museum and Gardens with the establishment of Old Salem, Inc. In 1953, Winston-Salem’s first TV station (and the Triad’s second) signed on as WSJS-TV on channel 12. In 1956, Wake Forest University relocated is medical school to Winston-Salem, following the lead of its medical school a decade earlier. And in 1958, North Carolina’s first freeway, the East-West Expressway opened through the center of Winston-Salem, carrying traffic from US highways 158 and 421, and later Interstate 40.
The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company began the 1950s with three Winston-Salem locations, the City Market branch from the 1920s, plus two supermarkets, one on West First Street and one downtown on North Liberty Street. By 1955, the First Street location had closed, replaced by a new store a mile or so west on Stratford Road. Another new store, on South Main Street just south of Old Salem, opened in 1954.
Later in the decade, A&P finally closed its City Market operation, leaving it with only one downtown location. In addition, on 30 October 1958, an A&P store had its grand opening as part of the festivities for the new Northside Shopping Center on Patterson Avenue. This center, Winston-Salem’s largest at the time, also contained a Colonial supermarket, Rose’s, Eckerd Drugs, W.T. Grant, and other stores.
Big Bear’s Winston-Salem presence increased to three stores when the chain acquired the former A&P location on West First Street in the early 1950s, when A&P moved to Stratford Road.
In 1950, Colonial Stores opened a location on Waughtown Street near what would become the North-South Expressway (US 52). This was the first new chain grocery location in the southeastern part of the city since A&P abandoned its Waughtown units in the 1930s.
1958 was a big year for Colonial in Winston-Salem. On 26 May, the chain closed its twenty-year-old downtown location on Cherry Street, which had been Winston-Salem’s first supermarket. The following week, is replacement opened a few miles south of downtown at South Main Street and Clemmonsville Road. The, in October, another new store opened in the Northside Shopping Center, as discussed above.
An additional location, at the intersection of Cloverdale Road and Miller Street in the Ardmore neighborhood, also opened late in the decade, bring Colonial’s presence in the Twin City in the Twin City to five stores.
Locally-based Food Fair increased its store count from four to six during the 1950s. Three of its 1950 units — Third Street, Avalon, and South Main — were still open in 1960. A new location on North Patterson Avenue opened early in the decade, a relocation of the original Trade Street location downtown. Another standalone unit opened in the late 1950s on Hawthorne Road at Knollwood Street, in Ardmore.
Perhaps the most important new store of the 1950s, though, was the new location at Thruway Shopping Center, which opened in 1955. This center, jointly developed by Food Fair owner Ray Messick and developer Earl Slick, was named for the freeway being adjacent to the site (at the time it was assumed that it would be called the “Thruway” although this never came to pass), and eventually became one of Winston-Salem’s premiere shopping destinations.
Kroger replaced its small store on Hawthorne Road with a large supermarket around the corner on First Street in 1952. This older building on Hawthorne was eventually demolished for construction of the East-West Expressway; the move may or may not have been related.
Two years later, the chain opened another large supermarket at the corner of Patterson Avenue and Northwest Boulevard, north of downtown. These three stores were Kroger’s total store count through the rest of the 1950s.
In June 1959, James R. Gilley, a veteran of the supermarket industry, opened his first Stop & Shop supermarket at Reynolda and Robinhood Roads. The 9000 square foot store had parking spaces for sixty cars, and featured 61 linear feet of self-service meat, 31 feet of dairy products, and 21 feet of ice cream. His slogan was “Nobody, But Nobody Undersells Stop & Shop.”
Stop & Shop would grow in the 1960s.
Winston-Salem’s first Winn-Dixie store opened in the late 1950s at Waughtown Street and what is now Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. More stores would open in the 1960s and later, but Winn-Dixie would never be as strong in Winston-Salem as in Greensboro or Charlotte.