Purity Stores (California)

Established in the San Francisco area in 1929, this chain operated at least as far south as Fresno and as far north as Fort Bragg, although most of its stores were along the coast, many of them in small towns. The owners, the Niven family, liquidated the chain in 1972 and now operate a Nothern California winery. The Fort Bragg location was still operating as the last remaining Purity store, with original signage in place, as late as 2003.

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Updated on 26 November 2022

One thought on “Purity Stores (California)

  1. Chris

    May 7, 2019 at 7:35pm

    Purity also had stores in Fortuna and Eureka, so Eureka was the most northern store. The Purity in Fortuna is what is now Rays Food Place. Prior to being Rays it was Food Mart, but it was built as Purity. Eureka had two stores , one in Henderson center, that building which had a major remodel , is now Joanne’s Fabric. The store in downtown Eureka is currently Picky Picky Surplus on the corner of 6th and E street. It was built as a Purity, then became many other things afterward including Bonanza 88, Yellow Front and Factory To U. Seems like it was other things too, but it was built as Purity.

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    • Jim

      November 2, 2021 at 10:01am

      I can remember walking to and from the Purity Grocery Store in Henderson Center as a kid. Mom didn’t drive, so would load my younger brother and I in the Western Flyer wagon and pull us to the store, the grocery’s road in wagon on the way home and we walked.

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    • Dennis Howard

      August 26, 2022 at 9:43am

      I was asst Mgr of the 6 and E Purity store in 1967 and 1968, always wondered what it ended up being after Purity.

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  2. Greg Brown

    September 2, 2019 at 11:21pm

    Did Purity sponsor some kind of televised home participation game show? I seem to remember something like that in the late 60s.

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    • Patsy Hudspeth

      April 29, 2021 at 1:02pm

      My dad worked for Purity Grocers for many many years. He did everything from stocker, produce, produce manager, assistant manager, manager, to trouble-shooter. He was good at it all and never missed a beat. Our family survived the earthquake early years ( I was a baby ) in Eureka Calif. But Purity was not so lucky and I think I have bkack and white photos of the damage it did to the store but they quickly repaired and then I think we moved so dad could tend to another store perhaps his own in Pixley Ca. Not a Purity though I know he worked at the one in Los Gatos, and Portervile many years ago. We lost daddy in 2007 ( Comanche, Tx. ) and mom in 2017 (Comanche, Tx.

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    • Dennis Howard

      August 25, 2022 at 11:35pm

      It was a horse race game, and the currier service delivered the wrong week to the TV studio, and almost everybody won, I was the asst Mgr in Red Bluff when it happened and in 15 minutes we had hundreds of customers coming into the parking lot with their 10,000 winners. It actually put Purity out of business.

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      • SalMonella

        August 27, 2022 at 3:42pm

        Post Time!

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  3. James

    May 26, 2020 at 6:31pm

    Purity had a store in San Luis Obispo, CA. They also had a game where you received a horse race ticket for buying groceries. The results of the race were given just before 8pm on Saturday in a sort-of long commercial. My mother won some 50 cent pieces that she kept for over 60 years.

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  4. Patsy A. Hudspeth

    July 15, 2020 at 11:24pm

    my father worked for Purity stores for many many years from being a stocker, assistant manager, produce manager, troubleshooter, you name it he did it. he works at the one in Eureka when they have their big earthquake it pretty much destroyed the store we survived it I was just a baby I don’t remember the earthquake itself that I remember my crib going from one side of the room to the other and I was saying weeee. He worked at Purity in Los Gatos California Porterville California just all over Purity stores I can’t say enough about how great they were!

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  5. Kate Gonzales

    November 16, 2020 at 11:37pm

    My husbands grandfather worked as a butcher for Purity Stores in Hollister, CA in 1940s – a detail we found on his draft card for WWII.

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  6. KV Bunker

    January 9, 2021 at 10:16am

    Purity in Fort Bragg continues to operate under the name as of January 2021.

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  7. Lorraine Fry

    February 17, 2021 at 12:31am

    Were there any PURITY stores in or near San Jose, California, in the late ‘50s / early ‘60s? I have a vague memory of shopping with my Mom at an unfamiliar market when I was very young, and when I asked her the name of the store, I think she answered, “Purity.” But she doesn’t remember such a place anymore. Maybe somebody out there does?

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    • Author
    • Newark California had one. The facade on the roof had P along the top. They closed and another grocery store opened but the P was in the cement design of the building that it stayed until the tore

      July 30, 2021 at 7:45pm

      Newark had one Newark Blvd and mayhew landing

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    • Kerry M.

      September 23, 2021 at 7:07pm

      There was a Purity store in downtown Palo Alto on a side street off of University Ave.

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    • TG

      February 23, 2023 at 8:55pm

      There was a Purity In Los Gatos, CA on the corner of Blossom Hill Rd and Los Gatos Blvd. Use to live very nearby starting when I was 3 in 1961. I read the Niven Family sold the chain in 1972 and that seems about right as to when it changed hands.

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    • D

      May 20, 2023 at 11:34pm

      There was a Purity market at the early Westgate Mall growth – Westgate Mall, where Saratoga Ave & Campbell Ave crossed on one side of the mall and the other side was on Hamilton Ave.
      There was also, just across from the market, just across the walkway, a small amusement park with a few rides.
      Hopefully jogs some memories

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  8. Burt Codispoti

    March 11, 2021 at 7:29pm

    The CoOp in Arcata was also a Purity, even further north than Eureka.

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  9. Alf Doten

    March 29, 2021 at 1:43pm

    Yep…….glad Burt chimed in. Purity (the new store) is the Arcata Co-op. Just adjacent on the NE corner of 9th & I Street was the original Purity with its small parking lot in the back that probably dated from 1940. It became Hensel Hardware but the building burned in the 1990’s and the present structure bares no relation to the original building. Old Purity stores are identifiable by their distinctive “quansit hut” curved roof and adjacent small parking lots that transitioned well into hardware stores and garden shops.

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    • Jolie

      December 2, 2021 at 6:44pm

      Do you have any information on the metal private parking plaques in the asphalt at the current Arcata Co-op parking lot? Wondering the history of them.

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    • Joe Bollig

      May 15, 2023 at 2:22pm

      I remember my Dad not able to get home from Arcata store in (I think the winter of 65?) because of flooding

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  10. Craig T Blake

    October 24, 2021 at 8:35pm

    My Dad was the store manager for that loser company when they decided to close his store in San Anselmo, CA, around the year 1960. What did they offer him? A job as a “checker” at half his former salary and quite a ways from San Anselmo. Smartly, he went and formed a partnership with two others and they bought a large supermarket in nearby Santa Venetia.

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  11. John D. Kaylor

    November 8, 2021 at 12:30pm

    I remember my dad working for Purity Stores in Gilroy, Ca. He was their chief mechanic at the warehouse facility. so many memories of me going with him on the road to repair those Peterbilt rigs broken down along the highways. Not to mention the sawdust on the floors of the Quonset hut grocery stores or the free banana someone would always give me when I got to visit the warehouse on the south end of town. 65 years ago went by so fast.

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    December 21, 2021 at 6:19pm

    There was a Purity Market in Santa Maria, CA in the 60’s as I recall.

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  13. Gary E Estep

    January 1, 2022 at 12:15pm

    We had one in Chico. It became a Safeway and now the building is a sporting goods store.

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  14. Sarah

    February 13, 2022 at 3:55pm

    We lived on Hillsdale St. in the early 50’s
    My mother my sister Martha and l walked to Purity store. What memories of old eureka days

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  15. Joan

    February 17, 2022 at 7:43pm

    We had a Purity in Watsonville.

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  16. All-Purpose Guru

    July 15, 2022 at 7:31pm

    For furthest north, there was a Purity store on South Broadway in Yreka, California. The building is still there and now houses the Siskiyou News newspaper.

    Incidentally, the building next door was the first Safeway in the area.

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    • Lori Conser

      July 29, 2022 at 12:20pm

      I worked in the Yreka building for 10 years as a reporter and editor of the Siskyou Daily News back in the 90s and early 2000s. I didn’t know it was a Purity store (although I did know that it used to be a grocery story) until yesterday when I came across an old picture from the 1940s that one of my authors (I work in book publishing now) wanted to include in his family biography. His ancestor, John Niven was a founder of the Purity stores. I took one look at the picture and recognized the building immediately! Uncanny!

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  17. Maria

    July 22, 2022 at 3:14pm

    I remember a Purity grocery store in Healdsburg, CA in the 1970’s. It was on Center Street, in the little shopping area at the corner of Center St. and Piper St. My parents used to get their groceries there all the time. That store has changed hands/businesses several times over the years. I think after Purity it may have been Molsberry’s Market? That’s a Sonoma County business. Then sometime after Molsberry’s it was a Long’s Drugs and is now currently a CVS drugstore. I’ve probably missed one or two businesses in between those I listed.

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  18. Phetsy

    September 18, 2022 at 1:35am

    I remember going to the Purity in Merced with my grandfather to get their peach pies, which Papá loved (and so did I).

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    • Donald G Parker

      April 5, 2023 at 10:08pm

      me too, 1680 Union Ave.

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  19. John

    January 27, 2023 at 1:25am

    My father, George Souza worked at Stanford shopping center location wen it turn in to Nivens international foods he retired from there. He had a great boss, his name is John Nevins

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  20. TG

    February 23, 2023 at 9:25pm

    Purity in Los Gatos, CA was operating in 1961 and probably earlier. Replaced by Food Villa in probably 1972. Currently it’s “Whole Foods Market” I believe.

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  21. Phillip BAKER

    April 29, 2023 at 10:31pm

    There was a Purity Store in Orland, California when I was a boy.

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  22. Justin Probert

    May 20, 2023 at 7:52pm

    Just read that the Donut Wheel in downtown Livermore since 1962 was originally built for Purity in 1941. I wasn’t born yet so can’t confirm but wondering if anyone else knows.

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  23. Janis sharp

    June 2, 2023 at 10:43am

    My father started at at Purity stores as an inventory man , then produce manager. He worked his way up the ladder to Regional Manager of Northern California where he managed 60 stores. He was on the road a lot, visiting each store twice month. He left there in 1963 to explore the real estate market.

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  24. john s. laughton

    March 2, 2024 at 2:54pm

    I remember the Purity store in Salinas, California back in the 1950’s and 60’s. As the article above states, I guess the company was liquidated but I wonder if it was sold piece-meal or just who ended up with it?

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  25. Matthew Hale

    July 9, 2024 at 5:38pm

    I am remodeling a building in Carmel-By-The Sea, Ca and we uncovered original store front lettering that says “Purity Stores; Meat, Groceries, Fruit, Vegetables”. We are actively trying to date the lettering and have it narrowed down to what I believe is between 1937-1946. Does anyone have any recollection or maybe even photos of the store in Carmel? I have already gone through all of the historical society records here in town. Thank you

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