Thursday, July 5, 2007

Welcome To The Past!

Our best memories often arise from life's simplest events - going with family or friends to the donut shop, to Denny's, to Baskin-Robbins and on and on. More often than not, the settings for these memories were in the most routine of places, including... the local grocery store.

My name is Dave, and I grew up in the Chicago suburbs in the 1960's and 1970's. Quite a few of the suburbs, in fact, as we moved seven times within the Chicago area between 1966 and 1977. The two "constants", indeed the only major supermarket chains that have survived were Jewel and Dominick's. They were everywhere. Throw in a few National Tea stores in the early years and a couple of A&P's later on, and there you have it -my growing-up grocery experience.

Well, not quite - I had one set of grandparents in Georgia, where I got to know Winn-Dixie, and the other set of grandparents in Rhode Island, where we hit the Stop and Shop now and then and the Star Market (Gram correctly pronounced it "Stah Mahket") and the Almacs (a now defunct Rhode Island supermarket chain) with alarming regularity.

Toss in over 20 years of nationwide traveling for my job, encountering a slew of Krogers, Publixes, Ralphs and many others, and I've drawn a couple of conclusions. One, the newer stores aren't as interesting as the older ones - the unique and sometimes outlandish store designs have given way to a standarized sameness -beige walls with teal and mauve signs in way too many cases. Secondly, I've learned that some folks remember and are interested in "the way they were".

So come along, and we will look at some retail classics in the coming weeks.

To start, here is one that's close to my heart - a Jewel/Osco "Master Market" from 1965. Jewel was one of the early pioneers of the food/drug combination stores, and although the location is unknown for this photo, this prototype existed in the location that my family frequented -on Route 83 (Elmhurst Road) In Des Plaines. The store still exists, but was expanded and remodeled extensively in the mid-70's. A similar store exists on Plum Grove Road in Palatine. This store was also expanded around the same time, but it retained the basic look of the store shown here.
A year and a half after this, my first post, I received an email from Keith, who identified the pictured store's location. It is probably one I should have remembered, since we shopped there occasionally when I was young. This store was and is located on the corner of Vail and Wing streets in Arlington Heights, a northwest suburb of Chicago, and opened in 1964. It features a modified version of the original "Master Market" design, due to the fact the Chicago and North Western (now Union Pacific/Metra) railroad tracks cut across what would normally be parking space for the store. Notice the sharp diagonal on the parking rows and the fact that the store's entrance is offset to the left instead of centered, as they normally were. Jewel/Osco attempted to close the store a few years back due to its small size, but public demand convinced them to keep it open, and it now sports a unique facade and a special name - "Jewel/Osco Vail Street Market". Also note the water tower in the distant background, which was located on the Arlington Park Racetrack property. In the 70's, the water tower sported the track's stylized horse and jockey logo, which I recall. I'm not sure the water tower still exists, though. Thanks to Keith for this information!


  1. "...One, the newer stores aren't as interesting as the older ones - the unique and sometimes outlandish store designs have given way to a standarized sameness -beige walls with teal and mauve signs in way too many cases...."

    Couldn't agree more! Great blog! Would like to add you in my links over at mine ( and once I figure out how to do that I will.

  2. Didi - Thanks, and I think your blog is great as well! You're providing a much needed resource on Chicago architectural and pop culture history.

    Thanks also for all the great comments!

  3. Great picture and wonderful site. I drive by that Jewel/Osco on Plum Grove Road from time to time. It looks pretty much like the store in the picture here. Still has the white stripes down the side of the building.

    Anyway, Jewel has always been my favorite supermarket as well. My family has shopped there all my life. I have one picture of the first Jewel is Schaumburg that opened in 1962. They moved to a larger store in the same center in 1970, and this store stayed open until 1989. I wish I had a picture of this "family center" store because we went there every Sunday. It's funny what you remember from childhood.... I can still remember the exact date it closed (January 25, 1989), it's store number (378), and where everything was located in the store... even though I was only 8 1/2 when it closed.

  4. Dan - Thanks for the comment, and you have a great memory! The last time I saw the Palatine store (maybe a year or so ago) it still looked pretty original. Jewel/Osco used this design on several stores and sometimes reversed them in a mirror image. You can always tell which side was which was which by counting the stripes (4 or 5), which of course corresponded to the lettering.

    I'd love to see the '62 Schaumburg photo. I remember the Schaumburg Jewel/Turnstyle Family Center well. I have a photo of one that is similar that I hope to post soon with some other Jewel stuff. It was on Higgins Road, wasn't it? We lived in Hoffman Estates in '71-'72 and shopped there quite a bit.

  5. The Schaumburg Jewel/TurnStyle was at 1311 E. Golf Road (southwest corner of Golf and Meacham). It was later a Venture store, followed by a Big Kmart. In 2000-01, the building was demolished and turned into the Great Outdoors.

    You might remember the Jewel at Golf and Roselle in Hoffman Estates, depending on what part of Hoffman Estates you lived in. The current night club around the corner near the Burger King at Higgins/Roselle was actually where the original Jewel store on that corner was (it was a "Giant Auto Supply" at one point I remember too). Like the Jewel I am looking for pictures on, they closed the original smaller store and reopened in a bigger store in an addition of the shopping center. It would be interesting to find out how many times Jewel did that.

    Right near there was the first Dominick's in Schaumburg, at the northeast corner of Golf and Roselle. It opened in 1973 and closed in 1996. I took some pictures with a regular camera after it had closed (got my first camera a month or so too late :)

    How can I submit the picture of the Jewel in Schaumburg from circa 1962?

  6. Dan - That's the one I remember! It was Golf and not Higgins Rd. There used to be a nightclub near there called "B Ginnings" that was owned by the drummer for the group Chicago.

    I remember the other one as well at Hoffman Plaza. Another store we shopped at in Hoffman was Guido's, which I believe was a small chain with a few stores around Chicago.

    For the picture, you can email it to me at

    Thanks very much!

  7. I would accompany my grandmother during the 50s to a store front style Jewel in Rogers Park on Morse Ave. Around 1960 Jewel opened a larger store along Clark St near Lunt Ave. At the time the new store appeared to be absolutely humongous.

    Thanks for the senssational store pics.

  8. Marty - Thanks for sharing hat great remembrance, and glad that you like the pictures. They (especially Jewel, for me) bring back memories for a lot of us!

  9. I couldn't believe it when I saw the picture of the Jewel-Osco at Vail and Wing in Arlington Heights as I grew up right by there and Mom shopped there almost every day! It opened in about 1967 (I still remember the Grand Opening). The water tower in the background was actually part of an old creamery that backed up to the railroad tracks just south of Arlington High School.

  10. Awesome indeed. I have been hoping to find a picture of some kind of the old school generic products that were REALLY generic (black/white labels) and I found them on this blog! That era was short lived. Thanks again.