Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Thriftimart - The Tall T


Burning bright above the L.A. Basin at dusk were the red, 40-foot tall "T's" - the iconic logo of the late, great Thriftimart supermarket chain. A fondly-remembered sight of Angelenos (and selected San Diegans and Vegas-ites), these gigantic signs emerged on the local landscape through the 50's and 60's.

The company that would eventually be named Thriftimart, Inc. was created in 1930 when a group of former A&P managers headed by Roger Laverty, Sr. purchased a company called Fitzsimmons Stores, Ltd. (the name the company would bear until well into the 1950's). In its earlier years, the company grew through acquisitions, including the 9-store "Thriftimart" and the 17-store Roberts Markets chains in the 1940's. In 1955, the company purchased the Smart & Final Iris Company, which at the time was strictly a wholesale operation.

By 1961, the company had over 60 stores and had renamed itself after its famous trademark. This photo is circa 1965.

21 comments:

  1. Amazing. You just confirmed my memory of these gigantic T's! My mother would always shop at Market Basket or Shopping Bag (Became Von's) but my dad would only shop Thriftimart I thought they disappeared very early in the 70's I guess they were around longer. Shopping Bag segues into have you anything on them? I recall giant neon signage in red or magenta tones also Fazios markets were in the L.A. area for a short time but I cant find anything on them.

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    1. My family shopped at the Thrifimart in Long Beach on Viking Way. It was located at the corner of Bellflower Blvd and Carson Street. The shopping center was call The Triangle by most of us in the neighborhood.

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  2. Jeff, I'm glad it helped confirm your memories. Those T's must have been an impressive sight. They were long gone by the time I first visited L.A.

    I do have some Shopping Bag stuff that I'll have to post soon. For a number of years Vons operated stores under both names. I've never heard of Fazios in California. Were they affiliated w/the Cleveland Fazio's?

    Thanks for the comment!

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  3. I don't know if Fazios was based in Cleveland or not. I want to say they were in the L.A./OC area in the late 1970's early 1980's and not for very long either. Being a child in the 70's I can only remember the location in the city of La Habra on Whittier Bl at Hacienda. It later became a Sears outlet.

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    1. I remember a Fazio's in Long Beach in the late 1970's or early 1980's on Cherry and Del Amo. I agree that they were around for a short period of time.

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  4. I can remember being about 4 years old, swinging on our backyard swing set in South Inglewood, and trying with all my might to swing out in a high enough arc above the shrubs along the fence so as to see the big red T of the Thriftimart at Crenshaw and Imperial. When I could see that, I'd accomplished something.

    That would be 1959.

    I remember the radio jingle:

    "Everyday is a special day at Thriftimart...
    Everyday is a special day for you...
    Whatever you put in your shopping cart...
    You'll save and save at Thriftimart...
    Everyday is a special day
    at Thriftimart, THRIFTIMART!"

    The singers would yell the last Thriftimart.

    Mind you, this is back in the days when KFI was a music station with disc jockies.

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    1. My Mom always shopped at the Hawthorne Thriftimart on El Segundo Blvd. and Oceangate ave. in the 70's. I'll never forget the giant T!

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    2. I worked at that Thriftimart from 1977 to 1984. I started as a box girl then went to checker after 1 year. We had these very bright orange vest we wore. And the very bright green and pink purple checker uniforms.So ugly. So many good times there.Manager Bob Daily, Don Beatty assistant manager.Mark Graff was the manger when we closed, I was there when the big T was pulled down. Red glass every where. So sad.I was hoping to retire from there.


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  5. Captain- Thanks for sharing that magnificent memory, and for the complete lyric to the Thriftimart jingle! I'd love to hear a sound file of that one of these days.

    KFI is strictly news/talk nowadays isn't it? The station I grew up in Chicago, WLS made the transition from legendary top 40 station to news/talk many years back as well. It must have been great to grow up listening to KFI and KRLA in their heyday.

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  6. Yep, it's the #1 talker in the country. But as far as growing up listening to it, nooooo waaaaaay. Only our parents and grandparents listened to it, and it played "old people's music". We kids listened to KHJ (with Robert W. Morgan, The Real Don Steele and Humble Harv), KFWB and KRLA.

    Now I like that "old people's music", I guess cuz I are wun. Go figure.

    I'd love to find a recording of the Thriftimart jingle too. All I can tell you is it was written by Mervyn Oakner. If I come across it I'll make sure you get a digitized copy.

    I love this site Dave. I've been here in So Cal all my life, so I'll kick in where I can to help illuminate when appropriate from my store of memories.

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  7. Captain - Thanks, and your input is greatly appreciated!

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  8. I started with Thriftimart in Orange county calif in 1960, working as a boxboy and until 1962 I left to join the Navy came back and worked with them until safeway bought them out. I remember that dark day in 1984 we all got pink slips we all got laid-off, I was lucky to get my job back 44 days later and retired after Vons had already bought them out
    in 1999. I always enjoyed working in the grocery business. Joe Rivera

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  9. Joe - Thanks for sharing your memories with us. Wow, you definitely saw some changes in that business! I'll bet the Thriftimart was a great looking store in the early 60's.

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  10. A big 'T' is all that remains of what was once the social hub of South Spring Valley, a working-class community in eastern San Diego County. Like lots of other teenagers who attended Mount Miguel High School, I used to hang out at the Thriftimart and buy sodas and ice cream after school. Some of my friends used to work there, too.

    Back in the days when there were a lot of food store chains (like FedMart, DeFalco's, AlphaBeta, Food Basket, Gemco, Mayfair & Piggly Wiggly), they really had to compete hard for market share. Nowadays, with only a few (like Albersons, Vons and Ralphs--have you ever noticed that they're all 'plurals' with no apostrophes?), they don't have to try so hard to earn your business...and they don't! Prices are 'way up, wages are 'way down, and customer service is a thing of the past.

    Too bad (sniff). Those were the 'good old days'!

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  11. Mick - Thanks for sharing that. Pretty cool to think that a supermarket could have been the social hub! There really were a wide number of chains to choose from in those days, and in my opinion, most had great looking stores. It's an era that's missed for so many reasons, especially for the bygone level of customer service.

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  12. RE: Mick's comment about the lack of apostrophes:

    Ralphs doesn't need one because that's the actual last name of the guy who started the company, George Ralphs.

    As far as Vons goes, at one time they included the possessive apostrophe in their name. I can't recall when or why they dropped it, but drop it they did.

    Albertsons seems to have had an identity crisis as well. At the following link you'll see a stock certificate with the name spelled both ways:

    http://ep.yimg.com/ca/I/scripophily_2077_31621262

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  13. Captain - Thanks for the clarifications on those. Before I dug into the history of Ralphs for some posts I did last year, I would have been sure it was a first name instead of a surname!

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  14. My name is Ernest Andrus. I worked in Drug & Grocer store management in Southern CA for many years. In the retail business I was known as Andy. I was doing comparison shopping for Thrifty Drugs in the early 50's and remember well when the Fitsimons signes were being changed over to Thriftimart. I went to work for Thriftimart in 1963 and stayed with them until they sold out to Safeway in 1984.
    I was working at the North Hollywood store on Lankershime Blvd. when I retired but most of my time was at #27, Adams & Vermont in Los Angeles. " This was originaly a Robert's Market.)I have a picture of store #27 taken in the 50's. Thriftimart put out a Bi-Monthly publication called "ThriftiTimes" from December 1980-March 1984. I have most of those publication still in good condition.

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    1. Ralphs #295 Vermont & Adams nowadays. I started my grocery career at Alpha Beta in Hawthorne as night box boy and quickly worked my way to first apprentice grocery clerk. I finished after being vested @ the new Ralphs Vermont/Adams store after 13 years of night crew and price integrity... They run these kids ragged now with a two tier system and burn them out quick! Gone are tje days of apprentice tiers and the UFCW is weak!

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  15. Ernest - Thanks for writing! Thriftimart has always been one of the most interesting chains to me. The amount of change you got to observe firsthand during those years is astounding, no question about it. If you have access to a scanner and would be interested in sharing the 1950's photo and perhaps some photos from the early 1980's Thriftimart magazines with the readers of this website, I would be thrilled to put together a post featuring them. Just let me know at:

    pleasantfamilyshopping@hotmail.com

    Thanks again!

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  16. I was going to post the Thriftimart jingle, but Captain beat me to it.
    I remember those jumbo Ts well. You were sure to see one or two glowing in the distance on any nighttime car ride.

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