Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Albertsons - Before and After

This Albertsons store, located in Lewiston, Idaho, opened in 1950 and sported architecture typical of many supermarkets of the era. In 1962, the store was expanded and remodeled in order to accomodate increased business and a growing selection of non-food items. The original store's arch-trussed roof (and a portion of the original facade) is still clearly visible behind the new facade. The "Albertsons" lettering here is an unusual variation -it almost looks as if they tried to emulate the font style of the original store sign.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Their Own Private Idaho

Long before Albertsons became a national name in grocery retailing, it was a powerhouse in the Pacific Northwest. The history of Albertsons started in Boise, Idaho in 1939 when former Safeway manager Joe Albertson formed a partnership with L.S. Skaggs (of Safeway founding family fame) and accountant Tom Cuthbert. Though the partnership would not last long, Albertson would build his company at a rapid clip in the coming decades, racking up a store count of nearly 100 units by the time the store pictured above was opened in 1961.
Probably the most common design associated with early 60's Albertsons stores is the arched-roof "marina" style of architecture with the "Albertsons" name rendered in old west-style lettering against individual white rectangular backgrounds across the expansive glass facade of the store. The fact is that the company used quite a number of prototype designs during this period, including this beauty, which was located in the Franklin Shopping Center in Boise. It's a nice pre-opening shot -note the glass manufacturer's stickers still attached to each pane!
(Note: A reader has kindly updated us on the current status -the Franklin Shopping Center, at the NW corner of Orchard and Franklin Streets, has been demolished and a swank Fred Meyer occupies the site today.)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Another Miami Publix

This photo from 1960, with "louvered" wings on the facade - a variation that's unique, to my knowledge. This store was/is located at 12850 Biscayne Blvd. in Miami.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Publix Panache

Publix, founded by George Jenkins in 1930, has been a supermarket trendsetter from its earliest years. Instead of a low-price approach, Jenkins emphasized high-style, opulent surroundings and a high level of service in the company’s stores. This strategy resulted in great success and fueled explosive growth for the chain through the second half of the 20th century. Publix was responsible for many store amenities that are de rigueur (ok, I’ll stop with the French vocabulary) in supermarkets today, including air conditioning and automatic electric-eye doors, which were both introduced in the early 40’s. Content for many years to service the booming Florida market alone, Publix did not venture into other states until 1992. The chain now has stores in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina as well.

The “winged” appearance of Publix store facades was introduced in the mid-50’s and was continued as a design feature on stores well into the 1960’s. Terrazzo floors were the standard as opposed to linoleum or vinyl. Some of the most striking features of the early 60’s stores were the elaborate, ten foot tall wall mosaics featured near many Publix store entrances. In his 1980 history of Publix entitled “Fifty Years of Pleasure”, Pat Watters quoted from a 60’s Look magazine article which described the purpose of the mosaics – to imply that Publix stores were “temples of plenty dedicated to the Goddess Housewife”.

The accompanying photos are of the Coral Ridge Shopping Center Publix (located in Ft. Lauderdale, FL) and were taken in 1962 when the store first opened, three years after Publix’s entry into the Miami market. Both the store and shopping center exist today, albeit in remodeled form, the store perhaps even more so than the mall itself. Malls of America has a great postcard from the shopping center’s early years here. The Publix store can be seen to the left.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Winn-Dixie Produce Aisle, early 60's

Winn-Dixie started in Florida in 1925 with the purchase of a single Miami grocery store by William Davis. With Mr. Davis' passing several years later, control of the company passed to his four sons, who over the years would achieve legendary status in the annals of Southern business. By 1965, through a series of acquisitions and an aggressive building program, the chain covered the entire Southeast and had grown to an impressive 668 stores. The "Winn-Dixie" name was adopted in 1955 when Winn and Lovett (as the company was known at the time) purchased the Dixie Home Stores chain.
For many years, the chain operated under two banners - "Winn-Dixie", of course, and "Kwik Chek". The signage in the photo above is typical of most W-D and Kwik Chek stores of the late 50's and early 60's. I particularly like the bathtub slip strips on the floor in front of the produce case. Also, for you juxtaposition fans, if you look to the right, you can see the adjacent toothpaste and mouthwash displays.
Update 8/9/08 - I received an email from Donna, who noticed a great aspect of this this photo that I had missed - "you can see a very 60's grocery store habit, which was to place large toys for sale over the produce. I had some old Deluxe Reading Toys, as did my sister, and they came from an old grocery store much like this one. Our parents pulled them down from up above the produce. You can see the old toy displays if you enlarge the picture and look to the left, way down on the end of the produce". Thanks, Donna!
Deluxe Reading was a toy manufacturer of dolls and some very cool other toys that were primarily marketed in supermarket displays. They also later made and sold toys through traditional toy and department stores under the Topper brand name (among others), and were reponsible for such kid favorites as Johnny Lightning cars and Suzy Homemaker playsets.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Winn-Dixie - Here IT IS!

Thought I'd take a break from all the Chicago-based stuff and look at some chains from the Sunny South.
For starters, here's a 1960 photo of a Winn-Dixie store featuring a nice subtle sign. What's not to love about this?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Jewel's Downstate Cousin

In 1957 Jewel acquired Eisner Food Stores, a 43-store chain of supermarkets with operations in downstate Illinois (primarily Champaign and Springfield) and Western Indiana. Within a few years, the Eisner stores began to closely resemble Jewel in both appearance and marketing strategies, although Eisner continued to be managed from Champaign.
By the early 60's, the company realized that Eisner's existing market population would only support a limited number of new full-blown supermarkets, so they implemented an interesting strategy. A wholesale division was established in 1963 to complement the corporate-owned store operation. Eisner sought out successful independent grocery operators for the purpose of converting their stores to "Eisner Agency" stores and supplying them on a wholesale basis, very similar to the "Walgreen Agency" stores which once existed in many areas of the country. The photo is from 1965.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Jewel - The New Sheriff In Town

Jewel Tea Company, as it was known from its 1899 founding until the 1960's, was strictly a door-to-door home shopping service for the first thirty years of its existence. In 1932, the company purchased all of the Chicago area grocery stores from Loblaw Groceterias, firmly establishing Jewel in the retail store business as well. To use modern terms, we would call it "adding a brick-and-mortar sales channel". The above photo is circa 1935 and is typical of Jewel Food Stores from the first 15 years or so of the division's existence.
An interesting thing you'll notice if you take a close look at the store's door signs ("Loblaw Out, Jewel In") -seems like they wanted to make sure customers got the message!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Dominick's '56

The other dominant traditional (i.e.: not Wal-Mart) supermarket chain in the Chicago area is, of course, Dominick's Finer Foods. Started by Dominick DiMatteo with a single store in 1918 and the addition of a second in the 1930's, the company consisted of a very small group of stores until the mid-1960's. As late as 1963, the chain had less than ten stores. The chain grew through acquisition in the later 60's, starting with a 3-store purchase from Korvettes in 1965 - Waukegan Rd. and Dempster St. , 87th and Cicero, and 111th and Crawford (Pulaski Rd) and then more importantly through a series of Kroger store buyouts, culminating in a 1970 purchase of 18 stores and soon afterward the Kroger Chicago Distribution center as well, effectively ending Kroger's Chicago area tenure. By the start of the 1970's, Dominick's (itself acquired in 1968 by Cleveland-based Fisher Foods) had achieved impressive growth indeed, and was only getting started - much faster growth was to follow.

This Chicago store opened in September, 1956, and the photo was taken shortly thereafter.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


National entered the Indianapolis market in a major way in September 1947 with the purchase of the 48-store Standard Grocery Company. This photo dates from 1953.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Serving You Better....Saving You More

Time for a tip of the hat to another major Chicago-based grocery chain - the late, great National Tea Company. Through the first half of the twentieth century, National was one of the largest Chicago-area chains, but gradually lost its market dominance to Jewel (and later to Dominick's) through the 50's and 60's. In its heyday, National was a force in many key Midwestern markets - Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee and several smaller cities.

By the time I came around in the 60's and early 70's, National was fading fast. My folks shopped at two different National stores on an infrequent basis, one on the corner of Elmhurst Rd. and Dempster St. in Mount Prospect, which was torn down and replaced by a Venture/A&P combination around 1975 or 6, and another on Kirchoff Rd. in Rolling Meadows which was right next to a Topps "Discount City" Department Store. The Mt. Prospect store resembled the one shown in the third photo above. The Rolling Meadows store was kind of cool-looking. It was opened in 1961 and had only been open a few years before it was was remodeled and given a very "60's" white facade (which it shared with the Topps store) with both store names rendered in the National logo-style neon block lettering. The Topps lettering was green neon and the National lettering was red neon (or maybe vice-versa - hey, it's been a long time!). They looked fantastic at night. The last I saw of it, which was about a year ago, the building still stood - although I believe it was vacant. The 60's facade has long since been replaced.

The photos above are circa 1958. The locations are unknown, although the first store sports a Sanders Bakery sign, indicating that it must have been a Detroit-area store. Sanders was a well known bakery in the Detroit area and was featured in the National stores there.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Jewel's Stores Within Stores

Jewel was one of the early proponents of the "store within a store" concept. Starting around 1960, they implemented this new form of departmentalized shopping in all of their new stores and retrofitted the concept in their existing higher volume stores. The departments all had a theme designed to convey the feel of an individual storefront.

The initial "stores within stores" were "Jewel Pastries" (frozen cakes and other baked goods) the "Sausage Shop" (deli meats) and the "Patio Food Shop" (pre-prepared foods including potato salad, barbeque, fried chicken, etc.), along with traditional standard departments - dairy, produce, meats and the like. Later on came "Pier 14" (seafood). The Patio Food Shop was later renamed "Chef's Kitchen".

These photos are from the Oakbrook, Illinois Jewel, which was located next to the famous Oakbrook Center Mall and featured an exterior design by the same architect as the mall. They were taken in 1962, shortly after the store's opening. This was a special store designed for an upscale clientele and featured the chain's first liquor department. Pictured here are several of the "stores within a store" along with the main entrance.

Jewel Food Stores - Windy City Winter

This circa-1962 shot of a Jewel Store has "Chicago Winter" written all over it. By the following year, most new Jewel stores would feature an Osco Drug section (Osco Drug Co. was acquired by Jewel in 1961), but for a few years the company continued to build new stand-alone Jewels as well.

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!