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!


  1. I live in Chicago and do a blog about all vintage things in Chicago and I just love, love this photo. I am so amazed at how gorgeous and tiny that Jewel was. Any idea where exactly this was located? If you can let me know that would be great and I am also wondering where you came across this photo and are there more because I love it so much?!?! Great blog btw.

  2. I'm not sure of the exact location (it's 2549 something, of course) but as mentioned, this Jewel is very typical of those from the 30's and 40's. In the 50's Jewel began building much larger stores and would often close 2 or 3 of these little gems when the new store opened.

    I have much more Jewel material (it's my favorite chain, having grown up there and shopped at several of them)and will be posting more pics soon. This particular photo was from Jewel's 1935 annual report.

  3. The good thing is that I have got a number just not the street. If I do some detective work and hang around my favorite database long enough (Chicago Tribune archives), I can maybe find where it is/was located. During the summer I started compiling a list of addresses of old grocery stores around Chicago. Let me see if I have anything listed with those numbers for approximately the 1930s. I will get back to you on that.

    The old Jewel look was great. About a month ago I was at Thrift store going out of business and I was buying a bunch of used tapes I had in my hands and tried them carrying around the store. The woman working there noticed my struggles and gave me a what I thought was a ratty old brown bag. We put the tapes in there and I walked out with it after paying and put it in the back seat of my car. Several days later I was sitting in the drive thru for my bank and something just told me to take a look at the bag. I saw the old 1950s/60s Jewel logo on it and was shocked. Needless to say I took that baby home and put my tapes in another bag.

  4. There is an old old Jewel on Morse Avenue a couple of blocks west of the Red Line "L" tracks. Not the one that now houses a CVS, but a little one that still had the orange stripes on the front in 2000. I haven't been to that area since, having moved to San Diego in 2000, but I suspect that it is still there. BTW: Jewel is still MY favorite grocery chain, too. Most of the new Albertsons on the west coast have adopted the Jewel/Osco concept, although they are called "Albertsons SavOn."

  5. RV, I'll have to check that one out. I moved away from Chicago in 1987 and still manage to spot an old orange-striped Jewel once in a great while when I'm back on a family visit or business trip, although most have long since been converted to something else.

    Southern California is target-rich territory for old retail fans - I love the old Ralphs, Alpha Betas and Vons stores.

    Thanks for the comment!

  6. From a 1936 Chicago Tribune ad I found a store at 2549 East 75th Street in the South Shore neighborhood. 92 Jewel stores in Chicago-land at that time per the ad.