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.


  1. The store you mentioned on Depmster and Elmhurst Rd, is it in a strip mall that now has a Bally's and a suit store called K&G? Just wondering because I am trying to picture it.

  2. National main footprint was the Mississippi Valley all the way to New Orleans, the Upper Great Lakes, Upper Plains westward to Denver, and eastward with Standard in Indiana and National in Michigan, Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. Canadian parent, Loblaw's ventured into Buffalo and nearby areas of upstate New York prior to buying National Tea. National primary market axis of dominance was Chicago and the Mississippi Valley while the other large Midwestern chain, Kroger, dominated the eastern Great Lakes and Upper Southeast.

  3. They grew very rapidly thru acquisition in the 50's. The "Food Center" stores in St. Louis and "Capitol Stores" in Louisiana gave National major footholds in those markets.

    Thanks for the comments-