Lansing, MI chain history 1925-60...with some caveats

Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Moderator: Groceteria

Post Reply
User avatar
Andrew T.
Senior Member
Posts: 343
Joined: 18 Oct 2007 14:26
Location: Canada now, eh?
Contact:

Lansing, MI chain history 1925-60...with some caveats

Post by Andrew T. » 27 Sep 2018 11:23

This will probably be the last research table I post for a while:

Lansing, MI chain grocery/supermarket locations, 1925-60

Since Lansing is Michigan's second-largest city outside the Detroit metro and one that I have a few personal connections/associations with, I was pretty eager to see how its history unfolded.

Unfortunately, I hit a big stumbling block: A&P and Kroger were the city's largest grocers in the 1930s and 1940s, yet the 1930-40 directories for the city don't list individual A&P or Kroger stores. The books simply gave an office address followed by the disclaimer "and 18 (or however many) other stores"...even in the alphabetical section! About the only way you could hope to find individual stores in one of those directories would be if you combed through the entire reverse-lookup section line by line. So those columns of the table are incomplete, and for that reason I was hesitant to post this at all.

That said, the research was hardly a total bust. I discovered a load of interesting things along the way...

* Before A&P and Kroger even entered Lansing, the biggest grocer was none other than Piggly Wiggly. None of their stores lasted to 1930: Kroger might have bought them, but given the gaping hole in the research, it's hard to tell for sure.

* TenPoundHammer once said that Schmidt's was a local store with a single location. It turns out that wasn't quite true: Schmidt's was actually a fairly large area chain that blanketed Lansing with 3 or 4 stores from the 1930s to the 1960s and possibly beyond. (But I'm still left wondering if they ever built more than one of these.)

* The "Grand Union Tea Co." operated in Lansing from a single store in 1925. Would this be the same Grand Union as the northeast chain? I thought it was far-fetched, but the corporate name is right, and this account of the company's history says they operated in Michigan early on.

* There were other occasional directory anomalies. The 1949 directory referred to the alphabetical section for "Geo. T. Smith's Market Basket" branches, yet none appear there.

* The very same Market Basket stores appear to have been acquired by National circa 1950 as their entrance into the Lansing market. National seems to have done better in Lansing than in some of their other expansion markets (in fact in 1959, they had 9 stores and dwarfed their competition in store count), but as always, we know it didn't last...
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
Andrew Turnbull

User avatar
Andrew T.
Senior Member
Posts: 343
Joined: 18 Oct 2007 14:26
Location: Canada now, eh?
Contact:

Re: Lansing, MI chain history 1925-60...with some caveats

Post by Andrew T. » 27 Sep 2018 11:32

What was the most interesting grocery artifact I discovered in Lansing? Probably 1721 N. Grand River Ave.: A 1950s Kroger store (opening by 1960) that subsequently got Frankensteined with a 1970s Superstore makeover.

Though it no longer houses a supermarket, the building still stands in unaltered condition otherwise, and even the six-sided Kroger signframe over the entrance is still in use (picture from Google Maps):
frankenkroger.jpg
It's worth noting that Kroger never exited the Lansing market, unlike in Grand Rapids.
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
Andrew Turnbull

User avatar
Groceteria
Great Pumpkin
Posts: 1390
Joined: 04 Nov 2005 12:13
Location: NC Triad
Contact:

Re: Lansing, MI chain history 1925-60...with some caveats

Post by Groceteria » 28 Sep 2018 17:38

Andrew T. wrote:
27 Sep 2018 11:23
Unfortunately, I hit a big stumbling block: A&P and Kroger were the city's largest grocers in the 1930s and 1940s, yet the 1930-40 directories for the city don't list individual A&P or Kroger stores. The books simply gave an office address followed by the disclaimer "and 18 (or however many) other stores"...even in the alphabetical section!

I've run across that before with the Akron directories and someplace else I can't recall.
The "Grand Union Tea Co." operated in Lansing from a single store in 1925. Would this be the same Grand Union as the northeast chain? I thought it was far-fetched, but the corporate name is right, and this account of the company's history says they operated in Michigan early on.

I've seen Grand Union Tea and Jewel Tea locations in all sorts of odd locations like this. My assumption is that these were actual tea stores or just locations associated with home delivery of tea (which both companies still did outside their grocery territories). There never seems to be more than one of them in any given city.

The Franken-Kroger is lovely BTW.

User avatar
Groceteria
Great Pumpkin
Posts: 1390
Joined: 04 Nov 2005 12:13
Location: NC Triad
Contact:

Re: Lansing, MI chain history 1925-60...with some caveats

Post by Groceteria » 30 Sep 2018 21:11

Added to the site and mapped. Thanks!

http://www.groceteria.com/place/us-michigan/lansing/

User avatar
Andrew T.
Senior Member
Posts: 343
Joined: 18 Oct 2007 14:26
Location: Canada now, eh?
Contact:

Re: Lansing, MI chain history 1925-60...with some caveats

Post by Andrew T. » 01 Oct 2018 12:13

Groceteria is conquering Michigan, one city at a time!

Even if it's incomplete, the map does highlight some interesting development patterns. East Michigan Avenue is clearly the city's densest strip. There's also a "buffer zone" of several blocks around the state capitol, where no stores dared tread.
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
Andrew Turnbull

Post Reply