3215 Williamson Road NW, Roanoke VA

Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

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3215 Williamson Road NW, Roanoke VA

Post by Groceteria » 05 Mar 2007 12:07

Image

There are at least two more stores just like this around Roanoke as well. One in downtown Salem is an antique mall, while one at 1310 Grandin Rd SW is now a natural foods co-op. Based on the "stepped" roof line, they look like former A&Ps to me, but I'm not sure. They seem to be 1930s/1940s era, they're relatively large (specifically very deep), they're somehwat close-in, and all have side parking, which would perhaps indicate they were the first batch of A&P supermarkets in the area.

Any thoughts? I haven't started my Roanoke research yet, although it's coming soon.

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Post by rich » 05 Mar 2007 20:45

Early A&P's did use a stepped design, but there's an aspect of the store front that runs against this being A&P--the recessed rectangular section in the store front, above the windows. A&P stores from the late 30s Usually had flat front's and a metal sign--that had a round center (with "A&P" in it) and wording on either side in rectangular space that said "Food Store". The recessed space seems to have been designed for someone to insert a rectangular nameplate, which would have been common in those days (think old dime stores and many not so old hardware stores). If it was an A&P it probably wasn't purpose built for them. Safeway seems like a likelier bet or perhaps Big Star, although they often used a tile front.

The really interesting early A&Ps had ceramic tile fronts and neon signs that said "A&P" in art moderne neon lettering. Those stores facings were black. There are pictures on the web of these stores. The only one I ever saw was in the Old Brooklyn section of Cleveland and it operated into the early 70s. For some reason black tile fronts were brifely popular and right before WWII but not afterward. The first Pick-n-Pay supermarket had that kind of front. I lived across from a former Colonial in Atlanta that had still had that front in the late 1990s.

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Post by Groceteria » 05 Mar 2007 22:29

rich wrote:Safeway seems like a likelier bet or perhaps Big Star, although they often used a tile front.
Thanks.

It really doesn't read like most Safeway or Big Star prototypes I've seen from the era either, and I'm not sure if Safeway was ever quite this far west in Virginia (anyone?). I guess it could be one of these, however, or a local chain. I can't get past the fact that it looks almost identical to a Rock Hill SC building I'm told was an A&P. On second look, the Roanoke building does have a lower profile than this one, though:

Image

One thing for sure, though, is that three identical ones were built at about the same time, so it probably was purpose-built for whomever the tenant was. Again, it might just be a local chain. Maybe even a Piggly Wiggly franchise or something, I guess.

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Post by Dave » 06 Mar 2007 07:31

The assessment property card says that the building was constructed in 1948.

I'm pretty sure Safeway wasn't in Roanoke.

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Post by Groceteria » 06 Mar 2007 13:12

Dave wrote:The assessment property card says that the building was constructed in 1948.
Interesting; I'm surprised it was that late. I found the Roanoke GIS site too, and the one on Grandin was constructed in 1940, so maybe they're not 100% identical. Haven't found records for Salem yet.

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Post by Dave » 06 Mar 2007 14:53

Here's a link to the Salem real estate data:
http://salem.gisbrowser.com/viewer.htm

Remember that Salem and Roanoke are independent cities with their own assessment data - and Roanoke County is different as well.

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Post by krogerclerk » 06 Mar 2007 21:18

I would say the top contenders are A&P and Colonial. The recessed store front could be a later alteration, done as far back as the 60's or 70's, depending on how long the location has been a Family Dollar. Kroger would be a long shot, mainly if Kroger arrived in Roanoke by acquisition rather than expansion as happened in many Kroger-bannered markets. I don't think Safeway ever reached as far as Roanoke unless it was from the early days of Sanitary banner being in use, it's safe to say Safeway wasn't there from the 60's ownward. Piggly Wiggly's presence in Virginia is limited and historically hazy, and I suspect Kroger's Roanoke presence is likely from Piggly Wiggly. A few Piggly Wiggly's near the Kentucky border were acquired by Food City in the mid-90's and the only other contemporary Piggly Wiggly presence in Virginia is around South Boston and region, and I'm not sure any PW remain in operation presently. Piggly Wiggly's website lists two in Danville, but the website has not been updated in about 3 years, still llisting former Piggly Wiggly locations that have closed in Georgia.

By the 1960's Roanoke's dominant grocers were Kroger, A&P and Colonial. By the 80's, Colonial and A&P had token presence with Food World having expanded and later in the decade becoming part of Harris-Teeter. Colonial/Big Star was gone from southwest Virginia by the time Harris-Teeter ended up with the Raleigh division of Big Star, with only a few stores left in Richmond and Hampton Roads and Southside Virginia. A&P slowly faded by attrition as happened in many A&P markets throughout the 70's and 80's. The timeline for Winn-Dixie entering Roanoke is less certain as well, but I think it was by was of expansion from the early 60's, building on Dixie Home and Ketner-Milner's North Carolina presence rather than an acquisition and is likely not a candidate.

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Post by Groceteria » 06 Mar 2007 23:55

krogerclerk wrote:I would say the top contenders are A&P and Colonial. The recessed store front could be a later alteration, done as far back as the 60's or 70's, depending on how long the location has been a Family Dollar.
Agreed on the two contenders, although I think the recess rich was discussing the overhead sign area, which was part of the masonry. I have a feeling that was original, but who knows?

Other info was most helpful as well. I'm going to insert in into the discussion in the general Roanoke thread I started yesterday:

http://www.groceteria.com/board/viewtopic.php?t=1179

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Post by Groceteria » 07 Mar 2007 00:06

Dave wrote:Remember that Salem and Roanoke are independent cities with their own assessment data - and Roanoke County is different as well.
Yeah, I know. It's much easier in NC and CA where that stuff is almost all done at the county level (and where cities are actually parts of counties rather than separate entities). Anyway, thanks for the link. The location at 27 West Main in Salem was also built in 1948, like Williamson Road, so I think we have a match. There's some evidence of a recessed sign area on this one too. See photo link below:

http://salem.gisbrowser.com/salempics/105/5/4.jpg

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Post by rich » 07 Mar 2007 01:22

The recess I mentioned is in the signage area. I was thinking maybe A&P would have put the rectangular part of their sign over that, but it tended to be shorter than that space and wider. To the extent that chains could build right after WWII, they would have recycled their pre-war designs. By 1948, people were starting to build on a large scale again and shopping centers were beginning to taking shape in some places. The big chains were moving toward the designs that became common in the 50s, with pylons (something A&P rarely did) or sleaker, more rectangular fronts. The early post war A&Ps I've seen tended to be more the latter---emphasizing the horizontal and tending toward yellowish brick with red signs, sometimes with some non-functional accents on the sides. In some places they began to use script instead of the circle logo, but that was pretty rare and localized. Anyway--I would tend to guess that it wasn't A&P (could be if their local division was slower than others to use new designs), a chain that had less incentive to develop new prototypes might be more likely--perhaps Piggly Wiggly. Kroger seems to have done their big acquisitions of P-W in the 30s---Kroger bought in Atlanta, where they were just getting established and in Cleveland, among other places, during that time.

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Post by NewsLynne » 10 Mar 2007 00:28

I look at this building and think car dealership.

No logic here - it just looks like one we've got in Culpeper that's still up and running.

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Post by Groceteria » 19 Mar 2007 11:26

Someone emailed me last night saying it had been a Kroger, but the message wasn't exactly packed with details.

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Post by rich » 19 Mar 2007 16:52

I'd argue against Kroger because they didn't use a nameplate that would fit the recessed inset. The pictures I've seen from around that era had white on blue--either the art deco script they've used since the at least 1950, usually on a squareish sign or with individual letters or else Kroger spelled out on a sign that uses a different, more horizontonl design with script that isn't art deco, but still of that era. The square sign with the art deco logo is the only one I could picture looking right with this storefront, but it would have lookded odd with the recessed inset.

Another reason that it wouldn't be A&P--they favored having doors in the center during this period (like the pic of the A&P you verified). Even their early Northern supermarkets tended to have a center location for the doors. By the early 50s, the convention for supermarkets in many Northern cities was to have an entrance that formed a vestibule, using a series of two electric doors and creating a breezeway that limited loss of heat and a/c and separated the entering and exiting customers. Sometimes the exit had just one door rather than two. These were typically in the front of the store on the side that had parking, if adjacent parking was present. In a city block or shopping center, they were usually on the side of the front where the check stands and office were located.

It would be very expensive to reloate the doors, so I'd guess the side entrance design was original. That design seems more like what you'd find in a hardware store. A small auto dealership might be another possibility, although I tend to doubt it. Usually, dealerships had a big display windows like this, but also space for lining up a row of cars in front of the stores, rather than being so close to the sidewalk.

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Post by Groceteria » 19 Mar 2007 22:39

My email correspondent confirms that the city directories show it as a Kroger from 1950 to at least 1965. The Salem address was a Morgan's supermarket, and later a Kroger. So it apparently these weren't actually built as Krogers; maybe they bought out this chain as their entry into Roanoke.

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Post by rich » 20 Mar 2007 00:13

Interesting...Kroger was very aggressive about replacing 1940s stores. They usually were gone by the late 50s, even if they were less than a decade old. It would have been unusual for them to stick around until the mid-60s. I can only think of a couple exceptions to this rapid replacement policy. One was a Kroger in the Green Hills section of Nashville (actually a little North of Green Hills). Even in 1990, there were still old Kroger signs on this obvious 1940s store. It was replaced by a mid-60s store a mile away that became a SuperX in the 80s (the Kroger, had relocated to a site near Green Hills Mall). Another exception was a small 1940s store on S. Main Street in Bowling Green, Ohio that was replaced with a very early super store on the other side of town in the early 70s. It was strategically placed almost directly across the street from a 1952 Foodtown (there was a cornerstone of sorts outside) which had been larger than the old Kroger. Kroger was loath to invest in existing stores until after they got into super stores and even then there were stores like the one in Bowling Green that were replaced by greenhouses less than 10 years later.

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