Masons' Red Owl store, Green Bay WI

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Andrew T.
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Masons' Red Owl store, Green Bay WI

Post by Andrew T. » 12 May 2009 12:22

I'm a bit late in discussing this (as I've had the pictures uploaded for about a month), but I finally paid a visit to Mason Brothers' Red Owl store in Green Bay, Wisconsin...supposedly the second-to-last grocery store in existence still bearing the Red Owl name.

Red Owl was for much of the 20th century one of the most prominent grocery chains in the upper midwest; supplying independent operators working under a franchise system. The assets of Red Owl (including their Green Bay, WI distribution facility, located nearby) were acquired by Supervalu in 1988, and most stores closed or were converted to other concepts shortly thereafter.

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(Here are a couple additional pictures, inside and outside the store.)

This store was a downright amazing artifact, dating to the 1940s and featuring all of two checkout lines inside. (According to their website Masons' Red Owl has been around as such only since 1969, so it was probably a different Red Owl franchise or a different supermarket before then.)

I had never been inside a supermarket quite as small...or as charming...as this one before. The exterior has gone through some modest modifications (the corner entrance was walled off to provide an atrium, a shingled mansard was tacked on, and most of the floor-to-ceiling window space was bricked up), but it was obvious what the place had once looked like. The interior also reeked of history, with details like an original muzak speaker and incandescent exit sign (visible in the picture above); although the flooring looked more likely to be from the 1970s; give or take.
"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."
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rich
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Re: Masons' Red Owl store, Green Bay WI

Post by rich » 12 May 2009 17:37

Red Owl also had their own corporate stores, which were what one found in larger cities. At one time, they ranged as far South as the Chicago area and had a large concentration around Milwaukee. Their range included the Upper Peninsula of Michicga, the Twin Cities, and rural areas west of there. There's some debate about this, but the last (or one of the last) corporate stores was in downtown Marquette, MI. Red Owl had a companion drug store chain (Snyder's) and wound up as part of Gamble-Skogmo, which operated Western Auto-type stores and discount department stores, mostly in smaller Midwestern market towns.

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Re: Masons' Red Owl store, Green Bay WI

Post by EricV » 24 Feb 2010 15:31

I can add some info regarding Red Owl in the Chicago area. Their first 2 stores opened December 15, 1959 in Wilmette (southwest corner of Wilmette Ave & Ridge Road) and Lincolnwood (northeast corner of Devon & Crawford [Crawford is Pulaski in Chicago, which starts/ends at Devon in this area]) with the Arlington Heights store (212 W. Northwest Highway) opening soon after. At the time the first 2 opened the Chicago Tribune reported that the "openings bring to 165 the number of stores owned by Red Owl in the 10 states in which it operates."

By the time the Chicago area stores were sold to National Tea in March 1963 there were 11 stores in the Chicago-land area. The others were at 79th & Western (Beverly Terrace), 7400 N. Clark (Rogers Park), 78th & State (Chatham), 4445 N. Lincoln (Lincoln Square), 1121 E. 87th (Avalon Park), all in Chicago. Suburban stores were in Evanston at 430 Asbury Ave, Lawrencewood Shopping Center at Oakton & Waukegan Rd. in Niles, and Oak Lawn at 8749 Ridgeland. After the sale the stores in Wilmette, Arlington Heights, Evanston and Oak Lawn re-opened as National Tea stores.

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