Sentry Foods in Wisconsin

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Andrew T.
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Sentry Foods in Wisconsin

Post by Andrew T. » 17 Feb 2011 22:50

Is anyone familiar with Sentry, by any chance? They were (and are) a regional Wisconsin chain that used some recognizable store designs over the years.

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In terms of contributions to the architectural record, this style is Sentry's most prevalent. All of these buildings date to between the mid 1960s and mid 1970s, and feature a full-length concourse with anywhere from 8 to 21 arches overhead. The upper-right store happens to be located on Echo Lane and South Ridge Road in Ashwaubenon, and was actually specifically mentioned on an episode of MST3K where Joel Hodgson reminisced about the sixties. As far as I know, there is only one example of this prototype still in operation as a Sentry today: Cottage Grove Road in Madison. (No picture yet, unfortunately.)

I'm a little unclear about the history of the chain; since the only write-up I've seen is the one on Wikipedia. Assuming that's accurate, the chain got its start in the 1960s, benefited from the subsequent exit of Kroger, A&P, and National from Wisconsin, was more or less acquired by the Fleming Companies sometime along the way, and retrenched and closed a bunch of stores in the early 2000s (selling others to independent operators) after Fleming declared bankruptcy. Is there more to the story than that, though?
"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

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BK31
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Re: Sentry Foods in Wisconsin

Post by BK31 » 15 Mar 2011 09:47

Growing up in Racine, WI in the 80's I remember Sentry. The closest one to my house was at 3502 Douglas Avenue and I remember it looking similar to the Appleton store, but with dark stained wood shakes on the top trapezoid shape and interior before a sweeping remodel done in the late 80's / early 90's that expanded out the front with splitface CMU and a mini greenhouse roof similar to a Kroger, but embedded in the facade with some post modern chunky columns on the side and glass block partition walls in the interior near the checkout and cart corrals. From what I understand now that space is a work and activity center for disabled and developmentally challenged adults, but still looks like its 90's iteration minus the red accent colors.

I remember the old signage vividly. Each letter was separate, in all caps, in a rectangular shape with arching tops and bottom that echoed the facade. I'm pretty sure they were pastel red, green, and orange, or minimally each letter was a different color. When they did that remodel I remember my elementary math teacher at the time got some of the interior signage and placed the last three letters up in the classroom. ("T R Y") Honestly I can say that had a big influence on my interest in all of this grocery history and labelscars.

I do remember other Sentry's, especially one on the south side of Racine on Washington Avenue East of Hwy 31, but that was a newer strip center space unlike the ones you have pictured. That space is now a Piggly Wiggly. Sentry exited Racine in the mid to late 90's I want to say, or at least closed the two locations I was familiar with. The current location in Racine was built as a Jewel-Osco and is west of hwy 31.

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Re: Sentry Foods in Wisconsin

Post by Andrew T. » 19 Mar 2011 16:53

Thanks for sharing your memories, Brian. I hadn't thought of the store buildings ever having wood shakes on the exterior, but given the architectural trends of the era that would make sense as a motif.

I'm familiar with the old logo, too; immortalized on an 1980s grocery sack I have (found, actually):

Image
"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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Re: Sentry Foods in Wisconsin

Post by Super S » 04 Apr 2011 01:20

Seeing the picture of the bag, this looks very much like the signage used on several stores in Oregon that wore the Sentry name. Although the name has pretty much disappeared, there still might be a few in some of Oregon's smaller towns. I believe the Oregon stores were independents, but wonder if these stores were related in any way.

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Re: Sentry Foods in Wisconsin

Post by Andrew T. » 06 Jun 2018 00:16

I no longer live in "Sentryland," but I found something very interesting today: A complete map and list of Sentry food store locations from 1971, showing their penetration throughout the eastern and southern portions of the state. Hopefully, some of this will still be legible at reduced size:
sentry.jpg
"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

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Re: Sentry Foods in Wisconsin

Post by Andrew T. » 12 May 2019 19:07

In the wake of Groceteria's Milwaukee feature, it seems like an excellent time to dredge up some Sentry discussion!

The history of the chain is clearer now than it was when I typed the OP eight years ago. From all indications, Sentry emerged in the early 1950s as an operator of IGA stores in Madison and Milwaukee. By 1955 they had started to de-emphasize the IGA connection in newspaper ads and assert themselves as a chain in their own right, and things grew from there.

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I've also created a dedicated feature: The Artifacts of Sentry. This serves as a chronicle of every Sentry I photographed over the last ten years...including this particularly delectable porcelain enamel-clad example, which was built in 1953 and just might have been the second store in the chain.
"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

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