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Chatham supermarkets in Michigan?

Posted: 09 Dec 2016 00:53
by Andrew T.
Is anyone familiar with Chatham, the defunct Detroit-area grocery chain? Wikipedia suggests that it had a rather...interesting demise:
In 1986, Chatham was then owned by Nu-Trax, Inc., headed by Wendell Smith. In March 1986, the company was purchased by Alex Dandy, a businessman who owned Hamady Brothers food chain in Flint, Michigan. Dandy illegally diverted assets of the company to his personal benefit, and Chatham was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1987. Dandy was convicted in 1991, of tax offenses, mail fraud, bankruptcy fraud, and obstruction of justice.
The one Chatham location I'm familiar with is a store that existed in Northville, Michigan. This store opened in 1971 and enjoyed a 15-year run before closing in July 1986.

When researching the local newspaper archives from that period, it definitely sounds like this store location was caught up in the sordid chainwide drama unfolding behind the scenes. The company was sold; the new owners "lost interest in keeping the stores' reputation," demanded concessions atop concessions from employees, and let operations go downhill. The Northville location was affected by a sweep of closures also affecting five other stores, and the announcement was simply dropped by Dandy on employees with scant warning or concern.

The Northville store was quickly reoccupied by a local outfit called Shopping Center Market (later Hiller's), which lasted until 2015. Hiller's eventually modernized and remodeled the building beyond recognition, but when I visited it in the early 1990s it still had a strong "1970s grocery" vibe with old cases and orange- and green-colored decor. Even some of the ceiling tiles were burnt-orange in color. I was impressed!

But, what happened to the other pieces of Chatham? I know that a few locations ended up in the hands of Farmer Jack...but I don't know whether they bought the company outright, or merely picked up a few bits and pieces of it in bankruptcy court. Of course, Farmer Jack is also defunct these days; so my hopes aren't high that a minimally-altered Chatham is still selling groceries somewhere...though I'd love to be proven wrong.

Re: Chatham supermarkets in Michigan?

Posted: 11 Dec 2016 12:35
by jamiel
Their Facebook page has some interesting back-and-forth from one of the owners

Re: Chatham supermarkets in Michigan?

Posted: 11 Dec 2016 13:30
by Andrew T.
Hold on: A supermarket that's been defunct for almost 30 years has a Facebook page? I learn something new every day!

Re: Chatham supermarkets in Michigan?

Posted: 11 Dec 2016 16:36
by pseudo3d
This "Shopping Center Market" grocery store seems to have moved in soon after Chatham went dead (it was operating by the end of 1986) and it looks like Newspapers.com has a reference to it as late as 1995. I wonder when it changed hands to Hiller's (Hiller's of course closed in 2015 when the chain was bought, closed down, and converted to Kroger).

I found an opening ad for SCM. It's on Page 4 of the PDF.

Re: Chatham supermarkets in Michigan?

Posted: 11 Dec 2016 17:02
by Andrew T.
pseudo3d wrote:This "Shopping Center Market" grocery store seems to have moved in soon after Chatham went dead (it was operating by the end of 1986) and it looks like Newspapers.com has a reference to it as late as 1995. I wonder when it changed hands to Hiller's
The Hiller's chain was originally known as "Shopping Center" or "Shopping Center Market." This was nothing more than a name change.

Good find on the PDF!

Re: Chatham supermarkets in Michigan?

Posted: 12 Dec 2016 15:58
by mesly33
I grew up in Roseville, MI, which is on the east side of Detroit. Chatham's was the main grocery store that my mom shopped at - the one at 12 Mile Rd. and Gratiot. I have no idea when that location closed or who moved in afterwards, but today that space is occupied by Walmart.

Doing a quick Google search, I found this website: http://www.chathammemories.com/index.html. The folks that run that site might be able to answer our questions, with first hand knowledge.

Here is a listing of the Chatham stores from the 1980's: http://www.chathammemories.com/stores1980.html

Re: Chatham supermarkets in Michigan?

Posted: 16 Dec 2016 16:05
by pseudo3d
According to these commercials, Chatham packaged and wrapped ALL of its produce. Those bananas are going to brown really fast really quick with that plastic...

Re: Chatham supermarkets in Michigan?

Posted: 17 Dec 2016 01:32
by Andrew T.
mesly33 wrote:Doing a quick Google search, I found this website: http://www.chathammemories.com/index.html. The folks that run that site might be able to answer our questions, with first hand knowledge.

Here is a listing of the Chatham stores from the 1980's: http://www.chathammemories.com/stores1980.html
The Chatham Memories website is interesting. It is far more focused on alumni than operations or corporate history. The list of stores is useful, however, in shedding light in more ways than one.

This page says:
The following year [1986] Borman's acquired five Detroit-area Chatham stores and converted them to Farmer Jacks, while also shutting down five of its smaller outlets.
At the dawn of the 1980s, Chatham operated close to 50 stores. Five stores is scarcely a drop in the bucket of that...so it definitely sounds as if Farmer Jack simply cherry-picked a few of its competitor's locations without swallowing the operation whole.

I almost wonder why they didn't, though. Farmer Jack buying out Chatham would have made far more sense from a logistical standpoint than Farmer Jack buying Safeway stores in Utah did...and although anti-trust/store overlap would have been an issue, it would have also been an issue when A&P bought Farmer Jack.

Most 1960s and 1970s Chatham stores appear to have been fairly generic in appearance. By 1980 they had worked up a distinctive prototype with a 3-level slanted/vertical facade. The second-newest Chatham on the '80 list (19330 Middlebelt in Livonia) was of this design, as was 20900 Gratiot in Eastpointe (seen here on Robdude's website, though the facade has since been changed.) Not sure how many of those got built before the chain hit the skids.
pseudo3d wrote:According to these commercials, Chatham packaged and wrapped ALL of its produce. Those bananas are going to brown really fast really quick with that plastic...
Those plastic-wrapped bananas (apples, tomatoes, etc.) make me cringe. So much for Chatham being careful about the produce you buy!

Re: Chatham supermarkets in Michigan?

Posted: 27 Dec 2016 16:16
by Andrew T.
Since I had a free moment this week, I checked the Chatham locations on Google Maps to see what had become of them in the years since. Of the 45 stores that existed in 1980, a surprising number of them still stand, and 13 still house food stores today. Chatham must have been good about picking and planning locations, since that's a higher survival rate than A&P.

I'll present the list in two parts. First off, here are the Chatham relics that arguably have the most aesthetic or historical merit:

#4 - 37635 Five Mile Rd & Newburgh - Livonia

Building has the distinctive multi-level slanted/vertical facade. Now Planet Fitness.

#5 - 19700 Kelly Rd & Woodland - Harper Woods

An unusual one! This building features a protruding pylon with three cutouts in the form of a "<|>" symbol.
The front facade has been remodeled; the store itself is still selling groceries as Vegas Food Center.

#6 - Grand River & Lahser - Detroit

Another interesting one! It's a downtown store with an odd footprint, street-flush alignment, and a side wall that "blends" into an adjacent 2-story storefront. Still selling groceries as an Old Redford Food Center "with PharMor Pharmacy." (Any connection to the PharMor chain, or was the name just co-opted after its bankruptcy?)

#7 - 20900 Gratiot & 8 Mile Rd. - Eastpointe (f.k.a. East Detroit)

Remodeled; now subdivided between Super Beauty Supply and Family Dollar. This store features an elaborate dual box-type sign facing 8 Mile Road, and formerly featured the distinctive multi-level slanted/vertical facade.

#13 - 9369 Telegraph & West Chicago - Redford

Still selling groceries as a Kroger. Surprisingly original facade, with nice stone wall accents.

#22 - 3584 Fort St. & Emmons Blvd - Lincoln Park

A small and rather old store with a barrel roof and street-flush alignment; now Ace Hardware. The store probably also encompassed an adjacent building for floorspace while it was open, and the parking lot-facing rear of the building was turned into a new "front."

#23 - 5736 Middlebelt & Ford Rd. - Garden City

Still another old and interesting store, with a tall pylon, street-flush alignment, barrel roof, and virtually original facade. Now houses the Great Lakes Burger Bar. A circa-1990 wedge-style Kroger is located next door.

#39 - 25225 Van Dyke - 10 Mile Rd - Center Line

Slightly remodeled; still selling groceries as Shopper's Market. Nice stone wall accents on the facade.

#43 - 3000 Van Born Rd. & Fort Street - Trenton

Building bears a variation of the distinctive slanted/vertical facade. Now divided between Tractor Supply Co. and a Salvation Army thrift store.

#50 - 19330 Middlebelt & 7 Mile Rd - Livonia

Building has the distinctive multi-level slanted/vertical facade. Now Perani's Hockey World.


Now, for the rest of the stores...


#2 - 12421 Hayes & Houston Whittier (Kelly) - Detroit

If the address is correct, this now houses a Dollar General store. (This building looks small for a supermarket, however, so perhaps the store was actually located on the now-vacant lot across the street?)

#3 - 24900 Kelly Rd & 10 Mile Rd - Eastpointe (f.k.a. East Detroit)

Minimally remodeled (and with a huge smokestack in back); now Value World.

#8 - 12511 Morang & Kelly - Detroit

A rather small store. Remodeled; now Family Dollar.

#9 - 23245 Mack & 9 Mile Rd. - St Clair Shores

Slightly remodeled; now Ace Hardware.

#10 - 9731 Harper & Gratiot - Detroit

Remodeled, and still selling groceries as a Farmer John (sic) Food Center.

#11 - 35641 S. Gratiot & 15 Mile Rd. - Clinton Twp.

Presumably remodeled and now Big Lots; though the address number is now 35603 if it is.

#12 - 28804 Gratiot & 12 Mile Rd. - Roseville

Evidently demolished and replaced by a new shopping center.

#14 - 16730 Fort St & Pennsylvania - Southgate

Demolished.

#15 - 30800 Hoover & 13 Mile - Warren

Remodeled; still selling groceries as an Oak Ridge Market.

#16 - 200 Stephenson Highway & 11 Mile Rd - Royal Oak

Remodeled; now Belle Tire.

#19 - 31300 Five Mile & Merriman - Livonia

Remodeled; now subdivided into Dollar Tree and other tenants.

#20 - 25200 Van Born & Beach Daly - Dearborn Heights

Remodeled; still selling groceries as a Saturn Marketplace.

#24 - 4235 12 Mile Rd. & Ryan - Warren

Remodeled; now houses a CVS.

#25 - 28100 N. Telegraph & 12 Mile Rd - Southfield

Now the site of the Southfield Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership. The original building might have been remodeled into the service garage, but it's difficult to tell.

#28 - 15411 Southfield & Allen Rd. - Allen Park

Minimally remodeled; now Rite Aid.

#29 - 22728 Ryan & 9 Mile Rd. - Warren

Building still reasonably original; still selling groceries as Dave's Market.

#30 - 4770 Greenfield & Michigan - Dearborn

Likely demolished for a new Farmer Jack-cum-Kroger bearing the 1990s A&P architecture.

#31 - 425 North Center St - Northville

Remodeled; still selling groceries as Kroger.

#32 - 217 E. 11 Mile Rd & Main - Royal Oak

Evidently demolished and replaced by new development.

#33 - 40700 Van Dyke & 18 Mile Rd. - Sterling Heights

Remodeled; now an antiques mall.

#34 - 25780 Middlebelt & 11 Mile Rd - Farmington Hills

Remodeled beyond recognition, but still selling groceries as Kroger.

#35 - 1370 W. University Dr. & Livernois - Rochester

Evidently demolished.

#36 - 9751 Telegraph & Haig (Wick Rd.) - Taylor

Remodeled; now Zap Zone.

#37 - 35507 Ford Rd & Wayne - Westland

Remodeled; now Big Lots.

#38 - 2400 Elizabeth Lake Rd. & Telegraph - Waterford Twp.

Remodeled and vacant? Located adjacent to the abandoned Summit Place Mall.

#40 - 1525 Opdyke & S. Blvd. Bloomfield Twp.

Slightly remodeled; still selling groceries as a Hollywood Super Market.

#41 - 7651 (2651?) 23 Mile & Van Dyke - Utica

Paired with a Kmart, with Kmart Food-esque architecture. Still reasonably original, now housing Big Lots.

#42 - 901 E. Big Beaver & Rochester Rd. - Troy

Remodeled; now houses the Fresh Thyme Farmers Market.

#44 - 2035 Rawsonville Rd. & I-94 - Belleville

Remodeled; now Dunham's Sports.

#45 - 26100 Greenfield Rd & 11 Mile Rd - Oak Park

Slightly remodeled; now houses a Fallas store (whatever that is).

#46 - 725 E. Maple & Woodward - Birmingham

Appears to have been demolished and replaced by a new Kroger.

#47 - 32 Market St. & Gratiot - Mt. Clemens

Severely remodeled; now houses Macomb County government offices.

#48 - 40725 Ann Arbor Rd. & Haggerty - Plymouth

A little unclear where this was. Possibly demolished and replaced by the Hines Park Lincoln dealership.

#51 - 14350 E. 9 Mile Rd & Weller - Warren

Remodeled; still selling groceries as Shopper's Market (though missing the Center Line store's stone wall accents.)

#70 - 31140 Van Dyke & Chicago Rd (13 Mile) - Warren

Site of the one "Chatham Plus" supercenter; now demolished and replaced by a Lowe's store.

Re: Chatham supermarkets in Michigan?

Posted: 29 Dec 2016 15:24
by pseudo3d
Andrew T. wrote:Since I had a free moment this week, I checked the Chatham locations on Google Maps to see what had become of them in the years since. Of the 45 stores that existed in 1980, a surprising number of them still stand, and 13 still house food stores today. Chatham must have been good about picking and planning locations, since that's a higher survival rate than A&P.
"PharMor" (no dashes or anything) seems to be a Detroit-based pharmacy chain with a few locations. I don't even think the "real" Phar-Mor operated there.

Other than that, some remarks...

It looks like #38 - 2400 Elizabeth Lake Road may have been remodeled into the now-closed Quality Pontiac. It's a little hard to tell, and the address is slightly different now.

#42 901 E. Big Beaver Road was expanded at some point to 44k square feet. Prior to Fresh Thyme, it was a Syms.

Besides the Northville store, none of the others were later Hiller's-turned-Kroger.

Re: Chatham supermarkets in Michigan?

Posted: 03 Jan 2017 16:47
by mesly33
Andrew T. wrote:
#12 - 28804 Gratiot & 12 Mile Rd. - Roseville

Evidently demolished and replaced by a new shopping center.
Actually the Chatham's store was part of the shopping center. It was at the far end of the complex (farthest from Gratiot Avenue). I am sure extensive remodeling occurred since its closure, but a Walmart now occupies that space. This shopping center also had a Korvettes store in it too, before it closed in the '80s.

Re: Chatham supermarkets in Michigan?

Posted: 29 Aug 2017 09:06
by joeconnell
Hello Andrew T.

I (Joe Connell) am the one who takes care of the http://www.ChathamMemories.com web site
and the Chatham Reunion. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me any time.

Joe Connell
A1 Video Professionals
http://www.A1VideoProfessionals.com
A1 Photo Booth
http://www.A1PhotoBooth.com
(586) 779-4710

Re: Chatham supermarkets in Michigan?

Posted: 30 Aug 2017 16:37
by TenPoundHammer
pseudo3d wrote:"PharMor" (no dashes or anything) seems to be a Detroit-based pharmacy chain with a few locations. I don't even think the "real" Phar-Mor operated there.
The "real" Phar-Mor actually had a couple Detroit locations planned. I found an article once stating that they were going to open in Oak Park, Westland, and Southfield. The Southfield store would've been at Tel-Twelve Mall. Oak Park and Westland were actually built but never tenanted; they are now an Office Depot and Jo-Ann Fabrics respectively. I'm not sure where in Tel-Twelve Mall they would have been, but my best guess is the building that later became Media Play and is now Best Buy. They also had a store at Frenchtown Square for a short time.

2400 Elizabeth Lake is listed as a warehouse store called Pak-n-Save in 1980. This was apparently a short lived warehouse division of Chatham according to Detroit Free Press, October 21, 1980. I believe this store was later a Farmer Jack.