Green Bay, WI chain supermarket history

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: 534
Joined: 18 Oct 2007 14:26
Location: Thunder Bay
Contact:

Green Bay, WI chain supermarket history

Post by Andrew T. » 03 Jul 2018 19:27

I've just about wrapped up my thoughts on one Wisconsin city, so I think it's time for another: Green Bay, WI chain grocery/supermarket history, 1925-59.

Why Green Bay? I've never actually lived there, but I spent four years in close-enough proximity that shopping visits were a regular occasion. But the biggest reason is this: All the directories I have access to are complete! Yes, I can scarcely believe it myself. Most other Wisconsin places such as Milwaukee, Sheboygan, and the Fox Cities are much more difficult to research because of missing information.

So, what is there to say about Green Bay? Read on...

* The Green Bay metropolitan area consists of more than Green Bay itself. There are adjacent municipalities: De Pere and Allouez are usually included in Green Bay directories of the 1940s and 1950s, while Ashwaubenon and Howard are not. (Lambeau Field falls on the dividing line between Ashwaubenon and Green Bay.)

* Many directories list "De Pere" and "West De Pere" as though they were separate cities; however, the two consolidated in 1890.

* Preble was an unincorporated township completely annexed by Green Bay in 1964; with small piecemeal annexations before that. As I alluded to in the Safeway in Green Bay thread, this gave me problems when tracing locations due to renumbering upon annexation. Preble stores are listed with approximate Green Bay addresses.

* Another challenge when pinpointing locations came from the way downtown Green Bay was reconfigured to accomodate the failed Port Plaza Mall in the 1970s. The 100-700 portion of Main Street was shifted a block north onto what was originally Cedar Street, while the original course of Main Street either became Bodart Street or was completely obliterated by the construction of the mall.

* Unsurprisingly, University Ave. had a different name (Willow St.) prior to the advent of UW-Green Bay in 1965.
"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: 534
Joined: 18 Oct 2007 14:26
Location: Thunder Bay
Contact:

Re: Green Bay, WI chain supermarket history

Post by Andrew T. » 03 Jul 2018 19:57

* Kroger had a very strange history in Green Bay. They entered AND exited the market during the 1930s! They then returned independently in the early 1950s, shortly BEFORE they bought Krambo...which would have given them a presence in the city anyway. (Until bailing out of Wisconsin in 1971, that is.)

* National entered the market by 1941, but left by the end of the 1950s. Not that I'm surprised: National was notorious for showing up in cities late, trailing A&P and Kroger in store count, and not sticking around.

* Piggly Wiggly had a surprisingly erratic existence in the 1940s and 1950s, with the name appearing and disappearing every few years. Krambo's first stores in Green Bay were conversions from Piggly Wiggly (which accounts for one of these "disappearances!")

* Green Bay's biggest grocer was historically Cash Way, which emerged in the 1930s and morphed into Red Owl in the 1940s. Red Owl had their distribution centre in Green Bay, and likely dominated the market until being acquired by Super Valu in 1988.

Image

* One of Red Owl's locations listed in the directories and spreadsheet is 923 9th St, which opened by 1951. This store is still open, and still branded as a Red Owl today.

* Another local chain was Sure Way, which emerged in the 1950s and famously opened a store next to the very first ShopKo a few years later. I don't know a thing about this chain's ultimate disposition or fate, however.

* Clover Farm franchises emerged in Green Bay in the 1940s much like they did in Morgantown, WV. Diamond or Diamond Plan appears to have been another buyer's cooperative or franchise that appeared during these years.

* And to reiterate the point from the prior thread: Safeway is listed in the 1959 directory with an address at 246 N Main Blvd. in Preble (now 1607 Main St. in Green Bay); however, this was a cheese office and not a store!

* I checked over the individual store addresses on Google Maps, and roughly 40% are now demolished. The casualties include a long line of Main Street storefronts in the 300-500 blocks that were victims of the Port Plaza Mall.

* Since our data sources cut off after the 1950s, they miss the subsequent emergence (and subsequent disappearance) of Sentry, Kohl's, and Cub Foods. The chains that prevail in Green Bay today are much the same as those in Madison: Pick 'n Save, Festival Foods, and Woodman's.

Questions? Comments?
"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: 534
Joined: 18 Oct 2007 14:26
Location: Thunder Bay
Contact:

Re: Green Bay, WI chain supermarket history

Post by Andrew T. » 04 Jul 2018 14:42

While I don't have very many pictures of Green Bay supermarket artifacts from the pre-1960s era, I do have a few. One of these, of course, is the formerly-fantastic Krambo at 514 W. Walnut St. that was ruined a few years ago:

Image

1285 Main St. yields a well-preserved Sure Way building with a glazed brick facade. Apparently, this store was built in 1953 and did business as an IGA as late as the mid-1990s:
Former supermarket (Green Bay, WI)_5734213790_m.jpg
An older specimen is 240 S. Webster Ave; a quaint 1½-story building with a newer 1-story annex. This address housed a Farah's store in the late 1950s, but I suspect it housed a non-chain grocery store for many years before that. Recently it's housed a Mexican supermarket, signed on the street with a strangely-contorted post topped by a flattened facsimile of an Arthur Treacher's lantern.
El Ranchito Mexican Market_4714201231_m.jpg
And, well...that's all.
"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: 1574
Joined: 04 Nov 2005 12:13
Location: NC Triad
Contact:

Re: Green Bay, WI chain supermarket history

Post by Groceteria » 04 Jul 2018 22:15

Andrew T. wrote:But the biggest reason is this: All the directories I have access to are complete! Yes, I can scarcely believe it myself. Most other Wisconsin places such as Milwaukee, Sheboygan, and the Fox Cities are much more difficult to research because of missing information.
Yeah, that happens a lot with the Ancestry stuff. The smaller the city, the more likely it is to be complete. If the city is big enough that the directory was on two reels of microfilm, forget it. One will almost always be missing. If you're lucky, you will find places where the directories were scanned from print copies rather than microfilm. They cover a longer period of time and are generally complete. I think I've uncovered most of them already; most were in California, Colorado, Utah, and Connecticut for some reason.

Anyway, good stuff. Thanks!

User avatar
Andrew T.
Senior Member
Posts: 534
Joined: 18 Oct 2007 14:26
Location: Thunder Bay
Contact:

Re: Green Bay, WI chain supermarket history

Post by Andrew T. » 05 Jul 2018 14:38

Groceteria wrote:Yeah, that happens a lot with the Ancestry stuff. The smaller the city, the more likely it is to be complete. If the city is big enough that the directory was on two reels of microfilm, forget it. One will almost always be missing. If you're lucky, you will find places where the directories were scanned from print copies rather than microfilm. They cover a longer period of time and are generally complete. I think I've uncovered most of them already; most were in California, Colorado, Utah, and Connecticut for some reason.

Anyway, good stuff. Thanks!
Other frustrations of Ancestry happen when cities are missing from their database, or have very early cutoffs (the newest Sheboygan information is from 1934, for example.) The Fox Cities (Appleton, Neenah, Menasha, etc.) are compounded by the fact that they consist of a half-dozen or more separate municipalities sprawled in line across three counties, that all run together both in my mind and on the map! Who knows how many directories you'd have to thumb through to try to make sense of retail history there? I might have it in me to do the onsite research if it were 2010 and I still lived in the area...but I don't. So Green Bay will be the last Wisconsin city we'll cover for a while...

The Des Moines Public Library in Iowa put all of their directories online...but only through 1922, due to US copyright laws. The Walt Disney Company was founded in 1923. This is not a coincidence.

Oh...and you're welcome!
"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: 1574
Joined: 04 Nov 2005 12:13
Location: NC Triad
Contact:

Re: Green Bay, WI chain supermarket history

Post by Groceteria » 05 Jul 2018 15:04

Andrew T. wrote:
Groceteria wrote:The Des Moines Public Library in Iowa put all of their directories online...but only through 1922, due to US copyright laws. The Walt Disney Company was founded in 1923. This is not a coincidence.
It's generally safe to go to 1963 on those as the copyrights were never renewed, which was a requirement at the time, but most libraries don't do that research. That's how my team proceeded when we did the local directories six or seven years ago, and the statewide digitization unit eventually followed our lead. You can also make a pretty compelling "transformative use" case for digitizing city directories if you're feeling a little more assertive.

Yes, copyright research is a big part of my day job. I love my day job.

OK. Back to the supermarket history thing now...

Post Reply