Waukegan, IL chain grocery/supermarket locations

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Andrew T.
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Waukegan, IL chain grocery/supermarket locations

Post by Andrew T. » 10 Aug 2018 21:09

Another new state down: Waukegan, IL chain grocery/supermarket locations, 1925-1960

Heading north from Chicago, Waukegan is the very last city on the Lake Michigan shore before crossing into Wisconsin. I've been there, naturally. It's also Ray Bradbury's hometown, so just imagine that something wicked this way comes. :P

Some interesting things about this list...
  • North Chicago is just south of Waukegan, and the two cities have always been paired together in directories.
  • The 1925 directory also listed locations in Highland Park, Highwood, Lake Forest, and Libertyville, though this was a one-year-only fling and it's a stretch to count those towns as part of the city's metropolitan centre. Also, this introduces problems: Highwood locations weren't numbered, while Lake Forest addresses don't seem to jibe with the present street grid. But I included them anyway.
  • The 600 block of McAlister Avenue appears to have had all its 1920s-1950s commercial development bulldozed away and replaced with residential homes. It's quite strange to compare listings of what used to be there to its present-day state!
  • As alluded to in this thread a year ago, Kroger entered Waukegan and Chicago in the 1930s by purchasing the Consumers Sanitary Coffee & Butter chain. A brief period of co-branding followed.
  • Kroger declined in the 1950s as Jewel emerged. Their exit from the market surely happened in either 1971 (as in Wisconsin) or 1973 (when the chain sold their last Cook County stragglers).
  • I would have expected Waukegan to be a healthier market for National than some of their far-flung operations in Michigan and Indiana...but even so, they entered the 1960s with but a single store, dwarfed by Kroger, Jewel, A&P, and Co-Op.
  • "Co-Op" is the Co-operative Trading Company of Waukegan and a constant throughout the 1925-1960 period. This page suggests that the chain originated in the Finnish immigrant community, while this document notes that the cooperative was both a grocer and a distributor of automotive supplies! In any case, they matched or led competitors in store count from 1946 to 1960 and were likely Waukegan's strongest grocer throughout this period.
"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: Waukegan, IL chain grocery/supermarket locations

Post by Andrew T. » 10 Aug 2018 21:25

Waukegan former supermarket building #2_6160571523_m.jpg
I always like it when I discover something interesting about a location that changes preconceived notions of its history. This store at 300 North Genesee Street is a case in point: Army.Arch created a thread about it here years ago, and at the time it was unanimously identified as a National.

Now that I've cracked open the directories, however, it turns out that it wasn't a National after all: It was an A&P instead! It opened by 1951, and according to Chicagoland newspapers it was still housing an A&P in 1970. By 1977 A&P had closed and the building had been reoccupied by a "Bretthauer L&M" store, whatever that is. Today, it's El Potosi Supermarket.

Adding to the confusion, National did operate a store next door at 316 N. Genesee St. in the 1940s and 1950s, overlapping in life with this one.
"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: Waukegan, IL chain grocery/supermarket locations

Post by rich » 14 Aug 2018 09:09

Waukegan and its immediate marketplace would have been more separate from "Chicagoland" in the 50s and even 60s than later on, so it would not have been unusual for National or Jewel to have relatively few stores, or for there to be a significant local chain. National grew heavily by acquisition even in the Chicago area (Del Farm originated in a chain withs stores in Chicago and they bought stores from at least one of the unsuccessful entrants from out of town (Red Owl, Eagle, Kohl's--I forget which chain(s)) and there probably were gaps they didn't get around to filling very well. Jewel grew more organically from Chicago outward and didn't do much in the way of acquisitions in Illinois other than downstate Eisner's. Waukegan probably had its own downtown dept store as well as Sears, Wards and perhaps Penny's---Waukegan would have drawn from rural areas and people uncomfortable with a trip to Chicago and so would have had a much more distinct retail climate until Lakehurst was built in the 70s and the outlet mall came later on. Elgin and Aurora would have been like this, too, and probably Chicago Heights. An aunt of mine grew-up in rural western Illinois and although there was an annual trip to Chicago & Marshall Field's, there were many more trips to Aurora or even DeKalb and those were typical of her neighbors. Elgin had a downtown Sears and a local department store into the 70s and its Gromer's super market chain would have had more stores than Jewel or Nationa in Elgin, as well as stores in the fast growing outer suburbs of Chicago like Streamwood.

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Re: Waukegan, IL chain grocery/supermarket locations

Post by Groceteria » 16 Aug 2018 22:32

FWIW, I confirmed in the street guide that the Piggly Wiggly listed at 1000 N. Lewis (residential address) was actually just where I thought it might be: at 1600 N. Lewis. That's a pretty common misprint in city directories. The building at that address seems a little too big, but it also seems a little too old to be a replacement. Hmmm...

https://goo.gl/maps/JDMEtYfCR612

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Re: Waukegan, IL chain grocery/supermarket locations

Post by Andrew T. » 16 Aug 2018 23:08

Groceteria wrote:
16 Aug 2018 22:32
FWIW, I confirmed in the street guide that the Piggly Wiggly listed at 1000 N. Lewis (residential address) was actually just where I thought it might be: at 1600 N. Lewis. That's a pretty common misprint in city directories. The building at that address seems a little too big, but it also seems a little too old to be a replacement. Hmmm...

https://goo.gl/maps/JDMEtYfCR612
Thanks! The county assessor gives the store size as 30,050 square feet...which sounds more like something from 1980 than 1960. Historic Aerials has an overhead shot from 1961, however, and it had pretty much the same footprint and configuration then that it has today. Piggly Wiggly in Waukegan must have simply had a penchant for big stores.
"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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