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Wyandotte, Lincoln Park and other Downriver burbs chain history

Posted: 18 Jul 2019 18:52
by mburb1981
Lurked on this forum on and off for years, but just today decided to sign up.

I recently became aware that the owner of Groceteria has a planned trip to the Detroit metropolitan area in August, so I decided to aid in this research in some part. Here's a couple of chain supermarket history lists I compiled today on Google Sheets, using as much free resources as I could.

Wyandotte, River Rouge, Ecorse, Grosse Ile Township, Riverview, and Trenton chain grocery/supermarket history, 1921-2019
Lincoln Park, Allen Park, Melvindale, and Southgate chain grocery/supermarket history, 1958-2019


Though the Bacon Memorial District Library's website has a few Wyandotte city directories (which also listed River Rouge, Ecorse, Grosse Ile Township, Riverview, and Trenton) available for free on their website, the newest one that's online is 1936.

This left a large chronology hole, which I have attempted to fill from a few sources, including the excellent Downriver Locations website by forum member rimes, along with some articles from the local News-Herald newspaper - their website has articles dating back to December 2002 available, plus News-Herald editions as new as 1943 are also available on the Bacon Library website.

The Downriver region shares parts of it's border with Detroit, so chain histories are obvious to match that of it's larger neighbor to the northeast. Through my research, it does reveal some interesting notes, which I started in 1921 for the Wyandotte list and 1958 for the Lincoln Park list:
  • Locally-based C.F. Smith was a major competitor for Kroger and A&P in the late 1920's and the 1930's, with them having a slightly higher store count than either of the two national competitors in the Wyandotte area. C.F. Smith was down to a store each in Wyandotte and Trenton by 1950, two years before they were sold to National.
  • It can be assumed that Kroger and A&P each did some store consolidation during World War II, moving out of older and smaller stores, including those in the middle of residential areas, notably an older Kroger at 2648 10th Street and an older A&P at 427 Highland Street, the latter sadly torn down for additional houses.
  • The starting of the Lincoln Park list in 1958 reflects the post-war suburban boom in which people moved out of the older neighborhoods along the Detroit River westward (1958 also marks the year the last portion of unincorporated Ecorse Township incorporated to become the city of Southgate). Kroger and A&P, as well as Wrigley, National and Food Fair (the future Farmer Jack) followed the suburban boom westward as well.
  • Reflecting the above, the number of grocery stores/supermarkets in Wyandotte and the immediate area declined after World War II to the four listed in 2019 on the Wyandotte list, while the listings on the Lincoln Park list remained relatively stable.
I'll stop here and allow any other forum members, in Michigan and out-of-state, to be free to add. Enjoy.

Re: Wyandotte, Lincoln Park and other Downriver burbs chain history

Posted: 19 Jul 2019 11:41
by mburb1981
I decided to add columns on the Wyandotte list from the 1921 and 1926 directories. This does come with a few things of it's own:
  • Only six chain locations were listed in the 1921 directory...and no Kroger locations in that directory either!
  • Wyandotte's population more than quadrupled during the 20th century, going from a population of 13,851 in 1920 to 43,519 in 1960. Not all of this was organic, as it amalgamated with the village of Ford City to the north in 1922, and annexed some then-rural areas to the west in 1924, doubling in size as a result.
  • Like a number of other American cities, Wyandotte and Trenton each have had it's share of street address renumbering and name renaming systems in the past. Wyandotte's addresses were on a sequential system with Eureka Road as an east-west dividing line until 1927, when it switched to a block-by-block basis measured from the Detroit and Ecorse Rivers. Trenton changed to the block-by-block system in 1929 when it subsumed the village of Sibley to the north, measured from the Detroit River and from Sibley Road (Sibley's former northern border). West Jefferson Avenue in Trenton was Washington Avenue prior to the renumbering, and until around 1938, West Road was Pine Street.
  • The 1921 directory did not include any chains in River Rouge or Trenton!

Re: Wyandotte, Lincoln Park and other Downriver burbs chain history

Posted: 21 Jul 2019 12:43
by Andrew T.
Thanks for joining and sharing, mburb1981! More Detroit is always good, and you've just made David's life a little easier.

Just to let you know, C.F. Smith was bought by National Tea in 1952, and National survived in Michigan until about 1966. This continuity isn't evident in Wyandotte because the company relocated its stores around the same time they rebranded. 2319 Fort and 12850 Sibley are both nice survivors with pylons!

I'll have to comb over these lists line-by-line...I'm sure there are a few locations I'll want to pay a visit to in person the next time I'm in the area. Sadly this forum is a sleepy place, and most of the Michigan regulars that would have pounced on a thread like this a decade ago have since wandered away...

Re: Wyandotte, Lincoln Park and other Downriver burbs chain history

Posted: 21 Jul 2019 13:13
by Groceteria
Welcome aboard and thanks! This is great stuff. Just FYI, I will be in Detroit next month doing research on the city proper as well, so all this material together will make a great new Detroit section. Do you mind if I add yours to the main site (with attribution, of course?)

Re: Wyandotte, Lincoln Park and other Downriver burbs chain history

Posted: 21 Jul 2019 13:23
by mburb1981
Groceteria wrote:
21 Jul 2019 13:13
Welcome aboard and thanks! This is great stuff. Just FYI, I will be in Detroit next month doing research on the city proper as well, so all this material together will make a great new Detroit section. Do you mind if I add yours to the main site (with attribution, of course?)
Sure!

Re: Wyandotte, Lincoln Park and other Downriver burbs chain history

Posted: 22 Jul 2019 16:53
by mburb1981
Also, two other notes:
  • Not listed is a Big Bear store in Wyandotte on Sycamore between 2nd and Biddle. When it existed is unknown, and whether this was part of the Big Bear chain is also unknown, but it may probably have been at 130 Sycamore, listed as a Wrigley in 1958.
  • Directories after 1936 for both Wyandotte and Lincoln Park are restricted to Ancestry members, so of course, I couldn't check those. If anyone has an account, feel free to make some additional corrections.

Re: Wyandotte, Lincoln Park and other Downriver burbs chain history

Posted: 25 Jul 2019 19:15
by mburb1981
Added a couple of entries for Dix-Toledo in Southgate on the Lincoln Park list. Both are in the same strip mall, which was built in 1966 with a Bi-Lo (was this part of the Bi-Lo chain?) as well as a Topps discount store and a Jo-Ann Fabrics. Bi-Lo and Topps closed by 1975 and the complex started to deteriorate around that time. Topps would later be subdivided into a Great Scott! (which became Super Saver Food Warehouse by 1984), Revco, TJMaxx (which is still open) and Showbiz Pizza (now Chuck E. Cheese). After Super Saver closed, that space was in turn subdivided between OfficeMax and Dress Barn, the latter of which is now an Avenue clothing store.

Re: Wyandotte, Lincoln Park and other Downriver burbs chain history

Posted: 25 Jul 2019 21:58
by Andrew T.
mburb1981 wrote:
25 Jul 2019 19:15
Added a couple of entries for Dix-Toledo in Southgate on the Lincoln Park list. Both are in the same strip mall, which was built in 1966 with a Bi-Lo (was this part of the Bi-Lo chain?)
I always figured Bi-Lo was a "generic" chain name, used simultaneously by different companies in different regions without any connection (much like Food Fair, Food Town, Food City, etc.). This thread implies that it was a subsidiary of Kroger in Michigan, though.

And thanks for digging up yet another historical Great Scott! That's a chain whose origins (pre-Allied merger) seem hopelessly murky, whose locations I'm unclear on (I've never found a comprehensive list like I have for Detroit-area Chathams, Krogers, or A&Ps), and whose artifacts are unrecognizable in the Detroit metro today.

Re: Wyandotte, Lincoln Park and other Downriver burbs chain history

Posted: 26 Jul 2019 11:20
by Steve Landry
Actually Food Fair was very aggressive and creative with "others" using the name Food Fair around the country.

They were not always successful (and not always right away) but these agreements were interesting.

And the stories about this were difficult to confirm and were often weirdly secretive. I often heard or was told about these agreements from top execs.

Re: Wyandotte, Lincoln Park and other Downriver burbs chain history

Posted: 28 Jul 2019 11:37
by rich
Kroger used the Bi-Lo name for a small number of stores in the Cleveland area after they closed their Kroger-bannered stores there. The had kept the Division operating, which also serviced Western PA, Akron, Youngstown, etc. The Bi-Los were were smaller stores (15-19K sf). The ones I remember were in the Buckeye Road (building is demolished) and Collinwood/Five Points Section of Cleveland proper, but there were a few others. They also operated a much larger Barney's warehouse format in former discount stores. The one in Wickliffe was in a former Spartan-Atlantic (it's now back office space for Progressive Insurance). These lasted until Kroger closed the Division entirely which I think was in 1982.

Big Bear opened several stores in Toledo during the 50s, although only two finished out the decade and only one, in the Colony area near Toledo Hospital, survived a few years into the 60s. I think it became a Kroger (it's now demolished). They might have tried doing a beach head in Detroit--but it would have been a larger, more competitive market than Toledo and they stayed away from Cincinnati & Cleveland which were much bigger than Columbus in those days. Toledo attracted quite a few different chains in the 50s (Wrigley, National, Big Bear, Marsh) almost all of which were gone by the mid-60s.

BTW, Big Bear never bothered to mention that they borrowed the name from the Big Bear in NJ which was a model for a lot of emerging super market chains. They also neglected to mention that Albers not only had super markets before them in Ohio but coined the term. There, no doubt, were other Big Bears with unrelated to those boosterish Columbusites. The Giant Tiger discount department store chain in Cleveland initially was named Big Bear and had nothing to do with them--Giant Tiger changed the name as they entered markets close to Big Bear super markets. The Giant Tiger name lives on in Canada through an unrelated chain that used the Cleveland stores as their initial model.

Re: Wyandotte, Lincoln Park and other Downriver burbs chain history

Posted: 08 Aug 2019 09:44
by mburb1981
Don Gutz in the All Things Wyandotte Facebook Group has posted this image of a crowd gathering in front Big Bear store in Wyandotte:
68445849_920021108349386_5431557848888770560_o.jpg
Was this signage style ever used by the Columbus-based Big Bear chain?

This picture was taken facing west on Sycamore Street, and this was taken in the early 1950's (before it was sold to Wrigley's), possibly in 1954, as that was the 100-year anniversary of Wyandotte beginning it's existence. Neither the Big Bear nor the Kresge store adjacent to the right survive in their forms today: both buildings were combined and heavily remodeled into a small strip plaza. Even the homes in the background have been demolished, the arena used by the local high school hockey team stands there today.

Re: Wyandotte, Lincoln Park and other Downriver burbs chain history

Posted: 17 Sep 2019 18:54
by mburb1981
After another check of the Wyandotte directories on the Bacon Memorial District Library's website, I have revealed another ancient chain that may have been specific to this part of the Downriver area called Wolf's Cash Market, which was ran by a person named Joseph Wolf and had locations in Wyandotte, River Rouge, Trenton and pre-1922 Ford City.

Wolf's Cash Market peaked in 1933-1936 with (at least) six stores. When this chain went defunct is still a mystery to me, but it appears the Trenton location at 2736 West Jefferson Avenue (which existed in 1933) later became "Y and Dot Grocers" before Kroger took over the space.

And with that, Wolf's Cash Market's locations have been added to the Wyandotte list.

Re: Wyandotte, Lincoln Park and other Downriver burbs chain history

Posted: 17 Sep 2019 22:01
by rich
It’s a little difficult to tell if it’s the Columbus signage from the pic but I don’t think it was one of their stores—-they usually had a literal big bear in the sign or separately in those days. I dint think they usually included the name “super market” in their signs.

Re: Wyandotte, Lincoln Park and other Downriver burbs chain history

Posted: 18 Sep 2019 07:35
by Groceteria
Wolf’s also had locations in Detroit. I’m still doing my research there and all the Detroit additions will probably not happen for a bit, but I also found an article that suggests that Wolf was associated with a local wholesaler.

Re: Wyandotte, Lincoln Park and other Downriver burbs chain history

Posted: 21 Sep 2019 03:11
by rich
Wolf may have had some relationship to Abner A Wolf which was a namesake wholesaler and became part of Allied Supermarkets and I think may have outlived them.