NEW: Kansas City MO, 1925-1992

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NEW: Kansas City MO, 1925-1992

Post by Groceteria » 08 Jul 2019 13:25

This one took a bit, but finally, here it is!

https://www.groceteria.com/place/us-mis ... nsas-city/

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Re: NEW: Kansas City MO, 1925-1992

Post by Andrew T. » 09 Jul 2019 11:14

Great! I'm really happy to see Kansas City on Groceteria.

There are surprises lurking in the murky annals of its supermarket past, that's for sure. One is the plethora of "Grand Union" stores in 1925: Is this the same Grand Union as the northeast chain we all know? I don't know if it is, but I also don't know why it shouldn't be.

National was there by 1929, gone by 1933! I guess the company established its reputation of competing ineffectively in expansion markets very early on.

Another surprise is the large quantity of locations being exchanged between big-name grocers in the 1920s and 1930s like hot potatoes: Milgrams to Krogers, Grand Unions to A&Ps, A&Ps to Krogers and Safeways, and so forth.

Finally, it's surprising how A&P, Kroger, and Safeway all up and quit the market in the 1970s and 1980s after competing simultaneously for decades, leaving a city of half a million without a strong chain grocer.
"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: NEW: Kansas City MO, 1925-1992

Post by Andrew T. » 09 Jul 2019 12:05

A&P (narrowly) had the longest history of any big-name grocer in KC, lasting from the 1920s until the 1980s. Here is the fantastic store at 1121 Linwood Street, which was featured on Groceteria 11 years ago:

Image

Unfortunately this building no longer stands, but there are a few other freestanding A&P stores from the same general era that do survive. These include 3812 E. 27th St., 21 W 63rd St., 126 and 334 W. 75th St., 3736 Broadway Blvd., 2904 Independence Ave., and 3020 and 7127 Prospect Ave. 3812 E. 27th also features an integrated pylon sign.

Surprisingly, there seems to be little in the way of 1960s centennial stores in Kansas City proper, although there might be more in the suburbs. 534 E. 99th St. and 3011 Swope Parkway (plus a cheesy retrofit of a 1950s building at 4621 Paseo) were the only ones I was able to find from the table.

The last new A&P in Kansas City appears to have been a generic shopping-centre location at 6469 N. Prospect Ave. that opened by 1981. This might have been the only new store they built in the 1970s. A Price Chopper store exists at the centre today at 6475, but I'm unclear if it's in the same position as the A&P of yore.
"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: NEW: Kansas City MO, 1925-1992

Post by Andrew T. » 09 Jul 2019 17:53

Kroger arrived in Kansas City a few years later than A&P, and left a few years earlier. Nevertheless, the city is still rich in artifacts of that company's onetime presence.

2624 Independence Ave. housed a Kroger store from 1960 (or earlier) till the 1970s. For the four decades since, it's housed an independent grocer called Snyder's. This store is still open today, the exterior has barely been touched (and sports signage from the current tenant that's now very vintage in its own right) and the original 1950s floor tiling is still intact! This location would be a must-see if I happened to be visiting the area.

6599 N. Oak St. Trafficway and 3410 Troost Avenue are similar Kroger stores that opened by the mid-1960s. As luck would have it, both of them were converted to Save-a-Lots and are also still open and still selling groceries today. Both stores also have a very distinctive three-tier frontal windowpane arrangement, with transparent glass in the upper and lower tiers and opaque panels in the centre tier. Kroger used this motif fairly often on its new stores of the 1960s, and I've seen Krogers with identical window configurations in Grosse Ile Township, Michigan; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Morgantown, West Virginia, Dayton, Ohio, and elsewhere.

Some other good freestanding Kroger artifacts that survive in KC:

* 336 W. 63rd St., a 1940s store (possibly in a pre-existing building) with very snazzy brickwork. Currently housing the Avenues Bistro.
* 5117 Independence Ave., a 1940s store that later did time as an A&P and now houses a Mexican supermarket.
* 1120 E. Linwood Blvd., a 1940s store with side buttresses and a newer-looking (1960s?) facade that was undoubtedly added by a later tenant. Currently vacant.
* 2928 Prospect Ave., an archetypal early-1950s store with corner entrance, side buttresses, barrel roof and street-flush alignment. Now houses Dollar Mart and T&S Beauty.
* 5401 Troost Ave., a well-preserved 1960s store that was situated with an archaic street-flush alignment due to site constraints. Now a Rockhurst University facility.
* 6104 Troost Ave., a 1940s store now housing a bank.
* 7420 Troose Ave., another 1960s store built right up to the street due to site constraints. Now converted to a post office, and sporting a peculiar blue facade.
* 5400 E. Truman Road, a 1960s store that later housed a Thriftway Supermarket for over thirty years. Currently it's home to Royal Cash-and-Carry, a wholesale outfit.
* 1000 Westport Road, a 1960s shopping-centre store that carried on selling groceries under the guise of local chains long after Kroger departed. Currently Westlake Ace Hardware.

I strongly suspect the Kroger at 8650 W. 63rd St. is supposed to be E. 63rd St., a later Thriftway location.

Kroger survived in Kansas City through at least 1975, so it's plausible that they may have constructed superstores in the city. But did they? It's hard to tell. Their last two new locations appear to have been the aforementioned 63rd Street location (now subsumed into a shopping centre) and 522 E. 19th Ave. in North Kansas City (now part of a medical facility?). Neither structure looks anything like a superstore.
"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: NEW: Kansas City MO, 1925-1992

Post by Andrew T. » 09 Jul 2019 22:09

Finally, there's Safeway! Safeway appears to have entered Kansas City as the local Piggly Wiggly franchise. They were the most consistently successful of the "big three," topping A&P and Kroger in store count from 1939 on. They were also the last to go, narrowly surviving into the second half of the 1980s.

Shoebox stores (late 1930s and 1940s):

Buildings from this era are surprisingly common and make up the brunt of Safeway artifacts in KC:
* 1305 E. 27th St.
* 2519 E. 9th St.
* 3407 Independence Ave.
* 3324 Main St.
* 3806 and 4614 Prospect Ave.
* 3000 and 3740 Troost Ave.
* 2501 and 4205 E. Truman Rd.
* 106 Westport Rd.
* 7332 Wornall Rd. A Piggly Wiggly was on this site in 1933, but the building looks postwar to me.

Safeway turned over stores rapidly in the 1950s and 1960s, and it appears that none of these 1940s-era stores remained open much later than 1960. In some cases, they were outlived by downtown storefronts: One such store on 608 Ward Parkway opened as Piggly Wiggly in the early 1930s and lasted to the 1970s!

Pylon stores (1950s):

This is when the company's architecture started getting interesting. There is a crown jewel in Kansas City from this era: 4019 E. 31st St. This store boasts original brickwork, an intact pylon, and some glorious MSM zig-zagging over the windows on the west side (that was probably added to the building in a 1960s refresh). As nice as the outside is, the inside is even better: The building still houses an independent supermarket called Happy Foods, and still has 1960s Safeway "abstract food" graphics on the walls. Those graphics might just be the holy grail of our hobby.

There are two other stores with intact pylons:
7318 Prospect Ave. This one was reoccupied as a Thriftway supermarket in the 1980s, and the Thirftway signs were still on the building in 2011. It's vacant now.
7740 Wornall Rd. This was a short-lived store that closed in the 1960s, and it currently houses City Thrift. The street face of the building appears to be all-original.

Marina stores (1960s):

7007 E. Bannister Rd. Survives in excellent condition as a CVS store.
3510 Prospect Ave. Now home to "Emmanuel's Community Center," whatever that is.
4501-4505 St. John Ave. This Marina appears to have been built on the site of a 1940s store. It lasted to the end of Safeway's tenure in Kansas City and was still listed as a Safeway store in 1986, giving Safeway a four-decade period of operation on the site.
8430 Wornall Rd. This is the only false-fronted Marina of the bunch, but at least it offers the condolence of still housing a food store (and still having the roofline visible within). This one also lasted as a Safeway to 1986 or beyond.

Post-Marina stores (late 1960s, 1970s, and beyond):

This is where Safeway architecture stopped being special. Nevertheless, there are a few excellent and well-preserved mansard-roof stores in Kansas City:

10524 Grandview Rd. Opened by 1970; now Dollar General.
5004 N.E. Parvin Rd. Still selling groceries as Macaluso's Thriftway; though alas the original Safeway wall signs don't seem to have survived.
5629 E. Truman Rd. I suspect this was built in the 1970s in the parking lot of a now-demolished 1950s store. Now home to a leather wholesaler?

Also...

3600 Broadway Blvd. This was a one-off store from the Marina era with rooftop parking, and it survives in excellent (albeit partially vacant) condition!

Now, I'll pause for a rest.
"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: NEW: Kansas City MO, 1925-1992

Post by Groceteria » 10 Jul 2019 13:26

I feel pretty comfortable that the Grand Union stores in KC were a separate, local chain. It's entirely possible they were connected to the New York chain, but this seems like an odd location for them to choose since they had largely no presence whatsoever in between. A&P most likely entered the market by acquiring this entire chain.

Safeway indeed appears to have entered the area by buying out the local PIggly Wiggly Bird franchise (rather than starting from scratch) which was a pretty common M.O. for them and for Kroger. Ironically, several of the Safeway stores discarded in the 1980s meltdown had become Piggly Wiggly franchises by the late 1990s.

I'm also intrigued by the rebranded Food Barn locations; this was a Safeway brand but it seems to have spun off into a local chain after 1986, maybe licensing the name.


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Re: NEW: Kansas City MO, 1925-1992

Post by Andrew T. » 10 Jul 2019 15:10

Well, that at least pinpoints the year of Safeway's KC departure to 1988...the same year as most of Safeway's other post-KKR divestments. No word on how they came to use the name.

Food Barn lasted to 1994.
"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: NEW: Kansas City MO, 1925-1992

Post by rich » 11 Jul 2019 11:52

FWIW, I remember Food Barn from c. 1985 in Columbia, MO. Safeway had departed that market the previous summer but opened a Food Barn in a former Wal-Mart (which probably had been something else previously). In the meantime, their former stores ---a pylon near downtown and a 60s shopping center store remained empty. Unless they had a store in Fulton (the next town of any size to the East---I didn't see one), this probably was the furthest East they'd gotten. It was as far West as National had gotten in their modern era. Kroger was there but were combined with Gerbe's in the Dillon's merger---a greenhouse became a Gerbe's and a 50s/60s store was closed and became a Michaels.

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Re: NEW: Kansas City MO, 1925-1992

Post by Groceteria » 11 Jul 2019 20:27

Interesting. I'm working on Wichita right now by request to help a colleague who's writing a book. It will be interesting to see how things played out a bit west of Kansas City.

I'll probably backtrack and do Kansas City, Kansas when I finish Wichita.

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Re: NEW: Kansas City MO, 1925-1992

Post by klkla » 11 Jul 2019 21:41

Andrew T. wrote:
10 Jul 2019 15:10
Well, that at least pinpoints the year of Safeway's KC departure to 1988...the same year as most of Safeway's other post-KKR divestments. No word on how they came to use the name.

Food Barn lasted to 1994.
Safeway had both Food Barn and Liquor Barn branded stores in operation at the time of the KKR buyout. In both cases they were usually small Safeway stores converted to a no-frills grocery or liquor format. Liquor Barn was ahead of it's time and similar to BevMo!.

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Re: NEW: Kansas City MO, 1925-1992

Post by Groceteria » 12 Jul 2019 08:46

klkla wrote:
11 Jul 2019 21:41
Safeway had both Food Barn and Liquor Barn branded stores in operation at the time of the KKR buyout. In both cases they were usually small Safeway stores converted to a no-frills grocery or liquor format. Liquor Barn was ahead of it's time and similar to BevMo!.
In fact several of the Liquor Barn outlets in the Bay Area actually ended up becoming BevMo stores. But back to KC, the interesting thing here, as I said, was that they apparently sold off the name (by licensing it, I suppose) along with the stores when they pulled out in 1988. I'm curious how that went down (and maybe if it happened anywhere else). From the article Andrew T. posted, it looks like a management group bought out the KC region stores in 1988. Maybe the licensed name was part of the purchase agreement.

Either way, it apparently wasn't a very successful move in the end...

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