Would anybody like to discuss why old stores interest them?

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BeerIsGod
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Would anybody like to discuss why old stores interest them?

Post by BeerIsGod » 06 May 2006 00:41

I'm not going into my own reasons for being fascinated by this subject. I'll do that later, after maybe some others have left their reasons and motivations. Suffice to say, I think something deep is going on for many of the people here who re-live old memories. I'm not being corney. This is a very special process going on. Call it something spiritual, something esoteric, something unexplainable if you wish, but something happens for a certain set of people when they visit or think about old places. I don't think it works for everyone. Some folks would say, "Old buildings? So what? It's just old places that went out of business." Others would disagree. They feel whatever it is in their bones. It drives them to efforts such as this website, which is no small effort. Thanks for assembling this information.

todd
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Post by todd » 06 May 2006 03:13

What a great question! I bet I'll keep coming up with answers. One thing to me is how it is such a connection to a time that is past. An empty grocery store, long since re-used as a bingo parlor, cheap furniture store or church, sits as a memorial to "the best they had to offer" at the time it was built. Many of these pictures and stories take me back to childhood. Also, I like the evolution of retail and without the past, there is no future.

formergrocerygal

Post by formergrocerygal » 09 Jun 2006 23:54

A grocery store, even a neighborhood mom-n-pop market, is the center of any community. People go to a store for their most basic need - food. These must be the most frequented stores. My earliest memories of shopping experiences took place at grocery stores. I can remember the sound of the loud cash register where the numbers pop up in the tiny window and the coffin-style freezers, not the fancy up-right glass cases. I also worked for a grocery chain for 13 years, beginning in high school and eventually working my way up the ranks to a job at the corporate office. All these experiences contribute to my fascination and love with past and modern day grocery stores.

JohnTodd

Post by JohnTodd » 14 Jul 2006 03:13

Nostalgia, pure and simple. The want of a better time. I used to stay home with mommy and go to the grocery store with her during the summer.

Now I work, 9 hours a day, 5 days a week grumble grumble...

John Michael
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Post by John Michael » 28 Aug 2006 23:53

JohnTodd wrote:Nostalgia, pure and simple. The want of a better time. I used to stay home with mommy and go to the grocery store with her during the summer.

Now I work, 9 hours a day, 5 days a week grumble grumble...
Even today I simply love walking into supermarkets with a look as though I were searching for some illegal substance. I always had a love for supermarkets, especially defunct stores. I believe that it brings me back to a period that I truly remember because I spent so much of my childhood inside them. When I was 4 years old, I wanted to work in a supermarket. As a young adult I worked for King Kullen on Long Island, New York. But would you believe that I remember buying a play supermarket with plaid stamps earned by my mother at A & P in 1969.
Michael

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Post by mikeparkridge » 04 Sep 2006 19:53

It's just nice to talk about many things from the past, including Food Stores.

J-Man
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Supermarket Curiosity

Post by J-Man » 05 Sep 2006 00:45

A large part of my interest is nostalgic, and I'm interested in all kinds of retail businesses from the past, not just markets. But I've always been interested in supermarkets in other parts of the country. Perhaps because before I moved to the east coast at age 28, I'd never been farther east than Reno, Nevada. Whenever I travel anywhere, I always make it a point to go into a local supermarket or two to note the differences from areas I'm more familiar with. I remember being shocked to discover that butter came in a different shape on the east coast. Or that it was difficult to find boysenberry jam--a west coast staple-- in the east. Or how different supermarkets in Hawaii were-- the produce, the prices, etc. (I'm starting to realize why I travel by myself a lot!)

BeerIsGod
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Post by BeerIsGod » 03 Oct 2006 18:59

There are several reasons I like old grocery stores (old department stores and malls as well). When I go into an old one, or see pictures of one on sites such as this, I am transported back to my childhood, holding my Mom's secure hand, and walking through a wonderland of colors, smells, and interesting new things. I am no longer a businessman, former soldier, or an adult in any sense of the word. The 1960's were a safer time to be young, and the Andy Griffith attitudes prevailed, even in cities. Dan Acroyd was in a movie in which someone was talking about his old, old antique car. The line was something to the effect of, "When I get in this old antique and crank up the engine from another time, I know that everything is right in the world." Sometimes I leave my office for an hour or so and I walk through a nearby mall that I used to work in when I was a fresh college graduate. Now, even 25 years later, I can still feel the wonder and enjoyment of those early years. I probably didn't make over $12,000 dollars in salary that first year out of college, but I didn't care. I was with some friends, and we were having fun with our ice cream cones or Orange Julius's. Old grocery stores and other stores are real time machines if you let your mind do the work for you.

Rimes
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Post by Rimes » 23 Oct 2006 00:03

For myself, I wasn't particularly interested in grocery stores, retail history, or even local history in general until this year when I began to realize how many places from my youth had gone away. And that made me appreciate even more the places that were still around.

A lot of the stores (and other buildings) around us are things most people don't think much about. In some cases, they have been around as long as we can remember and we assume that they will be around long after we are gone. Therefore it can be surprising when one of these places that has "always been there" changes in some way or gets demolished altogether.

Having seen some of this in my area recently made me start to wonder about the history of some of these places that had "always been there." When was it built? What was there before it was built? My curiosity led to spending hours in a local library looking through old newspapers and city directories trying to resolve these questions. And sometimes the answers lead to more questions, and wanting to dig deeper into the history.

For me, my interest is tied into my memories. There is a vacant building in my area which in the 1990s was a Food Town, but for me will always be a Chatham's because that's what it was when I was a kid in the 1970s-80s. I recently went into the local Kroger store, which has been around since at least 1979, possibly earlier, and it was like seeing an old friend again in a way, because it was a lot like I remembered it. However it was a bit sad to see how so many of the stores around it were different, how the landscape had changed. Truth to tell, the surrounding area was better now than it used to be: more stores, more variety, more pedestrian-friendly. But the very fact that there had been changes in the surrounding area still made me a little sad perhaps because my memories not lining up with the present reality made me realize that I was getting older, that time was passing by.

There's a Farmer Jack in my area that has apparently been around since the late 1960s. As a child in the early 1970s, I once got lost in there, and it's become a kind of favorite story in my family. Even though I was probably only 5 years old or younger, I can still remember how I got lost: I was running my hand along the cold rim of one of the shelves around the meat area. I guess that I wanted to follow that rim to its beginning, but by the time I got to the end of the aisle, I looked around and noticed that my mom was nowhere to be seen. My dad used to wait in the car in the parking lot while my mom shopped, so I simply walked out of the store and into the parking lot and found my dad's car and told my dad that I had lost my mom. Meanwhile inside the store, my mom was panicking because she couldn't find me. I guess that my dad then led me back into the store to let my mom know that I was okay, although I don't really remember that part.

Anyway, that Farmer Jack store is still standing and now when I go there, even though there have been a few renovations inside, the place still has an iconic feel to me. Recently I learned that the Farmer Jack originally shared space with a Yankee store, that the present-day entrance was originally the entrance to Yankee, but I have no memory of that. I would love to see a photo of that. This sort of interest, like I said, leads me to want to go through old local newspapers, looking for an article or advertisement (or both) announcing the store's grand opening, so that I can know a little bit more about a place that has "always been there" and so far still is.

Dean
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Post by Dean » 12 Jan 2007 00:56

Sure is riot, isn't it?! I thought I was the only one! I just recently found this site...and am so pleased to hear stories from so many folks!

The locations intrigue me...I find it funny when they use the former stores' signs in front...and you can tell EXACTLY what the store had been before...as the shape of the sign, etc.

APCO25
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Post by APCO25 » 12 Jan 2007 03:11

formergrocerygal wrote:A grocery store, even a neighborhood mom-n-pop market, is the center of any community. People go to a store for their most basic need - food. These must be the most frequented stores. My earliest memories of shopping experiences took place at grocery stores. I can remember the sound of the loud cash register where the numbers pop up in the tiny window and the coffin-style freezers, not the fancy up-right glass cases. I also worked for a grocery chain for 13 years, beginning in high school and eventually working my way up the ranks to a job at the corporate office. All these experiences contribute to my fascination and love with past and modern day grocery stores.
I can echo these comments. Grocery stores were some of my first memories. I can remember shopping with my mom at Big Star, and recall when Big Star closed (when acquired by A&P in the late 80's) I thought my world would end? Alas, I was then 12 and a new Kroger was built. It was twice the size of the old Big Star...but I still missed the homey comfort of Big Star. Maybe it was that every time we went, we always ran into our neighbors, my school classmates, or just a time to get out of the house.

My favorite Publix reminds me of the old Big Star. It's a smaller Publix built on top of what once was the oldest shopping malls in Cobb county, Ga, Cobb Center. Even though it's fairly new (circa 1998/99), the layout and location bring me back in time. And the staff there are friendly, (Publix knows how to run stores "old school" style a la Mr.George lives on there) and it makes you want to come back there.

In 2007, big box retail seems to be getting smaller. Ebay and online stores and Wal-Mart all take away the homey, personal experience of shopping. There is something special about going to a place where everyone knows you, smiles and you "just feel right" being there. While Wal-Mart may be cheaper, I don't get all excited about fighting my way through crowds, "bothering" staff to get help. I miss retailing the way it used to be. I don't get any joy waiting on the UPS driver to deliver my product, I like the experience of seeing it, touching it, smelling it and tasting it before I buy.

Maybe that's why I'm here....the good thing for us is I don't think grocery stores are going away, that's the one retail store that will at least be here for another decade....

NewsLynne
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Post by NewsLynne » 14 Feb 2007 01:28

I can't say why I like them. It's just something so mundane but such a shared common experience. Seeing some of the 70's and 80's interiors of these stores really takes me back to going to Big Y or SuperFresh with my mom and grandma.

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TheStranger
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Post by TheStranger » 14 Feb 2007 02:41

I think it started with my family taking me to the local QFI (1959 build) and the Asian market in Daly City that was a former Safeway, built in the marina architecture (from 1966) as their regular shopping destinations. Later on, when the QFI brand was eliminated, we started becoming Pak 'n Save (and ultimately Safeway) shoppers...

That's where I discovered the marina design in the early 90s, and for some reason I recognized it as Safeway well before I even stepped foot in an active Safeway marina (1997 or 1998 in Millbrae).

Also, in South San Francisco, we had an active 1960s Safeway on Westborough Boulevard with the circle S mosaic signs and 1960s wall lettering; to this day I regret not being able to photograph it while it was open (my mom and I visited it twice at least).

That was the genesis of it, but there were more of those signs of retail past around me, whether it was the ex-Gemco (now Target) in Colma, that Pak 'n Save (an ex-Kmart) in town, to name a few others. Really, the Bay Area is a fertile ground for these big shifts, most recently with the Albertsons/Lucky merger.

Plus, the recent saga of the Union 76 ball has me thinking how ubitiquous they are out here, and how much I didn't realize it was such a regional thing for years (partially because the years I was a NASCAR fan had me seeing them on every broadcast in that time).

Whew. I'm not sure I can cover really everything I love about this hobby in just one post, but hey, it's definitely something.
Chris Sampang

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Post by TenPoundHammer » 16 Feb 2007 20:48

With me, it's most likely the nostalgia bit. I'm only 19, so I'm often curious as to how things were before my time... I never got to go to a Woolworth dime store and eat at a lunch counter. I never got to take a trip with the family to the Woolco at the new mall.

Perhaps the catalyst for it all was the frequent trips we made to the Ben Franklin store in my town; said store closed in 1991. From there, I gradually took an interest in Ben Franklin stores, and it just snowballed from there. Also fueling my interests was a visit to Hampton Towne Centre in 2003 - a very dead mall, anchored at the time by a Kmart that was going out of business. As I walked the empty corridors of that mall, I saw remnants of stores I'd never heard of before, like Sagebrush, Hot Sam Pretzels, Foxmoor, etc. That really cemented my interest in past retail.

Another thing that may have helped is the fact that in nearby Tawas, a supermarket called Giantway closed about 15 years ago. I remember it sitting empty for a while, wondering when someone would take it over. Glen's Markets eventually took it over, and then theyabruptly closed. I loved that store - it was really large and had open, warehouse-like ceilings. But of course, I thought that it would be around forever (a common misbelief in my younger years), so I never bothered to do things like take pictures.

rich
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Post by rich » 19 Feb 2007 14:53

I have an interest in history & architecture. When I was a kid, it was the boomer years and my mother was a stay at home mom for whom shopping was a necessity and a bit of a sport and a social thing--she went to different stores for different purposes and had long-time friendships with some of the people who worked at her favorite stores. A neighbor of ours worked for a major chain and then had his own store with his brother--they eventually had three stores, although the 3rd one (an old A&P) nearly bankrupted them and they scaled back to just one. So that got me interested, too. I've worked in retail, but not in years. Still, I did it at a time when virtually every kind of store was changing--in terms of service, it tended not to be for the better. I've traveled a lot, mostly on a budget, so I have had plenty of opportunity to explore local market places, super markets, and corner groceries. It's interesting to see the similarities and differences and to see what people buy & eat. So, basically, I have lots of reasons. I'm probably less about nostalgia than other people---there's been good & bad changes. Less service, poorer quality meat, but more variety of other things. Many of the things people complain about have been the same for quite a long time--service has been diminishing for years and the distinctiveness of different chains' stores really declined a few decades ago. For a while the diminishing number of chains was a negative, but it's opened opportunities for interesting niche players.

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