Since childhood I have been fascinated with grocery stores. The variety of products, elaborate store displays, the efficiency of store layouts and check out systems were intriguing.
Your basic layout of almost all stores is to be greeted with fresh green produce, meat department is always on the back wall and the items most frequently purchased when you need to run in quickly; milk and bread, are located in the most remote corner to force customers to walk through the entire store.
Today's store shelf space are basically rented pieces of mini-real estate. Called "slot fees" large companies pay rental fees to be located at prime spots like eye level to customer. End cap spaces are more expensive and entire displays of beer and chips at Super Bowl time is rented.
Ever notice you see the same magazines at every check out lane? That's because TV Guide, People, etc. all paid fees to be located at those spots. Campbell's Soup, Oreo's, Ritz Crackers are all conveniently eye level and easy to find while a smaller or lesser brand is on the bottom shelf or taking less space, same thing.
Growing up in East Peoria we lived near Couri's Food Town. Being near my grade school it seemed like a daily ritual. I was entranced watching grocery help stamping cans of food. Mesmerized as clerks would stamp 19 cent prices on cans of Rejoyce Kidney Beans and carefully face the merchandise when putting on the shelf.
Then the magic of checking out at what now would be considered clunky cash registers with automatic change return.
In keeping my MBIP tradition of chronicling places we have attended in the past; schools and gas stations previously, I've assembled listings of most stores north of Main Street from the 60's on. There were way too numerous to mention pre-60's especially mom and pop's on north and south side. This is by no means a comprehensive list, feel free to add comments and memories or store I may have overlooked. I had some great reference work added by readers on the gas station article.
The local store I always heard about was Ben Schwartz. I believe they started downtown, the stores I remember were on University, where a strip mall now resides.
And on McClure now the site of Sutton Carpet, and the final store at Glen and Sheridan, now a Walgreens.
As Mel Brooks would say "May the Schwartz be with you!"
The two old time classic A & P chain stores I remember were on Main Street and University near Glen. Main Street store closed in late 70's becoming Co-Op Records. Walgreens took over the site in the mid-80's. Recently the building was demolished and replaced by small retail and student housing for Bradley.
The University location has been a pharmacy, Salvation Army and now The Back Store.
The "classy" local chain was Thompson Food Basket. Why classy? Because they carpeted the aisles. I don't know how well cleaning up dropped bottle of ketchup and pickles worked out.
Believe it or not there is a Facebook page "The Thompson Food Basket Appreciation Society." This where I got the vintage store pictures of Thompsons that run below. There are quite a few vintage photos on the page, it’s worth checking out.
Here is before and after of Western location.
Sheridan and Giles.
Candletree on North University.
Other two locations were in Campustown on Main Street and University Plaza, now Hobby Lobby.
Another popular local grocery store chain was John Bee. The two I remember were on Prospect and the others on Sterling and Forrest Hill. There may have been more.
Prospect before and after.
Sterling location became an Aldi grocery up until two years ago.
Eagle at Glen and University had strong following in the 70's and 80's. It’s now the Friar Tuck Liquor store.
The North Knoxville, which was called Eagle Country Market is now a church. Talk about two different ends of the spectrum. Here's an example:
Convenient Stores were scattered thoughout Peoria. They were phased out with the advent of gas stations equipped with their own convenience stores. Many of the former Convenient buildings are now discount tobacco stores.
Like this one at Loucks and Sheridan.
The mid-70's saw superstore, Randall's, come to Westlake shopping center. They seemed to have exotic items often not seen in Peoria. I remember a great bakery and my first exposure to Charle's Potato Chips in the can.
Here's a typical Randall’s store.
They closed when sister store Cub Foods opened in the 90's. Here’s a vintage grocery bag from Randall’s.
Other favorites, Stafford's Dairy on Glen. It was Confetti's cards and gifts for many years, now Jimmy's Lock Shop.
See Chip Joyce's MBIP article on Weber’s Grocery which was located here at Forrest Hill and Wisconsin.
Unfortunately Cub Foods couldn't last on Knoxville near Nebraska.
Kroger on Sterling moved a block down in the early 90's. It's now a Big Lots.
Most of these stores have vanished due to corporate consolidations or price squeezed out by our old nemesis Wal-Mart. Fortunately Peoria has a few local stores surviving.
The classic is Haddad's on Rohman in West Peoria. Rebuilt after it's fire a few years ago the store still has it's cozy personal atmosphere and friendly staff. The store maintains a vintage feel.
On North Adams, near Alexander's Steakhouse is Tony's Market. Long standing, serving a somewhat forgotten area of Peoria.
For the healthier lifestyle, Metro Center has Naturally Yours.
Alwan's on War Memorial near Wisconsin, has a decent grocery selection as well as some of the finest fresh steaks and chops.
Okay, I’ve gotta run, cleanup in aisle four!