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presents

Supermartifacts / The Artifacts of A&P

[A&P logo]

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company was founded in 1859 as a New York coffee and tea merchant. The company competed aggressively in the early 20th century, and by the 1930s A&P was not only the largest food retailer in the United States (with a strong presence in Canada as well) but the largest retailer of any sort in the world.

The higher they rise, the harder they fall. A&P began to falter in the 1950s, when the chain found itself falling behind on retailing trends. The west coast division was shuttered in 1969, followed by divestitures throughout the southeast and midwest through the course of the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. A&P's Canadian stores were sold to Metro in 2005, and by 2009 the chain's trade area was little more than a clump in the New York-Philadelphia corridor. A&P then plunged into bankruptcy, liquidating its assets by the end of 2015 and leaving behind little more than a glut of empty buildings. And it is those buildings that this page explores.

Unless noted otherwise, all photos on these pages were taken by Andrew Turnbull over a period of more than 10 years.


Storefront stores

In the 1920s and 1930s, A&P saturated the cities of the United States with small neighbourhood stores, and was often the first chain to emerge in any given retail market. In Canada, A&P didn't have this role: Dominion did, and A&P instead staked a competitive niche with fewer and larger "destination" stores. By the time A&P had modernized and consolidated its stores into self-service supermarkets in the 1940s, the U.S. and Canadian operations were operationally identical.

[A&P store]

125 E. Main St., Northville, MI, US
2019

In the 1930s, A&P operated a pre-supermarket store in this location...which now houses nothing more than an ATM and a pedestrian walkway.

[A&P store]

48 Wellington St., Stratford, ON, Canada
2019

In the late 1920s, this 3-story building became home to the first A&P store in the charming southwestern Ontario hamlet of Stratford. It lasted about ten years before being replaced with something larger.

[A&P store]

373 Talbot St., St. Thomas, ON, Canada
2019

In 1935, this building housed one of A&P's two premiere locations in St. Thomas, Ontario. Turnover of stores was quite rapid in that era, and A&P had replaced this location by 1940.

[A&P store]

742 Richmond St., London, ON, Canada
2017

This particular storefront was built in 1925 and housed an A&P from the 1930s until 1955. The space was subsequently reoccupied and for many years was home to Bob Turnbull Flowers, a business owned by my first cousin twice removed.

[A&P store]

424 Dundas St., Woodstock, ON, Canada
2019

This was the site of the second A&P location in Woodstock, opening in the late 1930s and lasting over 30 years until closing in the 1970s. The first A&P in Woodstock predated the second by a decade, and occupied the left half of this storefront across the street.

[A&P store]

495 Talbot St., St. Thomas, ON, Canada
2017

This site was once home to an Eaton Groceteria, operating in the late 1920s and 1930s. By 1940 A&P had moved in, and they lasted until the 1950s.

[A&P store]

1120 Washington St., Manitowoc, WI, US
2009

Another typical downtown storefront, housing an A&P in this case from 16 Nov. 1939 until 1971. In contrast to its aggressive relocation practices of the 1930s, A&P later became notorious for retaining anachronistic stores such as these for years after most of its competitors had modernized.

[A&P store]

69 Downie St., Stratford, ON, Canada
2019

Stratford's second A&P store spanned two storefronts in this positively massive, pilister-encrusted building downtown, and replaced the first by 1940. This location had an unusually long life for a storefront, remaining open through 1959 or beyond.

[A&P store]

125 King St., London, ON, Canada
2018

Here's the site of yet another one of A&P's downtown London stores. This one had its start in the early 1940s, and lasted all the way up till the 1980s!


Early purpose-built stores

A&P's U.S. and Canadian store development progressed in parallel in the early postwar era. However, there are far more U.S. stores than Canadian stores that survive in original condition.

[A&P store]

743 Mercer St., Princeton, WV, US
2009

[A&P store]

516 N. Commercial St., Neenah, WI, US
2010

Both of these stores are excellent examples of early purpose-built A&P supermarkets from the late 1930s and early 1940s. The Princeton store opened 4 May 1940, and was replaced in 1969. The Neenah store dates to the same timeframe and would have originally looked very similar, though the lifted roof and solar panels are obviously a much later alteration.

[A&P store]

139 E. Main St., Northville, MI, US
2019

This mid-block store opened in approximately 1940, and was replaced by a larger supermarket with parking facilities in 1961.

[A&P store]

882 W. Ann Arbor Trail, Plymouth, MI, US
2019

Like Northville's mid-block A&P, this store dates to about 1940. It was replaced in the late '50s. This may also be the only supermarket artifact left in downtown Plymouth, since the city has been a little too redevelopment-happy over the years...

[A&P store]

131 Elm St., Wyandotte, MI, US
2019

Opened by 1941; replaced by the 1970s. Though the original facade has been stuccoed over, the "stairstep" at the top of the front roofline is a likely artifact of the original brickwork.

[A&P store]

2620 W. Jefferson St., Trenton, MI, US
2019

This store downstream from Detroit opened by 1945, and remained open until closing in the 1970s. Faint A&P labelscar is still visible on the facade. Unfortunately, the store itself backed into the shadows on the day I was in town, so you may have to take my word for it...

[A&P store] [A&P store]

831 Dundas St., London, ON, Canada
1951 (London Free Press), 2019

Opened 11 January 1951, with an open house the evening before. Closed as A&P in the late 1970s. The address number for this property seems to have slipped from 831 to 809, but the building's original footprint (and its distinctive corner entrance configuration) remains intact.

[A&P store]

300 N. Genesee St., Waukegan, IL, US
2011

This commanding monolithic structure (formerly identified as a National) actually operated as an A&P, opening by 1951 and closing in the 1970s. This store currently houses a Mexican grocery.

[A&P store]

118 S. 1st St., West Dundee, IL, US
2016

Another example of a later (but still quite old and small) store with street-flush alignment; possibly from the early 1950s. Most likely closed as an A&P in 1973.

[A&P store]

16125 West Rd., Woodhaven, MI, US
2019

This store was reportedly built in 1953, and lasted into the 1970s per Downriver Locations Thru the Years. It seems a little big for its age, but the building may have been added onto.

[A&P store]

124 Queen St. E., Sault Ste. Marie, ON, Canada
2019

This store opened by 1955, and remained open in Sault Sainte Marie as late as the 1980s! The building still stands today, although it's gained a horrendous brick facade obscuring its original appearance.

[A&P store]

1351 S. Gratiot Ave., Mt. Clemens, MI, US
2019

Opened by 1958. I'm unclear what this building is being used for today, though the oppressive security gate suggests that it's something frightening...

[A&P store]

416 St. Clair St., Chatham, ON, Canada
2019

This Canadian A&P store opened by 1959 as part of an early shopping-centre development, and closed in the early 1990s. It has been facelifted and added onto on the left side, however, obscuring its originality.

[A&P store]

390 Springbank Dr., London, ON, Canada
2018

Here is another early shopping-centre store, operating as A&P from the early 1960s to the early 1980s. The metal towers on this store add quite a bit of visual interest; however, these are not original. The structure has been expanded at left to nearly twice its original size.

[A&P store]

3663 Tecumseh Rd. E., Windsor, ON, Canada
2018

This location is the site of the Central Mall, which opened by 1960. A&P was an original tenant, and Metro continues to operate here today...though the store has been expanded and remodelled to oblivion in the intervening decades.

[A&P store]

145 Erie St., Stratford, ON, Canada
2019

Stratford's third A&P opened in the 1960s, and was a freestanding store typical of the era. It was fairly short-lived, since A&P jumped ship to a new store at the Stratford Mall a decade later.

Continued...







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Last update 30 September 2019.