Friday, December 4, 2009

The A & P

Back when I was growing up, the only grocery store around Mathews was the A&P, unless you count Cobbs Creek Market or Port Haywood Market, which were really country-store precursors to modern-day convenience stores. Next to A & P was the Western Auto, the post office, and something else (an appliance store, perhaps) that I'm forgetting because of my attention-deficit to detail.

The A&P was cozy, comfortable and familiar. The people who worked there had been there since I was a baby. The cashier ladies. The produce man (who may or may not have had a crush on my mother). The meat man. In her rambunctious teenage years, Middle Sister donned the red polyester A&P smock for a bit. When I say smock I might really mean apron or shirt, because I can't remember anything other than the red part. See above about attention-deficit to detail.

The main thing I remember about the A&P was the coffee aisle. The heavy aroma of coffee beans and that big red grinder were exotic to me. Even today Eight O'clock Coffee, which was the A&P signature brand, is my preferred brand of coffee beans. Good thing, since that's about all we can get around here besides Folgers and Sanka.

Little did I know that A & P's roots in Mathews were deeper than their Eight O'clock Coffee the grocery store at the court house. Below is from the book, "Gwynn's Island Times":

"December 1, 1932: Nearly 50 men and women were examined by Dr. Hoskins this week for employment in the big packing house of the A&P Tea Company and the plant of the Gwynn's Island Operating Company at Callis Wharf. The men will shuck oysters and do other work and the women will pick crabs and fill other positions wherever they can be used. Local labor will be employed as far as possible.

The A & P plant is under management of Mrs. A. S. Beattie. This plant will buy and pack shell fish for the A&P stores located in all parts of the United States. The Gwyn's Island Operating Company will handle crab meat and herring roe, much of which will probably be taken by the A & P organization."

The A&P grocery store in the court house, which was torn down to make way for the Food Lion, was an institution here in Mathews. The former A&P operation on the island is probably a lesser known enterprise, though it's no less fascinating to me.

Did you ever visit an A&P? Did you have a favorite grocery store when you were growing up? What made it so special?


Grandma J said...

I remember the A&P in Rhode Island and in CA! There weren't many in CA but there were so many grocery chains. My favorite was Von's and Pavillions. Only have one chain here in Tx...H.E.B.

Jo Whitehurst said...

My favorite grocery store was my Grandparent's grocery store. They owned and operated a store in a tiny town. It included home grocery delivery twice a day (10am and 2pm), a pot-belly stove, accounts that were settled once a month, a big pickle barrel, a large wheel of "rat cheese", and a game or two of dominoes. Going to the grocery store was a social "event"!

AverettLadyNana said...

I remember that A&P but I also remember when the grocery store and Post Office were along where Miss Goldie Brooks Shoppe, The Economy Store, and Dr. Bobby Stewart were located...across from the Court Green with Richardson's on the corner.

Noe Noe Girl...A Queen of all Trades. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Noe Noe Girl...A Queen of all Trades. said...

I remember the A&P! And Eight O'clock Coffee. A few hundred years ago when I was a kid we used to shop at the Piggly Wiggly. Wonder who thought of that name for a grocery chain? A hog farmer I bet or some chitlin' lover!

Ann Marie said...

visited.. shopped... doned the stupid SMOCK.. it was a smock I hated that thing. It was just as bad as the blue one I wore at best value!

LOVED LOVED LOVED the coffee isle! and at this very moment.. 8'oclock coffee in the cup!

The baby water kid when he was actually a baby and not half grown man when I would get coffee and have it ground he would sit in the shopping cart yelling "SNIFF SNIFF!!!!" Wrinkling his nose up in the cutest manner to let me know he wanted to take a BIG INHALE of the coffee aroma coming from my freshly ground bag. I would take the bag close to him and lean it towards his cute little face so he could SNIFF and he would promptly do the opposite of sniff ... a few beans worth of grounds would be lost but it was well worth it to hear the cutest little ahhhhhhhhh in the world after he had done what he thought was a SNIFF.

Now when I walk down the coffee isle he looks at me and says..
grumble grumble under breath.. grocery store.. didn't need me... why make me come .. grumble video game.. grumble home.

to which I loudly reply..

Bayman said...

I wish I had a silver dime for each time my Grandmother sent me next door to Scrooch's Market. Sometimes we would get in the car and make the 1 mile round trip to Callis Wharf. These were the two main places we shopped, though around the turn of the century, before a bridge or automobiles, Gwynn's Island boasted an incredible number of stores, I seem to remember hearing 9 or 10.
Much of the merchandise arrived by steamship. To quote my friend Whilford Mitchem, now deceased, "We didn't go off the island much in those days. There was nothing to go off for."

Bayman said...

Whilford's brother, Ed, worked at the A&P for years. See how nicely I wrapped that up? Or, why do I think in circles?

Meg at the Members Lounge said...

I loved going to the A&P in my little hometown! It was, as you say "cozy" and always had super friendly staff. Sigh....fond memories of the small town grocery store!

Caution Flag said...

You had me at precursor. I love that word and just couldn't refocus after the excitement of seeing it.

We had an A & P in Massachusetts when I was girl. They gave out S&H green stamps ~ with which we bought our sleeping bags.

Daryl said...

Eight O'Clock's Hazelnut is my fav .. slightly ahead of that amazing CP stuff AG brought to Sea Shanty and was nice enough to send me some beans recently.

Do you buy beans or ground?

We dont have an A&P we have a Food Emporium on Broadway at 69th St too far for me to schlep home more than coffee beans ...

Daryl said...

I just read Bayman's 'about me' and went AWWWWWWW real loud ..

Mental P Mama said...

We had A&P, too. And Piggly Wiggly, The Big Star, H.G. Hills and Kroger's. Maybe that explains my weight.

Meg @ Soup Is Not A Finger Food said...

I"m so glad you asked. There was an A&P (I think it was an A&P) in the neighboring town... but my most fondest grocery store memories are of my uncle's store that he ran with his brother, scene of my first foray into gainful employment.

Dying to know more? Of course you are.

Anonymous said...

My co-workers laugh at me when I reminisce about going to the A&P in the summer time, and hanging out with the small crowd of shoeless children waiting for their mothers by the grocery carts.

You couldn't go into the grocery store without shoes on, and we all tried to avoid wearing shoes EVER in the summer, so we just waited outside the door in the hot sunshine, until they came out.

When I was the age that my daughter is now, the aforementioned produce man's son used to work there, and I thought he bore a decided resemblance to Greg Brady (of the Brady Bunch). Thrilling!

I definitely miss the A&P. Long live Best Value!


WV= gybersh -- is blogger casting aspersions on my comments? hmmmm.

Annie said...

My sisters and brother and I would walk past a grocery store on our way to school, and buy lollies on our parent's account. It stopped when we got found out! mmm...guess they probably weren't too happy.
I don't particularly remember a grocery store where Mum bought all our food particularly, as there were 4 of us, it might have been easier to leave us at home!
I do remember a new supermarket store opening up in the next street as I was a teenager and they had opening giveaways. I won a lovely towel for knowing the answer to "who sang this song"...since I was about the only teenager/person in the shop, I was lucky to know it was Elvis. Me who never listened to the pop songs. Don't ask me what the song must have been a well known one! But I had that towel for years. very pretty it was!

marta said...

My best friend's dad was an A&P manager. I remember him telling us that A&P toothpaste was made by Crest (or Colgate), so there was no need to buy the name brand for the same quality. I was a teenager and guess I really had never thought about store brands vs. name brands.

foolery said...

Big John's Ranch Market. HATED the place. Smelled like meat, and not in a happy way.