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
"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?