Grocery Stores (Mom and Pop and Large Ones) Were Plentiful Around Johnson City in the 1940s-1960s

In the mid 1940s, my mother ordered groceries from Ford Wilson Grocery Store located on 200 Elm Street, which was several blocks away from where we lived in the Gardner Apartments, located at the intersection of W. Watauga Avenue and W. Market Street.

Mr. Ford wisely delivered groceries to area patrons using a bicycle. I remember a nice young man, who worked for Guy, load his bicycle for deliveries. Guy Wilson used to do the same thing for his pharmacy at W. Market and W. Watauga. I don’t recall there being a charge for this service.

This was during World War II when my dad was serving his country. Grocery stores who had delivery service was a blessing since many women struggled to make ends meet until the war was over and soldiers began returning home.

Our apartment was #10 upstairs. It was close to the Police Department on the King Street side and the Fire Department on the W. Market Street side. We all felt safe.

Occasionally, a trio of  emergency sounds could be heard with the Silk Mill adding its noisy roar from the machines to the clamor. Truthfully, after living there a brief amount time, we did not notice it. It was home to us.

My mother routinely purchased food from the Red Store at 266-268 W. Market. I went with her on most visits. My research shows that the owner was a W. Howard Stewart. I seem to recall a Mr. Weems, who owned it for a period of time.

Mom would take me there to get a few food items. Later, she allowed me to go to the Red Store by myself to pick up her called-in order. She would go out on our second floor porch and wait for me to return down a narrow sidewalk with my merchandise.

That worked well and boosted my self confidence, except for one incident when a stray dog chased me, sending me back to the store and having to call mom to retrieve the food and her freighted young son. However, I soon overcome my fear of dogs and routinely picked up orders for Mom.

As 1950 rolled around, we moved to Johnson Avenue in the west side of town. We ate out on most Friday evenings, usually choosing the Cut Rate Supermarket on Walnut Street. We always made it a family affair.

I particularly enjoyed patronizing the magazines. My favorite one, a monthly, was Alfred E. ‘What Me Worry’ Newman” and possessing a unique face that only a mother could love. Amazingly, he hasn’t changed in all these years. He is still around and still ugly.

Our family later began patronizing Giant Food Store on Commerce Street. Another store that attracted our business was Kroger, located on King Street. It was not as large as Giant but attracted my parents on occasion.

In 1960, there were 106 grocery stores in and around Johnson City. Some of my favorite “Mom and Pop” grocery stores that were close to our residence were West Side Grocery (Knob Creek Road and W. Market Street) and Fox Grocery (Knob Creek Road close to Peachtree Street). I will never forget Carroll and Nettie Younce. They were jewels.

Other grocery stores in various locations around town were Adams, Bailey, Baskett, Collins, J.M. Copp, Doyle, Lamont Street, Litle (loved that store), Looney, Miller, Mullins, Pardue, Puckett (another favorite), Shipley, Streets, Vest, Watson, Williams, Willingham, White Rock, Wrights and others.

Some businesses maintained their grocery stores for several years, while others moved to other locations. There were an abundance of them during my younger days.

Regardless where they located or relocated, there was always something special about a “Mom and Pop store” that could not be duplicated by larger enterprises.

Sadly, most of the owners of cherished stores from yesteryear have closed their doors and have become just a fading memory.

If you have a favorite store or person from that era that you would like to mention in a future column, please drop me a note at the address listed below. Ah, what memories.