Mar 2, 2009
The Corner Market
Although I doubt that there will ever be a show at the Historical Society, or brochures at the Visitors Bureau, perhaps nothing encapsulates the history of Allentown more than the corner grocery stores. Allentown proper, is mostly comprised of rowhouses built between 1870 and 1920, long before the era of automobiles and suburban supermarkets. Most of the corner markets were built as stores, and over the years many were converted into apartments. Up until the late 1940's, there may have been well over a hundred operating in Allentown. Some specialized in ethnic food. The bodega at 9th and Liberty was formally an Italian market. Live and fresh killed chickens were sold at 8th and Linden, currently H & R Block Tax Service. A kosher meat market is now a hair salon on 19th Street. The original era for these markets died with the advent of the supermarket. In the early 50's some corner stores attempted to "brand" themselves as a "chain", as shown in the Economy Store sign above. That market is at 4th and Turner, and has been continually operating since the turn of the last century. Ironically, as the social-economic level of center city has decreased, the corner stores have seen a revival. Most of these new merchants, many Hispanic and some Asian, know little of the former history of their stores, but like their predecessors, work long, hard hours.
ADDENDUM: The first supermarket's in Allentown were the A&P. In addition to occupying a former corner store near 2nd and Hamilton, they operated the super store on 19th St, home later to the Shanty Restaurant. The Shanty now is becoming TC Salon, subject of recent post on this blog, and a feature story in today's Morning Call by Jarrett Renshaw.
ADDENDUM 2: Although there was an attempt to brand the corner stores to appear as a chain, the Economy Stores sign shown, apparently came from an early A&P format in 1912 when they leased small stores. If this particular store was such an A&P, or just dressed later with a reused sign, I have yet to determine.