Jul 20, 2011

Supermarket Comes To Boom Town

The concrete monolith still stands five stories above Lehigh Street at the Parkway Shopping Center. Currently it sports a clock and a sign for St. Luke's medical offices. It was built in 1953 as the modernistic sign tower for Food Fair supermarket, which then was a stand alone store. Behind it, on South 12th Street was the Black and Decker Factory. The shopping center would not be built to decades later, connecting the former supermarket to the bowling alley built in the 60's. Food Fair was started in the 1920's by Russian immigrant Samuel Friedland in Harrisburg. By 1957 he had 275 stores. 1953 was a rough year for the butcher, baker and candle stick maker; the huge supermarkets were too much competition, even for the bigger independent markets, such as Lehigh Street Superette; it was further east on Lehigh, now the site of a Turkey Hill Market. The sign tower also remains at the 15th and Allen Shopping center, which was another stand alone Food Fair. That parcel remains an independent supermarket. Food Fair would eventually absorb Penn Fruit, which had a market on N. 7th Street, then turn into Pantry Pride. When the Food Fair was built, there was as yet no 15th Street Bridge. Allentown only connected to the south side by the 8th Street Bridge and the Lehigh/Union Street hill. (stone arch bridge, near Regency Tower, was route to West End) Allentown was booming and Mack Trucks were rolling off the line, a block east off Lehigh Street, as fast as they could build them. The factories on S. 12th st. are now flea markets. Mack Headquarters is being sold to a real estate developer. Perhaps those concrete monoliths are the monuments to better times, by those of us who remember.

reprinted from June 14, 2009


Patrick McHenry said...

MM -

And now we only have half of the 15th Street bridge, soon to be completely closed for an extended period of time.

michael molovinsky said...

that bridge failed because the beams were not maintained by simple painting. the historic schreiber bridge is now being over used as a consequence. i pointed out the neglect on the 15th street bridge years ago, to no avail.

Anonymous said...

Good post mike but would like to add that the food stores you mention and other super stores was the beginning of the end for such great mom and pop stores like The Mohican market on 9th,Tropical market on Union Blvd and Zimmermans across from the dairy.The minority population was very small when Sears moved from 7th and allen.Levines another great downtown store went out of business because people no longer made their own clothes.As much as I admire the free market system there are some drawbacks that are not brought forth in the downtown debate.

Anonymous said...

Was it not the free market that was responsible for most manufacturing jobs going to foreign countries? Let the free market reign and close down Allentown. It no longer serves the gods of the market.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:11

The problem is that the job creating top 1% in America is taxed too high. Lower their taxes and we will see the economy zoom!