Jul 3, 2012

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.
above reprinted from March 2009
photo of Yost Market by Carl Rubrecht, 1970

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the fond memories of growing up in allentown and still not running fast and far from this place!!!!!

REDD

Anonymous said...

Mike-

Your access to vintage pictures is outstanding!

This shot reminds me of the once prevelent advertising tactic of signage on sides of barns (rural) and buildings (urban), which has faded literally from view. Vestiges of these ads remain high above our cities. Bethlehem still has a few. What I observe, they advertise products or identify buildings. In the 500 block of Main Street, there is one, maybe two. "Kesslers Whiskey", "Huff" Music Store...

A while back, then mayor Cunningham had an idea to preserve these "ghost billboards" by having them maintained, repainted.

Thanks for the memories....


VOR

michael molovinsky said...

they were hand painted right on the brick. in exchange for allowing this, the store would get it's name painted, along with the ad for soda or beer. my father's meat market was painted with a beer ad on one side, and a realtor ad on the other.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that great "snapshot" of city life.

doug_b said...

My buddies and I (with my wooden wagon) would troll through West Park, and surrounding neighborhoods in search of A-Treat or other soda bottles. At 2 cents a piece we could easily generate 25 to 50 cents a day!

Anonymous said...

I grew up on 6th Street between Allen and Liberty. I could walk to the corner of 6th and Allen and visit Haftl's Market, or to 6th and Liberty and visit Binkley's Market or go one a half-block and visit George's Market on Law Street between Allen & Liberty. Didn't need the Food Fair on 7th Street.