Apr 12, 2024

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 above post is reprinted from 2009.  The sign shown above has been removed or sold. When my parents were first married, they lived next door and would patronize the same store.  My grandparents lived nearby on the corner of Chew and Jordan Streets.

ADDENDUM 2: 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.

ADDENDUM APRIL 12, 2024: When I took the photo back in 2009, I was friendly with the long time owner, from having managed apartments in that neighborhood. Both she and the enamel sign are now long gone. When I told the current owner that members of my family have been coming into that same store for over a hundred years, he looked at me as if I was from another planet. There are very few long time store owners that I still know.


  1. 15th and Liberty Sts. across from willy joe's Hunsicker market, Franklin and Gordon Sts. Reppert's, 16th and Gordon Sts Freeman's and right next door north of Freemans, Stoudt's

  2. A fine example of today's corner store in Allentown would be F&W Mini Mart in the unit block of S. Carlisle Street. This store's entire purpose is to sell cigarettes, junk food, lottery tickets etc. to the urban underclass in the neighborhood. Hideous signs and banners all over the facade advertise these products as well as "We Accept EBT". Litter and garbage all over the sidewalk and store owner who could care less. You can follow all the litter and debris up the sidewalks as the customers throw everything on the ground. I volunteered to do a litter clean-up with the Ramos for Mayor campaign and was completely astounded by the volumes of street litter in this neighborhood.

  3. There was the Arrow Market on the corner of 11th and Linden. We always called it the Greek market because it was owned by a Greek gentleman and sold a lot of Greek delicacies. It's long gone now.

  4. Mike there was a shooting at that store at 4th and turner depicting allentowns issues facing the development.

  5. Yes Michael, I know exactly to whom you were referring to in your last update. I made deliveries to Soon Yi's (Sunny as the neighbors called her) store for many years. She was one of the kindest folks I ever met. She always asked about my family and never ever let me leave the store without a snack or a cold drink on a hot day. Thanks for stirring that memory.

    1. Nice person indeed. Her extended family also had property on Hamilton, that was demolished for the arena. The demolished parcel was an architectural treasure.

  6. Azar,s Market on 15th St between chew and gordon, we lived 3 doors away. My BFF was Sandy their daughter,it was like my 2nd home.