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Posted on February 18, 2016 at 5:22 PM by Ken Kocher
This was the motto of “the famous Rogers Stores” in the 1920s and in 1925 it became true for Madison. L.W. Rogers, a Maine native, had arrived in Atlanta in the early 1890s and opened his first grocery there in 1892. From that single outlet he expanded throughout Georgia and South Carolina. When the Cohen store vacated the corner space in the Foster Building (now Bella Madison), Mr. T. B. Hutchison, division manager, leased it and presented “plans for the installation of an up-to-date Rogers Store in Madison.” Opening day was set for March 15th, 1925. This was Madison’s first chain grocery store.
The Rogers Store would be in this location for a quarter of a century. The store’s initial manager was T.J. Maguire who, by all accounts, was quite popular. Over the years the store had many managers – at least twelve. This was a new phenomenon. Previously, groceries were owner operated and should the owner decide to call it quits or move towns, the store would close or be sold to a new owner who would change the name. Rogers Stores had locations in many of the surrounding towns and across the state and employees moved between them – something very familiar to us today.
Another new practice that came about as the result of this being a chain was employees from other stores filling in when the local folks were away and vice versa – all duly reported in The Madisonian. For example: “Mr. J. M. Still, assistant superintendent of the big Rogers store at Monroe, is in charge of the local Rogers store while Mr. T. J. Maguire is off on his vacation.”
The longest serving manager, and our personal favorite because of his nickname, was “Pink” George. Mr. George was the manager of the store from 1930 until 1942 when he was promoted to supervisor of all Rogers Stores in Northeast Georgia. During his tenure the store opened a market, which in the parlance of the day meant that they added a meat counter along with its own manager. Pink also supervised a remodel of the store in 1939. According to The Madisonian, “The interior of the Rogers store as well as the front has been modelled and resolved into one of the brightest and roomiest stores of the city. Carpenters have enlarged the space in the front as well as the rear which gives much more room to display goods and to serve the large number of customers that frequents the store.”
W.H. George, “Pink”, oversaw operation of the store into the beginning years of World War II. During the war years, the Rogers Store, like the other groceries in town, was a collection point for tin cans and paper to aid in the war effort. It also appears to have been the single location for fat collection. What’s that you say? Yep. Fat collection. Animal fat contains glycerin which was needed for munitions. Madisonians who brought their bacon grease and other fats to the Rogers Store would receive 4 cents per pound plus two red points. Red points basically were "small change" for partially used ration book stamps.
A couple of years after the war ended, in 1947, the Rogers Store undertook another remodel. The Morgan County News reported that the store was getting new flooring, fixtures, and arrangements to “be streamlined so as to provide quicker and more efficient service.” According to a Madisonian article, J.A. Akins, manager, noted, “that it would not be changed into, a self-service store.” That’s right, even though it was the late 1940s, this store, as well as many others, still operated the old fashioned way. A shopper would enter the store, let a clerk know what goods were desired, and the clerk would gather everything and ready it at the counter.
The Rogers Store would spend four more years in this location vacating in 1951. But this is not the end of the story – but we will save that for next week.
Madison Moments, a weekly blog highlighting Madison's rich history, is a creation of the Madison Historic Preservation Commission in collaboration with other City Boards and Departments. This installment was contributed by the Historic Preservation Commission and written by Ken Kocher, HPC staff. This volunteer board protects the community's wealth of historic resources - most notably the Madison Historic District, first listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
Tag(s): WWII, Rogers Store, Pink George, Grocery Stores, Colonial Store
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