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Posted on February 23, 2016 at 5:04 PM by Ken Kocher
Last blog we learned that the L.W. Roger Grocery Company, a regional firm based in Atlanta, opened the first chain grocery in Madison on the corner of Main and Washington in 1925. In 1926, L.W. Rogers was reorganized as Southern Grocery Company and was under the investment ownership of National Food Products. A second Southern grocery chain, David Pender Grocery Company, was also as subsidiary of National Food Products. NFP guided these two chains through a steady expansion program in the 1920s and 1930s.
The NFP controlled Pender and Rogers chains were combined on December 19, 1940 as Colonial Stores, Incorporated, headquartered in Atlanta. These conventional stores remained in operation under the names Pender and Rogers through the end of World War II. Shortly after the war, however, the effort was being made to convert more stores from counter-service to self-service, and to consolidate under a single name. This would have an impact on Downtown Madison in the form of a new building.
In June of 1951, J. D. Harris, Jr. and his father announced plans to construct a building on the lot opposite the hospital on West Jefferson Street for lease to the Colonial Stores, Inc. The store was to be a self-service store “up to date in every detail.” The plans called for a forty-five car parking lot to the side and the back which The Madisonian noted, “will go a long way in relieving the traffic
congestion along Main Street.” The Morgan County News proclaimed, “This is one of the most progressive moves made in Madison in some time and the new building will be quite an acquisition and asset to the community and to the business section in which it will be located.”
The contactor, Grover H. Crook of Madison, began work in July with plans for the Colonial Stores to take possession on October 1st. Meanwhile, the staff of the Rogers Store were preparing to move, change names, and more importantly change the way customers were served. Walter Haymore, the meat market manager, spent a week in Athens attending a school for Colonial Stores Self Service men in preparation for the move to the new building. J.A Akins, the general Manager, spent several weeks in Augusta taking training in managing a self-service store.
The store opened to much fanfare on Friday, December 13, 1951. The entire personnel of the former Rogers Store was on hand at 8:30 a.m. to welcome all their friends and neighbors. Unlike the Rogers Store which was a “combination store” selling dry goods and meat, the new store was a supermarket which meant the addition of produce as well. Gone were the days where a trip downtown included visits to the green grocer, the meat market, and the dry goods store.
In the 1950s, grocery chains implemented all sorts of gimmicks to entice shoppers to their stores. Colonial was no different. Those who grew up in the era may recall afternoons spent licking trading stamps in order to win gifts and premiums. Colonial Stores’ program was called “Sav-A-Stamp.” Customers received a stamp for every ten cents worth of purchases which were affixed in gift books and eventually turned in for toasters, clocks, radios, and the like. There were other promotions as well including one to win the use of a car for a week!
The fact that the Harrises were contracted by Colonial Stores to build the new store for the corporation to lease was telling. The grocery business was and remains an ever evolving business model. Continuing changes in consumer needs, transportation, food distribution, etc. throughout the latter half of the twentieth century meant that supermarkets would be continually changing as well. Colonial Stores anticipated this by using a lease program. In 1965, they would vacate this building too. Where they went, we will leave for another time.
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): Rogers Store, J.D. Harris, Grover Crook, Grocery Stores, Colonial Store
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