Cowtown Yoostabes, Corner Edition: Neighborhood Grocery Stores (Part 1)

Neighborhood grocery stores. Remember them? Not that long ago, before big-box chain supermarkets, chain dollar stores, and chain convenience stores, every neighborhood had at least one grocery store. Often they were on a corner. Sometimes beside an alley at midblock. Often they were tiny, no larger than the houses that surrounded them. Sometimes the proprietor lived in the same building. Many stores didn’t have a parking lot: Customers arrived on foot, on bicycle, on a streetcar or a bus. After they arrived they could get paper bags, credit, a greeting by name, and two cents back on pop bottles.

Here, in two parts, are some buildings that yoostabe neighborhood grocery stores. (At the bottom of Part 2 is a city directory listing of retail grocers in Fort Worth in 1920 when most grocery stores were neighborhood grocery stores.)

groceries-1910-mag-hempThe intersection of West Magnolia Avenue and Hemphill Street in 1910 is typical of the golden age of neighborhood grocery stores: two “markets” and three “groceries.”

1304-hemphill-1907-cdThere had been at least one grocery store on that corner since at least 1907. William Burts La Cava, whose Magnolia Grocery was at 1226 Hemphill Street, would leave his imprint on that intersection. During sixty years he would live there, own lots there, operate grocery stores and a dry cleaners there, and build his La Cava Building there.

1304-hemphill-1919-magnolia-marketFrom 1909 through 1919 La Cava’s store was located at 1304 Hemphill Street.

1302-04-hemphill1302-04 Hemphill Street today. Next door on the corner is the La Cava Building.

1304-hemphill-1920-pigglyIn 1920 the building at 1304 Hemphill Street would house one of Fort Worth’s first Piggly Wiggly stores. Granted, Piggly Wiggly stores were part of a chain, but they were small stores (by today’s standards) located in neighborhoods.

mag-hemp-1926Now let’s stand at that busy Hemphill-Magnolia intersection in 1920 and fast-forward six years. By 1926 the intersection has four grocery stores (and the South Side branch of Ernest Allen Motor Company): Magnolia Market at 1302 Hemphill, Piggly Wiggly at 1304 Hemphill, Clarence Saunders at 601 West Magnolia, and A&P at 604 West Magnolia.

“Who,” you may ask, “was Clarence Saunders?”

Clarence Saunders had founded the Piggly Wiggly chain but was forced out of the company and then founded a competing chain.

piggly-sole-owner-601-magnolia Clarence Saunders store no. 2 at 601 West Magnolia Avenue was in this building, just around the corner from Piggly Wiggly no. 3.


The official name of the store: “Clarence Saunders Sole Owner of My Name.”

Catchy, eh?

1304-hemphill-1940-safeway2Meanwhile, back around the corner at 1304 Hemphill Street, by 1940 that building would house a Safeway market.

526-jennings-wideAlso on the near South Side, this building, dating to 1913, is at 526 Jennings Avenue. When you see a small building of this age in the inner city, it probably has been a grocery store at least once in its long career. This building housed a grocery store from 1913 to 1937.

On the north wall of the building is a ghost sign for Bewley’s Best flour.

526-jennings-wolfe-ad-1913The first grocer at 526 Jennings Avenue was John E. Wolfe, who may have built the building.

526-jennings-1914-cdIn 1914 Wolfe’s grocery was one of three on that corner. Wolfe lived nearby at 604 Jennings. Note that at 501 was Fire Chief William E. Bideker and at 616 was educator Isaiah Milligan Terrell.

526-jennings-1937In 1937 Thomas Food Store was the last grocery to occupy the duplex building at 526 Jennings Avenue. At various times all or part of the building housed a “furniture hospital,” furniture store, printing company, auto repair, cleaners, and plumbing business.

526-jennings-hanging-signIn the 1960s the Dunnagan family moved its iron works into the building.


southwest turner 1929Robert Tillery’s grocery store on Forest Park Boulevard just east of the zoo was a neighborhood institution for forty years. The Alma Turner Building was built in 1929 by Ida Turner, a Fort Worth postmistress, who named the building for her debutante daughter. It now houses law offices.

tillery obit

Tillery’s Grocery closed in 1978. Robert Tillery died in 1990.

Henry Sawyer built this building on South Main at Daggett Street as a grocery store in 1909 after the great South Side fire of that year destroyed his previous building. He operated a grocery there into the early 1920s.

By 1888 Sawyer already was operating a grocery store and living at that 201 South Main location.

post office exchangeAs the ghost sign shows, this building (1909) on West Exchange Avenue near the stockyards was Frank Brooks’s grocery store. The building now houses Pearl’s Dancehall & Saloon.

grocery dillAlso on West Exchange Avenue, this building (1908) yoostabe the grocery of James F. Dill.

grocery safeway on main 1940 withc 45 cdChain supermarkets were smaller than they are today and served an immediate neighborhood. For example, one block north of the Sawyer Building at 104 South Main was Safeway store no. 332 in the 1940s. The 1945 city directory shows that Henry Sawyer’s building at 201 South Main now housed Pat Crow.

The building that houses the venerable Paris Coffee Shop at 704 Magnolia Avenue once was Safeway store no. 335. The fronts of these two Safeway buildings originally were nearly identical.

safeway paris 45The coffee shop in 1945 was east of Hemphill at 614 Magnolia Avenue.

sealy frontA century ago the Sealy Building at 801 South Main housed the grocery store of Alex J. Sandegard (see 1920 list in Part 2).

This building on the near South Side is on May Street, but the main house (in right background) faces West Leuda. The house was built in 1910 by brick contractor William Graham as his own residence.

graham contractGraham was secretary-treasurer of Innes-Graham Construction Company, which built the new Fort Worth High School on Jennings Avenue. The first high school would burn in December of that year.

About 1920 the Graham outbuilding was converted to house Graham Bros. grocery store.  The outbuilding originally was a garage. (Photo from Amon Carter Museum.)

grocery puquasThis building (1928) yoostabe Fuqua’s Supermarket on Evans Avenue.

look up evans 1928Although the store was owned by Charles and Clarice Fuqua, the sign reads “Puqua.”

Let’s end Part 1 with a corner grocery on a different kind of corner. Yes, this grand little building  (Hedrick, 1929) at 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue and Henderson Street began its long commercial life as a grocery store.

The building opened as Alexander-Bale South Side Store. The building later housed a Helpy-Selfy grocery and Gause-Ware‘s 1879 Room.

The building was designed to conform to the curved intersection of Henderson and Pennsylvania.

Crave more neighborhood grocery stores of yore?

Cowtown Yoostabes, Corner Edition: Neighborhood Grocery Stores (Part 2)

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