If you lived in Fort Worth during the second half of the twentieth century, you probably shopped at these supermarkets:
Worth, Buddie’s, and A. L. Davis grocery stores, totaling almost one hundred, operated in Fort Worth for a combined sixty-seven years. And they provided a stage in our transition from shopping at small, locally owned grocery stores to shopping at big, out-of-town chain grocery stores (Target, Walmart, Sam’s, Costco, Aldi, Kroger, Whole Foods, Fiesta Mart, Albertson’s, Brookshire’s).
We can trace the beginning of our transition to 1935. As this city directory list shows, in 1935 Fort Worth had hundreds of grocery stores. The vast majority of them were (1) small, (2) locally owned, and (3) one-off (not part of a chain). Many were mom-and-pop neighborhood stores located on residential streets. Sometimes Mom and Pop lived above or behind their store. Typical neighborhood stores were Franko’s on the North Side, Lidell’s on the South Side, Houlihan’s on the East Side, and Roy Pope’s on the West Side.
Then came something new: locally owned chain grocery stores. These stores were larger than mom-and-pop neighborhood stores and stocked a greater selection. They were usually located on an arterial street. They were purpose-built, usually low, flat-roofed, plain brick buildings. They published big ads in local newspapers. They had the buying power of volume and could pass that power along to consumers in the form of lower prices.
Three early locally owned grocery chains were Worth Food Markets, Buddie’s, and A. L. Davis.
Worth Food Markets
Simon Homer Covey was born in Coryell County in 1893. He grew up in Bosque County, where as a boy he picked cotton. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library Star-Telegram Collection.)
When Covey was fourteen his Bantam hen won a fifty-cent prize in competition at the Clifton Trade’s Day.
Covey prospered. By 1933 he was president of the Alexander-Bale and Helpy-Selfy grocery stores. Jack Long had founded the Helpy-Selfy stores (another early chain) here in 1927. The Alexander-Bale company had opened two stores here in 1928.
In 1933 Covey converted the Alexander-Bale and Helpy-Selfy stores into a new chain: Worth Food Markets.
Two years later Worth Food Markets had fifteen stores. One of the new chain’s first ads in the Star-Telegram featured stores no. 1 and 2 at 526 South Henderson Street and 3204 Camp Bowie Boulevard and reassured readers, “We live in Fort Worth, we buy in Fort Worth, we sell in Fort Worth” and “Worth Food Markets are friendly home-owned stores.”
Likewise, this 1935 ad, featuring store no. 14 on Parkhill Drive, repeated the “home-owned” mantra.
Why stress “home-owned”?
Because by 1935 outside grocery chains were setting up shop in Fort Worth: Piggly Wiggly, Safeway, Tote’m (owned by Southland Ice Company of Dallas). The concept of chain stores was beginning to carry the connotation of stores owned by strangers who lived elsewhere, spent their profits elsewhere.
Stressing “home-owned” localized the concept of chain stores.
Worth Food Markets could reassure shoppers: “Yes, we are a chain, but we are a home-owned chain. We are your neighbors.”
To stress that fact, in August 1935 Covey paid his employees in silver dollars, which would end up in cash registers across town—a demonstration of Worth Food Markets’ impact on the local economy.
In 1940 Worth Food Markets—now with eleven stores—celebrated their fifth anniversary. General offices and warehouse were located in the Texas & Pacific freight terminal. Note the congratulatory ad for Boswell’s milk.
This was Worth Food Markets store no. 1 (Hedrick, 1929) at 526 South Henderson Street in 1941. The building in the background is the Woodlea Apartments (1920). (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Libraries.)
By 1949 there were sixteen Worth Food Markets. President Covey, a past president of the chamber of commerce, had become a civic booster in the mold of Amon Carter. Covey once said to a man who had moved from east Texas to Dallas: “You’ve got only two moves to make—to Fort Worth and then to heaven.”
In 1955 Covey sold his twenty-one Worth stores to Food Mart Inc. of El Paso. The stores continued to operate as “Worth Food Marts” but were no longer “friendly home-owned stores.”
Two years after selling Worth Food Markets, founder Simon Homer Covey died at age sixty-four.
By 1958 Worth Food Marts had plenty of competition (see below) and responded with promotions such as drawings to give away a “fantabulous jackpot” of prizes (Webcor tape recorders, DeJur eight-millimeter home movie equipment, Admiral hi-fi sets, Maytag freezers) during Worth’s Friday night presentation of a movie on Channel 11.
In 1966, after an absence of several years, the Piggly Wiggly chain returned to Fort Worth.
Shop Rite Foods, which owned Piggly Wiggly, bought Food Mart Inc, which owned Worth. Worth Food Mart stores became Piggly Wiggly stores.
Several Worth Food Market buildings survive, including (from the top) store no. 1 at 526 South Henderson Street (now the security office of the Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth campus); no. 2 at 3204 Camp Bowie Boulevard; no. 14 at 2966 Parkhill Drive (now Imani Imani boutique); no. 17 at 1006 Nashville Avenue (across from William James Middle School; now vacant); no. 18 at 3016 Vaughn Boulevard (opposite the Poly Theater; now vacant); and the general offices and warehouse at 3250 West Seminary Drive (now Specialty Packaging Inc.). The railroad spur can be seen to the left of the building.
Burrell Lee (“Buddie”) Markum was born in 1918 in Alvord in Wise County but grew up on Fort Worth’s North Side. His father worked at the Swift packing plant.
Buddie attended Washington Heights elementary school, graduated from North Side High School in 1937. Later that year, at age nineteen, he opened a small gas station and grocery store at 3220 North Main Street.
Markum’s business, like Covey’s, prospered. By 1950 Markum had a second store on East Belknap Street. In 1952 he opened his third store on Camp Bowie Boulevard.
By 1956 Markum had nine stores. But that year he sold his chain to J. C. Pace of Sweetwater. Pace’s partner was Kay Kimble, Fort Worth food wholesaler. Pace would become president of Buddie’s Super Markets Inc. and chairman of Kimbell Inc.
Soon after buying the Buddie’s chain Pace opened Buddie’s no. 10 at 4208 Miller Street. Pace would expand the chain to forty stores but retain the “Buddie’s” name.
Buddie’s stores competed against other local chain stores such as Worth Food Marts and A. L. Davis (see below) and against outside chains Safeway, Tote’m (by then “7-Eleven”), and A&P. Thus, Buddie’s, like Worth Food Marts, stressed that its stores were home owned.
In 1960 the Star-Telegram announced that a Buddie’s store would be among the major tenants of Seminary South mall.
By 1962 Buddie’s had twenty-seven stores, including stores in Dallas, Cleburne, and Hillsboro. Like Worth Food Marts, Buddie’s used promotions to lure shoppers. For example, Buddie’s held drawings to give away twenty-five used cars filled with groceries.
Buddie’s also operated Handy Man Center hardware stores. (Photos from University of Texas at Arlington Star-Telegram Collection.)
In 1968 Buddie’s had eighteen stores just in Fort Worth. A year later Buddie’s was competing against three local Kmart stores, which sold groceries. Buddie’s also competed against national supermarket chains Kroger and Piggly Wiggly.
In 1974 Buddie’s branded itself as “the beef people.”
In 1976 Kimbell Inc. sold its Buddie’s chain to the Florida-based supermarket chain Winn-Dixie. Most of the proceeds of the sale went to the Kimbell Art Foundation, whose raison d’etre was the art collection of Kay Kimble.
No longer could Buddie’s stores call themselves “home owned and operated.”
After Winn-Dixie bought the Buddie’s stores, the stores continued under the “Buddie’s” name—for a while. By 1981 “Buddie’s the beef people” had become “Winn-Dixie the beef people.”
By 2002 Winn-Dixie was competing against outside chains such as Walmart, Albertson’s, and Tom Thumb. The company sold seventeen stores to Brookshire Grocery Company of Tyler.
In 2004 Burrell Lee (“Buddie”) Markum died at age eighty-five.
A year later Winn-Dixie filed for bankruptcy and sold the remainder of its Texas stores.
These buildings housed Buddie’s stores: no. 15 at 3320 Mansfield Highway (now a Foodland store); no. 50 at 1719 8th Avenue (now a Cook’s hospital facility); no. 45 at 2000 North Riverside Drive (originally a Helpy-Selfy, then an A. L. Davis, then a Buddie’s; now part of a strip center); Winn-Dixie at 5661 Westcreek Drive (now Harmony Science Academy).
A. L. Davis Food Stores
Albert Leo Davis was born in 1918 in South Carolina.
During World War II Davis was a lieutenant in the Army Air Forces. In 1945 he married Neva Mills of Fort Worth. After his discharge the couple lived in Neva’s hometown.
In 1946 Davis worked for Reliable Market and Grocery. The Davises lived on Hemphill Street.
In 1947 Davis opened his own store at 4800 White Settlement Road just south of the bomber plant. The store was a family business: The staff consisted of Albert and Neva, son Mike, and Neva’s parents.
Like Buddie Markum and Simon Covey, Albert Leo Davis reminded shoppers that his stores were home owned.
By 1960 Davis had twenty-nine stores.
Again, like Buddie’s and Worth Food Mart stores, A. L. Davis stores used promotions. Shoppers could win up to $100 each day by playing “radio bingo” on station KCUL (“pick up free radio bingo cards at A. L. Davis food stores”).
But in 1963 Albert Leo Davis declared bankruptcy, and Kimbell Inc., which already had bought the Buddie’s stores, bought the A. L. Davis stores. In 1964 the A. L. Davis name disappeared after seventeen years as “Fort Worth’s home town grocer.”
In 1965 Albert Leo Davis moved to Houston and started over with a new chain: Davis Food City stores.
Albert Leo Davis died in Houston in 2003 at age eighty-five.
Davis Food City stores closed in 2007.
Fort Worth has not always valued and preserved its grand mansions, churches, and other architecturally significant buildings. But, pardner, build a squatty, nondescript commercial building, and that thang will be pert-near immortal. These buildings, all at least sixty years old, housed A. L. Davis stores: no. 10 at 1704 Vaughn Boulevard (now Wayne’s Grocery); no. 14 at 4400 East Berry Street (now the 7 Plaza strip center); no. 3 at 2800 Azle Avenue (now a beauty college); no. 26 at 102 Short Street in Kennedale (now an auto parts store); no. 7 at 120 Riverside Drive; and no. 47 at 3300 Mitchell Boulevard (now a church). The building at 3300 Mitchell Boulevard between 1950 and 1974 housed Berry Street Supermarket no. 2, Buddie’s no. 6, A. L. Davis no. 47, then a Village Food Store, then a Strick’s Food Store.
Crave more consumerism? Posts about Fort Worth stores:
R. E. Cox
Neighborhood Grocery Stores
Fort Worth’s First Big-Box Discount Department Stores
If You Shopped ’til You Dropped, You Were Ready for Betty