Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan chain grocery/supermarket locations, 1924-1960.
Sault Ste. Marie is the second-largest city in Michigan's upper peninsula, and one I paid quite a few personal visits to years ago. Much of the area that surrounds it is sparsely populated, and far different from the southern reaches of the lower peninsula where most of Michigan's population actually lives. This reflects in its retail history as well: The UP has much more in common with rural Wisconsin and Minnesota than it has with, say, Grand Rapids or Detroit.
A&P operated in Sault Ste. Marie throughout the 1924-60 period, but other large chains did not. Red Owl and Piggly Wiggly both set up shop in the Sault at one point. But for much of the 20th century, the city's largest grocer wasn't a conventional grocer at all: It was the Soo Co-operative Mercantile Association, an institution that blanketed the city with 9 stores during the late 1920s. The co-op consolidated to a single store by the end of the 1940s, but it had surprisingly strong staying power and remained in business as an IGA franchise up until 2012. Yes, 2012! The Chippewa County Historical Society has this to say in their newsletter:
Sault Ste. Marie has a few good surviving grocery artifacts...though since the city's on the small side, there aren't a lot of them. A former A&P at 917 Ashmun St remains open as a Super Valu franchise, and original brickwork with glass block still faces the street. 1118 E Easterday Ave, a 1950s Piggly Wiggly with an integral pylon jutting out of the roof, also survives.Deidre Stevens, April 2013 wrote: The Soo Co-op Grocery Store, which closed its doors at the end of May 2012, would have celebrated its 100th birthday in April of this year. The business was housed in various Ashmun Street locations until it found a longtime home at 538 Ashmun, where CO-ED Flowers & Gifts is today. On the occasion of its 50th anniversary in April 1963, Soo Co-op moved into a new building at 220 Osborn Boulevard, where it remained for the rest of its existence. Soo Co-op was originally organized as the Soo Co-operative Mercantile Association and opened April 1, 1913. At its peak in the 1930s, the Co-op had ten stores in the city and their headquarters at 538 Ashmun. Leo LeLievre was manager of the cooperative grocery for 25 years, but left to run his own grocery store in 1939. Other early managers were Francis Kelly, Henry Bertram, and Norman Bartunek.
Lastly: Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan is connected by bridge to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, which is more than five times larger. The two Saults are bound by a common history, and they were both the same city until being bisected in the War of 1812. It would be great to extend the research to the Ontario side at some point...creating Groceteria's first trans-national data table! But that will have to wait for now.