This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The old neighborhood grocery

A co-worker who grew up in Rensselaer remembers several small neighborhood grocery stores that were thriving in the 1950s but which died in the 1960s or 1970s. I also remember similar stores in Little Falls, Minnesota, where I moved in 1956 or 1957. They seemed to have died when everyone got cars and drove to the large grocery stores that popped up everywhere except very small towns. Both she and I remember going to these little stores to buy candy, an item that probably kept them in business for a couple of extra years.

One of these old grocery stores on Scott Street is now a private residence, but it still looks like a store, with a false front and display windows. On the side is a sign that I cannot quite make out, but the last words are Bottling Co. Was this an ad for some sort of beverage that the store sold? If you know more about the business that was once here, please leave information in the comments.

Another of these old grocery stores was near the train station on Cullen and Vine. My sources disagreed on what this store was called, with one remembering that it was once Robinson's, but another saying that Robinson's grocery was were Brown's Garden shop is today. The building was originally quite small, with additions over the years.
What is now Martin's Restaurant was a grocery before it was Peppins, and this seems to have been Hudson's for a number of years.
Along College, across from the College Square Mall, was a small grocery run by Fred Overton. This was still selling food when I came to town as the Dairy Store.

Another of these neighborhood stores may have on Abagail Street, and it too had been converted into a residence. My sources do not remember it. Unfortunately, on July 26, 2003 (a few weeks after our really big flood), it caught fire and burned. The only pictures I have of it are of the fire.


After the fire, the remains were demolished, and today it is an empty lot. I do not know why nothing has been built here. I also know almost nothing about the little store that once was here.

I wondered what I could learn about these businesses from old phone books. Unfortunately, the oldest telephone directory I could find in the Jasper County Public Library was from 1974, the year I moved to Rensselaer. Here were the grocery stores in Rensselaer at that time.
A&P, 412 S College, where Save-A-Lot is now
Hudson Superette 103 Elm, mentioned above
Southside Dairy Store 509 S College, mentioned above
Tom's Super Market, Kellner and Front, where R&M is today
Wrights Super Market and Family Store, 100 E Washington, where the CVS parking lot is today.

(If you have older phone books that you are willing to part with, consider donating them to the Jasper County Library. Their catalog says that they have a phone book from 1948-9, but the librarians can not find it. A more complete collection would be a valuable historical resource.)

No grocery business seems to have lasted very long in Rensselaer. A grocery that stays in the same place for more than twenty years seems to be unusual. What do you remember about grocery stores in Rensselaer?

4 comments:

Sheila said...

The other day, while running by the Scott street building you profile in this post, I was wondering what it used to be, and now I know. Thanks!

I have memories of Hudson's. Dad would stop in before church on Sunday and get donuts and bring them home for breakfast. Sometimes, we'd stop by and pick up ham salad or other grocery items.

We used to go to Tom's grocery all the time when I was growing up. I worked there in HS when it was Walmann's.

30-year-refugee said...

i would not have remembered the doughnuts, but now that sheila mentions it, yes, i have vague memories of hudson's on sundays.

i didn't buy much candy there during my rensselaer days, but i do remember going in there once in a while. it was that classic small, country store, a ton of stuff crammed into a tiny building.

i wouldn't have remembered the name, and hudson's still doesn't mean much to me, but a google map of my home address gave me a general idea of where the store was that i remember, and your address listing for hudson's seals the deal.

the picture of it today as a restaurant doesn't trigger any memories of the old store, and i'm not surprised.

Anonymous said...

THE GROCERY STORE YOU SHOWED ON VINE AND CULLEN STREET BACK IN THE FIFTIES UP THROUGH MIDDLE SIXTIES WAS OWNED AND OPERATED BY BILL DILL AND HIS WIFE. THEY THEN BUILT AND OPERATED THE "I BELIEVE" IT WAS AN A&W DRIVE-IN OUT BY THE BOWLING ALLEY UNTIL IT WAS BADLY DAMAGED BY A TORNADO SOMETIME IN THE SEVENTIES/EIGHTIES.

Dianna said...

I remember Hudson's grocery fondly. When we were small in the late 50's - early 60's I remember getting twin popsicles there for six cents, returning pop bottles there for deposit money and I remember the people that worked there. I don't remember their names though.

I remember when Tom's supermarket was at 214 Van Rensselaer Street before the 'new' building was built around the corner on Kelner St.

I have two city directories for Jasper County in my genealogy collection...1958 & 1969. The store on the corner of Vine and Cullen mentioned by Anonymous was simply called Dill's Grocery.