Remembering Rochester’s Neighborhood Markets and Grocery Stores

Tucked into some of Rochester’s older residential neighborhoods are a few ordinary-looking homes and buildings that are unlikely to attract special notice from passersby. But in days gone by, these places were hubs of local activity known as neighborhood grocery stores.

Sarah Van Hoosen Jones serves customers at her farm store, At the Sign of the Black and White Cow (Courtesy of the Archives of the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm).

In the middle decades of the twentieth century, Rochester had plenty of well-known groceries and meat markets scattered along Main Street in the downtown business district. Both independent grocers and chain operations, such as Kroger and A&P, were represented there. However, in the residential sections of the village, several smaller stores that catered to hyper-local clientele flourished as well.

The former Miller grocery on Parkdale as it appears today.

Some of these stores had their start during the years of the Great Depression, when a few enterprising homeowners converted enclosed porches or front rooms of their houses into retail space as a way to supplement income during hard times. The “corner store” was a convenience for the surrounding neighbors—a place within walking distance to stop in for eggs, milk, bread, snacks, or common staple items. Some of the more ambitious shopkeepers even had a meat case.

One store that popped up before the Depression was located in the Parkdale neighborhood. In 1926, Joseph and Lillie Miller built a new residence and store at 432 Parkdale, on the corner of Elizabeth. The Miller grocery was near the Parkedale Biological Farm and served the residents of the area, many of whom worked at the farm. The Millers were followed as proprietors of the grocery store by Jesse Armstrong, and later, Charles Steward. Today, the building still stands as a private residence.

The former Hurley’s Market building as it appears today.

John Cook built a two-story brick building in 1930 at the corner of Fourth & Wilcox, opposite the Rochester school campus. In addition to serving the grocery needs of families residing west of Main Street, the market was also heavily patronized by students attending school across the corner from the store. The store changed hands several times, and was known as Stier’s store before Edward Alward bought it in 1939 and changed the name to Alward Market. In 1962, William S. Hurley bought the store and it was known as Hurley’s Market until about 1973, when it closed after the historic school campus emptied of students and became an administrative center. After Hurley’s closed, the building housed a beauty salon for more than three decades and now serves as an apartment house.

This advertisement for Bob’s Grocery on First Street appeared in a 1939 newspaper.

On North Hill, Merrill’s Grocery opened at 115 Griggs Street in 1932. It was later operated by Charles A. French and known as French’s Market for many years. French’s was a popular stop for the residents of Albertson, Griggs, and Drace Streets. The small store building that was located on the south side of Griggs near the west alley is no longer standing.

About the same time, Louis J. Peters operated Peters’ Grocery out of his home at 515 Harrison Street. Peters, who was the grandfather of Michigan Senator Gary Peters, served the residents of the “Cemetery Hill” section of Rochester and offered home delivery to his customers. The Peters house was replaced in recent years by new construction.

Meanwhile, Robert Woodie opened Bob’s Grocery at 601 First Street in July 1932 and operated it until his death in 1940. Woodie advertised his market as “a neighborhood grocery that will please you in both in price and quality of goods.” The former Woodie house has recently been replaced with modern construction.

The former Henry Grocery on Ludlow as it appears today.

In Stoney Creek, Sarah Van Hoosen Jones opened a farm store called At the Sign of the Black and White Cow in June 1938. The store was an outlet for the dairy products produced at the Van Hoosen Farm, but also featured kitchen products from neighbors in Stoney Creek village. The Van Hoosen farm store operated until 1952, and the building still stands as a private residence.

This advertisement for Henry’s Grocery on Ludlow Street appeared in a 1945 newspaper.

Lenora Knapp Henry ran a market and deli counter in the front room of her home at 761 Ludlow from 1941 until 1956. Standing almost directly across the street from the main entrance to Avon Park (now Rochester Municipal Park), Mrs. Henry’s store was a convenient stop for picnic-goers and a popular place for children playing in the park to buy a cold drink or a snack. Henry’s store sold Mint’s ice cream, a Michigan brand made in nearby Birmingham at the time. The former Henry home and store still stands on Ludlow Street.

In 1941, Lucius “Bart” Bartholomew and his wife, Mildred, opened a neighborhood grocery in the front room of their home at 710 Renshaw. Clifford A. Wright had briefly operated a store in the same area before the Bartholomews, but the Bartholomew store had the distinction of being the last holdout among the neighborhood markets in Rochester. After the death of her husband in 1948, Mildred Bartholomew continued to run her grocery store, selling snacks and cold drinks to area schoolchildren. She finally closed the store in 1975 when the refrigeration unit in her cold case failed. She was 77 years old, and the last remaining proprietor of a neighborhood market in Rochester. The former Bartholomew home and store still stands on Renshaw Street.

The former Bartholomew Grocery on Renshaw as it appears today.
About Deborah J. Larsen

Deborah J. Larsen recently retired after 34 years as local history librarian at Mount Clemens Public Library. She currently serves as the research chairperson for the Rochester-Avon Historical Society, and writes on a wide range of local history topics.

Comments

  1. Ilene Hyder says

    I remember buying Black Jack gum at Alwards Market. I also remember Davies Market on Main Street. I don’t remember the other street on that corner but I used to stop there on my way back to Woodword School from lunch when I was in the 4th grade. That would have been around 1950. Good article Debbie.

    • I was a toddler and lived across from the Bartholomew house. I Love the memories. I love growing up in Rochester.

  2. I remember going to Davie’s Market a lot in the early to mid-sixties. We moved from Griggs Street across Main to Northwood by St Andrew School and I would often ride my bike to Davie’s to pick up small items for my mom. But even then as a little kid I refused to buy her cigarettes.

  3. My friends own that house, they fell in love with it and did not want to have to tear it down. Unfortunately it had toxic black mold that made her family ill.

  4. Mary Caughlin says

    I remember buying meat and half cows from a butcher store
    In Rochester south of the cemetery. Don’t remember the name but best beef in town.

    • Ralph Beach says

      We used to go to BARTS STORE FOR CANDY & TO RETURN POP BOTTLES SO WE COULD BUY THE CANDY ALWAYS REMEMBER THE BELL ON THE DOOR THAT SOUNDED TO TELL HER SOMEONE WAS THERE. LOVED THAT STORE. MY GRANDFATHER HAD A NEIGHBOR HOOD STORE ON HELEN STREET FOR YEARS ALSO. WILFRED BEACH WAS HIS NAME..MARY CAUGHLIN YOU MUST BE TALKING ABOUT THE SLAUGHTER HOUSE WHICH WAS DOWN BY THE RAILROAD TRACKS. THEY DID HAVE THE BEST MEATS IN TOWN. WE LIVED ON QUARTER STREET & MY GRAND PARENTS LIVED ACROSS THE STREET. FACT I WAS BORN ON QUARTER ST. MOM WOULD GO DOWN THERE & BUY OUR MEATS. EVERT THING WAS FRESH . JUST A FEW BLOCKS FROM WHERE WE LIVED.

  5. Lynn C Anderson says

    Eva Merrill opened a neighborhood grocery at 543 Harrison in 1920. The contents of the store was sold to Louis Peters in about 1930 who added a room to the east side of the house at 515 Harrison when Mrs Merrill moved to Griggs St. And opened a store there

  6. Wendy Rewold says

    I lived next door to Mrs, Henry’s store on Ludlow. I remember it well. I went to nursery school at the Black and White Cow in the 50’s. Have fond memories of that building.

  7. David Wallace says

    I remember Hurley’s from the late 60’s & very early early 70’s, we went there often and the small store on Crenshaw on occasion.

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