Today I will be writing about my memories of shopping at the A&P in Chicago. A&P founded as The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company in 1859 in New York City. I’m not sure when A&P opened in Chicago, but by 1930, there were 16,000 stores nationwide. At the time they traditionally consisted of small grocery stores and by the late 1930s, they started being converted into local supermarkets.
My earliest memories of A&P were when I lived in the Roseland neighborhood in the early 1970s. The most convenient one from our apartment was located on E 112th St between State St and Michigan Ave. My mother shopped there frequently and also shopped for groceries at Gately’s Peoples Store, which was located in the basement level. When she wanted to shop for Greek imports, she shopped at a local store at 113th St & S Michigan Ave, right next door to Legion Magnanox TV store.
When we went shopping at the A&P, I remembered some of the brand names and items there. There was Ann Page and Jane Parker. I remembered Jane Parker bread and donuts were so good. The one thing that stood out was Eight O’Clock coffee and its grinding machine. Most of them were located at checkout lines. My mother never bought that coffee and I don’t know why. I guess she wanted them prepackaged or at the time, she didn’t know how to operate the coffee grinder. Once I saw someone used it and I remembered the selector had those choices: Open Pot, Percolator, Electric Perk, Drip Pot and Vacuum Pot. I guess Automatic Drip came much later. There were brands of A&P Coffees. Eight O’ Clock, Bokar and Red Circle. The aroma of those coffees in the stores was so heavenly. I was too young to drink it because I was in grade school at the time.
Eight O’ Clock is still manufactured and sold at other supermarkets. I remembered the Jane Parker Pound Cake. It tasted better than Sara Lee’s. When we moved to Ashburn in September 1974, my mother asked people in the neighborhood if there was an A&P store nearby. There was one at W 79th St & S Pulaski Rd, but it burned down the previous year. So my Mom shopped at the Jewel/Turnstyle and National Foods at Ford City, the Jewel on 84th St & S Pulaski and a few years later, Dominick’s Finer Foods at W 71St & S Pulaski Rd. There was one at 95th St & S Pulaski Rd in Oak Lawn, but it was too far from my house.
The only A&P TV commercials that I remembered were the two men as Price and Pride in the 70s. The trading stamps at A&P were Plaid Stamps. When they were phased out, S&H Green Stamps took over. I remembered Sunnybrook Eggs and Our Own Tea.
A&P was closing its local stores around 1981 or 1982 in Chicago. The last A&P store that I visited when I went to New York City for a vacation in 1988. It was very different, and most of their brands were gone. A&P was in business throughout much of the East Coast and Canada. The remaining ones were closed around 2015.
A&P was very special to most people in Chicago. It had memorable brands, items and there were located in practically every neighborhood in Chicago and its suburbs. I liked it very much, but it wasn’t my favorite. High-Low Foods was. A&P is mentioned and shown in old movies and TV shows and in 1961, John Updike wrote a short story called “A&P”. I have one word to conclude this story if anyone remembers this, “WEEEEOOOOOO!” Thank you. Pete Kastanes-Admin for Vanished Chicagoland Facebook Page.