Remember the Corner Grocery Store?


Growing up in a small town in south central Pennsylvania with a population of 10,000 I watched how times changed. I lived in that town from 1951 until 2001, yes, I am old but hope wise.

Today let’s talk about one business in particular grocery stores. Growing up within two blocks of my house we had three let’s call them living room grocery stores. You might remember the type 400 to 600 square foot with all kinds of groceries. One man normally the owner wearing a white apron worked the business. Mom would give me a quarter and tell me to go to Naugle’s or Crist’s and pick something up, if any change I could spend it on penny candy. Life was simple until a Super Market came to town I believe it was a Safeway or Acme but it was big, maybe 5,000 square feet. The small corner grocery stores starting closing as they could not compete with the “Super Market”.

Fast forward a few years and all of a sudden, a new type store started opening replacing the old greasey gas stations I worked at during high school pumping gas, washing windshields and checking oil. Convenience stores, with gas, small selections of groceries, tobacco products, drinks all quickly available and much easier than the “Super Market”. Yes, I can run in and grab a bottle of Coke for maybe $1.50 to $2, or I can go into the “Super Market” and buy an 8 pack for $5.69. We all know what is our first choice!

My point on this trip down memory lane is many times what goes around comes around. If Mr. Naugle could have survived some lean times he might have been able to keep his store open when the buying public understood convenience and time over price. What if Mr. Naugle reached out to everybody within a few blocks of his store and reminded them he stocked what they needed, he knew the families, he cared about the neighborhood and wanted to remain a part of it.

So, let’s think about it this way, if Mr. Naugle and all the other living room grocery stores had worked the few blocks around them before the Super Market came to town maybe the Super Market might have decided my little home town would be a very difficult market and moved on to the next town. My REALTOR® friends “Raise the Bar” today and don’t wait until it’s too late!

Dick Betts, REALTOR®

The Betts Team

Touchstone Real Estate

717-860-3107 cell

Comments (22)

Raymond Henson, eXp Realty
eXp Realty of California, Inc. (lic. #01878277) - Elk Grove, CA

It is always a great idea to raise the bar! 

Feb 24, 2021 06:05 PM
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Hi Dick- my family had one of those corner grocery stores...a little larger than 600 sq feet, but I was just a kid and lots of things seemed larger. My grandmother took care of the produce and my mother worked the register.

Isn't it funny how the large stores came and then the Stop N Go's popped up. It's like we'll often run to Ace Hardware even though they're a little more expensive than the Bigger Box hardware stores. 


Feb 24, 2021 06:26 PM
Dick Betts

Kathy Streib I owed an Ace Hardware way back.  Yes same idea, walk in with a part and taught my employees to take the part and walk the people to the shelf.  Try that at a big box!

Feb 24, 2021 06:32 PM
Anna Banana Kruchten CRS, CRB, Phoenix Broker
HomeSmart Real Estate BR030809000 - Phoenix, AZ

Hi Dick  I do remember the 'corner store' and the people who owned it.  It was bigger than 600 sf by a long shot. They even had a butcher shop. I remember my Mom asking one of the kids to go get X from the butcher.  And it was right across from the elementary school. How great was that for after school snacks!!

Feb 25, 2021 01:17 PM
Dick Betts

Drank many of sodas on his front step!

Feb 25, 2021 01:25 PM
Dan Hopper
Dan Hopper - Gold Way RE - Westminster, CO
Denver Broker / Real Estate Advocate

Ironically, the Wife and I were talking about the neighborhood corner stores, last night.  We do miss seeing them and stopping in to visit the owners and other neighbors in the small towns.  Thanks for the posting,  !

Feb 25, 2021 02:23 PM
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Feb 27, 2021 05:26 PM
Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Chicago, IL
Real Estate Broker - Retired

Good morning Dick. I remember the corner grocery store in the neighborhood I grew up in in Chicago. When a Jewel came to the heighborhood (it was about the size of a 7-11 today) everyone thought it was a wonder. Nobody envisioned the grocery stores of today with parking. Enjoy your day.

Feb 28, 2021 05:04 AM
Roy Kelley
Realty Group Referrals - Gaithersburg, MD

Thank you very much for sharing your memories.

Many real estate agents are also at risk of being replaced.

Feb 28, 2021 05:04 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker, eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Interesting analogy! We do need to take action to make sure our value is recognized, so the "big store" won't shut us down.

Feb 28, 2021 05:10 AM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good morning Dick Betts,

I'm so glad Kathy Streib featured your post in her "Ah-ha" moments for the week as I missed it. I remember the corner store well, the owners and when that was all you knew their inventory was never questioned. When your horizons expanded you found larger inventory and  more value for your money so need to remember that in everything we do.

Feb 28, 2021 05:56 AM
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Good morning Dick Betts - I love the comparison.  I rememvber those stores when I visited my grandmother who lived in Philadelphia.  The point is clear, make you value proposition known rather than worrying about Z.

Feb 28, 2021 05:58 AM
Thomas J. Nelson, REALTOR ® e-Pro CRS RCS-D Vets
Big Block Realty 858.232.8722 - La Jolla, CA
& Host of Postcards From Success Podcast

I used to walk to the Fiesta Gardens Market weekly for my mom. We knew the owner, the clerks and the butcher. When I walked in as a kid, they made sure I got what was on the list and wouldn't let me sneak in candy. I haven't thought of that in 45 years, thanks for the memory lane post!

Feb 28, 2021 08:00 AM
Lyn Sims
Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg Real Estate Agent Retired

good point! In our area now the gas stations are no longer just that. They have 2 restaurants that serve breakfast, lunch & dinner. They are clean, you can get other stuff in the 'station' part. It works well & we'll see how long they survive.

Literally a one-stop shop after work. Gas, liquor, food, lottery tickets, TV.

Feb 28, 2021 08:13 AM
Number Cruncher LLC - Overton, NV
Helping Taxpayers Resolve IRS problems

I loved going to the corner grocery store and spending my heard-earned pennies on candy.   I miss those stores.  

Mar 01, 2021 07:30 PM
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Most gas stations don't provide auto repairs, so, of course they're cleaner. Most small grocery stores are gone because they couldn't put items on their shelves that the super market didn't have, so, volume buying caused consumers to stop shopping at small grocery stores. The challenge, if you're a small business owner is to foresee your future business and steer in that direction or initiate an exit plan and get a business for the future. Fail to plan and plan to fail. That's the almighty truth.

Mar 02, 2021 06:58 PM
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

Perhaps we are about the same age! I remember a small grocer near our home, and my mom would send us up there for food, and we could 'charge it' --not on a credit card, it was hand written ledger in the store!  Most kids don't even have a corner store to run to these days...

Mar 03, 2021 01:45 PM
Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Nice memories of a different time.  So understand.  When I was a kid, we spent weekends about 75 miles outside of our big city to spend it in a town of 100 people.  Saturday nights were always auction night and I'd get to buy 5 cent jolly rancher sticks in the old time drug store that doubled as the ice cream store with the swivel bar stools, red cushions I remember.  Ahh, a simpler time! 

Mar 03, 2021 05:02 PM
Dana Basiliere
Rossi & Riina Real Estate - Williston, VT
Making deals "Happen"

Good post Dick,  I am your age and have very fond memories of Thompson's store which was about 800 sf.  They lived above it.  It was on my paper route.

When I was a teenager I worked at another corner grocer which was owned by a Lebanese lady. We sold many middle eastern foods in bulk. I had Sunday dinner with them every week for 2 years. (I worked 12 hours Sunday so she prepared the same meal for me and relieved me for dinner time.) the old Lebanese ladies all thought I was a nice Lebanese boy. I had black hair and dark brown eyes. Good memories that you have stirred. 

Mar 04, 2021 11:49 AM
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

Some of the best groceries happen to be small mom and pop families. After WW2 it was more open to the non-Caucasians and resourceful Chinese Americans borrowed money and started opening family owned grocery chains.  Outside Zoom and Cisco there was a crumbling grocery shack taken in 1981 and

Mar 18, 2021 10:41 AM
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

Another 40 years have passed and the building is remarkbly kept intact with no vandalism. This is Alviso neighborhood of north San Jose, CA

Near ZOOM and CISCO, TESLA FACTORY is on left a few miles away.

grocery today

Mar 18, 2021 10:47 AM
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

My mom did not like crowds and in a small town not hard to avoid them. But the corner grocery, there were lots that served the neighborhoods surrounding them. Volume and low price trumped the owner in the store appreciation for many though and like the small farmer, bigger happened. Unless people will pay more for the one on one personal touch Dick.

Mar 19, 2021 04:29 AM