Another very rare bit of Maplewoodiana has come to light. Attached to an email from my former neighbor, Bill Smothers, was this wonderful image of an early Kroger Super Market. I have seen only one other image of a Kroger store in Maplewood. It is in the collection of our library and not of very good quality.
When I first looked at the image that Bill sent, I couldn’t recognize that building as ever having been at that address. So I pulled up my photographs of the current building and was surprised. Not only is the part that housed the Kroger store still there but little has actually changed since then. Note the diamond shaped anchor heads. They’re still there. The windows and doors have changed. The part of the building that the Kroger store occupied was in the western end of the much altered Reller Chevrolet building.
Another interesting detail in Bill’s image is the automobile that is parked on the left side of the image with just the front end visible. It is an Airflow made by Chrysler under various badges beginning in 1934 and ending in ‘37. The Airflow was one of the most advanced automobiles ever made. There is a good article about them here. This is an interesting part of the history of the company where I worked for 34 years.
According to the website linked above, Hagerty.com, a fully restored Airflow today might cost you from 110,000 to 140,000 dollars. Way to go, Chrysler!
This is a composite image of the Reller Chevrolet building that I worked up for a recent exhibit. This huge building once had ten bays. Unfortunately remodeling has eliminated several of the westernmost bays.
I superimposed the Kroger image onto an image of mine from 2010. It fits exactly. Only the first five bays haven’t been significantly altered. The Kroger store appears to have been inserted into the space that the sixth, seventh and eighth bays once held.
At around the time the Kroger photograph was made, this very large building was constructed almost right across the street. (The address in the newspaper caption is incorrect.) Both were at the intersection of Manchester and Southwest. Unfortunately Mr. Shearer, having neglected to pay his taxes, wasn’t long at this address.
In 1952, Kroger purchased the Shearer building and remodeled it to suit their purposes.
At a later date, probably in the 1960s, Kroger built a brand new building from scratch in what had been their parking lot for the remodeled Shearer building. This building is now the home of the Schlafly Bottleworks.
From memory, I believe that the older building may have been partially demolished. The part remaining housed a Gasen’s Drug Store. Correct me if I’m wrong. Gasen’s was entered by walking up a ramp. In my dim memory, the building was nowhere near as large as the Shearer once had been. Later, this part of the building was demolished as well. Nothing remains today.
This is the only other vintage photograph with an image of a Maplewood Kroger store. The building, on Sutton Ave., today houses Bolyard’s Meat and Provisions. This image is courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.
Thanks again to Bill Smothers for providing us with the first image.
Doug Houser February 10, 2023