Maplewood History: A Rare Image of an Early Kroger Super Market

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Courtesy of Bill Smothers.

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!

Courtesy of Bill Smothers.
The front of the Chrysler Airflow.

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

 

9 COMMENTS

  1. Does anyone have any photos of the Tom Boy Piccadilly Market that burned down ? I would love to have a copy.

  2. My grandfather worked for a food chain called Food Center and he told me a long time ago Food center bought a theatre on Sutton for a store but I do not know if they every opened their or not. Do you know anything about Food center coming to Maplewood? I do know they were bought out around 1951.

  3. Took me a minute to get oriented, but finally, I think, I understood. My family moved to Maplewood in 1952, so I only ever saw the Southwest location where Schlafly’s is located today. It took me a bit to realize the long building is across the streets of Southwest AND Manchester. Their parking lot was not next door at all (my visualization issue). Anyway, Doug, I always appreciate your additions to our history here! …the many puzzle pieces. Thank you again and again!

    • Hey Pickett, I read the article again. I can understand your confusion. The first image that Bill sent me had the address of the building – 7235 Manchester. Then as now there are several more addresses all of the same building. Additionally, the newspaper photo gives the wrong address for the Shearer building, 7239 should have been 7270. To confuse things more, the second newspaper photo lists the address of the first building as 7233 not 7235 as Bill’s information had it. And finally…you’re welcome.

  4. Regarding the last photo – according to my father, my grandfather built the building to house the Kroger in the mid 1930’s. And in usual style for my family, the building was over engineered with 13′ deep peers every 8′ in case they ever wanted to build “up.” After Kroger left, it was leased to Social Security for years and when they left, my father converted the space to the laundromat in the early 1970’s and remained until we sold the property in 2006.

    • Scott, I grew up in Maplewood…just around the corner from the Kroger building on Sutton. I remember the offices very well. I had a Post Dispatch newspaper stand at the seating area for the bus loop just south of the Social Security offices. So across the street from the Harpers Drug store.
      Anyway, I had a delivery route where I had regular customers who bought a daily paper in the building which became a laundry mat. I also sold papers to people in the office space below Saratoga lanes, and a couple of other smaller office spaces. One was a few doors north on the west side of Sutton, and another a few doors west of Katz on the north side of Manchester. I tried to sell papers in the Mill building. There were very few people working there then, so my sales efforts were unsuccessful. I remember the Mill very fondly though. There was a gentleman who recognized a 12 year old boy’s interest in all things mechanical, and he showed me how the freight elevator operated with a couple of hand drawn cables to move it up or down. After all these years, whenever I see a freight elevator in old building, I’m brought back to that memory. Thank you for for sharing your insight.
      I don’t live in Maplewood anymore, but I have very dear lifelong friends who I still see regularly. It was a special place.

    • Thanks for adding these details, Scott. Sounds like no one is going to have to worry about that building settling.

  5. From Will Holmes by email: Thanks for the very cool article within about the 1934 Chrysler Airflow. I was not conversant with this amazing car – not just for its looks, but the innovative tech that lies underneath. My family were Chrysler product people: my father had a 1939 Plymouth for (much to my young boy chagrin) 23 years and my grandfather drove Chrysler products for years culminating in a 1950 Dodge with the hyrda-flow semiautomatic transmission. Too bad about the Airflow and it being too far ahead of its time; the best stuff usually is.

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