Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Beyond The Counter - The Grocery Store

Burridge's Grocery Store, Miramar, Wellington 1948

One of the reasons that grocers and greengrocers (see previous posts) were able to maintain such an orderly arrangement of their wares was to bar the customers from hands-on contact with the merchandise. There was to be no squeezing of the plums and tapping or sounding of the watermelon, not even a caressing of a jar of raspberry jam or even a can of baked beans, thank you very much! 

Hard to imagine that today's customers would tolerate for a minute being separated from their prospective purchases. Counters would be stormed, food riots would ensue if the punters couldn't read the nutrition labels, fondle the packages etc.

I vaguely recall memories as a young child of being in the premises of a store like Burridge's grocery pictured above. Smith's grocery store, I believe it was called - after Mr Smith, of course. It was a Four Square store, I think, a grocery cooperative chain but with individual stores owned by proprietors.

I recall a long counter, not so much light as in Burridge's, the smell of flour and other food items, hardwood floors, and a wooden chair or two next to the counter on the customer's side, presumably for housewives to rest their shopping bag upon or to pop a small child on for a moment or two while groceries were ordered and placed on the counter and the total tabulated. Men in white full length aprons waited upon the customers, mainly housewives. I must have been small because the memory of the counter is that it was high! 

Soon the first supermarket opened down the street and Smith's in a very short time was no more. Fickle customers. The corner dairy across the street, however, survived for decades afterwards because the supermarket didn't keep the "open all hours" schedule of a corner store. Not until a change in the shop trading hours laws occurred in the 1980s, anyway.

 Four Square Jigsaw Puzzle Cover circa 1950s
Some of the groceries offered for sale by Four Square grocery stores in the 1950s. Brands such as Weet Bix, Milo, and Pam's survive down to the present, but the packages are brighter, more alluring, and on-so modern... 


Jayne said...

Can just recall an old fashioned store that became a supermarket when I was little.
And the sawdust on the floor at the butchers ;)

kuaka said...

ah, you stole my sawdust line, Jayne! I'll survive ;)

DARIAN ZAM said...

"Pam's" was introduced by Four Square Stores as a "self" or "generic" brand around 1937. Amazingly, it has survived as a very successful stand-alone brand independent of 4 Square. Others like the "Self Help" brand would have been much bigger for some decades (by the early 1940s the behemoth Self Help Co-op had hundreds of stores, and far outweighed the power of 4 Square)yet now completely forgotten and memorabilia almost non-existent - although they survived up until 1971 when bought out by Woolworths and phased out. On the other hand, coming across items from Four Square from those same halcyon decades of the corner store thirties through to the seventies (ads, packaging, signage, puzzles, colouring books, board games, calendars, card sets etc)happens with fair regularity - possibly because they voraciously promoted the brand with all sorts of novelties and tricks. Of course Four Square survives today, and although not the force it once was in the marketplace the small corner franchises still number more than 300. Interesting why some brands inexplicably survive and prosper over others.