Eight Defunct Grocery Chains You Remember

Before chains like Walmart, Publix, and Winn-Dixie dominated the grocery business, these names once anchored shopping centers and street corners throughout our cities.

Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company

An A&P in Pluckemin, New Jersey before its 2013 closure. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P) was founded in New York City by George Gilman in 1859. Orginally called Gilman & Company, the company was renamed A&P in 1869. By 1930, A&P was the world’s largest retailer with $2.9 billion in sales and 16,000 store locations. Until 1965, it was the largest U.S. retailer of any kind, being just iconic as Walmart, McDonald’s or Google today.

A&P’s Southeastern Headquarters was based in Jacksonville, Florida where its operations also included an industry bakery and Eight O’Clock Coffee roasting plant. A&P’s decline began after the end of World War II when it failed to keep pace with the competition. Despite a brief comeback in the early 2000s, the company ceased operations for good in 2015 after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010 and 2015.

Kash n’ Karry Food Stores, Inc.

In 1922, Italian immigrant Salvatore Greco opened a small storefront with his wife in their Tampa, Florida home. In 1947, the family opened the Big Barn store in nearby Plant City. Then a small chain, in 1962 the name was changed to Kash n’ Karry, under the concept that shoppers would bring “cash” and “carry” out their own groceries.

Through a series of buyouts and acquisitions, the chain expanded before falling into bankruptcy in 1994 and being acquired by North Carolina-based Food Lion in 1996 for $341 million. With declining revenue, Kash n’ Karry closed most of its stores and the few left were rebranded as sweetbay Supermarkets by the end of 2007. Unable to compete with Walmart and Publix, the 105 unit chain closed 33 of its stores in 2013 before being acquired by Jacksonville-based Southeastern Grocers. After the acquisition of Sweetbay, Southeastern either closed or rebranded the remaining Sweetbay locations as Winn-Dixie.

Food Fair & Pantry Pride

A Food Fair in Fernandina Beach, Florida in 1972. State Archives of Florida.

Food Fair was founded by Samuel Friedland as the Reading Giant Quality Price Cutter in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania during the late 1920s. By 1957, the chain had exanded to 275 stores. A year later, it purchased the Jacksonville, Florida-based Setzer’s Supermarket chain. During the 1960s, Food Fair acquired Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based Best Markets. Riding the success of Best’s top private label brand, Food Fair had converted most of its stores into Pantry Pride by 1970. At its peak there were more than 500 stores in the chain.

The 456-store, $2.7 billion company entered bankruptcy in 1978, starting a slow streamlining process of closing and selling off locations to survive. By 1986, only 40 Florida locations remained. In 1993, all remaining locations were sold to Fleming Companies and were either closed or sold to other chains by 2000.

Setzer’s Supermarkets

Setzer’s in San Marco Square on April 19, 1939. This store later became a Pic N’ Save. (Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida)

Setzer’s Supermarkets was founded by Benjamin Setzer in 1922 in Jacksonville, Florida. By the end of the Great Depression, his store had expanded to become one of city’s early grocery chains, creating the need for a corporate headquarters and distribution hub in the Springfield Warehouse District. By the mid 1950’s, Setzer’s Supermarkets had expanded into a 40-unit chain with stores across North and Central Florida. In 1958, Setzer sold his grocery chain to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based Food Fair Stores.

Mary Lou Norwood shops in the produce section of Setzer’s Grocery in Tallahassee, Florida in 1960. (Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida)

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com