By Dewey E. Born
(Originally published on April 21, 2008.)
In 1935 and 1936, Prescott had a population of about 5,000 and, like the rest of the country, was in the middle of the Great Depression. The surprising thing is that this small town had some 25 grocery stores. They varied from national chains to small family stores, but they all seemed to make a profit.
Stores were different from the supermarkets of today. No pharmacies—prescriptions were filled at one of the half-dozen drug stores in town. No frozen foods either, though some stores did have a small freezer for ice cream. Fresh fruits and vegetables were available in season only. With one exception, the New China Store at 222 N. Cortez, all stores closed on Sunday.
Most of the bread was local, baked by the Ideal B Bakery on N. Cortez. It was packaged in waxed paper decorated with borrowed Hopi designs. Customers could get any kind of bread they wanted as long as it was white. Some stores sold bread shipped from Phoenix, usually Roman Meal. Both the Home Bakery on S. Cortez and Brinkmeyer’s Bakery in the Brinkmeyer Hotel baked bread, but customers could only buy the bread in the bakery. They could buy milk by the quart in a few stores, but it was not in great demand; instead, people had it delivered to their homes by several dairies serving Prescott.
If there were such a thing as an elite store in Prescott, it would have been the Bashford Burmister. Known locally as the “B & B”, it was located on Gurley across from the Courthouse Plaza in the three-story building known today as the Bashford Court. The “B & B” was Prescott’s only true department store. In 1935 it had dry goods, furniture, “gents furnishings,” hardware, meat, retail grocery, shoes and wholesale. The meat department was in the same area as the grocery department and boasted a large refrigerator cabinet and a walk-in refrigerator for storage. The grocery department carried the more expensive brands of canned foods, crackers, cookies and candy. The Bashford Burmister store closed in 1940.
Two national grocery chains had stores in Prescott; Piggly Wiggly and Pay ‘n Takit. Piggly Wiggly was located between the “B & B” and Montezuma St. It was originally owned by E.A. Kastner, and even after it became Piggly Wiggly, it was often still called Kastner’s Market.
There were two Pay ‘n Takit stores in 1935; #7 was in the middle of the 100 block of N. Cortez on the east side of the street and #90 was in the 200 block of S. Montezuma across from the Salvation Army. Sometime during 1935, #90 closed. The Cortez Street store continued for several more years and the chain later became Safeway.
There were several privately owned groceries in Prescott. With three or more employees and well-stocked shelves, it was possible for customers to complete their shopping in one store. On the east side of town was Lantz Market, located on the north side of Sheldon just east of Mount Vernon.
Dick, Merle and Joe Allen each owned a grocery store. Joe Allen’s Market was on the corner of Gurley and Grove. Merle Allen’s Nu-Way Market was at 330 W. Gurley. The Allens had another store at 131 N. Cortez and a wholesale place next door called the Food Supply Company. Both stores closed in 1936 and moved to a large brick building in the Old Ball Park called Thrifty Wholesale.
Next time we see why Thrifty Wholesale worked so well during the Great Depression.
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