Before Wal-Mart, Safeway, Sixth Street, Sun Mart and other franchise grocery stores arrived in North Platte, residents bought their groceries at “Mom and Pop” neighborhood grocery stores that were all over town.
The stores cropped up in the mid-1910s and many of them operated through the early 1970s.
It is hard to really know just how many there were. City directories from those years listed the grocers in a special section in the back of the directory. But not all neighborhood grocery stores made that list. If the owner lived in the back part of the store, it might not have been listed as a grocery store, but a residence.
Long time North Platte residents Steve Olson and Darrell Pueppka recall some of those “home/stores.” The actual number of neighborhood grocers might never be known.
Before the so-called “Mom and Pops” started showing up, all of the city’s grocery stores were in business districts along Dewey, Locust (later named Jeffers), Front and Sixth streets. City directories covering several years, starting in 1907, show only eight grocery stores in North Platte.
By 1917, however, there were 14 grocery stores listed.
One of the first neighborhood groceries belonged to John and Cora McMichael. They opened up the McMichael Grocery Store at 416 So. Walnut. It opened in 1917 and operated until 1942, according to Cora’s obituary. By the time it closed, it had moved to 408 So. Dewey.
The first “chain” store arrived in 1919 and was called Gamble With Springer, a North Platte chain that belonged to Edward A. Gamble and Orville W Springer. The grocery stores were in four locations: 822 Locust (Jeffers today); 116 East B St; 621 E. Fourth, and the newspapers announced, “Store No. 4 just opened at 824 W. Third”
By 1923, however, Gamble with Springer was just one store, the one on Locust St., according to the city directory that year.
City directories show that in 1923, there were 28 neighborhood grocery stores.
The ‘Gamble with Springer” store at 824 W. Third changed hands in 1925 and was called, simply, Third Street Grocery. It changed hands several other times, and in 1934 Albert T. Mueller bought it and named it Mueller’s Grocery. The Muellers operated it for 40 years until 1974. It is the oldest building that housed a neighborhood grocery store that is still standing today.
Nine other buildings are still standing today, although some are crumbling.
One of those nine was at 812 N. Oak and today is a detached residential garage. On Aug. 19, 1921 the Semi-Weekly Tribune reported that John Poulos bought a small grocery store from Steve Pappas. The Oak Street store changed owners and names many times and by the time it closed in 1969, it was the Oak Street Market.
Three of the stores opened that year in buildings that are standing today.
One was the Corner Grocery Store at 1902 W Fourth, which remained in business until 1973. Another was the Maple Street Grocery at 21 S. Maple, which closed in 1965. The third was the Deluxe Cash Grocery at 515 E. Tenth. It was the last neighborhood grocery store to close in 1978, according to City Directories.
On Jan. 2, 1924 the North Platte Tribune reported that Roy Haddorf opened a small grocery store at 317 West E. The store changed hands and names in 1936 and 1940. In 1942, it became Raleigh’s Market. Raleigh’s closed in 1956.
In 1928 the Plaughers opened a grocery store in the front of their home at 1203 W. Ninth. Plaugher Grocery closed in 1942.
George Liptrap opened a grocery store in 1932 at 1720 W. Fourth, which is currently a meeting place for the Fourth Street AA Group. The store changed names several times and by the time it closed in 1967, it was called Jordan’s Grocery.
In 1938, Lydia Miller opened a grocery store at 723 West 11th. The building was a grocery until 1954, after many owners and name changes. It was called Hochstettler’s Grocery Store when it closed.
During the 70s, the last three neighborhood groceries closed in buildings that are standing today.
Pantry Shelf Grocery at 310 N. Buffalo Bill Ave. closed in 1971. It opened in 1950, six months after Buffalo Bill Ave. was built.
The H Street Market at 803 East H opened in 1947 and closed in 1974, in the building that now is home to the First Impressions Beauty and Gift Salon.
Nielsen’s Grocery at 1110 N. Adams, the corner of Rodeo Road and Adams, opened in 1952 and closed in 1975. It became a bookstore for many years. It is empty today.
By the time the last neighborhood grocer closed — Deluxe Cash Grocery in 1978 – several supermarkets were well established.
Franchise grocery store Piggly Wiggly opened in 1926, according to the 1926 city directory, at 511 N. Dewey.
Safeway opened two stores in 1929, one in the 200 block of East Sixth and another at 715 Jeffers.
Sixth Street first appeared in the city directory in 1938, with a store at 209 E. Sixth.
These larger grocery stores were located in business districts, not neighborhoods.
Robey’s Cash Grocers, which operated on the first floor of Mabel Kaufman’s Broadmoor Hotel during the 1930s as well as groceries such DeForest Grocery and Fairway Foods were downtown, and are not considered neighborhood groceries for this article, although they were small and substantial operations that were plentiful in North Platte for many years.
But the only remnants of the neighborhood grocers today are a few buildings, and many memories.
Researcher Steve Olson and Bulletin Editor George Lauby contributed to this article. First published in the Bulletin’s print paper on May 23, 2012. All rights reserved to the authors and publisher.