Looking back: Grocery stores — a place in history

Published 2:45 pm Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Looking back by Linda Evenson

Grocery stores have been part of Albert Lea for generations. The types of stores evolved over time including neighborhood, locally owned, self-service, chain stores, supermarkets and convenience stores. Shopping methods changed, too. Clerks retrieved items from shelves and behind counters for customers in earlier years. With the dawn of self-service, shoppers selected the items and placed them in carts or baskets.

In 1939-40, there were 43 retail grocery and meat stores listed in the Albert Lea city directory. Stores were promoting the addition of coolers for fresh vegetables and freezer units for frozen foods.

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Johnsrud’s Food Market, 118 S. Broadway, had two phone lines and delivery service. Customers phoned in orders and requested delivery. Shoppers visiting the store made their selections and sometimes requested delivery, especially if they were walking home.

Boyd and Jack’s Inc. purchased Malmer’s store, 130 W. Clark St., in 1944. In 1948, a new store was built at 525 E. Clark St. The building expanded in 1955, and a bakery was added in 1962. Two years later, fire destroyed the building. In the interim, the business operated under the grandstand at the Freeborn County Fairgrounds. The new store opened June 1, 1965.

During the 1950s, grocery stores promoted self-service, free parking and extended hours, evenings and Sundays.