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A&P, Midlands Shopping Center (and everywhere..): 1970s   49 comments

Posted at 8:51 pm in stores

I recall that when I was around 6 or 7, Midlands Plaza ran a promotion to get shoppers out during the weekend. There was some sort of ride to entice the children, and the whole thing was promoted on WIS radio. Midlands wasn't where we normally shopped, but I bugged my mother until she took me out to experience the much ballyhooed kiddy-ride. I can't remember what it was now except that it was small, groundbased and freestanding (to make it easier to transport from promotion to promotion, I suppose). I have the impression that it was supposed to hop around the parking lot, but really it didn't matter, because they could not get it started. Apparently there was a gas motor in there somewhere, because they kept pulling on a lawn-mower-like starting cord, and occasionaly the thing would sputter a few strokes, but it would never fire up. And that is a metaphor for the history of Midlands Plaza.

I don't know if this is actually the case, but Midlands Plaza seems to have been conceived as a sister site to Trenholm Plaza (perhaps even the reverse was true?), with a Post Office and A&P anchoring a choice corner site with easy access from major roads, but for some reason the place exhibited a failure-to-thrive for most of the period I can remember. Certainly it was in bad shape by the 70s, bottomed out in the 80s, and has currently come to terms with a post-retail mode of operation.

It is rather appropriate that A&P was the anchor store for Midlands, since that chain itself underwent a similar experience during the same time period. It used to be the case that you could find A&P's distinctive, steeple capped, stores all around Columbia and other area cities. You can still often find the buildings, but the chain itself has withered away. I think part of it was the fact that while grocery stores were getting bigger and bigger, A&P was entrenched in small sites, and didn't make any effort to build bigger until they had finally been leap-frogged by newer chains. Of course for that to happen bespeaks a certain complacency at the management level, perhaps best exemplified by the last A&P advertising campaign that I can recall: A&P: Putting Price & Pride Together Again. It's always risky to run a "we were wrong" campain, and much more so to run a lame "we were wrong" campaign.

After the failure of that campaign, and the closure of the stores at Trenholm & Midlands Plazas, the only other A&P activity I saw in South Carolina was the attempt to establish a "Supercenter" in North Myrtle Beach, something that might have worked if they had done it before Kroger and other big stores moved in, but which in the event went under after no more than a few years. So, with over a hundred years in business, the legacy of A&P, at least in South Carolina, is the (confusing to youngsters, I'm sure) reference in the Waitresses classic "Christmas Wrapping":

A&P has pride in me with the world's smallest turkey..

The store at Trenholm Plaza was torn down and replaced with a Publix, the store at Midlands Plaza became, for a time, Giant Food World (invoking nightmare images of boxcar sized potatoes, and Sequoia-ish brocolli), then I think became a furniture store and finally became empty (but the steeple and wether-vane have withstood the ravages of the years..)

UPDATE: Added picture of old A&P on Sunset Drive.
UPDATE: Added picture of old (but re-roofed & de-steepled) A&P on the Charleston Highway

UPDATE 4 April 2013 -- Well, I wish I had made totally separate posts for all the old A&P buildings, but I was still kind of feeling my way along way back in 2008. That aside, the Midlands Shopping Center A&P building is now gone. Below are pictures from mid 2012 and then March 2013:

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Written by ted on February 10th, 2008

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49 Responses to 'A&P, Midlands Shopping Center (and everywhere..): 1970s'

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  1. We shopped at the A & P in Trenholm Plaza for years until we moved to Chas, i think shortly after we moved back, it closed. The Western Auto near it finally did too.

    One of A & P's store brands i think was called "Jane Parker", and there was a really nice probably college age bag boy, i called him Jane Parker.

    Christy

    11 Apr 08 at 2:45 pm

  2. Are you sure you don't mean Ann Page? That's the way I remember it (which the link supports), and the initials make sense that way too.

    I remember the Western Auto -- they had lots of "hobby batteries" and I was really into electrical stuff when I was a kid.

    There was also a "Dodds 5 & 10" on that side of the Plaza.

    ted

    11 Apr 08 at 11:31 pm

  3. A&P will be celebrating its 150th anniversary next year. It operates over 450 stores in DC and six North East states, DE, MD,PA, NY, NJ and CT.

    check out their web site, http://www.aptea.com

    Andy Page

    28 Apr 08 at 10:38 am

  4. Hmm, the "Pacific" part of "A&P" seems to have fallen by the wayside then..

    Still, I'm glad they're still around somewhere.

    ted

    30 Apr 08 at 12:58 am

  5. A&P was killed by Union labor practices. For years you could go into any A&P and see 50 year old men working the registers, stocking shelves and other teenage entry level type stuff. These were not retirees filling time but career grocery union men going about their business.

    Ashby

    3 Aug 08 at 8:27 pm

  6. So the middle picture was the A&P on Sunset Drive? That's interesting that they would have another location so close to the Dutch Square store. I remember the Dodd's location on Sunset Drive. Did A&P ever modernize in Columbia? I seem to vaguely remember a "Super" A&P in Myrtle Beach, where you could watch TV in the checkout line. The one at Dutch Square always seemed outdated.

    Jonathan

    5 Aug 08 at 8:35 am

  7. Yes, the middle one is on Sunset -- it's some kind of church now. As far as I recall, the "supercenter" A&Ps never came to Columbia, but there was that one in (north) Myrtle Beach.

    ted

    5 Aug 08 at 12:07 pm

  8. The one on Sunset was a Piggly Wiggly for a long time after A&P gave up.

    Dennis

    25 Aug 08 at 3:49 pm

  9. Anybody know the year A&P in Trenholm Plaza closed? I'm still using some pots and pans I bought there when one of them went on sale each week. Just trying to figure out how long they've served me.

    Thanks

    Bert Lunan

    1 Mar 09 at 8:13 am

  10. Bert,
    It had to be sometime in the early 90s.

    ChiefDanGeorge

    1 Mar 09 at 1:55 pm

  11. I think it was in either late 94 or early 95. I remember I was a freshman at USC during that time and I went there right before they closed. They actually tore down that store in the mall and rebuilt to open as a Publix.

    Dave

    1 Mar 09 at 11:46 pm

  12. I remember going to A&P about that same time. I'm guessing it was early 95 when Publix opened.

    Mr. Bill

    2 Mar 09 at 10:11 am

  13. I was looking today at the picture taken of 5 Points in 1939 and noticed that the fromal wear store at the corner of Harden and Devine (nee Sharps) was an A&P back then.

    Tom

    14 Mar 09 at 6:57 pm

  14. You must have been at Yesterday's.

    A&P is one of the older national chains (Atlantic and Pacific -- when that was saying something).

    ted

    15 Mar 09 at 1:30 am

  15. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Atlantic_and_Pacific_Tea_Company

    According to this A&P once had over 10,000 stores. And yes that is where I was Sat.

    Tom

    15 Mar 09 at 6:55 pm

  16. My Mom and Dad would always go to the A&P on the Charleston Hwy back in the early to mid 60's. It was fun to me riding in that small seat facing my Mom or Dad while they shopped at that HUGE store. I havent been inside this store since it was an A&P and that was in the late 60's. Does anyone remember the one at Dutch Square and what year it closed? I think it was the mid 70's or there of..but not sure. Does anyone have picture of the Cayce A&P?

    Del

    27 Apr 09 at 11:42 pm

  17. The last picture, "Jo-Ann", is the Cayce store, unless there was another after that.

    ted

    27 Apr 09 at 11:54 pm

  18. Del,
    I know the one at Dutch Square was open through 1994 or so. I used to live in that area, and we'd occasionally shop there in a pinch.

    Jonathan

    28 Apr 09 at 8:46 am

  19. My grandmother was a faithful shopper at the A&P by Dutch Square until they closed in the mid-90's.

    Dave

    28 Apr 09 at 10:13 am

  20. I remember the one in Cayce was a Western Auto back in the 80s. To the left of it (kind of in a shared parking lot) there is a Super 10 store, but it used to be a discount type store called S-mart.

    TahoeChic

    10 Feb 10 at 8:18 pm

  21. Late response to Ann Page vs. Jane Parker above: both were A&P store brands. Ann Page was mostly canned goods, while Jane Parker was used on baked goods among other things.

    Groceteria

    7 Apr 10 at 8:25 am

  22. Does anyone know of anything in Midland Shopping Center that is still open for business (featured in the top photo) besides the Edgewood Post Office that is very hidden?

    Andrew

    24 May 10 at 10:40 pm

  23. I believe that a good bit of the space is still rented, but not as retail.

    ted

    25 May 10 at 12:43 am

  24. My family shopped at Midlands Shopping Center a lot from the mid 60s to the late 70s. My main memory of this A&P is that they were the first grocery chain (I think) to have generic items. They had cans with white paper labels and big black lettering that said BEANS or PEAS etc. I think they even had the word "GENERIC" on the label. It was sort of a fad for a while. We only went there for things my mother could not find at Big Star at the other end of the mall.

    Dennis

    25 May 10 at 12:20 pm

  25. Yep, the Trenholm Plaza A&P also had generics. It was a big fad across all sorts of merchandise for a while. There was even a "generic science fiction" novel in a plain white cover like that with a back cover ingredients list like "One Mad Scientist, One Beautiful Daughter, One Steely Eyed Hero" etc.

    ted

    25 May 10 at 12:43 pm

  26. ok folks it has just come to my attention that A&P has filed for bankruptcy...didn't know how much interest this would be to folks but figured I'd mention as such...

    Andrew

    13 Dec 10 at 11:20 am

  27. Interesting. The news stories seem to say they really got into trouble after buying out another bankrupt chain. Maybe you should think real hard before buying something that is a loser -- especially if you're not in great shape yourself..

    ted

    13 Dec 10 at 12:09 pm

  28. UPDATE: I have found this Daily finance story that confirms the filing...

    Andrew

    13 Dec 10 at 12:45 pm

  29. Where is Midlands Plaza?

    Patrick

    13 Dec 10 at 5:16 pm

  30. At the intersection of Two Notch Road and Covenant Road. I think the official name is Midlands Shopping Center though there doesn't seem to be any signage to that effect now..

    ted

    13 Dec 10 at 5:32 pm

  31. If you check into the map of Two Notch & Covenant Roads you'll find it it actually called Midland Shopping Center. I think the Columbia Police department uses it for something of some sort but other than that, about the only thing still ticking in this center is the Edgewood Post office which might be up for closure...

    btw the Capitol Station post office at Lady & Marion has shut down retail operations and I suspect it's only a matter of time before the facility is no more...PO Boxes are still for rent there but again, no telling how much longer that'll be the case...

    Andrew

    13 Dec 10 at 10:36 pm

  32. Great info on the Trenholm PLaza A&P as well as others. Any one wondering about the Dutch Square store will be happy to know that it always did very well over time but fell victim to A&P Pulling out of the south entirely a few years ago. The end of A&P's Carolina Division which operated Columbia area stores came in 1999.
    Damn Chris Haub for that!!!
    Who is Chris??? (former CEO and son of former majority A&P owner) Lesson of the day never put a 29 yr. old kid that never even bagged groceries at the top of a S&P 500 Iconic American Company that speciallizes in saleing Groceries!!!!

    Ashley Carter

    10 Jan 11 at 8:59 pm

  33. Several folks were wondering when the A&P at Trenholm Plaza closed and I have found this article that shows it left in late 1995.

    Andrew

    8 May 11 at 11:31 pm

  34. A&P closing its doors Saturday. This sucks!! Great article Andrew. Its crazy Publix going into the former A&P location and opens up shop! I recently saw a photo posted on the web of a A&P store in Roanoak Va. now kicking as a Kroger. I live in Western NC and I can count nearly twenty former A&P locations off the top of my head currently operating as supermarkets. All A&P had to do is dig in and stick around. Its hard to believe that they just kind of gave up on competing in its southern markets.

    Ashley Carter

    27 May 11 at 11:08 pm

  35. Thanks for the article, Andrew!

    Yeah, Ashley, they actually TORE down the A&P and rebuilt on the site for Publix, rather than using the existing store!

    But, I remember shopping in this store growing up, and going there by myself as a USC freshman right before they closed, and it was long past its prime. My grandmother lived by Dutch Square and she was devastated when that A&P closed a year or two later (leaving the new Food Lion as the only choice nearby!).

    But, I can't say that I have any nostalgia for the Trenholm Plaza one. I work in the area and shop at the Publix that replaced it all the time. As far as customer service goes, Publix in general is better than other supermarkets, but this particular store excels.

    They service seniors incredibly well, which make up much of their clientele. AVOID the store on Wednesday - senior discount day - unless you have plenty of time on your hands! lol. But, seriously, senior citizens are an important customer base for them and they have become loyal to the store.

    The cashiers always ask elderly customers if they need someone to assist them loading their bags into their vehicle -- they have it posted that its a courtesy service if you ask for help, but its nice that they make the extra effort to offer it! Not EVERY elderly customer is the stereotypical demanding "see-here-young-man!" type. Some of them are also the "how are you today? Oh... Let me pull out my checkbook and write a check... Now what day is it?" type. LOL! Also, I don't mind it at all, because there are always those elderly customers who I get behind in line w/ my 2 items who always tell me "You go ahead, son! I can wait!" Even though I've got to get back to work, I can wait and be polite.

    Dave

    28 May 11 at 4:01 am

  36. The A&P in Trenholm plaza was actually in its second building when it left and that second building was torn down for Publix.

    The first store was a "steeple" store.

    You can see the second store here.

    ted

    28 May 11 at 11:47 am

  37. Question Ted About Trenholm PLaza A&P. Thanks for link and the Pics. I never got a chance to go to the A&P before it closed. You stated that this was the second Trenholm Plaza A&P, that the first store was a 100th Annv. "steeple" style store. The pictures linked to show that unmistakable large typical roof line of those type A&P designed stores minus the traditional steeple. A&P as well as other currently using these buildings will often remodel in & out, but you can step back and still see those old A&P roofs sticking up for all the world see if you know what your looking for. MY BIG Question IS ....was this a complete level to the ground and rebuild ,,, just a nice update/remodel,,, or a year to year.. over the years expand little... couple new paint jobs... then the Plaza its self maybe got a spruce up and before you know it the A&P would be almost new????? I only Ask this because of that Roof Line sticking up right there.

    Ashley Carter

    30 May 11 at 4:53 pm

  38. Ashley, You could well be right. My memory is a bit fuzzy, I just remember that at one time it had the steeple like the Midland's store, and then it didn't. I think I was living out of town at the time anyway..

    ted

    30 May 11 at 5:11 pm

  39. Is the A&P in roughly the same spot as Publix #597??

    Andrew

    30 May 11 at 5:46 pm

  40. Yes, it was on the end of the building. IIRC, the Publix conversion was a complete demolition and rebuild.

    Mike

    30 May 11 at 11:23 pm

  41. O.K. Good Deal Folks!! The puzzle keeps coming together!! Next time I roll through town I will stop by to see how old A&P #514 /Trenholm Plaza now, Publix #597 is doing.

    Now when did the Cayce Charleston HWy store close?

    Ashley Carter

    1 Jun 11 at 11:01 pm

  42. I worked at the old A&P building on Charleston Hwy when it was a Westren Auto as run by the Ott family. I wish I had worked there longer as they were pretty good with the help they had. They did everyone who worked there a favor by discontinuing operations on Sundays. Plus, I don't think they did the business to justify being open as they were open from strictly 1:30 to 6 on Sundays.

    Tom Seay

    30 Oct 11 at 5:21 pm

  43. A&P Mid-Lands PLaza:Does any one know? Whats the latest on develoment on the property? I must say when you look back at the photos, you can't help but to see that the most interesting stucture at the place was the one that got the ax. The ''Coloinal/Cent." A&P design store becomes a near trade mark for A&P. Today with urban market areas becoming hot for buisness once again its not uncomman currently to see these former A&P locations though out the Carolinas becoming grocery-retail again aswhile as other successful establishmemts. What well become of this Former A&P....???

    Ashley Carter

    20 Oct 13 at 9:39 pm

  44. The one on Sunset is still there for now though the property recently went up for sale.

    ted

    20 Oct 13 at 10:40 pm

  45. Ashley, the former A&P at Midland Shopping Center has been demolished (as noted in pics earlier) and no telling what the future for the property holds...other ortions of Midland Shopping center are now an educational facility (not sure of details) and I believe there is Columiba Police Substation/region headquarters (not sure details) housed there...but I'm not 100% sure if it's still there or not. In addition, the Edgewood Post Office continues to operate in its hidden spot...

    There's also a former A&P at 1420 College Street in Newberry that I could tell straight away is a former A&P when I first encountered it about 2 years ago thanks to this post (now it's Lindsay Furniture).

    Andrew

    20 Oct 13 at 10:51 pm

  46. The Sunset Drive A&P Ted mentioned currently houses the Spirit of Truth Christian Center and I wonder what the future of that place holds with it being for sale...maybe said church will buy it...I've enjoyed the floral crosses they've done each Easter as part of a larger mission I go on each year during Easter Sunday and the week after to take pics of the crosses many churches around decorate on Easter Sunday...

    Andrew

    20 Oct 13 at 10:55 pm

  47. Wasn't the Sunset location once a bingo hall, or was that another building int he strip?

    Homer

    21 Oct 13 at 11:22 pm

  48. The Sunset location actually has two buildings with the little steeples on them. The left one was the A&P, I'm not sure what the right one was originally, thought it was operating as a Dodd's/Fred's/Dollar General type store when I moved back to town. I recall buying some underwear there once.

    I believe there may have been bingo there once, but most of the plaza has been occupied by the church for a good many years now -- I think one of the storefronts in the middle may still be a commerical operation of some sort though.

    ted

    21 Oct 13 at 11:45 pm

  49. @Homer, at the end of the Sunset Drive building where the Worship Center signage now sits once had white paint with Bingo lettering painted in a red/brown color on it. When Spirit of Truth Christian Center moved in they had the paint removed from the bricks and that's the way it's been since...

    Andrew

    22 Oct 13 at 12:00 am

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