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Edens Food Stores, Inc. / Greenbax Stamps / Community Thrift / Eckerd's, 818 Harden Street: Mid 1950s   6 comments

Posted at 2:23 am in historic,stores

I posted before about bygone Columbia grocery chain Edens. After I located one of the buildings on Rosewood, I have been looking for some of the others from time to time when I remember. I didn't have any luck with the two Main Street locations, but here is the Harden Street one.

Growing up, this was always Eckerd's to me, and it never really occurred to me that it had not been built as a pharmacy. Looking at it now though, I'm pretty sure this must be the original grocery building from the 1950s. In particular, I don't think anyone would site the doors on the street instead of the parking lot on any building newer than that. In fact, thinking about it, I'm surprised nobody ever changed that.

UPDATE 24 Nov 2010: Added Greenbax Stamps and Thrift Store to post title based on comments.

UPDATE 30 Nov 2010: Changed "Thrift Store" to "Community Thrift" based on Dennis's comment.

Written by ted on November 24th, 2010

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Greenbax Redemption Center, 2710 Gervais Street: 1970s   33 comments

Posted at 4:04 pm in historic,stores

Once upon a time, housewives stayed home and did the grocery shopping. That was the theory anyway, and it had a good bit of reality behind it for many years. One of the corellaries to this theorem was the assumption that houswives would have time to fool with trading stamps.

Trading stamps are one of those things that is hard to explain because it just sounds ridiculous:

You mean they had these rube-goldberg machines with hundreds of round buttons sitting on top of the cash registers, and when you bought something, the clerk punched in numbers and the machine spat out a bunch of stamps!!??

But the machines were there, and you did take the stamps home and paste them into books. And when you got enough books, you could take them to the redemption center and exchange them for various household items...

There were several different, competing, brands of trading stamps. The name I can always remember is Greenbax (a week pun on the idea that "greenbacks" are dollars, and that you got something back "bax" from the stamps), but each grocery chain had their particular affiliation. I'm pretty sure that this building, at the base of Gervais Street (near the Trenholm intersection) was the Greenbax Redemption center. (It was definitely the redemption center for some trading stamp line). I can only remember going there once (it took a long time to get enough books for anything desirable), and I can't remember what we got, but my impression is that the shelves were not packed and the place was not crowded.

At some point in the 70s, things changed. For one thing, more women were working, and not willing to put up with spending hours pasting stamps into books. For another, several grocery chains decided to give customers a break by, you know, having lower prices rather than pie-in-the-sky redemption offers. Trading stamps were the old version of the modern rebate scam. Companies love rebates since it lets them offer what sounds like a killer deal, but they know half the customers will forget to fill out the paperwork and they will never have to make good on it. Trading stamps were the same thing. The store seemed like it was giving you something extra, but they knew most people would forget about the stamps.

I see that Greenbax is still around as some kind of Pig loyalty program, but in general trading stamps had all died off by the 80s. I don't know what the Greenbax building had been before that -- It looks rather like an old A&P, but I don't think it was one. At any rate, it seems to have found new stable tenants since then. I think the current mix has been there for at least ten years.

UPDATE 13 Jan 2010: Added full street address to post title.
Also, the followup operation Columbia Paint & Decorating has closed.

Written by ted on June 20th, 2008

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