By Dewey E. Born

Thrifty Wholesale (a store opened by Dick, Merle and Joe Allen in 1936) sold in quantity, and for those who had enough money to stock up, there were real savings buying wholesale. Canned goods were sold by the case or in large institutional cans. Sugar was in 25 lb cloth sacks and flour in either 50 lb or 100 lb sacks. Flour sacks had print designs on them and could be made into shirts or dresses. Ranchers were good customers and bought in quantity to reduce the number of trips to town. This was especially important in bad weather as there were few paved roads and none went to ranches. When it rained, the roads turned to mud, and there were usually several good snowstorms each winter. At Thrifty Wholesale, they could load their trucks with cases of canned goods, sacks of flour and sugar, a large package of yeast and a 25 lb can of lard. 

Another large grocery, Howard’s Market, served Miller Valley. The most complete food store in Miller Valley, it later became the J.R. Williams Market. The Christy Food Market at 437 S. Montezuma served residents in that part of town and operated into the early 1950’s. Several smaller stores specialized. The southeast corner of Willis and Cortez had a car dealership and Ploetz Grocery that dealt in bulk foods. On either side of the door were large containers of a variety of beans. They also carried dried fruits and vegetables, and in the fall, they always had a large container of fresh cranberries and bins of nuts.

On the other side of the street was Black’s Market specializing in fish, although they also carried fresh whole chickens, and in November and December, fresh whole turkeys. The seafood was shipped by Railway Express from California, packed in ice in insulated containers and rushed up the street to the store, usually arriving in good condition. Sometimes it was not that fresh and everyone on Cortez knew it. There were two meat markets, Bishop’s Meat Market and Sandler’s Market. Bishop’s was on Cortez next to the Masonic Temple. Sandler’s was on the north side of Gurley near Granite. These stores carried more complete lines of beef, pork and poultry than most other markets.

Tucked among the bars on Whiskey Row was Sam Dreyer’s Grocery and General Store. Sam had canned goods and “staples” such as flour, sugar and salt, as well as men’s pants and shirts. Swanson’s Grocery and Service Station was an early example of the gas stations of today. Located on the corner of Hillside and Miller Valley Road, it was a service station selling gas and oil, but also had a small convenience store. 

Some stores specialized by offering home delivery. Customers could buy groceries “on line,” (telephone line, that is). They could call Model Cash Grocery on South Montezuma and place their order—an hour or so later, groceries would be delivered to the back door, placed on the kitchen table and the delivery man would be paid. The word “cash” was a carry-over from earlier times when stores offered credit to their customers. With a few exceptions, this practice didn’t continue during the Depression. One exception was the Santa Fe Market on Sheldon between Cortez and Marina, a company store for Santa Fe Railroad employees .

A major factor in keeping all these grocery stores in business was the Depression. Not everyone owned an automobile, and those who did couldn’t afford the gas to run them. A grocery store within walking distance got their business.

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