The Former Chain Grocery Stores of Georgetown

GM writes an occasional series called the Ghosts of Markets Past, wherein he explores the former corner markets that used to dot the neighborhood. In researching for that series he came across a fantastic resource: a list of all chain grocery stores in DC as included in various city directories. Although GM’s quest to highlight all the corner stores will continue, he wanted to compile the Georgetown locations from that listing.

The map above shows the Georgetown locations of various chain grocery stores in the 1930s and 1940s. (Here is a link to the map). The vast majority of them were Sanitary grocery stores. (This was a chain started in Bethesda by John Letts in 1909. By 1927, Letts bought Piggly Wiggly and had 362 locations. The next year Safeway bought out Sanitary.) Beyond the Sanitary grocery stores, there were a handful of A&Ps and Piggly Wigglys.

Not all the stores on the map were opened at the same time, but it still reflects the ridiculous density of grocery stores at the time. Some of the former grocery stores live on serving food. 1789 was a Sanitary grocery store. Call Your Mother was an A&P. And Stachowski’s was also a Sanitary grocery. In fact, you could argue that this last one has an unbroken chain going back to the grocery store, since (as far as GM knows) it has continuously operated as a small market ever since. Here’s Jackie Kennedy shopping at it in 1957:

Interestingly, as GM discussed in his video last week, one of those dots was the Piggly Wiggly, located at the corner of Wisconsin and S. That became a Sanitary grocery store when Sanitary bought out that chain. Then Safeway bought Sanitary out. Safeway then opened a larger store at its current location in 1955:

By then, most of the small chain grocery stores around Georgetown had closed. The era of the supermarket had arrived to Georgetown.

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