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1960: Let’s go grocery shopping

Recently we remembered our old-time, full service, neighborhood gasoline stations. Once again, we dip into the NOSTALGIA/HISTORY basket and come up this time with some Grass Valley and Nevada City grocery stores of the recent past within each town’s city limits.

Yes, there were and still are stores in Chicago Park, Peardale, Penn Valley, Cedar Ridge and elsewhere in the western county; and yes, there were also five chain grocery store outlets in the twin cities in 1960. There were also a fair number of independent, neighborhood stores. Some of those were full service, that is, they took telephone orders, delivered and carried charge accounts. First, let’s look at the chain stores.

In 1960, three large grocery chains operated stores in Grass Valley and Nevada City: Purity, Safeway and Lucky, which was originally Lucky-Cardinal.



There is no longer a Lucky nor a Purity store chain, but in 1960, there were three Purity stores: two in Grass Valley and one in Nevada City. Only the Nevada City store is used for its original purpose of grocery sales today. That store is Bonanza Market on Broad Street.

The other Purity stores were at Hills Flat and on Mill Street in downtown Grass Valley. The Hills Flat store now sells tools, while the Mill Street store, a Quonset hut located on the site of the present Wells Fargo Bank, was removed when a new and larger building rose the following year at Colfax and Henderson streets. At the time, that building was the area’s largest grocery store at 15,000 square feet. The store was the anchor property in a small shopping center that sits on a five-acre parcel with parking space for 265 cars – making it then the largest parking lot in the western county. Today, a bowling center occupies the market building while the Beam Center is at the opposite end.




Lucky-Cardinal was located at Mohawk and South Auburn; the building has since been demolished. Prior to its demise in the late 1960s, it housed what we called the “dented can” store – an off-brand, slightly dented, 15 oz. can of fruit cocktail sold at five for $1! It also offered a variety of large No.10 cans of fruits and vegetables in addition to other distressed packaged food items.

In 1960, South Auburn Street was Grass Valley’s busiest thoroughfare. It was State Highway 49 until it reached Main Street, when it was joined by State Highway 20. The two then turned east and continued to Nevada City and beyond.

The Safeway store was located at the southwest corner of South Auburn and Neal streets in a building since demolished. After Safeway’s move, the structure was occupied first by McLean’s and then by Smith’s variety/department store.

Safeway was the anchor tenant just west across the parking lot in new Brockington Manor, Grass Valley’s first shopping center; enlarged, it remains there today.

Lucky, along with its longtime manager John Rua, moved to the Glenbrook Basin and into the location now occupied by Ralphs. Then, as executives intoned the mantra “big is beautiful,” like so many business operations before it, Lucky lost its identity and became a victim of a corporate buyout.

Safeway expanded into the Glenbrook Basin and opened a second Grass Valley store and bakery in the Glenbrook Plaza center. Eventually, the company closed that store. Today the building is occupied by Grocery Outlet. Locally, only the Safeway chain holds the same identity and location of its outlet that it did some 45 and more years ago.

During parts of three centuries, the southwest corner of South Auburn and Neal continued as a prime location for grocery and other retail stores. Here, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, William George operated his grocery store. By 1910, the venture was joined by his sons and it became William George and Sons, general merchandise.

Next time: We’ll take a look at the small, and a couple of large, independent neighborhood grocery stores in Grass Valley and Nevada City as they were in 1960 and those that remain today.

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Bob Wyckoff is a retired Nevada County newspaper editor and author of local history. E.mail him at: bob wyckoff@infostations.com or write to PO Box 216, Nevada City CA 95959.


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