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“Mom & Pop” Grocery Stores in Penn Yan (mid 1930s)

My mother, now 90, grew up on North Avenue in Penn Yan, the oldest of ten children. A few years ago I interviewed her and her surviving siblings about what it was like to grow up in Penn Yan in the 1920s and 1930s. Among all their great memories of times, people, and places that have faded into local history were memories of Bachle’s. Bill and Audrus Bachle owned and operated a small Red & White grocery store down on the lower end of North Avenue, near the intersection of Main Street. The store was a part of their residence. My grandmother would call her shopping order in to Bachle’s. The clerk would fill the order and bag it. On paydays my grandfather, who worked at Walkerbilt, would go in and settle up his grocery bill with Bill Bachle. Often, the kids (my mother and her siblings) would walk down to the store to pick up the order called in by their mother. They remembered that they occasionally had to fight their way through some tough kids who lived down that way. They also remembered how friendly the Bachle’s were and what a great selection of penny candy they had. Two of my aunts worked for the Bachles for a while as clerks behind the counter.

In our own time there are four grocery stores in Penn Yan. I began to wonder how many existed in the village back in the 1930s. So I looked in the Penn Yan Village Directory for 1935. There were 28 grocery stores and/or meat markets listed. 19 of those were clustered within two blocks of The Four Corners, either on Main Street or Elm Street.....”downstreet” as people called it in those days. Of the 28, there were two large markets owned and operated by a national chain... the A&P Tea Stores, one on Main and the other on Elm. There were five Market Basket stores (all but one located “downstreet”) owned and operated by the Market Basket chain of Geneva. The remaining 21 were “Mom & Pop” stores, family owned and operated. Like the Bachles, the store was often also a part of their residence. Older residents of Penn Yan can remember Joe Barone’s store on Clinton Street near the railroad tracks, Abbott’s Red & White Market over on Lake Street, Pickett’s Market up on Liberty Street, John Horton’s Red & White on East Elm, Condella’s Market further down East Elm Street, Burt Harris’ Market out on East Main St., as well as the others. Most advertised that they would deliver groceries to your home. Some advertised to local farmers that they would buy their eggs and produce “in cash or trade”.

Since the 1950s we have lived in the age of the supermarkets. One by one, the Mom & Pop stores faced the inevitable and yielded to the competition. It’s hard to imagine a time when you would pick up the phone, give the operator a three digit phone number, dictate your shopping list to the clerk at the store, have them fill the order and bag it, ask to have the order delivered to your home, and tell them to put it on your tab and you’ll settle accounts at the end of the month. Try that at P & C.

by Rich MacAlpine


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Thursday, January 25, 2018 | Copyright © 2018