Big Chuck Asks: “Where Did all the Great American Stores Go?”
As most people know, I grew up in Sidney, and in my youth there were many options to shop for groceries. Of course, I hoped that option would be my parent's grocery store at 11 Main Street: Don's Super Market.
We had an A&P, Grand Union, Logan's family market, Von Kampen's family market, the Master Market family store, and several others over the years. And everybody flourished just fine. Eventually, Victory Markets made a big move into Sidney and when they and A&P started to eat in to my family's Sunday business (we were the only store open on Sunday for years), we knew it was time for us to change directions. We became a deli, then a sub shop, then a chicken place and eventually a full restaurant. We remained as such until my parents retired many years later.
My father long admired the Victory Market in Sidney. He knew the manager, the meat guy, the produce guy, and most of the help. He liked their service concept, how clean they were and how they were always trying something new. As time went by the Victory morphed into the Great American grocery chain.
In the Tri-Towns of my youth we were blessed to have three vibrant Great American grocery stores: Sidney, Unadilla and Bainbridge. Imagine that, three big stores within ten miles of each other or less.. And there were others just outside of our area.
Eventually Great American felt the squeezes from the Price Choppers and Hannafords and other biog box stores and they too went under. They had nearly 80 stores in Upstate New York at one time. That number dwindled as financial pressures became more severe. They entered bankruptcy proceedings in 1995.
After the financial debacle, the Great American stores began dropping like flies all over Upstate New York. In one year alone, from 1995 to 1996, Oneonta, Binghamton and New Berlin lost all of their stores. Norwich felt a big blow as the supermarket headquarters there shuttered.
Today, what was once an embarrassment of riches for my little hometown, has now turned to rust. The Bainbridge Great American has been boarded up for years. Sadly, the Unadilla Great American closed a month ago. And the Sidney store, while still open for business, no doubt faces significant pressures from the much bigger chain markets.
So that is where all the Great American stores have gone to . And I miss them. See photos below.