E. H. Thompson Grocers Once The Oldest Grocery Store In Watertown
Located in Washington Hall on Public Square, E. H. Thompson Grocers (E. H. Thompson & Co. Grocers.) began in 1859 and grew to be one of Watertown’s landmarks and oldest operating grocery store. In later years, in 1913 when Washington Hall would be razed, the grocery store would move to the Solar Building on Franklin Street where it would operate for the remaining of its years, closing for good on January 1, 1944.
According to the December 23, 1943 article in the Watertown Daily Times announcing the E. H. Thompson Grocers’ closure–
The Thompson store first opened for business at its former location in the old Washington Hall block in Public Square, now the site of the present Y.M.C.A., on Oct. 25, 1859 – a year and a half before the outbreak of the Civil War. (The date contradicts a 1901 article in which it was stated the grocery was started 43 years earlier)
Edward H. Thompson was its first founder and first proprietor.
The original location of the store was at 59 Washington Hall building, a structure which was razed in 1913 to make way for the present Y.M.C.A. building. The Thompson store was then moved to its present site, 200-202 Franklin street, in the Solar Building.
The grocers would close during WWII, compelled to do “owing to war conditions.” The article would state “among its problems have been the inability to purchase stock and to make deliveries, a policy of long-standing.”
Watertown Neighborhood Grocery Stores
According to the Watertown Daily Times, there were as many as 87 neighborhood grocery stores operating in the city back in 1907 (a list from 1908 can be found here.) While there will always be a place for chains – some of them serving up a number of fond memories themselves such as the much-beloved Mohican, there’s something about the neighborhood stores and their place within our communities, and particularly our childhood memories, that made them endearing.
Over the years, more and more large grocery stores infiltrated the area offering more competitive pricing, and larger varieties of goods. A&P, Weston, Super Duper, P&C and many others have come and gone through the years and while the neighborhood grocery stores are (very) few and far between, if you look around, you still might see a little mom and pop store… somewhere.
In an ever-evolving world, it’s the chain stores themselves who now face stiff competition from the likes of large conglomerates such as Sam’s Club and Walmart, or the likes of Amazon.com. While some of them may be able to boast even MORE offerings and DEEPER discounts, they’ll never aspire to be, and thusly never match, the quaintness of the old neighborhood grocery stores.
As one astute commenter, Lee Crandall, wrote on the You Haven’t Lived in Watertown, NY if— Facebook page,
In most American cities our zoning laws have put this type of store out of business. So now we miss out on the interaction with neighbors, drive miles to a big box store, get less exercise, and waste fossil fuels to get the stuff that used to be at the corner store.