Watertown Neighborhood Grocery Stores – Kilburn’s – 531 W Main St
Kilburn’s was a Watertown neighborhood grocery store that sat at the front of the home at 531 W Main Street owned by Austin A. Kilburn, a former patrolman. Like many stores of the era, it offered a variety of goods, from confectionaries to tobacco and cigars and of course, groceries, too.
In one interesting incident, a would be burglar picked the wrong store to steal from – but it wasn’t the former patrolman, or his son, Harold, with their shotguns that scared the burglar away. As reported by the Watertown Daily Times on May 18, 1920–
A hurry call received by Night Captain William D. Edghill at police headquarters at 11:20 on Monday Night, brought Patrolman Henry G. Denner and Daniel Doe speeding to 531 West Main street to investigate a reported burglary. The telephone call received from Mrs. (Naomi K. Snyder Kilburn) Austin A. Kilburn said that a burglar was attempting to make his way into the grocery store of D. Nellis, located in the front of the residence, through the trap door leading from the cellar.
With the taxi-cab still speeding around the corner at West Main street over the Court street Patrolman Denner attempted to alight from it. Jumping from the auto he was sent sprawling along the pavement and upon getting to his feet found his left hand to be badly lacerated. The two patrolman went to the residence of the Kilburn’s where they learned the story of the reported burglary.
When the patrolmen reached the scene, Austin A. Kilburn, a former patrolman, and his son, Harold A. Kilburn, had already started a search for the burglar, armed with shotguns. The burglar had escaped, however. In attempting to go through the open cellar window on the west side of the store, Patrolman Denner again injured his left hand. The window had been removed from the casing the day before and it was through this place that the burglar made his entrance and exit.
After the police had conducted and investigation they returned to headquarters. No burglar could be found. Patrolman Denner went to the St. Joachim’s hospital where his hand was dressed. The tip of his thumb was amputated.
It was said at the stoney today that the noise of a person trying to force his way into the store by means of a trap door was heard by Harold Kilburn. He jumped from bed and went to his father’s room notifying of the noise. They both dressed and with their shotguns started after the burglar. In the meantime, the three-year-old son of Harold Kilburn, Austin Kilburn Jr., started talking, and this, it is believed, frightened the intruder. The Kilburns live in the rear of the grocery store and meat market.
After the burglar had left the cellar of the store, it was learned today, he made his way to the shed of the rear of the residence of Jerome E. Miller, 549 West Main Street, where he waited until after the police had left. Mrs. Abbie C. Miller said today that she heard the noise of man walking on the front steps of the house at midnight. He also hit against the front door a few times. This morning the large footprints were seen on the porch, which had been freshly painted. The police, it is expected, will attempt to run down the burglar by means of this clue.
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.
A list of neighborhood grocery stores in Watertown over the years include the following below:
Academy St Market
Boora’s Soda Shop
Breen Avenue Market
Calendar’s Market on Factory
California Fruit Market
Clay Street Market
Cooper Street Market
Derrigo’s Fruit Stand
Gayle Street Market
General Store, Coffeen Street
Habeeb Bros. Red & White
Hickey’s Grocery Store
Holcomb Street Market
Johnnie’s Fruit Stand
LeRay Street Market
Meadow Street Market
Rocky’s Fruit Stand
Rutland St. Market
Sowans on State and High St.
Tony’s Fruit Stand
Interested in viewing other Watertown neighborhood grocery stores like Kilburn’s? Click here.