Watertown Neighborhood Grocery Stores – Renzi Grocery E Main Street
One of the longest operating Watertown neighborhood grocery stores was the Renzi Grocery on E Main Street, not to be confused with the Renzi store at Factory Square. This particular Renzi Grocery was located at the five-corner convergence of Pearl Street, Starbuck Ave, and E Main Street. The old Pearl Street School sits on the opposite corner across from where the grocery store once stood.
The Renzi Grocery would have one of the longest tenures at a single location for a Watertown neighborhood grocery store until the owner, Giovanni (John) Renzi, unexpectedly passed away in 1966. As his obituary in the Watertown Daily Times, dated May 11, 1966, noted–
Mr. Renzi was born Oct. 27, 1898, in Melizzano, province of Benevento, Italy, a son of the late Giovanni and Anna Mercone Renzi. He joined the Italian army as a young man for service in World War I shortly after the outbreak fo the war, became a master sergeant in the artillery and saw action on the Italian front of the war.
For a time Mr. Renzi was employed in the Factory street grocery store of his brother-in-law, Marzio Renzi. Later, he entered the grocery business. He operated the East Main Street store under a lease from its owner, the late John A. Paul, until 1938 when he purchased it from Mr. Paul.
An attempt to fill the location in 1971 with a used car lot did not pass city council vote. The lot has remained vacant for a good number of years now.
Like any number of smaller stores, the Renzi Grocery seemed to be a prime target for burglary attempts – particularly in the 1960’s. Numerous articles detail items stolen over the course of a few years, ranging from carpenter tools to cigarettes to small amounts of money. Even the same favored break-in attempt, removing the moulding around windows, happened on numerous attempts which fortunately were unsuccessful.
Watertown Neighborhood Grocery Stores
According to the Daily Times, there were as many as 87 Watertown neighborhood grocery stores operating in the city back in 1907. 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 (feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org for any additional ones not mentioned.)
Aboud & Bahou
Academy St Market
Boora’s Soda Shop
Breen Avenue Market
Calendar’s Market on Factory
California Fruit Market
General Store, Coffeen Street
Clay Street Market
Cooper Street Market
Derrigo’s Fruit Stand
Gayle Street Market
Gotham Street Market
Habeeb Bros. Red & White
Hickey’s Grocery Store
Holcomb Street Market
Johnnie’s Fruit Stand
Kilburn’s 531 W. Main St
LeRay Street Market
Meadow Street Market
Rocky’s Fruit Stand
Rutland St. Market
Sowans on State and High St.
Tony’s Fruit Stand
The view more Watertown neighborhood grocery stores like Renzi Grocery, click here.