Cary has plenty of grocery stores these days. But in the early years, residents didn’t have many options. Many families grew their own food and supplemented their needs at the local grocers in downtown Cary.
Here, some residents recall what is was like.
Emma Lou Johnson: The only stores I remember in Cary were grocery stores. Not many groceries were bought when people grew their food and canned it. The only thing you would buy would be staples.
Fred Seeger: In 1944, downtown Cary was one square mile, had 700 people, and had Rogers Grocery Store, Hobby’s Grocery Store and Grocery Boy.
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Billy Rogers: In the early 1940s, my father opened Rogers Grocery Store in half of the Ashworth Drugstore building, which he ran until 1952. Two doors down was Hobby’s Grocery. Young boys would catch rabbits to trade with Daddy for candy. Your customers were so dear to you.
From the time I was 12, I delivered groceries on a bicycle with a big cart on the front. People would call their grocery order in, sometimes daily. Many would charge their groceries and pay when they got their paycheck at the end of the month. I don’t know how Daddy could carry credit or work that out with his suppliers. That’s what he had to do to keep customers.
About 1952, Mr. Hobby built the building where the kitchen appliance store is now and leased it to Piggly Wiggly, Cary’s first chain grocery store. Later, Piggly Wiggly sold out to Winn-Dixie.
When Piggly Wiggly came, I stood out in front of our little store, watching all our customers going to the Piggly Wiggly. I may have cried, and I remember being so sad. Shortly thereafter, Daddy sold his store and went into the restaurant business.
Hobby’s Grocery Store did well during the war. He was able to get more customers in through allotments for sugar, meat, etc. He was a very good businessman.
Jean Ladd: My grandfather, Wiley D. Jones, had a grocery store on Cedar Street way back when. Later, my dad had Hobby’s Grocery Store through the Depression.
A few customers wanted certain items that were only available once a week, so he made sure they got what they wanted. He kept a hand-written ledger of who owed what: a loaf of bread – 5 cents; butter – 10 cents; and carried that until the end of the month.
Doris Denning: My husband’s father bought the two-story building on the corner of Chatham and Jones Street, and opened a grocery store. In 1951, we took it over and called it Grocery Boy. We lived upstairs, and my three children grew up in the store. We put a crib behind the meat counter where I could look after them.
We took orders over the phone, and made deliveries with one truck. Not everyone had a car then. In 1964, to compete with Piggly Wiggly, we built the building on Chatham and Maynard. We stopped making deliveries or carrying credit then.
In the late 1970s, Cary got an A&P on Chatham Street. So in 1972, we decided to try the convenience store business. Our first, called Grocery Boy Jr., was on Blue Ridge Road (in Raleigh) where the hospital is now. We expanded from there. At one time we had 18 convenience stores.
Cary’s Heritage is taken from the book “Just a Horse-Stopping Place, an Oral History of Cary, North Carolina,” first published in August 2006. The book is a collection of oral history interviews conducted between local citizens and Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel. The text has been edited for style.