In June 1999, Doris Denning gave us a history of her family’s Grocery Boy store and Grocery Boy Jr. convenience store chain.
When my husband was a boy, his father bought the two-story building on the corner of Chatham and Jones streets and opened a grocery store. In 1951, after we married, my husband and I opened Grocery Boy store in his father’s building.
Our two sons were born while we lived upstairs. We took orders over the phone and delivered groceries. We had one delivery truck.
There were two other Mom-and-Pop grocery stores in Cary’s two-block business, who were our competition. By 1964, chain grocery stores began to move into town, so we decided to move the store way out on the edge of the country at Chatham and Maynard Road, so we would then have space equivalent to those chain stores. It paid off for us.
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In 1972, we decided to try the convenience store business. Our first Grocery Boy Jr. store was on Blue Ridge Road where the hospital is now. It worked out really well.
My husband and Harry Stephenson, who owned Cary Oil Company, were friends. Harry had seen gas operations at convenience stores in Texas and wanted to try it at our store, so he put in the tanks out front.
We were probably the first convenience store in the state to sell gas. We didn’t accept credit cards, only cash.
We would get one store open and get it going good. The first five we ran ourselves, and then we decided it was just getting to be so much while we still had the big grocery store open. So we started leasing stores out.
Today, all but two of them are leased out. We also leased out our supermarket so we could concentrate totally on the convenience stores.
The person we leased Grocery Boy to stayed five years, and then someone wanted to rent the building from us for a country fish house, which didn’t last very long.
Then we remodeled the building and opened a convenience store in the front part of it, on the corner of Chatham and Maynard. Our offices are in the back.
At one time we had 18 convenience stores, but over time we lost a few of them due to road widening and what-not. But we still have a dozen.
The convenience store leases are something like a franchise. Our contracts specify some of the products to be stocked and how much to charge for most things. But the pricing on some of the items is left up to the individual owner. All of the convenience stores have the gas operations with them.
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.