Several local stores that have been around for decades have recently succumbed to the advent of online shopping and cheaper alternatives like Walmart. Recently, in January of this year, Macy’s in the Crystal Mall in Waterford announced its closure, marking yet another end of an era in large store chains. Like Macy’s, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, known more commonly as the A&P, had a similar fate in 2010 and its closure finished out a chapter of a long history in Mystic.
The 1900s to the 1940s: The Golden Age and Depression
Before the advent of large chain grocery stores, each town in America had smaller general stores and grocers that sold only the necessity groceries, with perhaps two or three brands of each item. As the U.S. entered the 1900s and into the Roaring ‘20s there was a demand for better organization of businesses. From this, chains began to take shape. Stores like Macy’s, Sears Roebuck & Co., F.W. Woolworth’s, First National Stores and The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co. became very prosperous and therefore quickly grew. Starting around the 1910s, Mystic also became a part of the chain retail craze and The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co., also known as A&P, opened a store in Mystic at present day 42 W. Main Street. Once the Great Depression hit, many of the local grocery businesses couldn´t survive, but the A&P was so large and successful it was able to endure the Depression, as did many other chains. The A&P offered much more variety than the local grocers did, and by the 1940s it had started to outgrow the original location downtown.
The 1950s into the 1990s: The Renaissance and Downfall
In the 1950s, the Mystic A&P moved into its newly constructed location at 25 Broadway Avenue. This location was much larger than the previous premises and would serve as the store’s location throughout the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and into the 1990s. During this period, an A&P package store specializing in alcohol and liquors was added to the location for convenience. By the 1980s and 1990s, with more products being added to shelves than ever, it was about time for another move. In the late ‘90s, the A&P made another move to its final location at 79 Stonington Rd. CVS took over the old location, with the A&P package store remaining.
The 2000s, 2010s and Company Bankruptcy
The A&P enjoyed success in the 2000s but the company had suffered some financial loss due to the rapid expansion of discount retailers like Walmart and to heavy competition such as Big Y and Stop & Shop. As the 2008 recession hit, the A&P company suffered major financial losses. A&P declared bankruptcy and subsequently closed the location at 79 Stonington Rd in 2010, ending its 100-year stay in Mystic. The closed location in Mystic, like many others nationwide, was bought out by another grocery retailer; in the Mystic location’s case, it was Big Y. What is interesting, however, is despite the closure of the A&P company, the A&P package store at the second location adjacent to the CVS survived for years and only recently became a Grand Wine and Spirits.
I was lucky to remember the last few years of the A&P, as my family shopped there a few times, but even those memories have begun to wear away. While the memories of A&P and its historic run in Mystic fade, if you look closely at the old locations you can still start to unravel the history of what at one time was one of the biggest chains and most recognizable names in the United States.