Whats going on at Marion’s grocery store?

November 9, 2017

By Julie Traynor

Have you noticed some subtle changes at the local grocery store? Perhaps you’ve picked up a loaf of Our Family bread from the shelf where the familiar Spartan version once was, or noted other items from this new brand about the store. Once again change is coming to our local grocery, and as before, it will prove to be a good thing. 

In 2011 we welcomed some big changes locally when the Spartan Corporation introduced one of the first new stores under the ValuLand flag, in Marion, Michigan. Folks from everywhere welcomed the product and cost saving changes with open arms and a grocery Mecca was born; everyone came to Marion’s ValuLand.

 According to Dave Hogoboom, ValuLand District Manager, a little over two years ago and with little local fanfare, Spartan and the Nash Finch Corporation of Minneapolis merged, forming the Spartan Nash Corporation, They are owners of numerous grocery chains across the Midwest. As a result of this merger, the much loved Spartan brand is going away. Spartan stores across the region have begun the process of becoming one with the Our Family umbrella and label. It will take a year for the Spartan label to disappear.  

Hogoboom assures us, and as many shoppers have already found, the Our Family Brand of foods and products is a quality one, equal to the popular Spartan brand and at a comparable price. Once again change has come to grocery shopping in Marion and more is on the way. It looks like we’ve all got a grocery store in Our Family. Pun intended.

Folks in this area have historically been very fortunate in the grocery demand and supply chain. Since Marion was founded those settling here have always been able to purchase supplies, dry goods and groceries. Grocery shopping has as long and varied a history as the village itself. Christopher and Mary Clark, the first settlers and business owners dispensed supplies to others. By 1884 the Clarks were selling supplies, dry goods and food stuffs, to the fast growing town from their home on Clark Street.  By 1889 when the village was formally organized it boasted several businesses selling groceries and meats.
 One of the earliest and most recognizable buildings in Marion was the Piper & Lowry building, located next to the then Post Office on the northwest corner of Mill and Main. The two story red brick structure, constructed in 1905 after the Great Fire, consisted of two store fronts below and meeting halls and offices above. The upstairs meeting halls boasted large arched windows. The Lowry Brothers, later joined by the Game Brothers Meat Market, sold groceries on the west side of that location from 1900 until 1943 when they sold the business and building to Bernie and Lola Schumacher, who renamed it the Marion Food Market and in 1956, Bernie’s IGA Foodliner. The bones of this structure are now part of the Artesian Springs Medical offices. 

The Helfrich Company, which would become the home of the M&J Market, as seen on a busy Saturday in July of 1958. Note the Old Home Bread advertising painted on the building. 

The Helfrich Company, which would become the home of the M&J Market, as seen on a busy Saturday in July of 1958. Note the Old Home Bread advertising painted on the building. 

Another longstanding grocery in Marion was located between the former Ben Franklin building (now Scott’s Trading Post) and the former Irish Inn. This building was built in the early part of the last century and is the Amps Blevins Block dated 1914.  This information is cast in stone and hidden under the building’s current façade. For much of its early life it was a grocery. In the 1930’s it was Marion’s Economy market and later the Clover Farm Store, operated by Lee Duddles. He sold to Oscar Johnson who operated Johnson’s Grocery until the early 1960’s. The building became part of the Ben Franklin’s vast fabric and craft department and housed a beauty shop in the back. The building is once again a separate space and is the home to Marion’s Hide Away Gym.

West along Main, at the corner of Mill Street, groceries were dispensed by Frank and Emma White and later partner and son-in-law, Dudley Helfrich, at F. White’s Grocery. White was a merchant in Marion for more than 50 years, eventually retiring to his comfortable home on East Main in the early 1950’s. The White’s sold to Ellis and Naomi Borders who operated the grocery until the 1970’s when it was purchased by young Marionites, Max and Judy Kibby. The M&J Market was born.

Ultimately it was the Kibby’s who made the decision to move their rapidly growing Viking Brand business from the Main and Mill location. The M&J Grocery opened in the ValuLand location on South Mill in the mid 1970’s and continued to grow through two expansions.

Eventually the Kibby’s sold the business to the Ashcraft Market’s of Harrison who in turn sold that business to the Spartan Corporation and it operated the grocery under the Glen’s flag. The current ValuLand is a subsidiary of Spartan Nash Foods.
The latest innovation in grocery shopping in Marion is the future. Change really is good and above all in this season of thanks, we must truly be thankful that in these uncertain and changing times, we still have a grocery store in our town.

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