"The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different." —Aldous Huxley
As new Southdale owners are re-envisioning the retail mix of business at the mall, they're considering adding a grocery store. That surprised some museum visitors, who wondered whether shoppers really would buy a cart full of groceries when they come to a mall for things like Ugg boots, down comforters or a new pair of eyeglasses.
Southdale, in fact, opened in 1956 with a 30,000-square-foot Red Owl, which was then the largest grocery in the Upper Midwest. By 1950s standards, this store was huge. Keep in mind that this was 1956, years before huge warehouse-style Rainbow and Cub Foods came on the scene.
Here is the boxed cereal section. Pretty impressive even by today's super store standards.
The store was located on the Dayton's (now Macy's) side of the mall (north end). Here's an interior shot.
Here's an exterior view showing its location compared to Dayton's, as well as how those truckloads of cereal and other items got into the store.
And another image showing how the groceries got out. Shoppers also had the option of a "Pick Up Station," where (museum visitors tell me) groceries came out on a conveyor and store employees loaded them into your waiting car. (You may have noticed a Pick Up Station sign in the photo of the interior.)
Mrs. Shopper, just as Southdale developer Victor Gruen envisioned in the 1950s brochure below, could spend a cold January morning in the indoor comfort of a shopping center that duplicated the services of a traditional downtown, including No. 5 : "Buy the family groceries." Brochure is part of Edina Historical Society's Southdale collection.
Red Owl moved out of the mall in 1973, just across the street on York Avenue. One of the Edina municipal liquor stores, which was located next to Red Owl inside the mall, moved out at the same time to the neighboring address.
The stand alone grocery store would later be torn down and replaced by Cub Foods.
I haven't yet found any documentation on why Red Owl left Southdale. The city apparently opted to own its liquor store property rather than paying rent, perhaps Red Owl executives shared the same view. (See story on liquor store history by Joe Sullivan in the City of Edina's Spring 2005 About Business publication.)
Will a new grocery store succeed at Southdale? Will it bring in more traffic and business to other stores in the mall? Although history can help inform decisions, retail is constantly reinvented and what is old is new again. People with better marketing skills than I will ultimately make that decision.
Despite all the uncertainties, I do know one thing: two big bunches of celery will not sell for 25 cents, the price seen in the last photo.
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