Looking back at some of the other smaller, but very popular, chain of Jewish-owned markets around metro Detroit.
I wrote a “Looking Back” this past April 10 about the large Jewish-owned supermarket chains in Detroit that no longer exist. Many of us remember Chatham, Farmer Jack, Great Scott and Wrigley. While researching this topic in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History, I also learned that Super-Sal, the largest grocery chain in Israel, was founded by Jewish Detroiters.
Well, I’m going to write once again about supermarkets. They are interesting and a vital link to our community. Even during the current pandemic, we can all relate to our local grocery stores since all of us still need to eat!
In my previous “Looking Back,” I mentioned that, beyond the large companies, there were, of course, smaller chains as well as noteworthy stand-alone grocery stores like Dexter-Davidson and Johnny Pomodoro’s. In this regard, I received several interesting letters about other Jewish-owned supermarkets.
Susan Salesin wrote about her grandfather, Louis Dorb, who owned a grocery store from the 1900s to 1930s — “Dorb’s” — across from the Michigan Central train station on Michigan Avenue in Detroit. Unfortunately, I could not find any information in the Davidson Archive about Dorb’s, but I certainly appreciate knowing this history.
I had better luck finding a bit of information on “B and C Markets.” I must admit that I did not know about this small chain of supermarkets until receiving a letter from Ruth Chodoroff Newman. Her grandfather, Joseph Newman, his brother, Peter, and Max Bachman, opened their first “Bachman and Chodoroff Market” in Detroit in the 1920s. A decade later, there were two B and C Markets in Detroit and two in Royal Oak. The chain peaked in 1950 when there were six stores but, by 1954, the two markets in Detroit had closed. The last market closed in the 1960s.
By the way, B and C Markets still has a presence today. Its headquarters building, which opened in 1940 at 417 S. Main St., Royal Oak, is still in use today. This information can be found on Wikipedia.
Other letters reminded me about another small, but very popular, chain of Jewish-owned markets: Hiller’s. Sidney Hiller opened his first store in 1941 under the name of “Shopping Center Market.” It was well-stocked with food the Jewish community craved. Before the seven-store chain was sold to Kroger in 2015, Sidney’s son, Jim, was Hiller’s CEO. There is an excellent story in the May 15, 2008, issue of the JN about Hiller’s Markets.
It should also be noted that, Bachman, the Chodoroffs and Hillers all contributed to Detroit Jewish organizations and were supporters of Israel.
In particular, I recommend you read Jim Hiller’s letter in the April 6, 2004, issue of the JN. He and his markets were experiencing a great deal of threats and protests because Hiller himself openly supported Israel. The letter is a worthy read, a demonstration of personal fortitude and conviction of principles in the face of anti-Semitism.
We may miss shopping at these markets, but it is good to know that they and their shoppers played an important role in the history of Detroit’s Jewish
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.