† 32 Conwell Street

 
A&P

To this day, you may occasionally hear an old-timer refer to the supermarket on Shank Painter Road as the “A&P.” It’s a habit that dies hard because the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company stores were interwoven with Provincetown life in the 20th century, as they were in towns across America. This particular A&P was Provincetown’s first true supermarket when it opened in 1958. The new development on the site, shown superimposed on the plan below, recalls the past in its name: Old Ann Page Way. That was a famous A&P house brand in the day.

Real old-timers (please don’t take offense; I’d qualify if I’d grown up in town) can remember when there were two A&Ps, operating simultaneously, one in the West End, at 120 Commercial Street, and the other downtown, at 315 Commercial Street, right on Lopes Square. As the size of the spaces suggests, these were grocery store-scaled businesses. What got built on Conwell Street in 1958 was a supermarket.

Even discounting the self-interest in making a big advertiser happy, The Advocate’s glowing account probably conveyed a lot of the excitement in town. The arrival of a supermarket put Provincetown firmly on the map of postwar America, even if it did have a cupola and a weathervane on top.

The attractive Colonial-style exterior and ultra-moden, air conditioned interior of the new A&P have been skillfully blended to provide a distinctive one-story structure with all of today’s merchandising facilities.

A large parking lot, a store-to-car bundle delivery service, wide aisles, electrically operated doors and extra speed-type checkouts will eliminate shopping delays even at peak periods.

Wilfred E. Rogers, a 38-year A&P veteran who had previously run the store 315 Commercial, was the original manager here, working with Joseph P. Hurtubise as his assistant; Arthur M. Ventura in charge of meats and Joseph P. “Hot Dog” Oliver in charge of produce.

Speaking of which, the story is told that Mary Souza, the proprietor of the popular Mary Spaghetti’s restaurant at 2 Bradford Street, made her celebrated kale soup with an ingredient so secret that she dared not disclose it to anyone: frozen kale! To accommodate her clandestine purchases, the A&P permitted her to pay for the kale in the office, rather than carry it publicly through the check-out line. Then, a store employee would bring the stuff to Mary’s car, parked out in back of the store. Provincetown, happily fed, was none the wiser.

The Conwell Street store closed in the 1980s and stood abandoned for more than a decade before being torn down by Edward “Ted” Malone of Community Housing Resource (see 34-36 Conwell) to accommodate the Old Ann Page Way development. ¶ Posted 2012-11-13

2 thoughts on “† 32 Conwell Street

  1. Love the secret ingredient story. The smaller building off to the side was a laundromat for quite a while, certainly in the early ’70s when I arrived. People tended to put off doing the laundry until they had few clothes left and then head out dressed in everything from pajamas to very dressy outfits. I don’t recall if it was this laundromat or the next one on Shank Painter Road that stayed open 24 hours (or at least very late) but one of them did, which added the element of folks going home after the bars closed, getting their dirty laundry and then spending the wee hours watching the world go round and round. Were there drugs involved? Maybe.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s