Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket – From Economical to Metairie

Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket – From Economical to Metairie

Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket opens new, expanded store in #themetrys!

(x-posted to YatCuisine)

Zupardo's Family Supermarket

Economical Supermarket, on Elysian Fields and Gentilly, in the 1950s. (Zuppardo’s photo)

Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket – My grocery

I’ve been going to Zuppardo’s  Supermarket, either the old store on Elysian Fields and Gentilly, or the Metairie store at Veterans and Transcontinental, since I was a kid. That’s going back to the days when the Gentilly neighborhood had an incredible number of groceries and supermarkets.

Economical!

Zuppardo's Family Supermarket

Replica of Anthony Leo Zuppardo’s banana cart from the early 1900s at the new Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket. (Edward Branley photo)

Peter Zuppardo came to New Orleans from Sicily in 1895. He took a job in the wholesale banana business. His son, Anthony Leo, saw an opportunity with over-ripe bananas. Anthony took those bananas around in a donkey cart. By 1930, the Zuppardo’s parked a truck at Gentilly Road at Elysian Fields. At that time, Elysian Fields Avenue was just a dirt road. The Pontchartrain Railroad closed in 1931, and Elysian Fields wasn’t paved until the end of the decade.

The Zuppardo’s bought the lot on that corner, establishing a permanent presence. The fruit truck expanded into a store in 1937. Those were the waning days of the city’s public market system. That system gave way to private stores after the war. The family made a good decision, as the neighborhood grew. After World War II, Gentilly’s population exploded, as men returning from the war looked to start their own families.Those strong ties helped Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket in later years, in their expansion to Metairie.

Bell Supermarkets

Zuppardo's Family Supermarket

Bell Supermarkets newspaper ad from the 1950s (courtesy NOLA.com)

Economical became part of the Bell supermarket co-op. The idea was for independent grocers to join together to better advertise their stores. This was important, because John Schwegmann’s “giant” supermarkets became incredibly popular in the 1950s. Stores such as Economical, Dorignac’s uptown, and Pap’s in the Ninth Ward all sported the Bell logo.

Economical continued its popularity into the 1960s. That was my first personal experience with the store. My momma grew up in Gentilly, on Lavender Street, just off of Franklin Avenue. She and her grandmother made groceries at Economical. Even though my parents moved out to #themetrys when they came back from Boston in 1960, we’d still go out to see my grandma regularly, and I’d tag along for grocery runs.

Expansion and Re-location

zuppardo's family supermarket

Aerial view of Elysian Fields and Gentilly, 1961. Hebrew Rest Cemetery is middle-left. Cor Jesu High is across from the cemetery. Economical Supermarket is to the right edge, below Gentilly Blvd. (NOPL photo)

The Bell supermarkets expanded and re-located as population shifted. The Papania’s opened a “Pap’s” store on Mirabeau and St. Anthony in Gentilly. Dorignac’s and Zuppardo’s opened stores on Veterans Blvd. in Metairie. Dorignac’s built a store in the 700 block of Vets, near Martin Behrman, while the Zuppardo’s opened their Metairie location at Vets and Transcontinental. My family lived closer to Dorignac’s and Schwegmann’s in the late 1960s, so we shopped there.

I renewed my acquaintance with Economical when started at Brother Martin High School, just up Elysian Fields from the supermarket, in 1971. While we mostly stopped at the local convenience store, d’Mart, we occasionally walked down to Economical for things, particularly when d’Mart employees got annoyed with all of the students coming in. I met one of the current owners, Joey Zuppardo at that time. Joey was Class of 1973, I was 1976, so he was a senior when I was a freshman. (For a full run-down of the Zuppardo family tree, check this 2018 Ann Maloney article on the new supermarket in the Picayune.)

UNO and Redeemer Days

I took many a trip down to Economical with my Lambda Chi Alpha brothers from our house on Elysian Fields near Robert E. Lee in the late 1970s. Even though Ferrara’s was just a two-block walk, the prices were much better for guys on tight budgets, working their way through UNO. After I graduated in 1980, I taught at Redeemer High School on Crescent Street, near St. Frances Xavier Cabrini church. Even though Pap’s was closer to the half-double we rented at the time, I found myself heading back down to Gentilly Boulevard for various items.

Life in St. Ann Parish and Zuppardo’s Supermarket

Zuppardo's Family Supermarket

Scenes from the original store on Vets and Transcontinental (courtesy Zuppardo’s)

In 1986, we moved out to #themetrys, near Clearview and Veterans. While my daddy had soured on Dorignac’s over the years and shopped at Schwegmann’s, Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket  at Transcontinental was so close, it became our grocery. My boys grew up coming with me to Zuppardo’s all the time. As they got older, cashiers would ask after them. I’d show photos of them as Brother Martin students and they’d sigh at how time passed. That little boy who pushed a Little Tykes shopping cart, loading it up with things important to him (cookies and fruit roll-ups) is now a Naval officer and submariner.

I’m not sure when they dropped the “Economical” from the name, becoming “Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket.” The original store closed in 2005, as Katrina left the store and all of Gentilly in pretty bad shape. To this day, my wife still says “Economical,” which I attribute to her growing up in Lake Oaks and transferring from the Broad bus line to Elysian Fields, on her way home from Dominican.

The New Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket

Two Saturdays ago, Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket closed. They knocked a hole into the side of the old store and moved everything into the new one. I’ve been an almost-daily grocery shopper for years. When your store is as close (about a mile) as Zuppardo’s is to us, it’s easy to blow off extended menu planning. Most of my “test kitchen” ideas start at Zuppardo’s Supermarket. The new store opened last Wednesday. Those four days drove me crazy, as I ended up at three different supermarkets to get things we usually pick up at Zuppardo’s!

Clothes Horse ad from 1979 – four locations! #NOLAshopping

Clothes Horse ad from 1979 – four locations! #NOLAshopping

Clothes Horse was a womens clothing chain.

Clothes Horse

Ad for Clothes Horse from 14-February-1979, in the Loyola Maroon

Clothes Horse

In 1979, Clothes Horse operated four locations in New Orleans. You shopped at Clothes Horse in Uptown Square (Broadway and River Road), The Plaza at Lake Forest (in Da East), and Village Aurora. My memories of Clothes Horse are from the Metairie location at Clearview Shopping Center.

Clearview

Lakeside Shopping Center was the first mall in Metairie, opening in 1960. Clearview followed in 1969. The anchor stores were Maison Blanche on the west side and Sears on the opposite end. While Gus Mayer was not as large as those two stores, the womens store at the center entrance was incredibly popular. Clearview offered a number of smaller boutiques and specialty stores, ranging from Clothes Horse to Radio Shack. Katz and Besthoff Drugstores operated a soda fountain in their Clearview store.

Selling Men’s Clothing

I worked at Maison Blanche Clearview, from 1977 to 1980. My experience at the store motivated me to write Maison Blanche Department Stores. Working at the three-story department store was so much fun, particularly since the ratio of female to male employees was so skewed. It was tough some days to get myself up off the front porch of my fraternity’s house in Gentilly and get myself out to Metairie. Once there, though, even the slow nights were enjoyable. There weren’t many food choices in the mall at that time. We would grab something at K&B, or the A&G Cafeteria. Those limited options meant the logical choice was often to eat at home.

Those slow nights offered the opportunity to walk down the mall and meet others. Clothes Horse was not one one of the stores I stopped in regularly. The store catered to young adult women. I could go in and say, I’m shopping for a present for my sister, but otherwise, it’s not like I’d ever be a regular customer. I appreciated that the store drew in the sort of clientele that interested twenty-year old me.

Learn More!

Come on out to Art In The Bend this Saturday, March 9th, and we can chat about MB, Krauss, Clearview, and a whole lot of other topics, as you peruse and buy my books!

 

 

New Orleans Public Belt 1941 #TrainThursday

New Orleans Public Belt 1941 #TrainThursday

New Orleans Public Belt 1941

new orleans public belt 1941

New Orleans Public Belt 1941 – Baldwin 0-6-0 switcher at the Tchoupitoulas termina. (courtesy NOPB)

New Orleans Public Belt 1941

The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad is a “short line” railroad. It operates along the Mississippi River in Metro New Orleans. The city created NOPB in 1908. They fixed the issue of railroad congestion along the riverfront. The Class I railroad wanted their own tracks and terminals along the wharves and warehouses. So, the city created a Class III railroad, the NOPB, to connect them.

A state agency manages the NOPB. It is the Public Belt Railroad Commission. The commission also maintains the Huey P. Long Bridge, since it services both railroad and automobile traffic.

The following railroads travel over NOPB tracks:

  • BNSF Railway
  • CSX Transportation
  • Canadian National/Illinois Central
  • Kansas City Southern
  • Norfolk Southern
  • Union Pacific
  • Amtrak

The Engine

The engine in the photo is a Baldwin 0-6-0 switcher. It was built new for NOPB in Jan. 1921. Its construction number 54415, and road number was 22. The engine was retired May 1957.

Dating the Photo

The photo was commissioned by the NOPB. So, it is part of the Franck Studios archive at the HNOC. It’s dated 29-October-1941, but there are dozens of photos with that date. It’s possible they were all processed by Franck Studios then. Therefore, it’s not clear just when the picture was taken. Since the engine was in service until 1957, it’s possible that the photo is indeed from 1941.

Mystery Man

We haven’t been able to identify the man in the white suite in the photo. Given that he’s dressed in a white suit, it’s more likely he is either a NOPB commissioner or a city or state official. We’ve contacted NOPB in the hopes they know who he is.

Train watching on the NOPB

the New Orleans Public Belt tracks offer some great trainspotting opportunities. One of my favorite spots is on Central Avenue in Jefferson, LA, right by the eastern approach to the Huey P. Long bridge. Central Avenue at this point (basically right under the Earhart Expressway) crosses seven sets of tracks. The tracks closest to Airline Highway are Illinois Central/CN tracks. You can see lots of activity, including CN, KCS, and Amtrak’s City of New Orleans.

On the approach to the Huey P. Long Bridge, you can see UP, NS, and Amtrak’s Sunset Limited.

Amtrak’s Sunset Limited, 1970s #TrainThursday

Amtrak’s Sunset Limited, 1970s #TrainThursday

Amtrak’s Sunset Limited

Amtrak's Sunset Limited

Sunset Limited crossing the Mississippi River, 1970s (Amtrak photo)

Amtrak’s Sunset Limited

When Amtrak took over passenger rail service in the United States in 1971, they continued the Sunset Limited service. The Southern Pacific Railroad began the Sunset Limited in 1894. It was the second “transcontinental” railroad in the United States. The train traveled over Santa Fe and Southern Pacific track, from New Orleans to Los Angeles and back.

It’s possible for rail travelers to start in the east, as far north as Maine and travel to Los Angeles. While passengers commute through the Northeast Corridor, “long haul” travelers join them to Penn Station, in New York City. There, they board Amtrak’s Crescent (#19). The Crescent takes them to New Orleans. From there, they transfer to the Sunset Limited (#1).

The Sunset Limited in New Orleans.

The Sunset Limited originally used the Trans-Mississippi Terminal on Annunciation Street. This station was uptown, close to the Mississippi River. The train pulled out of the station, then traveled across the river on a railroad ferry. When the Huey P. Long Bridge opened in 1935, the Sunset Limited operated out of Union Station, on Howard Avenue. In 1954, the train shifted operations to Union Passenger Terminal.

Pullman Service

Amtrak's Sunset Limited

The Pullman Company provided sleeper cars to many of the railroads running passenger trains. Therefore, travelers could board a Pullman sleeper coach in the east, and stay on it all the way to Los Angeles. The different railroads would pass the car along as service changed. So, Southern Railroad customers would travel from New York City to New Orleans on the Crescent. Southern Pacific picked up the sleeper, connecting it to the Sunset Limited.

Early Amtrak Service

This photo (courtesy Amtrak) shows the Sunset Limited, crossing the bridge  in the 1970s. When Amtrak started, the company used equipment given to them by the other railroads. So, this photo shows E-8 locomotives (A-B-B-A) from Southern Pacific. Budd “streamliner” cars make up the consist.

Modern Sunset Limited Service

Currently, Amtrak uses a pair of P-42DC “Genesis” locomotives to pull a consist of Streamliner coaches up the Huey and out to Los Angeles.

 

Old Metairie – 800 Metairie Road then and now

Old Metairie – 800 Metairie Road then and now

Old Metairie

old metairie

800 Metairie Road, 1962 (Franck Studios photo)

Old Metairie, Metairie Road, near the railroad tracks.

This is a Franck photo of the strip shopping center at 800 Metairie Road in 1962. I went there a bit with my parents as a kid, when we lived on Bonnabel Blvd and Dream Court. Daddy preferred making groceries at Schwegmann’s rather than Winn-Dixie, but we went to the K&B on the right-hand side of this photo a good bit.

Evolution of 800 Metairie Road

The Do Drive In was across the street. Like all drive-ins, as property values increased, the owner usually sold out, or subdivided the property themselves. In the case of the Do, the theater was replaced by a condo development, DeLimon Place. Next to it, another shopping center appeared, Old Metairie Village.

K&B

The Katz and Besthoff shifted locations, from the right side of the shopping center to the left. This store converted to a Rite Aid when that chain bought out K&B. My memories of the drugstore are more from the 1980s. The western end of the shopping center then became a McDonald’s. When the fast food joint closed, PJ’s Coffee took over. The patio of the coffee shop still has the jail-like fence that was the “play place” from the McDonald’s.

Winn-Dixie to Langenstein’s

Old Metairie

800 Metairie Road, now. (Google Maps)

The Winn-Dixie closed, leaving the grocery store footprint open. The uptown grocery, Langenstein’s, opened their second location here.

Other stores

The loading dock on the side of the K&B closed in when the store moved. Now, the western side of the shopping center is home to a number of small businesses. The larger stores needed more parking and access. Maison Blanche, for example, expanded from the city to Airline Hwy.

The laundromat next to the Winn-Dixie closed at some point in the 1970s. Radio Shack took its place. I worked at that Radio Shack in 1981. I taught high school, and Radio Shack was my summer gig. The store was the smaller, neighborhood type. We set up one of the high-end audio systems in the bay window in front. I blasted the tunes and read books, sometimes for over an hour, uninterrupted. It was easy to flip down the music quickly when someone came into the store. By that fall, my friend who was the manager got promoted to the Radio Shack in Lakeside Mall. I went along for the ride, better commission.

What are your memories of 800 Metairie Road?

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Hidden Talents


Dragon’s Danger


Maison Blanche Department Stores


Legendary Locals of New Orleans


Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans


New Orleans Jazz


New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line

 

Maison Blanche Airline

Maison Blanche Airline

Maison Blanche Airline

maison blanche airline

Maison Blanche Airline, 1956 (Franck Studios photo)

The first suburban MB – Maison Blanche Airline

When S. J. Shwartz founded Maison Blanche in 1897, MB was a single store on Canal Street. It remained that way until 1947, when the company opened its second location, at Tulane and S. Carrollton Avenues. A year later, the company went out to Gentilly, opening a store at Frenchmen Street and Gentilly Boulevard. In the late 1940s, post WWII, Gentilly was considered a “suburb” with respect to the rest of the city.

The “real” suburbs of New Orleans at that time were around, but did not have the economic significance they would have later. Jefferson Parish had three distinct neighborhoods close to the city: Jefferson, Metairie, and Bucktown. Going downriver from the city, St. Bernard Parish had Arabi, Chalmette, and Meraux. While both parishes had towns further out, these were the ‘burbs.

Getting to Jefferson Parish

maison blanche airline

Tulane Avenue in the 1950s (Morrison Collection, NOPL)

The main conduit connecting modern East Jefferson to New Orleans is I-10, but the interstate highway system was just in the planning stages in the 1950s. President Eisenhower saw the value of the autobahn system in Germany, and wanted that for the US. In the meantime, folks living outside the city proper needed routes to get back into the stores, shops, and other establishments.

mid-city new orleans maison blanche airline

Shopping center at S. Carrollton and Tulane Avenues, 1952

Rather than expand out into Jefferson Parish immediately, MB opened their first store in Mid-City. The Tulane and Carrollton location appealed to the the growning Mid-City and Lakeview neighborhoods, because folks didn’t have to go all the way to the CBD. S. Carrollton Avenue was where Tulane Avenue became Airline Highway. Airline was US Hwy 61, which led out of town and northwest to Baton Rouge. As Metairie began to expand, those folks came to the edge of town to shop at MB.

Opening in the suburbs

Crescent Drive-in on Airline Highway in Metairie, 1950 (Franck Studios Photo)

The property along Airline Highway in the late 1940s was largely undeveloped and inexpensive. In 1950, the Crescent Drive-In opened, along with the Crescent Shopping Center next door. The main reason drive-ins across the country closed was rising property values. The owners would sell to developers, and they’d move the drive-in further out into the burbs. By 1955, this happened to the Crescent. Developers built the Airline Village Shopping Center on the property. The main anchor of Airline Village was Maison Blanche Airline.

MB Airline attracted shoppers from the growing subdivisions along Metairie Road. Folks who lived near St. Martin’s Episcopal and St. Catherine of Sienna churches took Metairie Road to Atherton Drive, and turned towards Airline. They’d cross the railroad tracks (the “back belt”), and ended up right in the back parking lot of Maison Blanche Airline.

Shopping at MB Airline

Maison Blanche Airline

Like the stores on Carrollton and in Gentilly, MB Airline carried the same product lines the main store on Canal Street did. If there was something advertised in the paper that wasn’t available on the sales floor at Airline Village, the store gladly transferred it from downtown, or the customer could arrange for free home delivery.

My personal memories of MB Airline were when we lived in Old Metairie. I was a Cub Scout in the pack that was sponsored by Mullholland Memorial Methodist Church on Metairie Road. My parents would bring me from our house on Dream Court, up Metairie Road and that back route into Airline Village. MB was one of the “official” Scouting stores back then. So, that’s where we bought my uniforms, t-shirts, pocket knives, etc.

Clearview and decline

maison blanche airline

Architectural rendering, Airline Village Shopping Center

MB Airline was a resounding success for the chain well into the 1970s. When Interstate 10 opened and dominated the traffic patterns, Maison Blanche recognized the shift. They opened a new store in the Clearview Shopping Center. That mall is between I-10 and Veterans Boulevard, at the Clearview Parkway exit.

MB Airline declined rapidly after the Clearview store opened. New subdivisions developed between Veterans and the lake. Lakeside Mall and Clearview Mall became the focal points of retail shopping in Metairie. While MB Airline was convenient for residents of “Old Metairie”, everyone else favored the malls. Maison Blanche recognized this, and closed the Airline Village location.

Airline Village Today

maison blanche airline

Celebration Church (Darrell Harden photo)

The main anchor of Airline Village is now Celebration Church, a non-denominational Christian congregation.

Be sure to check out my book, Maison Blanche Department Stores by “liking” our page on Facebook.

Become a Patron

Support NOLA History Guy’s writing by becoming a Patron. Our goals are 100 patrons supporting us at $1 per month. When we reach this goal, we’ll be able to move forward with anthology production and publication.

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Shop Edward’s bookstore

Edward’s books are available at bookstores everywhere, as well as Amazon, Kobo, B&N, and other online booksellers.

For signed copies of Edward’s books, visit his online bookshop:


Hidden Talents


Dragon’s Danger


Maison Blanche Department Stores


Legendary Locals of New Orleans


Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans


New Orleans Jazz


New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line