Jenkins' Grocery




738 17 ave SW


For over a quarter-century after this single-storey building was constructed in 1926, its corner storefront housed Jenkins' Groceteria No. 12. During this time Jenkins had seventeen stores in Calgary, and thirty around Alberta.

Jenkins' Groceteria originated in Calgary in 1909, when Henry Marshall Jenkins (1881-1945) and partner John Cornfoot opened a store in Inglewood. Jenkins became the sole owner the following year. During World War I, Jenkins' buisiness volume increased, but he faced a tight labour market. He adopted a business model used by the Seattle Groceteria, converting his Inglewood store into the first self-service grocery in Canada. Instead of having the clerk fill their order, shoppers chose the items from the shelves themselves and then brought them to the clerk for purchace. This system reduced labour costs and increased staff efficiency, which made possible a greater volume of sales. Jenkins passed his savings to the customer through lower prices. At some point, Jenkins also intorduced home grocery delivery using bicycle couriers.

Jenkins incorporated his business in 1918 as Groceteria Stores Company (renamed Jenkins' Groceteria Limited in 1928), and began opening new outlets around the City and in smaller Alberta centres. This store was part of that early expansion. The property was owned by Louis Petrie, whose company, Louis Petrie Limited, was Jenkins' cheif supplier in the City. Jenkins aquired Petrie's company in 1928, bringing Petrie himself into Jenkins; firm as an investor.


Since around 1954, the corner storefront has housed the Buy-Rite grocery store. Longtime owner J.Leslie Hill bought the store in 1936, when it was located in the nearby Mount Royal Block, and moved it to the present site around 1954. Hill was an alderman from 1949-1952, and also served as vice-president of the Alberta Social Credit League, president of the Southwest Calgary Business Association, and chairman of the Calgary Retail Merchants Association. He still owned the Buy-Rite when he died in 2959. Subsequently owners have maintained the business under the same name.

This building has two other storefronts facing 17 Avenue, and for many years one or both of them housed Bon Marche Millinery. A rear brick addition built around 1941 has functioned as a seperate address (1606 7 Street SW) since about 1960. The first occupant listed at that address was the Mona Lisa Art Salon, now housed next door.

The building is a load bearing, one storey brick structure. Although constructed in the 1920s, the design is typical of the earlier Edwardian Commercial style. It featured three contiguous recessed storefronts facing 17 Avenue, each with large display windows, clerestory windows, bulkhead, and a pressed metal signband cornice. It also featured a prominent corner entrance doorway at the intersection. Located on a prominent street, opposite Tomkins Gardens, it was a highly visible business with frontage on both 17 Avenue and 7 Street SW, Although the building now houses seperate businesses within each of the three store-fronts, it retains its early commercial charm.


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