Roman Feldpausch made many improvements to the food center he opened in Nashville
Roman Feldpausch made many improvements to the food center he opened in Nashville, including the addition of a mirrored produce counter, special lighting, twin check-out lanes and one-way doors. This early undated photo of the storefront apparently predates those changes, which were reported in The Nashville News in a December 1944, business recap.
The Hastings-based food center chose Nashville as the site of its first branch – which was opened in the fall of 1936. The store was in what was formerly John Appelman's grocery in the Buxton Block, seen at right in this circa-1927 photo.
By the time the Hastings Felpausch grocery store was facing west on Michigan Avenue in this circa-1960 photo, the company had already opened – and permanently closed – its first store outside of Hastings. The Hastings store and the entire business continued to expand, remaining along Michigan avenue, but with its entrance facing east. (File photo by Leo Barth)
Nashville was first step in Felpausch food chain
Nashville writer and historian Susan (Murphy) Hinckley compiled the following column on the Felpausch grocery chain for the May 12, 1987, Nashville News. The column may have been prompted by news the previous week that Carl’s Supermarket owners Don and Jeannette Joseph had just purchased their third grocery store, Fate’s Family Fare in Lake Odessa. Carl’s stores still operate in Nashville and Lake Odessa, but all Felpausch operations were bought out by Spartan about 20 years later and either closed or converted to Family Fare or D&W stores.
As most of our readers know, Felpausch Food Center, a rapidly expanding Hastings-based grocery chain, now has stores in several cities and towns in our area. But how many of our readers recall that the first branch of the food center was in Nashville?
Roman Feldpausch’s father and uncle entered the grocery business in 1911, with the F&F Meat Market. Roman would buy out his uncle’s share of the market in 1928. Five years later, the Feldpausches began to expand the business, and Nashville was the first expansion.
“The original Food Center was opened by Roman Felpausch in Hastings 11 years ago last November,” The Nashville News reported in a local business review published Dec. 28, 1944. “Three years later, in November 1936, he opened his Nashville store in the former Appelman grocery, at the corner of Main and Washington streets.”
The first manager of the Nashville Food Center was William Thomas, who was related by marriage to the Feldpausch family. (Note: The “d” in the family name was dropped from the spelling of the company title).
Thomas was succeeded as the manager in July 1939 by Herbert Wise who had been head of the store's meat department.
Other Nashville Main Street stores dealing in groceries at the time the food center opened included the Kroger Store (since 1929); Ray Thompson's grocery (formerly Kraft & Son); and the long-standing Munro's Grocerteria (the early Brumm's grocery which Colin T. Munro purchased in 1905).
When Nashville News editor-publisher Donald F. Hinderliter wrote his thumbnail historical sketches of Nashville business places in December 1944, he noted of the food center: “During the eight years since [its establishment here], Mr. Feldpausch has frequently remodeled and enlarged the store and has constantly added better fixtures, until today it really is a model food store. A new produce bar, with mirrored back and indirect lighting, is one of the latest improvements. Attractive low-style shelving, twin checking lanes, fluorescent lights and one-way doors are some of the features added in the last year.”
Also within the previous year, the report continued, Feldpausch had acquired the building next door to the food center to use as a storeroom and office space, and had moved the meat department to the extreme back of the main store building, giving considerably more room.
At that time, Ivan Babcock was manager of the Nashville Food Center, and his wife, Phyllis, was an employee. Lawrence Hecker was manager of the meat department, which also employed Mrs. Ruth Rice and Miss Marguerite Swift part-time. Ernest Appelman, Jr. was another part-time employee When Mr. Babcock was called away to serve with the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II, Phyllis filled her husband's post as store manager. Other managers during the food center's dozen years in Nashville (in addition to those already named) include Harold Parker and Max Myers.
Throughout the Great Depression years of the late 1930s and up to its closing in 1948, the food center was a regular advertiser in The Nashville News. During those war years in the early to mid-1940s one might find in the store's ads messages reflecting the adversity of the times. For example, a note in the food center ad June 22, 1944, said: “Thanks to the thousands who have cooperated by using their own shopping containers. Your continued cooperation will be appreciated.” By this time, another grocery store – Bill Spohn's Sunnyside Market – had joined the others on North Main Street, and its ad appeared in that same issue of The Nashville News, along with ads by Munro's Grocerteria. Thompson's Market and the Kroger store.
By mid-November 1945, with the war over, many service men and women were returning home, rationing and price controls were ending, and the Nashville Food Center noted in its holiday ad: “Let's all enjoy our peacetime feast of Thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for.” The store, according to the ad, was stocked with all of the traditional holiday food.
“There should be plenty for everyone, and [our] 'below ceiling' prices will save you money.”
Two weeks later, in a full-page ad on Page 2 of The News, the food center announced a “point-free food sale,” explaining that “points are off on practically every item in our store.”
Listed among the point-free beef prices were round steak at 36 cents a pound and sirloin (“shop early or late, we'll have them”) at only 35 cents per pound. The point-free sale continued for a couple more weeks before the close of 1945.
World hunger was foremost on the minds of Americans when the food center ran this message in its May 30, 1946, ad: “The president's Famine Emergency Committee asks us to conserve wheat and fat products so that 500 million people will escape starvation. We can do this easily by cutting down on waste, and by serving more of the plentiful foods …”
The food center continued to serve the Nashville community for a couple more years after that message appeared. Feldpausch management formally announced the discontinuance of its Nashville store in The Nashville News Nov. 25, 1948.