A&p / Los Primos - North Alston And East Main

35.988041, -78.887901

Cross Street
Year built
Architectural style
Construction type
Building Type
Can you help?
You don't need to know everything, but do you know the architect?
Log in or register and you can edit this.

A&P, 1950s.

Before the A&P was built on the site in the 1950s, the area near Alston and East Main still exhibited its early 20th century residential character.


The northwest corner of N. Alston and E. Main was initially developed as small-scale residential area at the periphery of the mill villages of Edgemont and Morning Glory. The increasing poverty of Edgemont after the closure of Durham Hosiery Mill No. 1 in 1940 meant a significant decline in the housing stock.

An aerial shot after several of these houses have been torn down - looking south-southwest, early 1950s.
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

The era of the small grocery store began to wane in the 1940s with the advent of "Super Markets" - the increasing prevalence of automobiles and the convenience of going to the store less often to buy more (that you didn't have to lug home on foot) caused an explosion of these new stores in the 1950s.

One of these was the A&P at E. Main and S. Alston; with the rise in automobile traffic at this newly significant intersection, several commercial uses began to develop over the mid-20th century.

Looking northwest, 1950s.
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

It's amazing to look at pictures from this era to see just how many of these stores - primarily A&P and Colonial Stores in Durham - were built in just a few years.

This store could serve a geographically broader community than simply Edgemont / Morning Glory. Ample parking was an exciting thing for grocery shoppers.


08.27.58 (Courtesy Herald-Sun)

The wave of supermarkets that drove the smaller stores out of business eventually crashed and burned themselves, giving way to even more humongous stores out on the periphery of town.

But some of these stores have been repurposed to newer, less homogenous uses - Whole Foods at Broad St., once an A&P*, the Galaxy (now Compare Foods, see below) at the one-time Kroger at Forest Hills, and Los Primos here at E. Main and Alston.



2007 (G. Kueber)

This store, in particular, has caused some contention between the state and the city - as NCDOT's silly Alston Ave. widening project would demolish this store. The city has drawn the line in the sand over this, and insisted that NCDOT rebuild the store nearby if they plan to demolish it.

The best news is that the city is soliciting community opinion as to whether the Alston Ave. project should move forward at all, or whether the city should consider trying to halt it - simply instituting some intersection/safety streetscape upgrades instead. Let's hope that our Transportation Dept., City Council and MPO can move towards that outcome.


Looks like Galaxy has been converted to a Compare Foods grocery. New sign went up on the marquee a couple days ago.

Whole Foods on Broad Street was originally an A&P. Before Whole Foods moved to Broad Street, it was the Wellspring, and it's original location was on 9th Street where the Magnolia Grill is now. That building was orginally a neighborhood grocery, Scarborough's Grocery. (I may have the name or spelling slightly askew.)

There was a Colonial Store (I think) on Broad Street where Watts Grocery (which is of course a restaurant, not a grocery) is now. There was also a Colonial Store at Northgate when Northgate was just a strip shopping center.

Now it is decreed that all grocery stores have to be the size of St. Peter's Basilica, so obviously these buildings are way too small.

So the Whole Foods building was always an A&P? I knew it was an A&P before it was Sav-A-Center, but I have an old picture of a strip that looks much like the one on Broad St. with a Colonial Stores. Something seems not-quite-right about that picture for Broad St., though, so this makes sense. I'll correct the post above.

I also have one of the (you are correct) Colonial Stores at the current Watts Grocery location (grand opening picture)

I know this is off point, but Wellspring went through the current George's Garage space before moving to the A&P/SupRFreshSavACenter (or whatever it was). I doubt that complex at the SW corner of Markham/9th/Hillsborough Rd. would have been built had Wellspring not wanted to move. (The other tenants were the defunct Kerr Drug and another small store or two, one of which was something like an REI).

I can't speak for the Broad Street A&P before 1980 or so.

I can't say for sure that the Broad Street building was "always" an A&P. But it was an A&P in 1967 when I came to Durham. I don't know when it was built, but judging by the design, it looks like a 1950's era building. It's conceivable that it was a Colonial Store first. But, aside from the other one on Broad Street, there was also a Colonial Store on Main Street near Great Jones Street in the 1960's. That seems like quite a concentration of Colonial Stores very close to each other.

I had forgotten about "Sav-a-Center." That was also owned by A&P when they had the brilliant idea that people who wouldn't shop at A&P might shop at same store run by the same company but called something else. Go figure. People I knew still continued to call it the A&P

I'm pretty sure that at least for a short while, the Broad St. location was an IGA. I'm pretty sure that's what it was when I was at NCSSM, 92-94.

John is correct, A&P renamed certain stores Sav-A-Center. Southern stores that didn't meet A&P's attempts for a new bigger modern image in the mid 80's were renamed Sav-A-Center. Eventually all Sav-A-Centers in the South were closed. To my knowledge the only A&P's that still exist in the South are in Louisiana.


Compare is pretty good, but Los Primos is the bomb -- currently the best place to buy Salvadoran sausages (they have four varieties).

my recollection of the new Compare in Forest Hills is that it was a Lowe's Foods before it was a Galaxy, and a Byrd's before that. i don't recall it being a Kroger, but i've only been here since 93.

I do also have a picture of the Colonial Stores at Five Points; I have a whole series of supermarket photographs from the 1950s. Some I still haven't identified - but at least a few of them are in Chapel Hill, which led to some of my bafflement (presuming they were all of Durham initially.)

Barry, I agree with your timeline for the stores at Forest Hills - it was a Kroger when it was first built in the 1950s (one strip shopping center that I could definitively identify.)


thanks Gary. good news about the Alston Ave. widening project as well. i hope to get something up on that at my place in the next week or so, but the gist that i got at the EEC ad hoc meeting the other night is that the city and the community were able to prevail upon NCDOT that their plan did not make sense for the community.

looking at the the numbers, it's clear that Alston is already carrying more traffic than it can handle, and something will need to be done. But running a 5 lane thoroughfare through the heart of a residential community is not the best option.


Agreed on Alston - as I've said before, I wasn't inherently opposed to widening Alston Avenue - it was the roadway design that stunk. Part of the problem here is that the one-size-fits-all mentality of NCDOT can mean a project is take-it-or-leave-it. In this case, I wish there had been (will be?) more of an opportunity to get a great boulevard rather than the nasty infrastructure there is now or the highway that DOT designed.

I hope that somehow we can move the mountain of DOT - to walk-the-walk (literally) of community context rather than checking the community involvement boxes and designing the same ol' roadways anyway.


i mentioned to one of the engineers that unbroken center left turn lanes were essentially pedestrian death traps, and that landscaped medians make much more sense.

she agreed, but claimed that residents along the road preferred to have left turn access in and out of every one of their driveways. if that is really true, this is one case where the engineers need to prevail.

i mentioned to one of the engineers that unbroken center left turn lanes were essentially pedestrian death traps, and that landscaped medians make much more sense.

This is my drive every single day. I know what the residents are saying. However, the idea of landscaped center medians sounds like a great compromise to the widening and the center left turn lanes. They definitely offer great opportunity for city beautification and, still, if people need to turn left into a driveway, with the center median, a left hand turn section can be placed at the end of each stretch of road that has a signal to allow u-turns. This providing that u-turns could be accomplished on the narrow streets.

Aha! This one, at E. Main, (now Los Primos) is the one I found the UCC filing for as a Piggly Wiggly in 1982/1983...

Does anyone know about when the mural was painted on the side of Los Primos or who the artist might be?

I did the electrical wiring of this building when it was new. I was working for Barton Electrical Construction Co.

Add new comment

Log in or register to post comments.