West Durham A&p / Tops / Gino's / Haufbrau / Whole Foods / Etc.

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---- (Courtesy Herald-Sun)

Bird's Eye view looking west the Erwin Field at Broad and West Main Streets, ~1940.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

One of the early community assets created by the Erwin Cotton Mills and its principal, William Erwin, was the Erwin field, which hosted the Erwin Auditorium baseball team.

Looking east from 8th (Iredell) and West Main Sts., May 1938, showing a partial view of the batting cage.
(Courtesy Duke Forest Collection)

Looking northeast from 8th (Iredell) and West Main Sts., May 1938, showing a view of the batting cage.
(Courtesy Duke Forest Collection)

Below, images of the baseball team from the mid 20th century at the field.

(Courtesy Old West Durham Neighborhood Assoc.)

(Courtesy Old West Durham Neighborhood Assoc.)

In 1953, Erwin Mills converted the former Monkey Bottom lowlands to the south into a new Erwin Field; the field at West Main and Broad Streets was soon converted into a commercial development - a new A&P supermarket set back from Broad Street with what was, at the time, a massive surface parking lot in front, and a Phillips 66 gas station at the corner of Broad and West Main Sts.

Tops Drive-In was added to the south end of the A&P sometime in the 1950s. Per information sent to me by Bob Chapman:

"Tops was [one branch of] an 18 restaurant chain with all other branches in northern Va and the DC area including one on Wisconsin Av. in Bethesda. Their signature sandwiches were the Sir Loiner, the Jim Dandy, the Maverick and a tasty 'Hawaiian' ham sandwich with pineapple and secret sauce. Great onion rings and hot fudge sundaes. Juke box. In the early 70s the chain merged into Gino's (named after Gino Marchetti of the Baltimore Colts) They sold inedible hamburgers and KFC until they went under, then the location morphed again into a KFC store."

Tops Menu.
(Courtesy Sherry Handfinger)

He notes that there was an establishment in the basement below Tops, named the "Student Prince Hofbrau Haus."

Looking southwest from Perry and Broad Sts., 08.27.58
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

Looking south on Broad Street from near Perry St., 08.27.58. The gas station is visible in the background.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

In the 1950s and 1960s, high school and college students would make a drive-in circuit that, in this little area, included Top's and the Blue Light.

The character of this corner changed considerably with the connection of Broad Street and Swift Avenue in 1964; neither crossed the tracks prior to that point, and Swift Avenue met the tracks at a point farther east than where Broad St. did.

Above, aerial view of the center, showing the A&P, Haufbrau, the Ginos drive-in, and the Phillips 66 on the corner, late 1960s.

(Courtesy Duke Archives)

Below, the Phillips 66 station and "Ginos" looking west, after the connection of Broad and Swift, 03.10.70



The Student Prince Haufbrau, 1974.


Friendly proprietorship inside the SP Haufbrau, 1974. (Duke Chanticleer)

By the time I got to Durham in 1988, I remember the gas station, which I believe was closed, the KFC, and the Hofbrau - although I never went in the latter. The A&P had one of those 1970s-era A&P signs on the facade, and it was definitely on the decline. By 1993, it had become a Sav-A-Center.

Sometime in the mid-90s, when I left Durham, before I came back in 1997, Wellspring grocery moved from their location at 9th and Hillsborough (which was later, until recently, George's Garage) to the Sav-A-Center, which involved a significant renovation of the entire building. It appears that the strip was expanded at that time as well.

Former A&P/Sav-A-Center under renovation, mid-1990s. (Durham Herald-Sun)

The former Phillips 66 gas station was also renovated to become a restaurant - Owen's Broad Street Diner, run by the 501 Diner folks in Chapel Hill. Ben and Jerry's took over the southeast corner, around where Top's was, and a pizza place moved in to the west of them - can't remember the name, but they had some insane list of toppings that included rattlesnake, jellybeans - you name it.

Since then, Wellspring has become Whole Foods, the pizza place became Cinelli's, the bike store that is now The Bicycle Chain moved in at the north end of the complex, and a local video store, Avid Video, moved in next to Ben and Jerry's. The Broad Street Diner closed (which depressed me - I always enjoyed it) and was replaced by the Mad Hatter, which moved from its prior location in Erwin Square. (They renovated the station extensively - enclosing the south 'triangle' awning.)

Primarily because of Whole Foods, this 1950s-era shopping center remains very busy, and a hub for commercial activity for a wide geographic area of Durham.

Looking southwest, 04.12.09 (Copyright Gary Kueber)

As of 2012, the Bicycle Chain has moved out to 15-501, and Whole Foods has expanded into their space, seemingly foregoing the long-rumored move one block northward with a complete store renovation.


I can add a few detail about the denouement. The Hofbrau was definitely there in the fall of 1991, and I vaguely recall that it had some sort of garish faux brauhaus awning. The Sav-a-Center was there by early-mid 1992, and my peers and I referred to it at the time as the "Super-Fresh". Dunno why, because Sav-a-Center has about the same kitsch value. That pizza place was bizarre. It had some sort of Vegas-meets-O.R thing going one with acres of sterile tile and red neon.

I arrived in fall 1991, and have no recollection of an A&P or a KFC, FWIW

The pizza place was called Pieworks. And I believe "Super-Fresh" was part of the name of the "Sav-A-Center" -- maybe it was on the sign, or maybe not.

By the fall of 1962, a laundromat and another small business that I can't quite remember had already been added to the north end of the A&P. I walked there from Aycock dorm with my laundry, crossing Broad Street where the wall meets the Leyland cypress row.

Tops sponsored a nightly top-40 request program on WSSB AM ("Topper Time"). We wasted many evenings cruising the Blue Light/Tops/Shoney's/Honey's circuit, listening for our names. WSSB was weak in signal and in programming; WKIX AM in Raleigh was much better, especially during the British invasion, and the best soul and R&B was on WSRC (Durham) and WLLE (Raleigh).

Wasn't Brewer's Pharmacy also in that strip, perhaps north of the A&P?

I recall vaquely the A&P being in place but what I really recall is the KFC being there, as that was the closest KFC from where I grew up so we definately grabbed some buckets of chicken there on occasion...didn't even realize how long ago it closed....great post

Didn't I hear (from John Schelp on his walking tour, I think) that Whole Foods plans to move one block north into space currently owned by Duke? Any word on what would take over as an anchor tenant in the old A&P if this happens?

A&P Corporation, to avoid union issues renamed its supermarkets in this market Sav A Centers, and then Super Fresh, but they remained owned by the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company until the firm left North Carolina.

In the one shot there is a sign for Gino's. They had an operating agreement with KFC and had joint restaurants for a while, not unlike today's Taco Bell/KFC/Pizza Hut combos.

I used to go have beers in the basement of the Student Prince Hofbrau with its kitchy faux german decor. I seem to remember that it was part of a chain.

The idea of Whole Foods moving a block north is subject to the agreement of Duke and several landowners... and the City. So it may never happen. Not sure a large "modern" shopping center there is best use of that space.

This area is one of Durham's few success stories in regards to an evolving commercial zone that has stayed relevant and reasonably attractive in terms of appearance and pedestrian friendliness... hope it is not destroyed.


My sister met her husband at A&P.
He was working there in the 70s.
They're still married over 30 years later.

Wow, what a trip back. I spent many a Saturday morning following my Mother around in that A&P store.

Ah, the Hofbrau! When my high school friends and I wanted to be a little bad, we'd go there to drink a beer on Friday or Saturday nights in the early 1970's. It seemed so illicit walking down those steps to the basement area and doing what we weren't raised to do in the Baptist churches we all attended. Even though we could legally drink at 18, I might have been 17 and don't remember being carded. Oh we thought we were grown hanging out with the Duke students!?! Precious memories...

During my DHS years (Class of '63) I was introduced to the Tops "Sir Loiner" burger which I think preceded MacDonald's "Big Mac" burger. To this day, the Sir Loiner's "secret sauce" has not been equaled; at least not in my mind.

And yes, my buddy and I put countless miles on his mother's 56 Chevy wagon making the Tops-Blue Light-Shoney's run. We also often included the MacDonald's on Roxboro Rd in our circuit. That was the first of the MacDonald's in Durham, having the big golden arches, no indoor seating, and hamburgers you could buy for some odd number of pennies (say 17).

This post really takes me back. My mom used to shop sometimes at that A&P in the 1960s and always took her car for service at that Phillips 66. Gino's hamburgers truly were awful, but for some reason I loved them when I was 11 or 12.

Just a little info on 'The Bicycle Chain Durham' from a former employee. The store started on Ninth Street in the early 90s (I believe), as an outgrowth of The Clean Machine in Carrboro and Franklin Street Cycles in Chapel Hill. In the late 90's it moved into the Wellspring plaza in the space formerly occupied by 'Don's Game Room.'

The sign for the Game Room that you see in the picture above is still in the shop, hanging on a back wall that doesn't face customers. It will probably never be thrown away, as the employees have gotten quite fond of it, even though no one who currently works there can remember the former occupant.

The shop changed it's name in '04 or '05 in an attempt to create a stronger brand image with its other stores. There are now locations in Carrboro (still called 'The Clean Machine' for nostalgic reasons), Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh, and Apex.

The owners have remained the same for the last ten or so years: two guys that started out as mechanics the Carrboro and Chapel Hill locations in the 80s, worked their way up, and slowly bought out the original owner, who has long since gotten out of any sort of managing. (When I worked there he still had a minority stake, and I never met him, nor met anyone who had met him [other than the new owners] in four or five years at the shop.)

I know that it's not nearly as interesting as the rest of the plaza, but I thought I'd add what info I had. Another great post, by the way!

The old MacDonalds on Roxboro Road had a prior incarnation as a drive-in restaurant called The O'Boy.

The old MacDonalds on Roxboro Road had a prior incarnation as a drive-in restaurant called Neal's. The O'Boy drive-in was across the street

Glad somebody remembered the "Oh Boy"...wasn't that a little before Tops? And, doesn't anyone remember The Rebel?? If going to the Blue Light was off bounds for us highschool girls, The Rebel was totally like going to H-LL. Remember J.T., the carhop, who you would stop and give your order to as you drove down into the dark parking lot to secretly drink beer and make out??

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

End of the night couldn't go home without stopping by to see Jt and having one last PBR

My girlfriend/wife Corinna and I spent many nights cruising Tops et al in my Dad's red '53 MG-TD. She always got the small chocolate milkshake and a pickle, and I the SirLoiner. That was the greatest burger with a secret sauce that has never been duplicated. All the DHS folks (Class of '64) gathered there after sock hops and games. The guys retired to the Blue Light after the girls went home for PBR and smokes.

I used to work at Gino's KFC in the early 70's. The food was not bad. It was a lot like McDonalds and BK
They had a Gino Giant
that was a copy of
a Big Mac and a Jumbo Gino that copied the whopper. We could eat all we wanted but had to tell the boss what we ate so he could account for it.
I cooked a lot of chicken there in my day. Now that I look back it was dangerous work cooking chicken. We had to slide our feet across the floor
when carrying hot pots of bird to keep from slipping and falling. Grease, tile floors and tennis shoes is a bad combination.

Some of my earliest memories (early 80s) are of riding around town with my family, going to the A&P and seeing the Hofbrau and my parents commenting about that being where all the Duke kids went to get drunk. I'd see the graffiti on the East Campus bridges and these fliers for bands like Sex Police playing at places like Under The Street and the whole thing just seemed very incomprehensible to my 5 or 6 year old mind -- like some sort of other world.

Also, COMPLETELY forgot about the KFC being there. I love this site.

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