Stop-N-Shop markets were leaders in city’s grocery industry

Anyone remember Stop-N-Shop grocery stores and supermarkets? It goes without question that just about anyone who resided in the Sacramento area any time from the Great Depression to around the days when the motion picture “Jaws” and disco were considered hot topics certainly answered, “yes,” to this question.
The Stop-N-Shop market at 3231 Riverside Blvd. served the community from 1947 to 1975. The building, which still exists today, was later home to Walter Kassis’ Big K Market, which closed in 1982. / Photo courtesy of the Kassis family

The Stop-N-Shop market at 3231 Riverside Blvd. served the community from 1947 to 1975. The building, which still exists today, was later home to Walter Kassis’ Big K Market, which closed in 1982. / Photo courtesy of the Kassis family

One wonders how many longtime, local residents still drive by the old Stop-N-Shop building across from Vic’s Ice Cream on Riverside Boulevard in the Land Park area and reminisce about when they used to shop at this once grand supermarket.

Considering that Sacramento was home to 13 Stop-N-Shop markets, there are undoubtedly many people who remember at least one of these stores.

Furthermore, many longtime, local residents assuredly still remember the store’s popular jingle, which featured the familiar lines: “Let’s go down to the Stop-N-Shop and push the cart around ‘n’ round. Let’s buy all of our groceries there. They have the best in town. Let’s go down to the Stop-N-Shop and push the cart around ‘n’ round. You get a lot more for your money there than anywhere else in town.”

Sacramento grocery leaders

Although there are currently several Sacramento area convenience stores that use the name, Stop N Shop, these stores are not to be confused with the Stop-N-Shop stores that were once leaders in the city’s grocery industry.

The Stop-N-Shop stores highlighted in this article were established by the Kassis family, with the first of these stores being opened in 1928 at 2800 Y St. (present day Broadway).

Another view of the Stop-N-Shop market at 3231 Riverside Blvd. / Photo courtesy of the Kassis family

Another view of the Stop-N-Shop market at 3231 Riverside Blvd. / Photo courtesy of the Kassis family

The roots of Stop-N-Shop stores began with A.G. Kassis, who emigrated with his wife, Maggie, from Lebanon to the United States in 1890.

Lebanese immigrants

Upon their arrival in America, A.G. and Maggie, who were Christian Lebanese, made their way to North Dakota, where they eventually had five sons. These sons, in order of seniority, were Frank, Lew, Ed, John and Walter.

A.G., who purchased farmland in Williston, N.D., began his own grain farming operation, which proved to be unsuccessful.

As a result of this failed endeavor, A.G. joined his four brothers – Abe, Charles, John and Eli – in the operation of a billiards parlor in North Dakota. A.G. also added to his income through other business ventures, which included the operation of a small grocery store.

After about 20 years of living in North Dakota, A.G. and Maggie decided to move their family to Rio Linda, Calif. This decision was based on the poor health of John, who suffered from vitamin deficiency and would be better suited living in a warmer climate.

In Rio Linda, A.G. sold chickens and eggs and raised fruits and vegetables, which he sold from roadside stands.

The source of the majority of A.G.’s income ended abruptly, however, when a fatal disease eliminated A.G.’s chickens.

Subsequently, A.G. attempted to achieve success by operating a miniature golf business and a livestock feed store, but neither were very successful.

Greg Kassis (left) and Bill Kassis are among the members of their family who contributed to the longtime success of Stop-N-Shop markets. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Greg Kassis (left) and Bill Kassis are among the members of their family who contributed to the longtime success of Stop-N-Shop markets. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Son finds first location

Fortunately, Frank, who regularly took a train into Sacramento and then rode by streetcar from 12th and H streets to Sacramento High School, was able to find work at the Del Monte cannery at 17th and C streets, where his mother was also employed.

It was also Frank who discovered a commercial corner in Sacramento that, in his own description, “intrigued” him.

This corner at the aforementioned 28th and Y streets proved to be the site of the first Stop-N-Shop store, as A.G. leased a former retail ice business at this street corner from Preston F. Reed, a carpenter and building contractor who lived at 2545 28th St.

After traveling into Sacramento each day, the Kassis family eventually moved to the capital city, residing at 2522 28th St.

Stop-N-Shop, which A.G. operated with the assistance of his sons, was not the first Kassis-owned grocery store in Sacramento, since A.G.’s brother, Charles Kassis, who resided in Rio Linda, had partnered with Rio Linda resident Anna Bohamera to own and operate Del Monte Grocery at 1730 C St.

Quick growth

The area around the first Stop-N-Shop store grew quickly with the assistance of the opening of the Shasta Ice Cream Co. at 2814 Y St. Additionally, Scotty’s Service Station, which was located across Y Street from these two businesses, aided in bringing people to the area.

A.G. Kassis and three of his five sons (left to right), Walter, Frank and John, stand in front of the first Stop-N-Shop grocery store at 2800 Y St. (present day Broadway) in about 1928. / Photo courtesy of the Kassis family
A.G. Kassis and three of his five sons (left to right), Walter, Frank and John, stand in front of the first Stop-N-Shop grocery store at 2800 Y St. (present day Broadway) in about 1928. / Photo courtesy of the Kassis family

Pocket area resident Dick Ryder, a 1947 graduate of McClatchy High School, said that he remembers seeing the first Stop-N-Shop location during the 1930s.

“I lived (at 2800 Regina Way in Land Park), near California Junior High, and I remember the first Stop-N-Shop,” he said. “It was kind of like the picture at the (California Automobile) Museum of the first Raley’s (grocery) store in Placerville. It had all the fruits and vegetables out in front of the place.”

The success of the Y Street store, which had a dirt floor and initially sold cold watermelon, ice, beverages and wood blocks, was achieved through the Kassis family’s reputation for providing quality food and service.

This success led to the establishment of Stop-N-Shop, Store #2, at 1330 16th St. in about the early 1930s.

As the prosperity of the Stop-N-Shop stores increased, A.G. Kassis transferred ownership of his stores to four of his sons.

Of the five sons of A.G., only John ventured outside the family’s grocery business, as he instead opted to go to medical school. Eventually becoming Dr. John Kassis, John practiced family medicine in Sacramento for nearly a half-century.

The number of Stop-N-Shop stores continued to increase as a Del Paso Heights store was added in about 1939 and three years later, the 2000 I St. market opened.

Following his service in the Army during World War II, Eli’s son, Bill Kassis, who formerly worked at the 16th Street store and opened the 20th and I streets store, opened the Land Park area Stop-N-Shop store, which was located at 3231 Riverside Blvd.

Bill Kassis (far right) serves customers (left to right) Malcom F. Gee, Janice Gee, Chet Coppin and Lana Coppin at the Riverside Boulevard Stop-N-Shop store in about 1950. / Photo courtesy of the Kassis family

Bill Kassis (far right) serves customers (left to right) Janice Gee, Malcom F. Gee, Lana Coppin and Chet Coppin at the Riverside Boulevard Stop-N-Shop store in about 1950. / Photo courtesy of the Kassis family

‘Store of tomorrow’

 The two-story Riverside Boulevard building, which was built by the Erickson Construction Co. and included a warehouse elevator, opened in late 1947.

The Riverside Boulevard store, which Theodore H. Richards of the Bercut-Richards cannery referred to as “the store of tomorrow,” was locally unique for its time, as this early supermarket served as the anchor of a wide variety of businesses.

Doris (Lopes) Yager, a 1938 graduate of McClatchy High School, said that her mother, Gloria Lopes, was one of the very first customers of the Riverside Boulevard store.

Doris added that by 1950, she had moved into her mother’s house at 1250 Marian Way in the Land Park area and had begun to shop at the Riverside Boulevard store.

“When I got married, I lived with my mom for several years and I did all my shopping at (the Riverside Boulevard) Stop-N-Shop,” Doris said. “It was the only grocery store in the neighborhood, so naturally everybody shopped at Stop-N-Shop. It had such things as a meat counter, a fruits and vegetables department, a post office, a drug store and Swanson’s Cleaners was there, too, so you had everything in the one store. And Bill Kassis was there all the time and he was a very nice gentleman, as I recall. It was quite the grocery store for its time.”

Bill, 88, who is now the patriarch of the Kassis family, remembers the store with much passion and detail.

He emphasized that the Riverside Boulevard building, which also included a barbershop, a beauty shop, a Green Stamp redemption center and a location of the locally-famous Hart’s Pastry, was fortunate to have Ash Rutledge and his Vic’s Ice Cream across the street at 3199 Riverside Blvd.

“We were very good friends and actually, we depended on each other,” Bill said. “I’d have lunch there every day.”

A 1965 city directory shows the continued expansion of Stop-N-Shop, as the number of its store locations had reached 11 by this time. These stores included the River Park store at 5491 Carlson Drive and stores at 4065 McKinley Blvd. and 5815 Stockton Blvd.

Lucky No. 14

Overall, the Kassis family eventually operated 13 stores, yet in a similar theme to buildings that do not designate a 13th floor, the store numbers jumped from Store #12 to Store #14.

Surpassing the popularity of the chain’s Riverside Boulevard location was one of the last Stop-N-Shop stores to be constructed – the then-very modern Fort Sutter Shopping Center supermarket at 2815 L St., where Sutter General Hospital was later built. The market structure also included candy and coffee shops and laundry and shoe repair businesses.

Bill said that Stop-N-Shop was well represented in the north area of Sacramento.

In addition to the Del Paso Boulevard store, north area Stop-N-Shop stores were located at 4120 El Camino Ave., Fulton and Marconi avenues, where Honey Baked Ham is located at the present day address of 2875 Fulton Ave., 2312 Watt Ave. at Country Club Plaza and 1765 Arden Way at the Arden Fair Mall.

Greg Kassis, the son of Lew Kassis and a Stop-N-Shop employee for most of the years of 1954 to 1975, said that he most fondly remembers the Fulton and Marconi avenues store.

Greg added that he first provided assistance at this store when he was 7 years old.

“I used to ride my bike to work (at the Fulton and Marconi avenues store),” Greg said.

The interior of the two-story Riverside Boulevard Stop-N-Shop store is shown in this c. 1950 photograph. / Photo courtesy of the Kassis family
Stop-N-Shop-Photo-05

The interior of the two-story Riverside Boulevard Stop-N-Shop store is shown in this c. 1950 photograph. / Photo courtesy of the Kassis family

Food court pioneersWhen asked about the north area Stop-N-Shop locations, Bill was quick to describe the uniqueness of the Watt Avenue site’s Gourmet Lane, which included Frank Fat’s restaurant, La Fiesta Mexicatessen Restaurant, Hart’s Restaurant, Frank’s Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurant, T&T Burger Bar, Farmer Joe’s Restaurant and Keller’s Doughnut Shop.

“As far as I remember, (Gourmet Lane) was one of the first food courts that was opened anywhere in the country,” Bill said.

Although Stop-N-Shop stores once held a very high position in the world of Sacramento grocery stores, their heyday gradually ended as the stores were individually sold at separate times due to competition from other grocery stores and financial struggles related to other Kassis family business ventures.

Despite the absence of any Stop-N-Shop stores in Sacramento by 1975, the fond memories of Stop-N-Shop markets continue to live on today in the minds of the Kassis family and their stores’ many former customers.

lance@valcomnews.com