Monday, February 25, 2013

Progress Cash Market

My grandfather, Allen S. Crow, was a frugal man. That is perhaps not the best way to introduce any person. Like everyone else who ever lived he had a complex nuanced personality. But for the purposes of this post, I think it is a good place to start. His father and grandfather owned their own businesses, though in his father's case, it was certainly the wrong industry. Making saddles and harnesses during the rise of the automobile is not the way to long term financial stability. His father's financial difficulties certainly colored his view of the world. So he was always looking for ways to diversify his earning power. He obtained a civil servant job with the Surveyor General's Office, took on part time work delivering subpoenas and other paperwork for a lawyer, and eventually obtained a notary licence. His willingness to try his hand at something new even led him to buy a failing market.

The details of the Progress Cash Market have mostly been lost to time, since it wasn't open for business in the memory of anyone I know personally living today. I know the address: 462 East 200 South, Salt Lake City. And I was able to piece together some tidbits from my father and his sister. But really it predates their memory.

It appears that while delivering paperwork for a lawyer, Allen came across a failing grocery store. He may have even been delivering paperwork to the owner of the market, which put him at a certain advantage.  Something about the market peaked his interest and he agreed to buy it (probably for a song) along with assuming the debt that was making the store fail in the first place.

I'm not sure how long he tried to turn it around. I get the impression it was at most one year, but it was probably much less. In May and June of 1933, there were a couple of legal documents served to Allen detailing the money owed to grocery suppliers, and their intent to force collection by liquidating the store. The first Writ was from ZCMI (dba Zion's Wholesale Grocery) for the amount of $208.64 and the other from Symns Utah Grocery[1] for $534.82, for a total of $734.46. The writ specified an 8% interest rate per annum. Over the 80 years since then, that comes to $350,879.54

The writ asked the Constable to take possession of the store and sell the items inside to pay off the debt. The perishable items in the store were listed for sale. I couldn't find a period price for all the items, but the sample will give you an idea. I doubt there were $50 worth of items to be sold. It included:
- 31 loaves of bread (8 cents per loaf)
- small quantity vegetables (2-3 cents per pound)
- 23 asstd cakes
- about 3 dozen eggs (18 cents per dozen)
- 29-1/2 lbs. cheese (23 cents per pound)
- 52 yeast cakes
- 23 quarts of milk (25 cents per quart)
- 4 pints of milk (25 cents per quart)
- 2 pints of cream
- 2 half pints of cream
- 4 Bluehill pimento cheese (15 cents per pound)

Included in the paperwork were the names of 24 families who apparently owed the market money for items purchased on credit, an odd arrangement for a store named "Progress Cash Market". The names included addresses and the amount owed, varying from $2.50 to $6.60 for a total of $108.20. Most of the addresses were on the 200 thru 500 blocks of 2nd South or nearby cross streets. Not all the addresses still exist, but enough do to give you an idea of where his customers lived.

The basket is the location of the Market, while the blue
points are known customer addresses

I'm pretty sure none of these people are alive, though it is technically possible they could be. If you are related to one of the people below, I can provide you the address listed on the document, though I have no interest in collecting on a $2.50 bill from 80 years ago. It was likely the Constable canvassed the addresses and collected some thing, though in 1933, I'm sure he didn't collect very much.

Austin, Fred & Leola
Brody, Geo & Fanny
Bergman, Max M & Bert
Burgers, Henry & Henrietta
Bertram, Murrn & Novella
Christensen, Sena
Doty, Delvar & Ida
Everets, Johanna
Eidt, Geo & Florence
Fisher, Ray & Frances
Humphrey, Roland & Mattie
Johnson, Elna
Johnson, Frank & Maud
Lentz, James & June
Mitchell, Ellis
Nyland, Stephen
Prudence, Anna
Rowley, Leroy
Rammell, Earl & Zolla
Shelley, Lottie
Simmeck, Geo.
Samsel, Abbie
Wells, Wm. & Burdina
Zackerson, Anna

[1] I have run across several reports of Symns getting in trouble with the FTC for attempts and price fixing and boycotting suppliers who deal with their competitors. Zion's Wholesale Grocery is sometime named in the same newspaper reports.

1 comment:

BruceCrow said...

My father just told me that if his memory serves, that this was not the event that ended the store. His father was able to pull together the resources to survive this round of court action. It would have been shortly after this that the bank which had the original business loan went bankrupt, making the entire loan due immediately. Unable to find the cash to pay off this much larger obligation, the business was finally forced to close. Of course I have not been able to find any records confirming this.