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Dayhoff: Co-op grocery story provided products, great service for more than 50 years

Dayhoff: Co-op grocery story provided products, great service for more than 50 years
In October 1948, the Westminster Co-op moved to 7 Locust Lane at the municipal parking lot. (Courtesy Phil Grout)

On October 1, 1948, a newspaper clipping from a local newspaper, the Democratic Advocate, announced, "New Co-op Store a Credit to City. Located Opposite Parking Grounds — Committees Assisting Manager For Official Opening Oct. 7th."

Today, the location faces the Longwell Parking Deck, which was built on the old downtown Westminster "parking grounds," and opened on September 1, 2003. Then, the address was known as 8 Locust Lane. This is where the Paradiso Pizzeria Carryout is located today at 7 Locust Lane (not the Ristorante at 20 Distillery Drive).

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For many years, after the Co-op subsequently moved to the Westminster Shopping Center, the Hub Annex was located there — at least as early as April 27, 1961. On that date, The Hanover Evening Sun carried a large ad for the Hub Annex featuring shoes.

For some additional context, this was in the day long before Md. Route 140 was built; when there were convenient grocery, hardware, and clothing stores located in downtown Westminster on Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Yes, this was also long before progress and zoning came to our community. This was back in the day when you could walk with your family to local jobs located in downtown Westminster — or to church, the barber shop, a locally owned bank or store, or the post office, and an office for C&P Telephone Co. or Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

And when you went into the local store, insurance office, bank, or utility company office; usually the person at the counter greeted you with a smile and asked about the kids and your family. They did not ask for your account number or the make of your first car or the name of your favorite pet, or the name of the first girlfriend or boyfriend in high school that jilted you right before the prom.

In contrast, today, your "personal representative,' whom you have never met, and will never meet again, robotically asks for your nine-digit Social Security number, your 10-digit phone number, your nine-digit ZIP code, a retina scan and a urine sample, before providing you with a whole lot of disdain and attitude — I mean, customer service.

According to a 1952 phone book in my history files, a few of the many downtown Westminster grocery stores included: Acme, located at 1 E. Main St.; The A&P, 14 W. Main St.; East End Market, 223 E. Main St.; Hahn Bros., 273 E. Main St.; Lefteris Food Market, 50 W. Main St.; Myers Grocery Store, 154 W. Main St.; Wm. F. Myers and Sons, Liberty and Green; and Neudecker & Sharrer, 119 Pennsylvania Ave.

I wrote about the Co-op in 2011 and was surprised that so many readers had never heard of the Co-op before. For those not old enough to remember, the Co-op was a food cooperative that was originally formed in Taneytown by 18 local families in 1937. In August 1943, the store opened at 43 E. Main Street in downtown Westminster. 43 E. Main was torn down many years ago to form what we know today as the Herman M. Rosenberg Park — Locust Lane, across the street from the Westminster branch of the Carroll County Public Library.

"A History of Westminster Consumer Co-op, 1937–1987," written by Phil Grout, reveals that the families and various organizations involved with making the Co-op a success. Family names like Rinehart, Stem, Hull, Chandler, Garner, Essich, Duvall, Ensor, Beard, Roop, Shroyer, Berthoff, Williar, Ridington, Rickle, Jenkins, Bixler, Barnett, and (my family) Wright, sprinkle the pages of the comprehensive history by Grout.

Organizations and institutions like the Westminster Theological Seminary, Western Maryland College, Medford Grange, Carroll County Farm Bureau Church of the Brethren, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, B.F. Shriver, pepper the pages.

In the late 1950s, the Co-op moved to the Westminster Shopping Center. It opened at the shopping center on a very hot Sunday, August 30, 1959. There was also a Westminster Co-op service station located in the shopping center parking lot.

Sadly, the store unceremoniously closed in 2003. According to an article in the Carroll County Times on June 14, 2003, by Justin Palk, the store was closed to make way for adding Food Lion to the shopping center. "The new supermarket will be much larger than the Co-op … The Co-op is the county's only customer-owned food market …"

To this day many of us still cannot find some of the products sold at the Co-op and we certainly cannot find the family-oriented quality customer service that was the hallmark of Co-op.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. Email him at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.

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