At 3 p.m. Thursday, after more than 50 years in Salisbury, Giant Food closed its doors on an era of shopping that spanned generations of families.
Among them was the Emory Leonard household, with four young children and a father who, these days, laughs about, in the 1960s, buying his children’s clothes at the grocery store, to their deep embarrassment.
Years ago, Giant had a clothing section, as well as an area where bicycles were sold and, at the holidays, toys and gifts.
“My kids all wore the clothes. They had to. That’s all they had, I guess,” Leonard said about his five children. The first four were born within six years.
The young Leonards were equally humiliated when their father got stuck in a snow drift in the Giant parking lot.
“The kids were very young at the time. It had snowed a week and a half earlier and there was only one pile of snow left in the whole parking lot. I had a ’48 Packard. I was going to go through the snow drift. The kids got so embarrassed. I wanted to have a little fun with them,” he said.
For more than 20 years, Leonard kept a handful of rainchecks from Giant, some from 1990.
“There was porterhouse steak for $2.99 a pound, chicken leg quarters for 39 cents a pound, spare ribs at 88 cents a pound and on and on. The Giant manager told me that I could still use them. There is no expiration date on them,” he said.
Last week, Leonard was in the store, exchanging rain checks for a few steaks. Nobody was too surprised, since he and the store manager had been talking about the 26-year-old documents.
“I’m going back tomorrow. I’m very conservative with my money,” he said, remembering that, before the landmark supermarket opened, Colonial grocery store was on South Salisbury Boulevard, just south of where Wawa is now. On opening day, an airplane flew overhead and dropped paper plates, each bearing a number. Customers who picked them up and took them into the store were given a prize that matched the number.
There was also an A&P grocery store downtown on Main Street, near where the Chamber of Commerce building is now. It’s gone now and Giant will be soon, as well.
“I like the people in Giant. You can’t beat the people in there,” Leonard said, thinking he might go to the store on its last day.
The new Acme will open on Friday, Sept. 9, but until then, “it’s business as usual,” said Danielle D’Elia, who handles public relations for Acme.
Because the store doesn’t yet belong to Acme, D’Elia couldn’t answer the many questions that have had shoppers wondering: Will gasoline points transfer?
What will happen to the Giant savings card they use at the check-out?
Will the same brands be available?
Chris Brand, external communications and public affairs lead for Ahold USA, which owns Giant, said the loyalty cards will not be transferred to Acme. so customers should contact the new store and ask about a similar program. That’s also his advice for check cashing.
Earned gas points “will remain on the card and will expire as usual in accordance with Giant’s current rewards program,” he said.
Concerning Giant employees, Brand said only that most will be employed by ACME.
“Any remaining inventory, with exception of Giant brands, will stay in the building and transfer to Acme. Giant brand items, including Nature’s Promise and Care One will not be sold by Acme. Those left on the shelves will be transferred to other Giant stores,” Brand said.
As they anticipate the transition, many loyal customers have mixed feelings – hating to see Giant go while looking forward to a new grocery store coming.
“Giant is a nice, big store and everything is so fresh. I always enjoyed it. Everybody was so nice and attentive. I never heard anybody complain about it,” said Dorothy Disharoon of Delmar, who selected groceries there for years before moving north.
Ann Gibb has shopped there 11 years and was upset when she learned it would close.
“I like Giant’s personnel. They are very nice and very helpful. You get that worried look on your face like, ‘I can’t find something’ and they come up to you and say, ‘Can I help you?’ That’s always nice,” she said.
“I like the gasoline program. For every $100 you spend you get 10 cents off a gallon at Shell.
“I like, over the years, the upgrades Giant has made. Their produce section is good and I like their organic and natural section. They have a whole section where you can get a line of those — frozen foods, chips, crackers,” she said.
But Gibb is pleased about the new Acme.
“If the store that’s coming had not been a high-quality replacement like Acme I would have been piecing together my shopping from other grocery stores in the area,” she said.
“We’re looking forward to coming to town,” D’Elia said about Acme.
“Until then, you can continue shopping your favorite local store just as you always have.”
Reach Susan Canfora at email@example.com.