Small Grocers Alive in Raleigh

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The first time I walked into Larry’s I was transported back to my youth. I was six years old, going to a small grocery store with my mom, a store with hand-painted signs, linoleum floors, and neighbors chatting with shopkeepers.

And while today the big box grocery stores are the mainstay, we now know they are not always dependable. They come and they go. Witness the now-departed Kroger stores of New Bern Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Most small grocery stores have disappeared, including one each in the neighborhoods of Boylan Heights and Historic Oakwood. These two stores have been converted into private homes.

The small neighborhood store that can anchor a neighborhood now takes on new shapes, sizes and personalities.

The Brookside Market and Deli will sell you an apple or an ice cold Coke in a bottle, but they also offer a 20-seat restaurant serving pizza and Mediterranean food.

The sign that greets all visitors to the Grocery Boy Jr. store.

Karen Tam

 The sign that greets all visitors to the Grocery Boy Jr. store.

The Grocery Boy Jr. on Lake Wheeler Rd. offers a “table of knowledge” where folks gather for coffee and solve the world’s problems. The Grocery Boy also specializes in NASCAR memorabilia both in the ambiance of the store and items for sale.

While the neighborhood stores have now taken on their own personalities, they all continue to offer a home base to a neighborhood, a place to pick up that quart of milk and a place to chat with friendly face.

Change is the common denominator with these local stores. Steve Byers, owner of the Grocery Boy, said, “There has been a shift. It used to be a person would come in and grab a Pepsi and a pack of Nabs; now it’s a Red Bull and an energy bar.”

Nick Bahhur, a member of the family that owns Brookside Market and Deli, said they will be remodeling their restaurant area in the next month and will be specializing solely in Mediterranean food.

When it comes to stability, nothing beats Larry’s Supermarket on the corner of Milburnie and Colleton roads. Larry’s opened in downtown Raleigh in the 60s and has been in its current location for 42 years.

Larry’s specializes in meat products, buying in bulk and doing all the cutting on site. And even more rare is their meat manager, Charlie Perry, who has been working at Larry’s for 50 years.

On any given afternoon the meat department of Larry’s is alive with slicing and packaging as employees restock the meat shelves. Charlie Perry is involved in all aspects of keeping the meat department operating plus answering customers’ questions.

While Kroger may have left East Raleigh, small community grocers continue to operate throughout the city.

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One thought on “Small Grocers Alive in Raleigh

  1. Nice story idea, but why feature a convenience store such as Grocery Boy Jr. in a story about small neighborhood grocers, especially when you have discovered a gem like the authentic, old-time, small neighborhood grocer Larry’s Supermarket? I don’t live in its surrounding neighborhoods, but I’ve been to the Grocery Boy Jr. convenience store on Lake Wheeler Road a few times for gas and incidentals and don’t recall anything other than typical BP or 7-11 convenience store products as far as groceries go, and can see no evidence of any grocery items in the odd selection of photos you’ve chosen to publish. What I do recall from my last “visit” to the Grocery Boy Jr., corroborated by the seven photos you’ve published, is a distinct impression of the staffs’/owner’s unconcealed disdain and close-minded bigotry against entire groups of people, including some negative sentiments expressed toward some apparently peaceful customers who were just leaving as I entered. This experience had already caused me to resolve to avoid patronizing them again, and I find it bizarre that this article is highlighting this establishment for apparently no other reason than the these gratuitous, group-based insults.

    Or are we really expected to believe that an owner obnoxious enough to post such nasty signage despite knowing they will cause him to lose significant business, is really just a “sensitive” type of family guy whose feelings would be hurt by merely witnessing the incidentally annoying behaviors of a few inconsiderately dressed paying customers during the 90 seconds it takes to sell them “Red Bull and Nabs” so he can make a profit from serving them?

    I wonder why no other neighborhood retail establishment (to my knowledge) in Raleigh feels the need to post such nasty, unwelcoming and insulting signage directed at certain groups of potential customers that correlate so closely with racial stereotypes and experiences? Are we to be believe that this part of Raleigh is uniquely overrun by undesirable dressers and loud-music-players as to make life intolerable for god-fearing, patriotic families with small children who just want to buy their weekly supplies of Red Bull, lottery tickets and Nabs at their local convenience store in peace?

    BTW, are NASCAR products edible? Those hats look awfully tasty!