Editor's note: This is the 133rd in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.
HUNTNGTON - Today's biggest U.S. retailer is Walmart, but in the 1960s that honor went to the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., better known as A&P.
Founded in New York City in 1859, A&P grew to operate more than 4,000 stores in communities both large and small all across the country. In the 1960s, the food chain had three stores in Huntington. All three long ago closed.
In 1941, the chain built a supermarket at 2125 5th Ave. The store building was demolished a number of years ago, and an Arby's restaurant now stands on the site.
A&P had planned to immediately follow up construction of its 5th Avenue store by building a store in West Huntington, but the outbreak of World War II made that impossible. In 1946, with the war over, the chain erected a new $250,000 store at 1444 Madison Ave., a site formerly used by the Huntington Tumbler Co. With the opening of its new Madison Avenue store, the chain closed a small store it had operated at 7th Avenue and 2nd Street, converting that building to a warehouse.
The Madison Avenue store closed in 1975, as A&P began downsizing, closing many of its older, smaller stores. The former supermarket building is still standing and is now occupied by J&L Supply Co., a distributor of air compressors and parts.
In 1958, A&P built a $500,000 store at the Fairfield Plaza shopping center, 1400 16th St. (now Hal Greer Boulevard). The store, the chain's largest in West Virginia, was built by E.P. Leach & Sons Inc. of Huntington. Ultimately, the former A&P and the other stores at Fairfield Plaza would be demolished to enlarge the parking lot at Cabell Huntington Hospital.
After decades of struggling sales and financial turmoil, a bankrupt A&P ceased supermarket operations in 2015 and put its remaining handful of stores (fewer than 200) up for sale.