By Beth Scherer
of the Lower Pottsgrove Historical Society,
for The Post Publications
SANATOGA PA – Drivers this morning (Monday, July 9, 2012) – as they do every morning – will wait patiently in their idling cars at the northeast corner of Pleasant View Road and East High Street until traffic lights signal they’re free to turn east or west and be on their way. As they silently urge the lights to hurry, maybe they’ll sip a coffee or munch a doughnut.
Most probably won’t know they could have bought those very items in a highly successful corner grocery store that once stood in the space the intersection now occupies.
In its day Kemp’s Market – demolished eight years ago to make room for the intersection improvements – was as much a social gathering place as it was a popular food store well-known across Pottstown for meats from its butcher counter. People squeezed into narrow aisles to chat as much as to pick up a loaf of bread and carton of milk or, yes, that coffee and those doughnuts.
Kemp’s Market wasn’t always its name.
In the early 1900s, C. August Shuhart owned and operated what began as a general merchandise store there. Harold E. Kemp took over the business in March 1946. Some remodeling was done, the name of the store changed, and business blossomed.
Robert A. Moyer joined Kemp as a partner during 1980. Moyer became the sole proprietor in May 1989, but kept Kemp’s name on the store front.
Times change, of course, and so did Sanatoga. New, larger supermarket competitors moved into several Pottstown locations, making it difficult for places like Kemp’s to compete on price and selection. Residents’ habits changed too; they depended more on their cars, and the convenience they provided, so fewer customers patronized Kemp’s.
Despite its struggles, the store remained open until the end of May 2000. Then a sign appeared on its front door, where a notice of the store’s weekly specials usually was posted. It read:
“CLOSING SAT AT 12:00 PM
TO ALL OF OUR CUSTOMERS THANK YOU AND GOODBYE”
The company that was then Eckerd Drugs had been eying Pottstown for some time as a potential site for a new location. It bought the gasoline station property that housed Rick’s Auto Care (which reopened at 2289 E. High St.), and the adjacent building that sheltered the Sanatoga post office (now found inside the Sanatoga Thriftway, 2190 E. High St.), both of which were directly across the street from Kemp’s on the northwest corner of Pleasant View and East High.
When Eckerd finally won Lower Pottsgrove Township permission to build its store, the state also made plans to redesign the intersection for safety reasons. In February 2004, that little corner market loved by many was torn down, and is now just a memory.
A footnote: the Eckerd went out of business; to be replaced by Rite Aid, which also went out of business. The store has been vacant for several years. Maybe, to keep business in the village, there’s an argument to be made for preserving more of Sanatoga’s historical buildings?
The original Kemp’s sign now hangs at Sanatoga Chapel on East High Street, which serves as the Lower Pottsgrove Historical Society’s museum and meeting place. The sign even gets lit up on special occasions.
Articles in this series:
- On Corner Where You’ll Idle, Booming Market Once Stood
- When Winters Raged, Sanatoga Lake Was Place To Be
- In Township, Scouts And Cookies (Yum!) Have A History
- Family Appliance Business Has Long History In Santa-toga
- Love NASCAR Now? You Would Have Adored Sanatoga
- Timeless Treasures Fill Historical Society Chapel Offices
- Hilltop’s Still Making History, 59 Years After Opening
- Historic Answer To Heat: Township Swimmin’ Holes
- Need A Local Hotel? There Once Were Four, Right Here
- What’s Changed Most In ‘Grove Grads? Their Schools
- Shantz’s Mound Presence Made Sanatoga ‘Pheverous’
- Stars Danced In Lower Pottsgrove Long Before TV Show
- Never Heard Of Sanatoga’s Longview Hotel? Here’s Why
Photos from the Histoical Society, researched by Glenn Isett