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Loyal customers flocked to family-friendly grocer, especially after a state-of-the-art remodel in 1959-60

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE LAKE OSWEGO PUBLIC LIBRARY - Remsen's Lakeside Thriftway featured the latest in grocery store equipment and design after the store was remodeled in 1959-60. This photo was taken in 1964.Chet and Evelyn Remsen bought Emmons Grocery at Bryant Road and Lower Drive — the building where Deno's Pizza and Aji Tram are located now — in 1947 and founded Remsen's Market and Grocery, a family-managed, community-minded business.

Remsen's was a popular place to shop for groceries because of its high-quality meats and produce and a family-friendly atmosphere. So when Chet and Evelyn began to feel "a bursting at the seams," they decided to enlarge and remodel the old market on adjoining property. Because the adjoining property was situated on a steep hill, it was decided that the new store and the old store should be connected so that the old building could be used for storage and backroom operations.

The remodel took place in 1959 and was completed about six months later in 1960, according to Chet Remsen's son, Bill. The new store was renamed Remsen's Lakeside Thriftway, he said.

Chet Remsen consulted with Elmo McKeel of Portland's Elmo McKeel Company, a leader in grocery store design, construction, installation and equipment supply, to assist with building the new store. As soon as a design was agreed upon, Elmo and his staff went to work installing a bank of water-cooled compressors, laying new refrigeration lines and removing the old meat lockers. The old "locker room" was completely remodeled into a large, refrigerated cutting room with freezer space.

Lighting for the store was engineered by Sam Sposito of Lighting Specialties, also located in Portland. In an article in Oregon Independent Grocer magazine, Sam is quoted as saying, "The lighting was designed with the shopper in mind, having the distribution of the light at the point of sale. For example, the produce section would have the minimum amount of light."

According to the magazine, Remsen's Thriftway featured the latest equipment from Hussman-McKeel. Everything from self-service refrigeration cases to shelving to state-of-the-art checkstands was custom built. The "Fast-Flo" checkstands were designed and built to look beautiful, handle large orders quickly in a smaller space and prevent checker fatigue.

Some of the folks who worked at Remsen's: owners Chet and Evelyn Remsen, of course, as well as sons Bill and Jim. In the produce department was Bill Pendergrass, who proudly proclaimed that "the mouth-watering produce displays can be seen from almost any point in the store." Leonard Lumby, the butcher, claimed he couldn't cut meat fast enough to satisfy customer demand. Operating the new in-store bakery were Mr. and Mrs. Gus Miro, who were well known in the bakery trade.

Remsen's Thriftway packed a lot of punch into 6,000 square feet. But the most unique feature of the store probably wasn't the amount of selling space; it was the family living quarters situated directly above the grocery in the same building.

"The upstairs living quarters were always part of the old store and never changed when the store was remodeled," Bill Remsen says. "They are today as they were then, but have been converted into business offices."

Chet Remsen retired in 1967, selling his pride and joy to the McKay's Market chain. McKay's sustained a terrible fire not long after it opened, though, and the building remained vacant for a couple of years until a non-grocery tenant took it over.

"From Our Vault" is written by Nancy Dunis for the Oswego Heritage Council, using materials she's found in the council's archives; look for it on the third Thursday of every month. Have something you'd like to add to the vault? Leave a message for Dunis at 503-635-6373 or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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