Piggly Wiggly, Grand Union celebrate Watertown openings

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WATERTOWN — Ken Schwarz remembered his mother was not happy when Piggly Wiggly increased the price of a loaf of bread from a dime to 11 cents while he was growing up in Tennessee during World War II.

But Mr. Schwarz and his wife, Linda Watson, welcomed the grocery store chain’s first venture in New York state with the recent opening of Piggly Wiggly in Watertown.

They’re glad that the chain — known for its friendly Mr. Pig mascot — took over the former Tops store in a small plaza on Washington Street.

“I’m really happy they’re keeping it open in the neighborhood,” she said, guiding her shopping cart through the produce department during the store’s grand opening on Thursday.

While Piggly Wiggly made its debut in New York, a new Grand Union store on the other side of town is returning the chain to the grocery store landscape in the north country.

The Grand Union store in the Seaway Plaza on the city’s north side also celebrated a grand opening on Thursday.

The Grand Union brand had a presence in the north country until the early 1980s. The Great American chain purchased Grand Union stores in Alexandria Bay and Clayton in 1982 and renamed them. Grand Union also had a store downtown years before that.

Now C&S Wholesale Grocers owns both the Watertown Piggly Wiggly and Grand Union stores, the result of a merger between Tops Friendly Markets and Price Chopper.

C&S Wholesale Grocers, the largest grocery wholesaler in the country with 7,000 outlets, is operating a total of 12 former Tops stores as Grand Unions. They are also in Peru, Cortlandville, Cooperstown, Norwich, Owego, Rome, Saranac Lake, Sherrill, Warrensburg and Rutland, Vt.

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