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Fowler's Food Store

by Charly Mann

Fowler's Food Store was the first supermarket in Chapel Hill, and was started in the 1920’s by the Fowler Family. It was located on West Franklin Street. Fowler's had the best selection of frozen foods and produce in Chapel Hill, until the early 1970s, when large grocery chains began opening larger supermarkets. It was particularly famous for its high quality fresh meats and outstanding butchers. From time to time the store carried a small selections of other items, including popular 45-rpm records. The  town’s only record store throughout the 1950s and 60s, Kemps, never carried 45s, or much selection in rock and roll LPs. I bought my first Elvis Presley record there in August of 1956, Hound Dog backed by Don’t Be Cruel.


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BFG      2:24 AM Fri 1/6/2012

Yes, Fowler's was open until at least 1989, and I'm pretty sure it lasted into 1990 or 91. I was a freshman living at Granville Towers in the fall of 1989, and I remember the older students telling me about Big Bertha, the giant walk-in beer cooler, until I decided to see it for myself. And I specifically remember the students running Fowler's out of a lot of basic stuff when we all thought Hurricane Hugo was going to hit Chapel Hill instead of Charlotte.

Sonar Fowler      3:12 PM Mon 1/24/2011

Yes. My Dad, Robert, ran the Brightleaf store til about "90, I think. Iwas the buyer for 5 years. Dad is happily retired.

Gene Smith      10:47 AM Wed 10/20/2010

The original Fowler's was on East Franklin St. down from where Walgreen's Drug Store (formerly Carolina Theater) is. Also, Thell's Bakery was in the new Fowler's bld.,where my mother worked.

Alex Eyre      2:22 PM Wed 5/19/2010

One of those fantastic and friendly (perhaps the friendliest) Fowler&#39;s butchers was, of course, Ronnie Taylor&#39;s father. Maybe that explains the <br \>45s. By the way, do you still HAVE that Elvis record?

Gayle Rancer      9:24 AM Sat 1/9/2010

Charly, I LOVE this site. You have put so much into this, and you&#39;ve been hitting ALL the highlights of our blessed lives growing up in this very special hometown. THANKS for all your efforts, photos, narratives. FLASHBACK city!!!!! Graduation from Durham Academy with Arthur Gordon! James and Joni&#39;s visit! Lilypad Waterbeds! Jubilee!!!!!!!! APPLE CHILL! I&#39;m still browsing through this and can&#39;t wait to share it with Mom, Vi Rancer, who&#39;ll absolutely go GA-GA over this! Fowler&#39;s! Such memories! Glen Lennox, my FIRSTchildhood home before moving to Bradley Road. Keep up the great work. I&#39;m lovin&#39; this! Gayle

Franklin      3:56 PM Tue 9/15/2009

Seems I recall this store being opened into the late 80s? Home of Big Bertha the beer cave or somethng like that . . . could be way off.

CRE      4:35 PM Sun 8/23/2009

Same family. Brightleaf Squre store run by son Robert

Patricia Fields Neubert      12:54 AM Thu 8/20/2009

The butcher wrapped the meats in stark, white paper.<br \><br \>The small road beside Fowlers connected Franklin to Rosemary Street...I often have to turn around when I forget that it is now blocked off.<br \><br \>The A &amp; P store was right up the street. <br \>

Phil Hawkins      5:21 PM Wed 7/29/2009

As Charley mentioned, Fowler&#39;s used to deliver. My family moved to Chapel Hill from Burlington in 1955, and we lived on William&#39;s Circle in Colonial Heights. My mom decided to try the service, and called for a delivery. Subsequently she was called to a neighbor&#39;s house for some reason, and while she was gone, the delveryman came (a tall, thin, very freindly older guy who&#39;s name escapes me) and seeing that mom was not at home, and not wanting the milk to get warm, proceeded to put groceries away in the refrigerator. She came home and found a man in her kitchen putting away groceries, and was frightened to death. Not to worry, apparently this was a common occurrence with Fowler&#39;s<br \><br \>As kids, we always watched for the Fowlers Delivery truck as we regularly stole a few grapes off his truck while he was walking his orders to the door.

BE      2:34 PM Mon 7/6/2009


D      2:39 PM Thu 6/11/2009

Is that the same Fowler family that opened Fowler&#39;s gourmet store in Durham at Brightleaf Square?

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Chapel Hill is located on a hill whose only distinguishing feature in the 18th century was a small chapel on top called New Hope Chapel. This church was built in 1752 and is currently the location of The Carolina Inn. The town was founded in 1819, and chartered in 1851.



What is it that binds us to this place as to no other? It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls. or the crisp October nights. No, our love for this place is based upon the fact that it is as it was meant to be, The University of the People.

-- Charles Kuralt



Dark Side of the Hill -- Pink Floyd, the creators of the most popular album in history, Dark Side of the Moon, took the second half of their name from Floyd Council, a Chapel Hill native, and great blues singer and guitarist. He once belonged to a group called "The Chapel Hillbillies".



Check out Charly Mann's other website:
Oklahoma Birds and Butterflies


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There would probably be no Chapel Hill if the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees in 1793 had not chosen land across from New Hope Chapel for the location of the university. By 1800 there were about 100 people living in thirty houses surrounding the campus.



The University North Carolina's first student was Hinton James, who enrolled in February, 1795. There is now a dormitory on the campus named in his honor.





The University of North Carolina was closed from 1870 to 1875 because of lack of state funding.





William Ackland left his art collection and $1.25 million to Duke University in 1940 on the condition that he would be buried in the art museum that the University was to build with his bequest. Duke rejected this condition even though members of the Duke Family are buried in Duke Chapel. What followed was a long and acrimonious legal battle between Ackland relatives who now wanted the inheritance, Rollins College, and the University of North Carolina, each attempting to receive the funds. The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, and in 1949 UNC was awarded the money for the museum. Ackland is buried near the museum's entrance. When the museum first opened, in the early sixties, there were rumors that his remains were leaking out of the mausoleum.



The official name of the Arboretum on the University of North Carolina campus is the Coker Arboretum. It is named after Dr. William Cocker, the University's first botany professor. It occupies a little more than five acres. It was founded in 1903.



Chapel Hill's main street has always been called Franklin Street. It was named after Benjamin Franklin in the early 1790s.



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Chapel Hill High School and Chapel Hill Junior High were on Franklin Street in the same location as University Square until the mid 1960s.



The Colonial Drug Store at 450 West Franklin Street was owned and operated by John Carswell. It was famous for a fresh-squeezed carbonated orange beverage called a "Big O". In the early 1970s, I managed the Record and Tape Center next door, and must have had over 100 of those drinks. The Colonial Drug Store closed in 1996.



Sutton's Drugstore, which opened in 1923, has one of the last soda fountains in the South. It is one of the few businesses remaining on Franklin Street that was in operation when I was growing up in the 1950s.



Future President Gerald Ford lived in Chapel Hill twice. First when he was 24, in 1938, he took a law couse in summer school at UNC. He lived in the Carr Building, which was a law school dormitory. At the same time, Richard Nixon, the man he served under as Vice President, was attending law school at Duke. In 1942, Ford returned to Chapel Hill to attend the U.S. Navy's Pre-Flight School training program. He lived in a rental house on Hidden Hills Drive.



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