The Groceteria Comes to Redwood City
Barry Elmore Hinman
The grocery store of the 19th century was quite unlike the modern supermarket. You have probably read books in which it is described, and you have certainly seen films or television shows with scenes in that store. Mrs. Housemaker goes to the store where she joins a line of other women waiting to place their orders. Behind the counter is Mrs. Storeowner, dealing with the women one by one, scurrying around to collect the items on their shopping list and assemble them for her customer. Such were the grocery stores, and there were many of them, on Main Street and Broadway, in Redwood City as the year 1921 began. All that changed when Elmore Brown Hinman, a grocery man from San Francisco, moved down to the Peninsula.
An article on p. 8 of the Redwood City Standard of 16 Jun 1921 announced the opening for business on Saturday 18 June 1921 of the Redwood Groceteria in the Jamieson building, Main and Stambaugh Streets, E.B. Hinman, proprietor. "City prices--no service--help yourself."
The Redwood City Tribune of 7 May 1923 had a little article on p. 2: Hinman's Groceteria. "Help yourself and then pay the cashier! That's the general rule at the novel groceteria owned and conducted by E.B. Hinman another of Main street's thriving businessmen ... [The groceteria] was established by Hinman a little more than two years ago at 301-305 Main street, corner of Stambaugh, after that gentleman had come to this city from San Francisco."
In his History of San Mateo County, Roy Cloud says:
“A business which has come within recent years to Redwood City is the groceteria business. Mr. Elmore B. Hinman who for several years was president of the Chamber of Commerce, was the first to start a store of this kind. He was followed soon afterwards by a local branch of the Sunshine Stores.”[i]
In April 1924 the Redwood City Standard on 17 April and the Redwood City Tribune on 18 April reported that Ben Stafford and his wife were moving their house from the south side of Stambaugh St., adjoining Hinman's groceteria, to the corner of Cassia and Spring, where it still stands. In its place they were erecting a building to be used by Mr. Hinman as an addition to his store. This building was later bought by the Holmquists, whose own store was across the street, and today it has the Holmquist name over its door.
There was a need for such an addition, as is seen in an article in the Redwood City Tribune of 5 September 1924: "E.B. Hinman, owner of the Redwood Groceteria, will open another store in San Mateo he announced today ... on Third Ave. This is the sixth of a chain of stores owned by Hinman ... The first of the chain was opened three years ago and since then he has opened stores at San Bruno, Homestead, Menlopark and Burlingame." In the Menlo Park section of the same paper on 26 September 1923 there was an ad for "Menlo Groceteria, a branch of the Redwood Groceteria, E. B. Hinman, prop., Mrs. Chandler, local mgr." The Progress Number of the Redwood City Tribune (no date on the extract in the Schellens collection, Vollmeyer Local History Room, Redwood City Public Library, but clearly 1925) has on p. 14 an article about the Redwood Groceteria in which it is stated "Introducing the self-service and cash&carry plan of selling groceries in Redwood City in May 1921 the business of Elmore B. Hinman has expanded until he now has five stores on the peninsula and has increased the size of the home store until it occupies a space of 4,000 square feet, or four times its original size ... last year he built a big warehouse to hold the stock held in reserve for the various stores. The non-service and cash plan for selling groceries is now practically a standard and Mr. Hinman was far sighted enough four years ago to see this development in merchandising." There is a picture of the store showing it occupying 301-305 Main St.
The Hinman family itself was also moving within Redwood City. On 19 Jun 1924 Elmore B. and Cora C. Hinman for ten dollars in gold coin bought from M.J. and Jennie Belle Knox a tract of land in Redwood City located between Stambaugh and Hilton Streets, 63 feet in length on each street.[ii] On the same day they executed two deeds of trust. The first, with F.K. Towne and E.R. Whitehead, trustees, and the San Mateo Savings Bank, beneficiary, was for $3750.[iii] The second, with the same two trustees but M. J. Knox as the beneficiary, was for $3250.[iv] Together, these no doubt represent the real cost of the property, $7000.
The house, 427 Stambaugh St., had been built circa 1875 for Dr. S.S. Stambaugh for whom the street was named. In its article of 19 June 1924 the Redwood City Standard reported this purchase and said that the Hinmans would take possession shortly. It added "It is reported that the Lesserman home on El Camino Real opposite Mt. Carmel Church, now occupied by the Hinman family, will be converted into an apartment." The 1922 Directory shows Mt. Carmel at 661 El Camino Real and the Lessemann family at 648 El Camino Real.
Both the store (now 901 Main Street) and the house at 427 Stambaugh Street are featured in Redwood City Historic Tours (Redwood City: Historic Resources Advisory Committee, 1996), on p. 16 and 30, respectively.
[i] Roy W. Cloud, History of San Mateo County, California, 2 vols. (Chicago, Ill.: S.J.Clarke Pub. Co., 1928), I:185.
[ii] San Mateo County, California, Deeds New Series 122:323.
[iii] San Mateo County, California, Deeds New Series 120:487.
[iv] San Mateo County, California, Deeds New Series 120:491.
Barry's Biographies of the Hinman Family
- Sidney Prewett Hinman
- Antoinette Kathryn Radivoj Hinman
- Elmore B Hinman
- Cora Estelle Cate Hinman
- Leroy Burlingame Hinman
- Alice Jones Brown Hinman
Barry has donated his collection of materials on the Brown, Burlingame and Hinman families, including the scrapbooks of Vera Hinman McAuliffe, to Stanford University Libraries. Part of the collection has been digitized and is available online.