Penn Fruit and the Everyday Modern: Interpreting the Mid-Century Supermarket
Historic Preservation and Conservation
In Philadelphia, Penn Fruit was one of the earliest grocery stores to adopt the supermarket model and remained an innovator in the grocery business from its founding in 1927 until it declared bankruptcy in 1975. Max Zimmerman, editor of Super Market Merchandising and founder of the Super Market Institute considered it a "recognized leader" in the field, highlighting it as one of the "outstanding operations in the country" in his 1955 book, Super Markets. In the 1950s its per-store sales were over three times the national average, and the company's distinctive stores, with their arched rooflines and sparkling glass facades were immediately recognizable throughout Philadelphia and its rapidly growing suburbs. There are approximately forty former Penn Fruit supermarkets still standing, scattered throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. The iconic barrel vaulted structures have been converted into other supermarkets, auto supply stores, car dealerships and office buildings. Each Penn Fruit, because of its location, condition and history poses a different preservation problem. This thesis traces the history of Penn Fruit, focusing on its main supermarket building campaign during the 1940s and 50s and includes preservation recommendations for remaining structures, particularly the Frankford and Pratt location.