The Crooked Lake Review

Winter 2000

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My Father

and J. B. Maltby Wholesale Groceries


Inez Livermore Albee

My father went to work for J. B. Maltby's Wholesale Groceries at Corning, New York, in 1915 when he was a young man. He was hired to be a coffee roaster and to supervise the packing room in the days when food came in bulk and had to be broken down for individual grocery stores. In those days my dad roasted coffee two days a week. Summer days the pedestrians walking down West Market Street in Corning between Walnut and Pine were assaulted with the smell of fresh coffee. J. B. Maltby had their own trademark, a red turkey, and a top coffee named "Blend B."

Through the years the wholesale grocery business changed. The advent of grocery chains such as the Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, commonly called the A & P, gave stiff competition to a small wholesale company. Then, too, the invention of the radio and especially Jack Benny's show with a national coffee company as sponsor cut deeply into the coffee business of J. B. Maltby. Dad stopped roasting coffee in the late 1930's and the packing room no longer existed. The company made a valiant attempt to compete with grocery chains by organizing member stores into a loose confederation called Associated Stores. Some of you may remember seeing the green and yellow sign on small-town stores around the Southern Tier and northern Pennsylvania.

My memory of Maltby's includes several trips there. When Mother took us down we were all weighed on the big platform scale where Dad weighed the coffee beans before putting them in to roast. As we kids grew we loved to push each other around on the two-wheel cart, and played hide and seek behind the sacks of coffee and down the "alleys" between the rows of food cartons.

We especially loved to watch the circus parade each summer from the upstairs window in Dad's work area. To me as a child the parade was the circus. We did not have money enough to go to the circus itself but the parade was a chance to see the elephants and the glitter and costumes of the circus performers. I still enjoy the parade more than the circus itself.

Maltby's Grocery Company continued to exist until well after World War II. Dad left the firm in the 1950's to run a self-service laundry. The Grocery continued a few more years but closed because of the competition of large grocery companies.

© 2000, Inez Livermore Albee
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