The Snow White Food Center, at 2305 Woodland Ave., had been a grocery store for more than 100 years, opening as McGhie’s Grocery in 1887. In 1989, the market was owned and operated by Don and Mary Ellen Miller and their family. (1989 file / News Tribune)
Chain supermarkets and 24-hour convenience stores seem to be the culprits pushing mom-and-pop grocery stores to the wayside. Just look what has happened to Park Point’s Bayside Market and Central Hillside’s Fourth Street Market, both of which have closed in the past year. (Romano’s Grocery in downtown Duluth also is looking for a buyer.)
But in the late 1980s, there was a little-grocer-that-could in Duluth’s Hunters Park neighborhood. Snow White Food Center, at 2305 Woodland Ave., seemed to be thriving in 1989, according to a News Tribune story written in November of that year. The building that housed Snow White had been a food market for more than 100 years, opening as McGhie’s Grocery in 1887.
LaDonna Bergum and John Fawcett chat while shopping an aisle at Snow White Food Center.
The pair said they were regular customers. (1989 file / News Tribune)
The grocery store also had been family-owned since then. As of the 1980s, the Miller family had owned and operated it for four generations. Snow White’s patrons could attest to the benefits of a grocer kept all in the family. They said it was a place where every worker knew your name. The Miller family — owners Don and Mary Ellen; Don’s brother, Richard, and Don’s nephew, Mark, who all worked at the market in the ’80s — also knew their regular customers’ hobbies and grocery preferences.
Many of Snow White’s regular customers say it is the friendliness of
the people that keeps them coming back to the grocery store, and the
warmth and smile of owner Don Miller sets the tone. (1989 file / News Tribune)
And unlike its super-chain counterparts, Snow White also offered home delivery and took its customers’ orders over the phone, charging the bill to a running tab. The Millers also were known to loan customers cash from the register, if they suddenly found themselves without money when checking out.
Snow White owner Don Miller catches up with customer Alyce Flaherty as he rings up her groceries. Miller often spends a few moments chatting with patrons, most of whom he knows by name. (1989 file / News Tribune)
By July 1990, the Miller family was planning a remodling project for the store. They wanted to change Snow White into a deli and gourmet specialty store, but were having some trouble securing financing, according to a July 24, 1990, News Tribune article. The Millers said they would be forced to close if they couldn’t get a loan. The story didn’t say whether that happened, but a chiropractic office had opened at that location by 1996. And in 2003, a News Tribune story indicated the former Snow White Food Center had been reincarnated, again, into an ice cream and coffee shop.
Now, the former Snow White building is home to a photography business, the Flower Cart floral shop and the Hair Company salon.