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TOUR: Doscher's IGA - Charleston, SC

Doscher's IGA
Owner: Johnny Doscher III
Opened: 1974-2022
Cooperative: IGA
Location:
 1133 Savannah Hwy, West Ashley, Charleston, SC
Photographed: January 2022
Today's store tour is a very interesting one! We begin with my history with the store. I received an email from a reader back in April 2020 about A&P decor, and this reader ended up sending me a few pictures of this Doscher's IGA. (Those are the first two, daytime pictures we see here. It occurs to me that I never asked if or how you'd like to be credited, so if you see this, please let me know if you'd like me to credit you by name!) I was fascinated by the fact that this store is immediately next door to a Whole Foods and has coexisted with the Whole Foods since 2018. I was also fascinated by the decor inside, which we'll see shortly. So thanks for these daytime pictures!
Now onto my own pictures, and some history of the store itself. We're also touring the Whole Foods today, which you can check out here.
As you can probably tell, this store was built as an A&P. It appears that it was actually a 1950s or 60s-era, pre-Centennial store that was constructed at just under 16,000 square feet. The original store was on the left side and ended about where the right side of the center triangle is (or roughly where the entrance door is now, visible to the right above).
It seems that the store was expanded to its present 26,000 square feet when it was retrofitted into a Centennial, making it significantly larger than many new-build Centennials. That makes me think that perhaps it was renovated on the later end of the Centennial era (probably around the mid 60s).
A&P was closed by the early or mid-1970s, with Doscher's opening up here in 1974. It looks like it's probably been renovated once since then, and it was probably at that time that the existing entrance/exit foyer we see here was installed, along with the decor inside.
Doscher's has been here for a very long time, but in 2018, Whole Foods oddly constructed a store immediately next door. The buildings are separated by the 23-foot-wide Allure Nails, but this is certainly one of the closest pairings of supermarkets I've ever seen. I'm hard-pressed to think of two full supermarkets that operate in such close proximity today.
Doscher's IGA is closing actually right about now for a redevelopment of this half of the strip mall when their lease expires this month. It's a shame, but the good news is that we get a full interior tour, and a really good one at that, since I visited at night and there was nobody in the store! (And we have our contributor's exterior photos in daylight.) Here's more coverage from May.
We enter and turn right to come into the Value Items and Produce departments. As we see, the store is quite old and appearance-wise has seen better days, but still it's spotless and quite well-maintained. This is another store with a perfectly clean floor!
I love this decor. If I had to guess, I'd estimate that it's from the late 1980s or early 1990s. And if I had to guess, I'd bet that Doscher's IGA opened with A&P decor fully intact. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if most of the cases and fixtures we see around here are left over from A&P.
Extending out of the produce department in the front right corner is dairy in the first aisle.
And then we see what Doscher's is best at -- their gigantic meat department (including in-house smoked meats) on the back wall.
More on that shortly.
This store is supplied by Alex Lee, which owns Lowes Foods and others. Read more on that arrangement here. That gives us a few storebrands here, with Food Club representing the main one, and not IGA which is present but not as prominent as we see in the northeastern IGAs.
Here's a look at the other side of the front corner, with produce behind the shelving we see here.
And now we get to the fun part! The incredible thing is that the meat department appears to be completely original from the A&P days. I have to assume that these fixtures are original, which means the rest around the whole store are too. And most of all, the wall decor is! The lights, mirrors, and Butcher Shop lettering are all certainly left over from A&P.
This is incredible! I wonder how many other independents around the country are operating with some or all of the A&P decor intact. I can think of at least one with this age of decor.
The aisle markers appear to be the same age as the rest of the decor, in other words not original to A&P.
But I would bet these freezers are, although perhaps repainted. One more look at the butcher shop, because it's such an incredible relic...
And this also gives us a good look across the store to the dairy/cold cuts aisle at the other side.
Frozen foods are in the last aisle, with beer and wine in the front corner. 13 aisles in total here, making it significantly larger than most Centennials which were 8 as the standard.
Like Piggly Wiggly, this store clearly featured a lot of local products. Supermarket history aside, it's a very solid grocery store although a little past its prime. It's a shame, because I'd bet in a different location the owners could invest more in the store.
There's another Doscher's, in North Charleston at 1750 Remount Road, which is slightly smaller, has the same decor package, and seems to struggle with a newer and slightly larger Piggly Wiggly immediately behind it.
One more shot before we head out of this store. Don't forget to tour the neighboring Whole Foods here, and tomorrow, we're back over on The Market Report to check out another former A&P about a mile and a half east!

Update Local expert Carlton Swift (who provided us with the daytime pictures!) says: "A&P Built their centennial in 1963—and it closed in 1974. I was surprised to learn that A&P lasted just under a decade. I would have thought it would have lasted longer, but A&P never had a particularly strong presence in the Charleston area. I will say that Doscher’s has been far more culturally relevant to the area than A&P ever was."

Comments

  1. Very neat to see the surviving A&P fixtures and Butcher Shop décor! That's too bad this store is closing, but definitely no small feat it lasted so long with the Whole Foods literally a stone's throw away.

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    1. Maybe not as surprising with Whole Foods being so much oriented towards natural/organic.

      They don't carry many items/brands that a more traditional store would, so they may sort of work in tandem (either to two different types of shopper, or one that likes some things from both brands and buys accordingly).

      The entry does look newer, but in the same style (doors at both ends with no "interior" doors going into the store) as some of the A&P stores used in that timeframe.

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    2. It really is a shame that the landlord didn't renew Doscher's lease. When Whole Foods opened, Doscher's business actually increased significantly. It was nice being able to get a few things at WF and then wandering next door to get some more reasonably priced items. Plus, the store benefitted from the increase in traffic to the area.

      Mast local restaurant chefs I know would run to Doscher's if they ever ran out of something.

      I'll also add that Doscher's had the absolute best butcher shop in West Ashley. The entire back of the store was meat. All meat. And the butchers were excellent. They could tell you exactly where the meat came from and slice it up any way you wanted it.

      Weird trivia which sounds too far fetched to be true...but is absolutely true: One of the butchers was a descendant of Jeffrey Dahmer.

      --Carlton

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