Alpine Market a much-loved Auburn fixture
“Along with just about every other business in Auburn, the Alpine Markets have had to work hard to stay abreast of the changing times. However, even with the keen competition from the big chain supermarkets, the name ‘Alpine’ has remained an integral part of the Auburn community.”
The Auburn Journal published those words in an October 1983 story “Alpine continues Kee tradition” heralding the 18th annual new-car giveaway by the store.
A large crowd of locals gathered in the parking lot in the evening for the annual drawing of gift certificates, a barbecue and the new Toyota giveaway.
'67 Valiant Giveaway
“Although there can be only one winner, no one seems to mind as they good-naturedly visit with neighbors, see one another’s babies, or maybe just share a beer from the back of someone’s pickup while swapping ‘big fish’ stories,” the Journal’s Marilyn Jones reported. “It has definitely become a permanent Auburn event.”
It had been that way every fall since the first car — a 1967 Plymouth Valiant — was awarded Oct. 3, 1966, as the grand prize in a drawing marking the opening of the Alpine Plaza. Second prize in the 1966 drawing was a $600 mink stole.
The Alpine Plaza opening at Luther Road and Highway 49 was a $600,000 investment in the community for Frank Kee & Associates — a partnership that had its roots in Old Town Auburn and Auburn Grocery (now the Gold Rush Plaza building).
Kee and his brother George, had opened Palm Market in 1958 in a building at Palm Avenue and Highway 49. Both had grown up in Auburn and both were World War II veterans.
In 1969, Alpine Market No. 2 would open in the former Purity store location at Highway 49 and Fulweiler Avenue.
The two photos from the Journal archives are from 1972, providing a time capsule into a time and place when Alpine was thriving without the competition from larger chain supermarkets that would put the the strictly local enterprise out of business by the 1990s.
Note the Plymouth Barracuda fastback in the parking lot in the right of the Alpine Plaza photo. And also notice the phone booth to the left. The Alpine Market No. 2 picture shows a storefront that today is occupied by Staples office supplies.
By the early 1980s, a Lucky supermarket had opened on Elm Avenue. It’s now the Save Mart store. A Safeway store was in the space now occupied by the Grocery Outlet. Raley’s had built a supermarket in the mid-1970s at the Foresthill exit. And a new Bel Air store on Highway 49 just north of Luther Road would squeeze Alpine even more.
Both Alpine stores would eventually shut down, leaving a legacy of more than 30 years in business and memories of the excitement of annual new-car drawings.
"Remember This?" and Gus Thomson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-852-0232. Thomson is a state and national award-winning reporter who writes for the Auburn Journal.