Gilman & Company was founded in New York in the 1850’s and began importing and distributing tea and coffee in 1859. It changed its name to the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company in 1870 in honor of the 1869 completion of the Transcontinental Railway. It began selling a wider variety of food items in the 1880’s, making it the nation’s first grocery-store chain. Acting as both wholesaler and retailer, it was known for low prices, and by 1915, the company operated 1,600 stores nationwide, plus a mail-order branch. It survives today as A&P.
This beautiful Renaissance Revival building was located at 517 Main; the name of the Tea Company can just barely be seen above the entrance. The photo was probably taken just after the turn of the 20th century. Most of the vehicles on the street are horse-drawn wagons and coaches, but there is an automobile of extremely early design at the right.