Former owner of the Superette, still super at 90
Aug 05, 2019 05:00PM
● By Shaun Delliskave
Shirley Crocker, center, stands with her daughters, Billie (left) and Joyce (right), who worked with her in the Superette. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)
By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]
Standing on 335 Vine Street as a curious reminder of a bygone era, the Superette Market greets visitors exiting Murray Park’s north gate. Just by looking at the little red-brick building you can envision patrons stopping in to grab groceries, get the latest town gossip and snag some penny candy.
Even though the Superette saw its last customer in 1983, its owner, Shirley Crocker, still feisty at 90, keeps its memory alive. Shirley recently celebrated her birthday at Murray Park, where family, friends, and especially the kids (now grown up) who once bought Gobstoppers at her store, dropped by to wish her well.
“I sold more penny candy than anybody in the city,” Crocker said. Superette was on the route for many schoolchildren walking to and from Parkside Elementary. “The school finally came and asked if we could open later because so many of the children were late getting to school. So, I said sure, we will open at 10.”
She and her husband, Bill, took over the Superette in 1958 from Carl Gustafson, who constructed the market in 1953. Bill, who had just returned from the Korean War, opened a store with his new bride, Shirley, in downtown Salt Lake. They had just opened their second store on 700 East when Salt Lake City decided to expand the road, and the Crockers ended up losing over $150,000 due to the expansion.
A friend of the Crockers told them that Gustafson was opening a clothing store on Highland Drive and wanted out of the grocery business he had in Murray. The Crockers loved how Superette had a Vine Street storefront, but it also had a home attached to it on Glenn Street, where they could raise their children, Billie, Joyce, Brent and William.
“I could tell the time by who was stopping by the store. At 9:30 the janitors from the church would stop in; at 10 the parks crew would be in; and at noon it was people from the golf course. We had a great big 40-pound block of cheese on the counter. I would make them cheese sandwiches. The secret to good cheese is not to refrigerate so it will age,” Crocker said.
There were lean years at times while running the Superette. When a city official heard the Crocker’s daughter Joyce needed surgery, he offered Bill a part-time job watering Murray Park in the mornings. Bill eventually was offered a full-time position with Murray City, becoming Superintendent of Murray Parks & Recreation.
Shirley was left to mind the store while Bill managed Murray’s parks. Superette was a family affair; each of the Crocker children learned how to tend the cash register. Shirley even taught the visiting school kids how to count money.
“I had this one little boy paying for his treat, and he threw his money on the counter and said, ‘Take what you want,’ so I grabbed all of it. The little boy looked up sadly at me and I said, ‘Well, I want all of it!’ I then said, if he would come in every day, we would learn how to count money.”
Former Murray resident Russ Godfrey remembers, “With my pennies, nickels and dimes, I would shop for just the right pieces of candy. No matter what I bought, I always seemed to get more in my bag than what I was charged. I first went there with my grandpa and went back again and again. My experience was like every child that walked through those doors.”
One time the Superette was held up, and Shirley remembers looking the robber in the eye and saying, “If I were a man, I would knock the hell out of you.” Incidents like this, the introduction of big chain convenience stores as well as Bill’s retirement from the Parks Department, made the Crockers decide to shutter the store.
They spent their retirement restoring classic cars and touring the country in them. The Superette became storage space for those cars. Bill passed away in 2016. Sometimes while watching Murray’s Independence Day parade, crowds gather in front of her store and Shirley still gets an itch to open the Superette for just one more day.