Sunnyside Superette (1930s-2015)
The Sunnyside Superette was an independent grocery and convenience store located in Morgantown’s Sunnyside neighborhood. The business began in the 1930s as the Sunnyside Fruit Market, which moved down the street to 2047 University Avenue in the 1940s and opened as the Superette Market Grocery. The business name changed to the Sunnyside Superette in the 1950s. The Sunnyside Superette was popular among local families who lived in Sunnyside in the mid-twentieth century and remained popular among Sunnyside’s student residents in the late twentieth century. In 2015, the Sunnyside Superette closed, its owner and patrons citing the new Sheetz located at University Place.
Backstory and Context
The Sunnyside Superette was a fixture grocery store in Sunnyside, opened at 2045 University Avenue in the late 1940s. The first mention of a structure on the corner of University Avenue and 2nd Street occurs in the 1929-1930 Morgantown city directory. The directory lists Russos Shoe Repair, which remained until the plot became a Texaco Service Station between 1932-1935.263 With this change, the land plot also expanded, now encompassing both the 2045 and 2047 University Avenue, resulting in a double land lot. The Texaco Service Station was owned and managed by Nicholas Cacanis. However, sometime in 1942, the Texaco Service Station closed, and from 1943-1945 the lot was vacant.1
After a few years of remaining vacant, 2045 University Avenue was converted into the Superette Market Grocery in the late 1940s. The business was originally owned by the De Biase family. The De Biases moved to Morgantown between 1929-1930. Shortly after their arrival, the De Biases opened the Sunnyside Fruit Market on 2031 University Avenue, where it remained until the move to 2045 University Avenue. The De Biase family not only changed locations of the market but also changed the name of the business to Superette Market Grocery. Upon Antonio’s death in 1949, Maria De Biase managed the market alongside her sons.2
The Superette was among dozens of small, service-oriented businesses opened in Sunnyside roughly between the 1920s and 1940s. These businesses offered Sunnyside residents, primarily home to working class families and a few student renters, convenient places to buy groceries, service their cars, do their laundry, and have their hair cut. A number of these businesses were located along University Avenue, up the hill from the heavy industries and manufacturing companies along the Monongahela River and Beechurst Avenue.3
The Superette business expanded and eventually encompassed a meat market in 1955, changing its name to Sunnyside Superette Grocery and Meats. In her older age, Maria stepped down from her managing role at the Superette in 1957 and passed away shortly thereafter. After her passing, the family business changed its name to the Sunnyside Superette Incorporated Grocery and Meats. The store remained under family management until August 1997 when the family sold the company. Although it was sold after three-generations of family ownership and operation, the Superette proved how small, local, and family-owned businesses evolved with the needs of the current market.4
In 2014, the mixed-use University Place apartment complex opened just a stone’s throw from the Sunnyside Superette. University Place offered a popular chain convenience store, Sheetz, and a number of small eateries. In 2015, the Sunnyside Superette closed its doors after more than seventy years in business. According to the Superette’s last owner, Pat McGinley, the new Sheetz was one of the reasons for the Superette’s closure. While some see new construction like University Place as a welcome change, others see a loss of Sunnyside's historic character.5
1. Morgantown City Directory (Pittsburgh: R.L. Polk and Company, Publishers, 1932, 1935, 1945, 1949); Morgantown City Directory (Pittsburgh: R.L. Polk and Company, Publishers, 1932, 1935).
2. Morgantown City Directory (Pittsburgh: R.L. Polk and Company, Publishers, 1941, 1945, 1949, 1950).
3. Morgantown City Directory (Pittsburgh: R.L. Polk and Company, Publishers, 1929-1930, 1945).
4. Morgantown City Directory (Pittsburgh: R.L. Polk and Company, Publishers, 1955, 1957); Earl L. Core, The Monongalia Story: A Bicentennial History, Volume V: Sophistication (Parsons, WV: McClain Printing, 1984) 317; Andrew Seth and Geoffrey Randall, The Grocers: The Rise of the Supermarket Chains, 2nd Edition (London: Kogan Page, 2001) 127.
5. Cameron Gleason, “Sheetz opens its doors in University Place, steps from Sunnyside Superette,” The Daily Athenaeum, March 3, 2015, accessed January 2018 http://www.thedaonline.com/news/holy-sheet-sheetz-opens-its-doors-in-university-place-steps/article_b67cd9f2-c22a-11e4-8264-5feccc35aef3.html; John Mark Shaver, “Store owners speak out about corporate businesses coming to Morgantown, Sheetz’ influence,” The Daily Athenaeum, November 6, 2015, accessed January 2018. http://www.thedaonline.com/news/store-owners-speak-out-about-corporate-businesses-coming-to-morgantown/article_833f899e-844a-11e5-b049-6b1a3bfa25c5.html
“Sunnyside Superette, Morgantown, W.Va.” Photo. 1969, from West Virginia Regional History Center at West Virginia University Libraries, West Virginia History OnView. Accessed January 2018. http://wvhistoryonview.org/catalog/wvulibraries:18113
Research compiled by Ashley Creegan. Edited by Elizabeth Satterfield and Pamela Curtin.