Riverside Grocery in the River Valley

Favourite grocers in Lethbridge neighbourhoods and suburbs come and go, and once upon a time in local history, there was even a grocery store in the river valley.

As far back as one can recall there have been people living in the river valley. The first inhabitants were First Nations, then coal miners and, eventually, employees of Riverside Grocery.

From the 1930s to 1950s, a small community of residents built or moved into abandoned shacks along the dirt road that became known as Riverside Drive. The number of residents warranted a grocery store.

The Riverside Grocery was strategically placed in a grove of trees at the crossroads of the Riverside Drive and the road leading to the river. The store provided neighbours with a more convenient place to do their weekly shopping so they didn’t have to venture up the coulee hill to town.

Riverside Grocery was owned and operated by John Delmark and his wife Mary. John was born in Austria and came to Lethbridge by way of Ontario in 1900. Mary [Hrusecki] Delmark was born in 1899 in Lethbridge, raised and educated here.

The couple married in 1916 and moved to the river valley. John used his experience as a warehouseman for Campbell, Wilson and Horne wholesale groceries and provisions on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 4th Street to open his own store. He left the running of the store in his wife’s capable hands while he continued his work as a clerk and later a truck driver for local businesses.

The flood of June 1953 damaged or destroyed homes along Riverside Drive and drastic action was taken to relocate residents to the safety of the coulee top. The Delmarks moved the store to Hardieville where Mary continued her role as proprietor of the Riverside Grocery (later named Delmarks) until 1966 when the couple retired.

In January 2015, Trish Purkis’s revised “The Grocery List” will be published, which features corner and neighbourhood stores such as Riverside Grocery, and more recent ones too. A related exhibit, “Not Just Apples and Oranges”, will be shown at the Galt Museum & Archives starting mid-February. For more information about the Galt, visit www.galtmuseum.com.