Remembering Steve’s Market
‘Mom-and-pop’ stores prevalent on Colorado Avenue in early ‘50s
In these days of Wal-Mart, Safeway, King Soopers and Albertsons, it's easy to forget simpler times when little mom-and-pop markets supplied the needs of
In the Brock family alone, around the World War II era, there were three Westside markets within less than a mile of one another.
The history is a little hazy in some details, but Glenna Brock still has fond recollections of helping run Steve's Market with her late husband (and war hero), Steve Brock.
Located about where Blockbuster's is now in the Red Rock shopping center, the little store faced onto the 3100 block of Colorado Avenue, with a gravel space in front where people could pull off the road. “People parked any way they wanted to,” Glenna said in a recent interview. “There was room for several cars out front.”
The Brocks sold meat, canned goods, fruit, doughnuts made fresh daily and other items. Ice was available in an insulated (non-refrigerated) box next to the store. During their last two years on the avenue (1951-52), they also had a cider stand closer to the road during the summer months.
At the time, there was no Red Rock center. The Bock family's horse stables were about where Safeway is now.
Colorado Avenue was the main road between Colorado Springs and Ute Pass. It was paved, but had only two lanes. “There was quite a bit of traffic,” Glenna said. “Everyone had to be extra careful in tourist season.”
According to family information, the two other Brock-family markets also faced onto Colorado Avenue. These were the Grandview Market, owned by Steve's Dad, Giacondo (and later by a brother, Gabe), about where Domino's Pizza is now in the 3300 block; and the Red and White Market, owned by Giacondo's half-brother, John, in the 3600 block (the area historically known as Adam's Crossing).
Adding a little confusion to the mix, Giacondo, wanting to be called by something easier to pronounce, changed his name to John.
In that part of town, motels with nearby markets were a regular sight along the avenue “from 30th Street all the way to Manitou,” said local historian Mel McFarland, adding that some of those small motels still exist. “A lot of people would come and stay a week or two for a couple of dollars a night, cooking their own meals and shopping in these little markets,” he said. “In the wintertime, sometimes people would rent rooms out all winter for 20 or 30 bucks a month.”
Giacondo/John Brock had a hand in Glenna and Steve getting married. Having just moved to Colorado from Illinois in 1948 - “I was 22, and I wanted to get out and do something” - Glenna was working as a nurse's aide in a hospital. One of her patients was Steve's dad, who'd been hurt in a fall. He took a liking to Glenna, introduced her to his son and started calling her “daughter-in-law” even before they got married in 1949.
The two started the market shortly thereafter. Until then, Steve Brock had not followed in his father's market-owning footsteps. In World War II, he had been an engineer. Traveling alone on one occasion, he encountered 19 German soldiers. Though armed only with a pistol, he somehow induced them to surrender to him. This earned him the Silver Star (an award that Glenna still carefully preserves in a shadow box).
After the war, Steve worked as an airplane mechanic on North Nevada Avenue, until a machine accident cost him three fingers on one hand.
Steve was evidently already thinking of starting a market before meeting Glenna. He had acquired a surplus building from Fort Carson - six-sided, rectangular-shaped - that would become Steve's Market.
The two ran the business together on Colorado Avenue for about three years, until 1952. “We worked from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day,” Glenna said. “We took one day off, Wednesday, because that was the deadest day.”
One of the people that worked for them was Dottie Spann. She and her sister, Marti, who were then teenagers living across the street, got to know the Brocks and were hired to work in the cider stand during the summer, where they sold Merlino's cider by the bottle or by the cup.
Contacted this week, Dottie had nothing but good memories of the job, and described both Glenna and Steve as “wonderful” people.
She laughed about how the job worked out in terms of saving money. The second year, between potato chips and cider, she and her sister “ate up all our profits,” Dottie said.
In 1952, the Brocks, trying to make more time for their growing family (they eventually had four children), moved the market to the Midland area, next to their home in the 1300 block of Market Street. For the next five years, Steve's Market operated there, although at a less active pace than before. Finally, in 1957, Steve decided he didn't want to keep it going any longer. “I didn't want to either,” Glenna said. “We talked about it. He went into construction, and did that for quite a few years (he died in 2001).”
Key to getting out of the market business was increasing pressure from the major grocery stores. “The little corner stores weren't doing that well anymore,” she said. “The big stores could always outdo us on prices.”
Also closing in the late '50s, according to McFarland, were other Colorado Avenue markets. Apparently their proprietors saw the same handwriting on the wall that the Brocks did. Within scant years, the Safeway store would open in what was to become the Red Rock shopping center.
But nothing can take away memories, and Glenna still has plenty of those. Like the tourist who drove up to the store one day. “He wanted a jug filled with ice and water,” she recalled. “We charged a dime for that. The guy was a big, blustery man, and he said, 'I can get this for a nickel in Texas.' My husband said, 'You can go back there and get it done again if you want.'
“But we used to get a big kick out of the tourists. There were a lot of nice ones.”
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