Be-Lo Be-Lo Food Stores Be-Lo
39th Street and Marshall Avenue
Newport News, VA 23607
(757) 244-2286 (now a private residence number)
2309 Jefferson Avenue
Newport News, VA 23607
(757) 244-6166

OK guys, I have a nostalgia trivia question and hope someone may have photos of this?

Does anyone remember the Be-Lo Store that was off of Marshall Avenue between 37th and 39th Streets?

It looks like they pulled out years ago and not quite sure what is there going by the Google Street Maps shots but it looks pretty run down whatever it is.

During the day when Seven Oaks and Marshall Courts apartments were still middle class blue collar public housing, it was "the" grocery store to go to and was an easy walk. A railroad track ran right behind it crossing Marshall Avenue and a creek ran parallel to it. We played as kids along those tracks flattening pennies, catching tadpoles, minnows, and crayfish in spill creek, and rode our bicycles along the loading ramps and up and down the streets.

The store gave S&H green stamps and not sure but think they gave you an option for Gold Bond stamps too? I do know they had giveaway games shoppers would participate in like Be-Lo Bingo and Jerry Sandford of WVEC would host it before he changed into his Bungles the Clown outfit.

Seems the company had some labor union disputes in the '90s and ended up changing its name to Fresh Pride around 1998. And I think there may be some sort of Camellia Store brand linked to it as I recall?

- Eric Huffstutler (Bethel HS - '75) of VA - 03/30/09

Thanks, Eric! I personally do not remember either the Be-Lo or Bi-Lo store there, but I do remember the end of the commercial jingle:
"It's a Be-Lo Bar-gain!"


Hi, Carol:
At the risk of trusting a faulty and failing memory, it seems to me that the Bi-Lo Supermarket faced 39th Street just west of Marshall Avenue. The subscribers to the Newsletter from the Typhoon Nation who have remained on the Virginia Peninsula can probably give a better reply. It seems to me that when Bi-Lo ceased operations at this location a Rich's Supermarket, operated by Jimmy Rich occupied the building.

The building on the right side of this small shopping center was Centralite Supply Company, operated by Mr. Fred Christie and his son. Mr. Christie was also on the City Council for the City of Newport News and a property owner of several apartment buildings.

- Joe Madagan ('57) of FL - 03/31/09
Thank you, Joe!

I can confirm that the store was named Be-Lo and not Bi-Lo's.  For whatever reason some of the online yellow pages still show a phone number for it:

Be-Lo Food Store
39th St & Marshall Ave
Newport News, VA 23607

(757) 244-2286 (now a private residence number)

Keep in mind that there wasn't a 37th or 38th Street in that vicinity so the numbers jump from 36th to 39th.
 Looks like there was another closer to downtown at:
Be-Lo Food Stores
2309 Jefferson Ave
Newport News, VA 23607
(757) 244-6166
The one on Jefferson Avenue is now called Fresh Pride, the new store chain name.
Bonnie Be-Lo Markets, Inc. is another name, and Camellia Food Stores, Inc. is the parent company out of Norfolk.
The store at 39th and Marshall is apparently something else now and I see it is a hot spot for crime per crime reports.
I seem to recall the entrance facing Marshall Avenue but closer to the 39th Street corner of the building and the entire structure was the grocery store.
- Eric Huffstutler (Bethel HS - '75) of VA - 04/01/09

WOWZERS!!! Thanks for all your research, Eric!



Being in the grocery business for many years, here is a rundown on the Be-lo / Bi-Lo issue.

Bi-Lo is a chain of stores primarily in the Southeast (South Carolina, Georgia, Florida). Be-Lo was a local chain owned by Camellia Foods. Camellia was bought out by Richfood (Richmond) who in turn was bought out by Supervalu based in Eden Prairie, MN. Supervalu is the largest food wholesaler in the country and own many regional chains including Albertson's (primarily west of the Mississippi) and our local chain here, Farm Fresh. I have been employed with Farm Fresh for almost 42 years now. They merged with another local chain (Giant Open Air Markets) many years ago. Giant had bought out Rich's Supermarkets and Lou Smith's Markets. Colonial Stores / Big Star, another chain, went bankrupt years ago.

I hope this clears up the Be-lo Bi-Lo controversy.  

- Ivan Anker ('67) of VA - 04/05/09

EXCELLENT! Thanks so much, Ivan!

Thanks for passing this on.  I have also contacted a Wayne Henderson who lives in NC and has written books on grocery store chains. 
He is currently researching Be-Lo Markets and I am hoping he can supply some info?  In the meantime, here is some of what I came up with:

"The Be-Lo trademark was developed in the 1950s as a common brand that could be used by retailers who bought primarily from Norfolk, VA based wholesaler Camellia Foods. While stores were marked "Be-Lo", print or radio often advertised "Bonnie Be-Lo Markets" and featured a Scottish lady trademark and plaid designs, implying thrift. In later years I believe, but cannot confirm, that Camellia operated some stores direct, and I many stores opened after the initial dozen or so sites shared a common architectural theme. Somewhere along the way they bought or associated with some stores on the Eastern Shore, these being operated under the Meatland trademark. Many of the inner-city Colonial Stores became Be-lo in the late 1980s when Colonial broke up."
 A newspaper article:

"Camellia Food Stores Asks Norfolk, Va., Bankruptcy Judge to Approve Plan.

By Joanne Kimberlin, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va. Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Feb. 26, 2002--The proposal shorts an unhappy creditor as much as $16 million, but Camellia Food Stores Inc. heads to court today hoping a Norfolk bankruptcy judge will approve its reorganization plan anyway.

Camellia owns and operates 25 small to mid-sized supermarkets under the names Be-Lo, Fresh Pride, Meatland and Food City. Most are in the Hampton Roads area. Others are in North Carolina, Maryland and Delaware.

The company closed nine of its stores and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy."

Camellia Foods started in 1938 and Bonnie Be-Lo (aka Be-Lo) started in 1955.  The current President / CEO is Edward G. Dery.  The corporate address is:

Camellia Food Stores, Inc.
1300 Diamond Springs Rd., Suite 500
Virginia Beach, VA 23455-3645

I am not sure about the claim that SuperValue owns this chain.  Camellia looks to be an "independent" chain with 750 employees
working for the Camellia Brands and 360 of them for Bonnie Be-Lo.
I do know they were in court over labor union issues during the 1980s and changed most all of their chain store names to Fresh Pride. 
Think all are called that today and several more stores closed leaving less than 13 in their possession.

I did not get a chance to visit the State Library to look at grocery ads on the Daily Press microfilms from that 1960s, but will. 
I did run across these mini pictures... the Be-Lo sign looks to be the last incarnation version for their smaller stores, but not 100% certain.


- Eric Huffstutler (Bethel HS - '75) of VA - 04/05/09

WOW!!! Thanks again, Eric!


(This page was created on 04/04/09.)

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