313 East Sixth Avenue
Everything Residents Needed
By Jack Coll
Editor’s Note: (This is one in a series of short articles on random houses throughout the borough of Conshohocken, enjoy)
Houses up-and-down the avenues and streets of Conshohocken are, well, today, just houses, but back in the early part of last century, say a hundred years ago many of these houses provided needed services to the community. Many of them were corner stores or mid-block stores, the living rooms of some of these houses doubled as pool rooms, barber shops, cigar stores, candy stores and doctors’ offices. I thought it might be fun, and interesting to point out of few of these houses, that today are occupied by residents who I’m sure had no idea that their house was at one time something more than just a house.
Such is the case at 313 East Sixth Avenue, throughout the mid 1920’s and 1930’s the house was turned into a busy Cigar and Candy Store. In the summer of 1925 a large advertisement appeared in the Conshohocken Recorder Newspaper declaring that Raymond Smith, owner/operator of the store was opening for business on July 4, 1925. Mr. Smith would be selling a large selection of candy, ice cream, and soft drinks. Smith also sold tobacco, cigars and cigarettes along with notions, provisions, paper goods and canned goods among other items.
Mr. Smith opened his store selling cigarettes at the perfect time as the tobacco companies had just started a heavy advertising campaign aimed at females. As of 2019 female smoking was at a record low, 14 percent of adult women were smoking. But more than a hundred years ago in 1917 the American Tobacco Company launched its first ad campaign at women with the slogan “Avoid That Future Shadow” implying that cigarettes aid in weight loss. A little more than a decade later the American Tobacco Company hired a group of women to smoke cigarettes while marching down Fifth Avenue for New York City’s Easter Parade.
In 1925, when Mr. Smith opened his store Lucky Strike cigarettes began featuring female celebrities in its cigarette advertisements, one of whom was Amelia Earhart. Other cigarettes being sold in 1925 included Camel, Spud, Players Navy Cut, Chesterfield, Murad, and Pardon Cigarettes.
The candy business was exploding in the mid 1920’s as new products were being introduced weekly. Early best sellers in the candy business included Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars, Cracker Jacks, with free prizes, Tootsie Rolls, Candy Corn and Necco Wafers.
A number of candy bars Mr. Smith sold at his store included the “Abba-Zaba Candy Bar” introduced in 1917. In 1919 the “Oh Henry Candy Bar” was introduced, it featured roasted nuts, caramel and fudge wrapped in chocolate. The “Baby Ruth Candy Bar” was introduced in 1921 and despite legend, the Baby Ruth Candy Bar wasn’t named after Babe Ruth but named after President Grover Cleveland’s daughter “Ruth.” By 1927 “Pez” candy and all kinds of different dispensers invented by Edward Haas the Third of Austria was selling like hot-cakes in Conshohocken.
In 1928 Mr. Smith expanded his candy section with the introduction of “Double Bubble Gum” and “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups,” along with “Charleston Chew” in all different flavors. Believe it or not the Charleston Chew Candy was named after a popular dance craze of the day called, “The Charleston.” Let’s not forget about the staples of the day including “Snickers,” “Candy Buttons,” “5th Avenue,” “Red Hots,” “Chick-O-Sticks,” “Boston Baked Beans,” “Sugar Babies” and “Pay Day.” Mr. Smith must have been making a fortune!
The house at 313 East Sixth Avenue was a busy hub of activity throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s. Like all the corner and mid-block stores Mr. Smith carried many families through the great depression by running tabs, extending credit to many of the local families waiting until the end of the week or end of the month to get paid.
Today Mr. Smith’s store has returned to a family home, there was a time Conshohocken had more than two dozen corner and mid-block stores, other than the deli’s, the corner stores are all gone. Corner stores have been reduced to a conversations shared around the Thanksgiving Day table, where we talk about a time when grand mom and grand pop once owned and operated a corner store, and how they were loved by residents of the borough, and grand mom and grand pop loved the residents of the borough.
In a community as old as Conshohocken you might be surprised with the history and past residents who lived a life in many of these old houses. I wonder what secrets the house you live in might have, or the story of past residents who once occupied the very same space you live in now?
In our next edition of random houses throughout the borough we’ll look back at a 160 year old house on West Seventh Avenue.