Winslow anchor Town and Country turns 45

When Town & Country Market invites “friends and family” to a birthday celebration this weekend, they mean everybody on the island.

That’s a tribute to the fact that the store and the community have spent more than four decades growing up together.

“It’s thanks to the community that we are still here 45 years later,” said T&C office manager Mari Loverich, who has worked at the store for 27 of those years. “This isn’t just a supermarket, it has always been a family.”

In point of fact, the history of Town & Country has been the history of two pioneer island families, the Nakatas and the Loveriches.

“They had been friends from way back,” said Billie Loverich, widow of T&C founder Ed. “They were all in the grocery business. Ed’s family had a dock store at the foot of Madison, and the Nakata family had a store on the island.”

After World War II, John Nakata, a butcher, bought back the store on Winslow Way that he had sold during the internment. Mo Nakata and Ed Loverich opened their own grocery store on the present site of Bainbridge Gardens, on land leased from the Harui family.

“Mo ran the meat department and Ed ran the grocery department,” Billie Loverich said. “The building was in bad shape – a customer put her foot right through the floor once – but a lot of people really loved to come there. I remember cars being lines up on both sides of the road.”

The store was a small family operation, Loverich said, as were most grocery stores back then.

Correspondingly, there were many more of them – stores in Seabeck, Port Madison, Lynwood Center and Rolling Bay, Loverich said.

The trend nationally, though was to large “super” markets. And some island businessmen and investors thought such a market would be a good anchor for downtown Winslow.

“They built the building and owned it for a number of years, and got Ed, Mo and John to agree to rent,” Billie Loverich said. “Eventually, they were able to buy the building.”

The big day

Opening day attracted what seemed at the time to be a huge crowd to the modern new building on the then-unpaved Winslow Way, Loverich said.

“Everyone was coming to scout the brand new, designed-for-a-store, up-to-date building,” she said. “It seemed real big then. Looking back on it, there maybe weren’t as many people as on an ordinary day now.”

Though Billie Loverich never worked at the store – “most wives stayed home with their kids then,” she said – she and her sister-in-law Elaine handed out free ice cream cones.

They’ll reprise that role this coming Saturday. The celebration, from noon to 7 p.m., will also feature face-painting, T-shirt tie-dying, a dunk tank, a live band and plenty of food.

The fire department will park a truck out front for inspection – hopefully, the new ladder truck.

Customers will be chosen at random as they go through the checkstands with the winners receiving gift baskets of non-perishable items or certificates for frozen turkeys.

The store name was a contribution from Billie Loverich.

“I saw a sign in Spokane about a year before the opening that said ‘Town and Country Tires,’ and I told Ed, ‘that’s the name for your store.’ We were in a little town out in the country.”

The town has grown, and so has the company – from one store with 30 employees to six stores in Kitsap and King counties and more than 700 employees. But according to president Larry Nakata, the fundamental essence of the company hasn’t changed.

“It’s the passion people in our organization have for the business,” he said, “the commitment to making it better.”

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