Long may this ghost sign live

Long may this ghost sign live

Las Cuatras Esquinas (The Four Corners) building in the barrio is for sale after being owned by the same family for more than 40 years. The sign is the last reminder of an era when there were about two dozen Chinese-owned groceries in the neighborhood.

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An 1886 maps shows buildings at all four corners of South Convent and West Simpson — a grocery, a store, a dwelling and one vacant structure. Just two years later, three of the four corners housed stores or groceries. One of the stores was labeled Chinese.

I have not done enough research to know who owned that Chinese store, but an Arizona Daily Star article from 1893 made note of a new year’s celebration at a grocery owned by Ling Kee at Convent and Simpson.

What is certain is that by 1917 the store known as Las Cuatras Esquinas existed at the northeast corner. It was operated by Don Wah and his wife, Fok Yut Ngan, both Chinese immigrants. Their daughter, Esther Don Tang, wrote years later how her father delivered bread by horse and buggy. The business was both a bakery and a store. When it closed isn’t clear to me. The 1951 city directory shows it still operating, but it doesn’t show up in the 1957 telephone book.

Across the street, at the northwest corner, there was the American Bakery and Grocery, operated until the late 1920s by Miguel and Enriqueta Martinez. They sold to Soleng Tom and his uncle, Wing Poy, who operated it as Tom Wing Grocery. The building later became Victory Food Market and then Liberty Market. It appears that it closed in 1966, based on an advertisement for an auction of the contents.

Both Esther Don Tang and Soleng Tom became community leaders.

The central city is full of great “ghost signs” for businesses long closed. Be on the lookout for Steinfeld & Co., Pittsburgh Plate Glass, Lou’s Plumbing, Charlie’s Auto, Tucson Leather and many more.

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La Frontera has saved this building and its sign. Tucson Livestock Exchange is on West 29th Street, just east of I-10.

Tucson neighborhoods that say "welcome"

Tucson neighborhoods that say "welcome"