Thomas F. Purkiss first opened the doors of the Purkiss Store at 1305
Lapeer in about 1895. Thomas’s son Fred, grandson Art, and great-
grandson Charles T. “Tom” locked those doors at the same location for
the last time in 1957. Between those years, the Purkiss Store
continually offered quality service and products, a home delivery
service, and credit, enabling the store to garner a faithful customer
base and remain in business well after the “Golden Age” of
independent grocers had passed.
|Frederick & Arthur T. Purkiss
in Port Huron Meat Market
December 22, 1912
|1926 Chevy Delivery Truck
Thomas Purkiss was born near Colchester, England in 1846. He came
to America with his father James and three brothers in 1854, settling
first in Lexington and later in Worth Township. At the ripe old age of 15,
Thomas lied about his age and enlisted for three years as a Private in
Company D, 10th Michigan Infantry; serving as an ambulance driver
during the Regiment’s many Civil War engagements. Thomas’
“entrepreneurial spirit” became evident in 1867 when at age 20, he
purchased 80 acres near Steven’s Landing (foot of Galbrath Road) in
Worth Township. Continuing up to 1884, Thomas was involved in property transactions in Sanilac County no less than 12 times.
These included several wooded plots, a meat market on Main Street Lexington, and finally a brewery and saloon in Lexington on
the shore of Lake Huron. Shortly after the saloon and brewery burned to the ground in 1888, Thomas moved with his family to Port
Huron, opening his meat market in 1895.
|Tom Purkiss Store Circa 1900
Pictured are Walter C. Clemo (left) and Otto H. Schuck
Fred Purkiss was born in Lexington in 1876, moving with his family
to Port Huron in 1888. Fred had no intention to follow in his father’s
footsteps and was supporting his wife by working with the Railway
Express at the Grand Trunk. However, when Thomas took sick in
1898 and was unable to run the business any longer, Fred took it
over; Thomas passed away in 1901. Fred proved to be an astute
butcher and grocer and the business continued to grow. His sons
Art and Charlie were brought into the business when they finished
their schooling during the 1920s, although they both worked there
part-time while still in school.
One of the services provided by the Purkiss Store that generated so
much customer loyalty was home delivery. Customers would
phone their order in the morning, and receive at no charge in the
Purkiss & Sons flourished during the depression, World War
II, and the immediate post-war period. The original frame
building was torn down and replaced by a brick building in
1933, and additions were completed in 1939 and 1950 to
accommodate the ever growing business base. Art’s son
Jack joined the business after the war. Charlie Purkiss
passed away suddenly in 1952 and his son Tom was brought
into the business on a part-time basis shortly thereafter.
Finally, in 1957, Purkiss & Sons Grocery succumbed to the
ever increasing competition from the chain stores. Fred, at
age 81, was working four to six hours a day, every day until it
closed; he passed away in 1960.
The Purkiss Store and the Purkiss family served Port Huron
faithfully for over 60 years.
|Purkiss & Sons
Groceries and Meats
1305 Lapeer Ave
Port Huron, Michigan
Phone: 6123 or 6124