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This is Fred Ball for Zions Bank, speaking on business.

When the wrecking crews bring down the old Miniature Market at 33rd south and 3rd East next week it will be the end of an era.

It was back in 1951 that John Neeleman (all of his friends called him Johnny) opened his first miniature Market at 6th South and State Street in downtown Salt Lake City. At the time, it was considered one of the first convenience stores in the entire country.

By the early ‘60s the little "full service" market had become a Salt Lake City landmark and a double truck story in Argosy Magazine called it "the biggest little store in America." With only 1,200 square feet of store space, Johnny's unique grocery marketing skills and the way he personally catered to his growing customer base made his Miniature Market a huge success when neighborhood stores all over the country were going out of business.

As the son of a Dutch immigrant family, John Neeleman began his career in the retail food business when he was just 12 years old. It was during the depression that young Johnny would unload the bread trucks of the old Fisher Bakery Company and for his pay was able to take home to his family a bag of stale bread. He worked at the bakery for over 20 years and when he left to start his own restaurant business in 1943, he was already thinking of doing something in the grocery business.

In the ensuing years he opened and successfully ran the Skylark Restaurant and Lounge, the Cardinal Lounge, the Clock Café, The Pine Cone restaurants and the Chubby Lunch.

It was a spring day in 1951 when he took his son Gary and wife Ethel to look at a partially burned out building on the corner of 6th South and State Street. Gary recalled there was a gaping hole in the roof. Johnny told Ethel and Gary, "we are going to build a new kind of store."

John had witnessed the dawn of the age of supermarkets and the demise of the neighborhood store, but he insisted there was going to be a need for a new kind of neighborhood store that would be convenient and provide little or no hassle. That was the beginning of the convenience store concept. Tomorrow, more about Johnny and The Miniature Markets.

For Zions Bank, I’m Fred Ball. I'm speaking on business.

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