Historical Notes: Benson Grocery Stores

By Jim Jans

Because the exterior and interior appearance of Zearing’s Mercantile is of the early 20th Century many believe that it was an old family business passed down to Mr. Zearing.

Zearing’s in the 1980s

The reality of it is Mr Zearing opened his business in the 1970s. Prior to that the building that housed Zearing’s Mercantile served Benson for many years as first the K & H Grocery store and the J & M Grocery store.

K & H Grocery in the 1920s was the closest of the three buildings shown above and later moved to center building of the three buildings (the Zearing building) after fire destroyed the first building

The K & H Grocery store was owned by George Kempf and Harold Holcomb and was in business in the 1920s through the middle 1950s. It was in competition with the Benson Food Center in the 1950s which eventually lead to the demise of the K & H due to the expansion of Benson Food Center and relocation to where the Saint Vincent De Paul outlet now resides.

Benson Food Center in the late 1950s

This relocation of the Benson Food Center is also responsible for the J & M Grocery relocating to the old location of the K & H Grocery.

When the Benson Food Center built their new facility on Patagonia Street, Mr. Axtell (Jay) refused to sell his store and property so the Benson Food Center was built around two sides of Jay’s store which was located on Patagonia Street. After a short struggle Jay moved his store to the location of the former K & H Grocery and it became the J & M Grocery. The Benson Food Center was eventually bought out and moved to a new location in the Ocotillo strip mall where Tractor Supply now resides with the new name of Gordon’s Market owned by Gordon Reay one of six stores in Arizona.


Gordon’s Market in the 1980s

The old Benson Food Center location became Archie’s Auto Parts and later Napa Auto Parts. The old Gordon’s Market became the R & R Pizza and current Tractor Supply.

Zearing’s remains closed following the death of Mr. Zearing and all the interior items have been auctioned off. The future is another empty building on 4th street.

Mr. Zearing in younger years


Interior of Zearing’s Mercantile –
The fellow above never moved in all these years