In 1953, Robert Cropper started the Cropper family grocery business in a small store on the corner of RT322 and Bondsville Road, operating as Croppers IGA. Later, in the early 60s the store was expanded, giving the space a total of 2400 sq. ft. Today, the building is now the site of Weaver Memorials.
Robert’s son, John Cropper grew up working closely with his family in the store. After graduating from Downingtown High School and serving time in the US Army, John joined Robert, along with the rest of the family in making the decision to expand their business and build a new store on a piece of property just east of the original location. By 1975 the new 10,00 sq. ft. store opened for business as Croppers Thriftway Market. In 1981, to better serve the community, another 9,000 sq. ft. was added to the building, bringing it to a total of 19,000 sq. ft. This second location is now the site of Village Hardware.
In the late 80s, East Brandywine Township worked on a comprehensive plan to rezone the Watters’ property just west of Guthriesville to commercial. At the time, John served as chairman of the Board of Supervisors, with Bea Watters operating as a member of the planning commission. Both John and Bea were on the committee that worked on the new rezoning plan. After the commercial zoning plan was adopted, John made the decision to approach the Watters family and to discuss building a new store on the newly zoned property. The Watters agreed to work with the Croppers and the project began in 1989.
Many problems had to be resolved to begin this project. One of the main issues that arose was the lack of public water and sewage. To address this, testing was done on the entire Watters tract revealing that the only place acceptable for drain fields was located on the western side of the 21+or- tract. In addition to the water and sewage, a Penn Dot permit for the Traffic Light at the entrance was required to be placed on the Watters property (Parcel B) due to Penn Dot’s concern of backed up/stopped traffic during icy winter conditions coming west of out Gutheriesville. To accomplish this an Easement was established with Bea and Frank Watters and Robert and John Cropper with the understanding the entrance would serve both properties, and any change in the future would have to be approved by both the owners of Parcel A and Parcel B. In addition to this agreement, it was also decided that tenant demand could only support half of the tract being developed and the other half would have to wait until the demand was available. Bea Watters wanted the noise and traffic to stay away from the farm so it was decided to develop the eastern side of the tract, leaving the 10 acres vacant next to the Watters home.
After years of working on permits to build, the Cropper family formed a new partnership with the Blair Brothers to handle construction and bring the project to completion. The Blair Brothers are long time builders in Chester and Berks County, operating under the name L&R Partnership. The new partnership, known as Brandywine Village Associates (BVA) was able to bring the center to completing in 1995. Along with the newly completed center, a new Croppers Market was opened, with AWI (Associated Wholesalers Inc.) as the supplier.
This new Market was a great success for the Cropper Family. Sadly in 1999, Robert Cropper passed away. Two years later in 2001, John was approached by Safeway with the proposition of purchasing the store business. After much thought, John Cropper who was on the Board of Directors and the Executive Board of AWI discussed the sale with Chris Michael, then CEO of AWI. Chris wanted the chance for AWI to purchase the business from the Cropper family and continue the operation as Croppers Market. This would mean that they would also take ownership of the name Croppers.
In April of 2002, AWI purchased the business and became a tenant of Brandywine Village Associates. AWI continued to operate the supermarket until September 2011 when they did a sublease with Stauffer Family Group LLC. The operator, Paul Stauffer took over the operation of the supermarket and continued to operate as Croppers Market. On September 9, 2014 AWI made the announcement that they were filing for bankruptcy. At the time, AWI still held the lease to the Cropper Location. On October 31, 2014 it was announced that C&S Wholesale Grocers was purchasing AWI, and that they would now be the lease holder and supplier to the Brandywine Village Croppers Market location. Included with the purchase, C&S would also own the name Croppers. In addition to the absorption of AWI’s clients, C&S supplies to Giant Foods.
Through this sale, Paul Stauffer, the current tenant was now subleasing from C&S. C&S then made a decision to discontinue the lease with Brandywine Village. Brandywine Village Associates offered the option to lease the store on a Month the Month basis directly to Paul Stauffer. However, in September 2015 Paul Stauffer gave a 2-week notice that he was going to close the store and sell his stock and equipment. This was a great surprise to the Brandywine Village Associates.
After the closure of Stauffers Market, our partnership immediately started to search for another Supermarket tenant. Discussions with possible companies take a long time. Marketing studies have to be done, and pricing of equipment has to be looked into. This all takes a lot of time. After searching for and negotiating with possible tenants for over a year we have decided the best approach would be to reopen the store ourselves. Our family has a long history in the grocery business, and this is something we know how to do. Along with our great partners the Blair Brothers (L&R Partnership) we know we can get this done. We just will not be able to call it Croppers.