Clayton’s original Village Grocery has its roots in the Eagle Saloon

Clayton’s original Village Grocery has its roots in the Eagle Saloon

Clayton’s original Village Grocery has its roots in the Eagle Saloon
Norm Bloching built Clayton’s Village Grocery. The building now houses TLC Pet Grooming.

CLAYTON, CA (Mar. 9, 2022) — In keeping with Wild West tradition, the Eagle Saloon sat on Clayton’s Main Street, right next door to the Clayton Club, another drinking establishment.

Erected in 1900 by Portuguese immigrant Manuel Nunez, the Eagle served other purposes in addition to being a saloon. When the original Nunez/Bloching home burned to the ground in the 1920s due to faulty wiring, the saloon became the family’s home until their new residence was completed, where the Frontier Salon is now.

In the 1940s, the Silva family ran a grocery store in the saloon building. But the structure was torn down in 1950 because of its sagging wooden floors and useless septic tank.

For many years, Norman Bloching thought a full-service grocery store would serve the community well. His parents agreed, and along with wife, Dodie, they constructed the cinder block building that became known as Norm Bloching’s Village Grocery. The sign out front advertised groceries, meats, beer, wine and sundries. Free matchbooks offered at the store’s opening claimed it was “where your pennies make more cents

Norm and Dodie’s children, Norma and Richard Bloching, are still able to picture the store as it once was, beginning with

the two Union 76 gas pumps out front. Being able to fill up with gas in town was a welcome service, since the nearest gas station was six miles away in Concord. Most folks filled their own tanks, but either Norm or Dodie was available to pump gas for those who needed assistance. Sometimes jewelry or wristwatches were acceptable payment when a customer was short on cash.

Inside, the shelves were stocked with brand items – some we would recognize today and others lost to history. To the right of the front door was a large cooler containing glass bottles of soda, with offerings like Coca-Cola, Bubble Up and Nehi orange or lime. Next to the cooler was a freezer filled with containers of ice cream, popsicles, drumsticks and ice cream sandwiches.

On the far left of the store were toiletry items: Prell and Wildroot shampoos, Ivory and Fels-Naptha bar soaps, Ivory Snow laundry soap and Colgate tooth powder. Here, too, were a hanging scale and bins of fresh produce, some from the Clayton farm of Joe Rubino.

The cash register was at the end of the bins, with a selection of chewing tobacco, cigarettes and cigars behind the checkout counter. This was also where the children could find favorite candies like cinnamon red hots, candy cigarettes, licorice vines, bubble gum that came with movie star or baseball cards, Hershey chocolate bars and mysterious little wax bottles that contained a sweet liquid.

To the right of the counter were refrigerated cases with cheeses and bulk meats, sliced according to customer wishes on an electric slicer. Other cases held dairy items and beer, and the many shelves throughout the store contained bread, canned goods and other necessities.

Norm and Dodie kept busy running the Village Grocery, and both held other jobs as well. Norm worked full-time at the Alameda Naval Air Station as an aircraft welder and metal smith, and Dodie was Clayton’s postmaster – working out of the small office at the rear of the store.

When they retired from the grocery business, they rented the property to several families, including the Arnolds, Morgans, Sheras and Williamses.

Local rancher Don Williams moved in and operated the store 1971-’76, when he built the “new” Village Market farther down Main Street.

Today, the building appears almost unchanged from the outside and has housed TLC Pet Grooming since 1976.

Debbie Eistetter is a board member of the Clayton Historical Society. For more information or to become a member, visit The Clayton Museum is open 2-4 p.m. Wednesdays and Sundays at 6101 Main St.. Admission is free.

Debbie Eistetter
Debbie Eistetter

Debbie Eistetter has been a resident of Clayton for almost 30 years.  She serves on the Board of the Clayton Historical Society and believes that history shows us the way to a more enlightened present and hopeful future.  For more information about the CHS Museum please visit