Historical photos of the Wards Corner Giant Open Air Market

Photos provided by the Virginian-Pilot.

Wards Corner Giant Open Air Market opened in 1963.  Photo provided by the Virginian-Pilot.

Wards Corner Giant Open Air Market opened in 1963. Photo provided by the Virginian-Pilot.

In 1963 Giant Open Air opened its new Wards Corner mercantile center. The 80,00 foot store is the largest retail food store under one roof – at least in the south – and it can boast among many innovations the largest individual departments in several categories.  Boasting 450 employees, the supermarket features a pancake shop, doughnut center and pizza ovens for in store consumption or takeout orders. A spacious bakery with eating facilities, largest in the chain, with charcoal cooked steaks, seafood and BBQ.

A candle shop, garden shop, greeting cards, household accessories, gift shops, hardware and a self-service Laundromat round out the shoppers experience in this state of the art shopping center.
The store was constructed at a cost of $2 million and features 600 customer parking spaces. The store will remain open 24-hours a day.  Pilot staff photo by Charlie Meads.

Giant Open Air was located where the Farm Fresh is today.


6 Responses to Historical photos of the Wards Corner Giant Open Air Market

  1. I was a Navy brat who grew up right near the Wards Corner area back in the late 1980’s, early 1990’s. By the time I came along, this had become ‘Farm Fresh’ and that was the store I grew up with. It was a nice store & I had some fond memories (especially of the birthday cakes!), but I also had heard all of the Giant Open Air Market and had always wondered what it was like. Now I know! What a fabulous store! I can’t believe the specialty options they had available in 1963…bbq, pizza, pancakes, charcoal-cooked steaks?! I live in Upstate NY now and shop at Wegmans which is a stupendous store with pizza, sub, chicken, deli, bakery, seafood, etc. depts and it seems like Giant Open Air was the Southern equivalent of Wegmans/Whole Foods. Thanks for the cool history and photography, Wards Corner Now!

  2. Donna Masters says:

    This is the store I remember. I loved growing up at Wards Corner during the 70s. And this store is one of the places I loved best. We loved watching them decorate the cakes. It was magical to a little kid.The pizza is still the best that I have ever had. And you could go to the meat dept., pick out a steak, and then take it over to the restaurant and they would cook it for you over a fired grill. Giant Open Air was also my 1st job in 1979. I worked for them for 8 years. I met a lot of wonderful people. Thanks for putting a smile on my face this morning.

    • I remember all of those things too Dianne. I spent a LOT of time in this store as my granmother worked in the floral department. We would eat with at the counter while she was on break.

  3. Debbie Hobson Leggett says:

    I worked as a cake decorator @ Giant – 3 different stores, Wards Corner being one of them. (72-77) They had the best pies. I have never found a coconut custard as good. Farm Fresh would be smart to bring them back.

    • William Harrison says:

      My future husband worked security from approx. 1974 to 76. He was also Hampton Police Officer. His name is William”Randy”Harrison. He loved that job. Free food and he said the folks in the bakery would make him filled donuts, that must have weighed a pound a piece. Our whole family shopped there and yes it was always a treat to go.

  4. My first job was at Giant at Wards Corner. I worked in the “center section” which was pizza, cakes, ice cream and fried chicken. It was 1965.5 (1965 and a half). I was 15.5 years old so I had to get a work permit signed by my parents so I could work. I was in the 10th grade at Granby High. I made $1.40 an hour to start. I mainly did ice cream and fried chicken but I was in training to decorate cakes. I could NEVER get that icing to stick on the stick instead of sliding down onto my hand, lol. I made pizza’s as well and I still have a scar from being bumped by someone pushing me forward into the oven and burning my arm. I remember the merchandise being covered up and roped off at midnight on Saturday for the Sunday Blue Laws when you couldn’t purchase anything but food. It was some store for it’s time because it has EVERYTHING you could ever imagine a store selling. I remember dating a department manager after I turned 16. He was 19. We went to see “The Graduate” which was a pretty racy movie for it’s time at The Boulevard (I think it was called) on Hampton Blvd and Little Creek Rd. I remember well, being SO embarrassed.

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