SoWe Store Stories: 705 High Street, Abraham Ansel’s Grocery (1923)

This article is part of a series of posts from SoWe Volunteer Historian Jim Gerhart about the stories behind the stores on Old Cabbage Hill.

Not every store on Cabbage Hill was owned by German immigrants. The brick house and store at 705 High Street was built by a Russian immigrant of the Jewish faith.

Abraham Ansel arrived in Lancaster in 1880 and took up residence in the Southeast Ward where he began working as a junk dealer. He and his first wife Rebecca soon entered the grocery business at the corner of Mercer and Locust Streets. In 1908, Rebecca died at the age of forty-three, leaving Abraham with their young son Myer.

Abraham remarried and he and his second wife Sarah had five children. Following a tragic accident in their house in which their two-year-old child lost his life, Abraham and Sarah moved from the Southeast Ward to the Southwest Ward, buying a house and store at the corner of High and Laurel Streets. He bought the house and store from Conrad Zimmerman, who had been running a grocery in the store.

The house was a two-story frame house and the store was a one-story frame building attached to the house. The house and store were on a large corner lot that ran all the way to Lafayette Street, and contained four other adjacent frame houses facing Laurel, and two larger brick houses facing Laurel at the intersection with Lafayette. The lot also contained the house and store at 705 and an adjacent house at 707, both facing High. Abraham rented out the other houses while living in 705 High and running the grocery store there.

The store must have been successful, because, ten years later, in 1923, he replaced the frame house with attached store with a three-story brick house and store. He also built four other connected two-story brick houses along High south of the corner store. Ansel and his family lived in 707 and ran the now larger grocery store on the first floor of 705. They rented out the upper floors of 705 as apartments. The buildings he built a hundred years ago in 1923 are the same ones present today.

Abraham Ansel retired from the grocery business in 1936, and lived the rest of his long life of ninety-eight years on Chestnut Street. When he retired in 1936, his son Walter and his wife Sarah took over the store at 705 High. Walter then bought the house and store at 705 from his father in 1946, and continued operating the grocery there for another forty years. In 1985, Ansel sold the house and store to Kyoo Shik and Young Im Cho, who reopened the store as the Y&C Grocery, a business that lasted about twenty-five years. The next and present owner, Yoangel Plata-Cabrera, took over in 2016 and continues to operate the store as the V&Y Mini Market 2.

The storefront that Ansel built in 1923 is still largely present. The cornice can be seen extending past both sides of the large modern canopy and signage, and the large display windows with transoms, although mostly covered now, can still be seen on either side of the canted doorway with its sidelights. The doorway sits five steps up from the sidewalk, and like many storefronts built after 1900, there are no bulkheads below the display windows.